Hello guys, we're back again for more Avatar: The Last Airbender!
As it turns out, Aang and Co. take a little visit to Aang's home, the Southern Air Temple. Now, this episode was one of the few episodes that I've actually watched before doing this log, and I must say, I'm really surprised that they're showing it this early. With the sheer content, feeling of loss and shock, not to mention Aang's "Avatar Spirit" (not "State" as I thought it was), this episode seems more like it would've been appropriate after Aang and Co. spend a few episodes on a long journey, hyping themselves up with each episode, and dropping subtle hints about the concept of the Avatar Spirit on the way. Not much else I can see talking about, not until we cut back to Zuko and Iroh (yes, I get to call him Iroh now. That's revealed in a moment).
It's here that we are introduced to Commander Zhao. The soundtrack doesn't seem to like him very much, and he's older and more experienced, so I assumed that he was going to come onto this show to be the Yosemati Sam to Zuko's Elmer Fudd (Zuko even has the shaved head to go with it now that I think about it). It's here that Iroh is in fact revealed to be a great hero by Commander Zhao. Gee, wonder how Iroh got stuck with Zuko then.
But never mind. Zuko doesn't want every fire bender out looking for him, so it's lame coverup time, for why his ship got maimed...
"Zhao: That's quite a bit of damage."
"Zuko: Yes...you wouldn't believe what happened....UNCLE! Tell Commander Zhao what happened!"
"Iroh: Yes! I will do that! It was incredible...(obvious whisper) what, did we crash or something?"
"Zuko: Yes! Right into...an Earth Kingdom ship!"
Yeah...not really helping that Elmer Fudd image Zuko. Seems like he should've at least had a lie planned. Zhao plans to point and laugh at Zuko's humiliation for Zuko...uh, I mean, be regaled with all the "thrilling" details, so, they head on over to his tent.
In this tent, which seems to have some sort of orange filter on it for reasons I can't determine. I know that there seems to be two lamplights on the sides of Zhao's base, but the room seems too well lit for them being the sole reason for the filter. Whatever though, I like it.
As for their actual conversation, other than Zhao revealing that Zuko was a banished prince, I find it odd that he's so suspicious of Zuko all of a sudden. I don't know why Zhao is so certain that Zuko has found the Avatar, but isn't telling him. Sure, he and Iroh made a royal mess out of covering up the damage to their ship, but I think if I were Zhao, I'dve just figured that Zuko just accidently trashed the ship in some really humiliating way, and didn't want anyone to know. He was a failure after all, and his crew members seem to suck even worse, and it's established later in the episode that all four kingdoms have warning signals to let them know whether or not the Avatar has returned. So, as far as I know, Zhao has no reason to be as suspicious as he is.
Cut back to Aang and his group, in which we get our first bit of foreshadowing that Aang may not be in for such a pleasant surprise after all. That, and we have an enlightening little flashback, to Aang's master this time. I can now say that whatever bad habits Aang has, I think I now know where he got them from...
Back to Zuko and Zhao, the events that I'm really interested in (mainly because I didn't remember any of their interactions from this episode, while I still remember most of what happened to Aang). I find it interesting that one of Zhao's reasons for taking over the hunt for the Avatar was because "capturing the Avatar is too important to leave in a teenager's hands", especially since I believe that we all know a certain...other person in Zuko's life that's younger than him, yet could probably have beaten Aang at this point with one hand tied behind their back.
After some more exposition with Aang and co., and Aang showing that he can indeed use offensive Airbending techniques without his staff, we cut back to yet another Zuko and Zhao interaction. There's always good stuff to talk about there. Zuko actually ends up challenging Zhao to a fight here, and an immediate feeling of "Oh no..." went up inside me. I was actually tense to see how Zuko would suffer, especially as it's revealed that he got his scar from a fight with a master.
We switch to Aang, and I'm surprised by Aang's discovery of Kyotso's corpse for three reasons. One, for a show that was aimed at 6-11 year olds, it seemed like a rather graphic picture, with the close up of Kyotso's skull and everything. I know that this show became more mature as it went on, but I wasn't expecting the change to come immediately after Episode 2. And two, I remembered the exact details being a lot different. I remember this episode being a lot more chilling than it was, with there being more build up to this discovery, like Sokka and Katara discovering more and more Fire Nation corpses/masks/weapons to hide from Aang. Finally though, I remember there being A LOT more Fire Nation corpses surrounding Kyotso than what was there. I thought it was some ridiculous number like 57 or something, when really it was less than 10 here.
Aang goes into Avatar Spirit mode, and we go back to Zuko and Zhao, who for whatever reason, are no more interesting than what's happening with Aang, but a whole lot more interesting to actually talk about.
Anyways, I found it really weird how...harmless the firebending looked. Both Zuko and Zhao are constantly blocking blasts of fire with nothing but their bare arms, and both even get blasted into the air at one point, and yet, there's not one moment where either of them are even singed. At first, I was willing to blame this on Nicktoon's censorship policies (I mean jeez, look at how heavily they censored Dragon Ball Z Kai...), but then I remembered hearing that even the DVD's of this show are virtually identical to the broadcast version, so, that theory was disproven. So I thought, "well maybe they were just holding back a bit since it wasn't an actual fight". That made sense, until I remembered that Zuko got his scar from one of those fights, so hurting each other badly clearly wasn't a problem. So...maybe firebenders just have a natural resistance to fire?
Anyways, it's a thrilling fight. Zuko's offense utterly fails, Zhao responds by pounding him until Zuko flies into the air, Zhao closes in, Zuko trips him up, sends him through the air...and wins...
Let me say that again. ZUKO WINS!! He's so pathetic that he's actually been exiled, and he STILL manages to beat someone who's supposed to be one of the Commanders.
It is then that it occurs to me that calling Zhao the "Yosetami Sam" of this cartoon is probably too generous, and that Zhao must be one of those Commanders. You know, the ones who don't actually earn their place in the chain of command, but get there through politics, nobility, brown nosing, and all around jackassery.
Then after a rather noticeable continuity error in which Zuko is seen approaching the fallen Zhao from the side, yet ends up in front of him for some reason (I'm just going to assume that Zuko is still at Zhao's side, since otherwise it doesn't make sense why Zhao didn't do what Zuko did when Zuko was on his back, in the same position), Zuko confirms something I've been suspecting ever since Episode 1.
Even though he's quick to yell, and threaten, and push people around, he doesn't seem to dig actually following through with his threats, even when there's no repercussions to worry about. Or, at the very least, he doesn't seem to like hurting people any more than he thinks is necessary. Actually, that was kind of shown when he was interrogating the Water village now that I think about it. Even when he grabbed an old lady, he never once tried to use her as a hostage, and he never did anything to actually harm anyone but Sokka, and of course Aang. And even then, Sokka did try to kill him, twice. Both attempts were laughable at best, but still.
Just to top off what was already a great scene, Iroh flaunts his muscle, and manages to send Zhao flying with what didn't look like anything but a leg lock. I don't know what kind of tea he's drinking, but I'd kill to have it. Must be all the anti-oxidants.
Finally, we're done for good with Zuko and Zhao's rivalry, but that's ok. It's here that, for the very first time, I find fault with the voice acting, most specifically Katara's speech. I don't take issue with her pronunciation, or the emotion she's putting in her lines, that's all as good as ever. What bothers me, is how she hardly even raises her voice! Aang is currently surrounded in typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes, gusts, all sorts of stuff that's making a lot of noise, and Katara still isn't speaking any higher than her regular speaking voice. It just seems like she's not talking as loudly as she should be talking for Aang to hear her.
But, Aang hears her all the same, and calms down, but not before signal lights from all four Kingdoms flare up. Remember why I said that Zhao shoudn't have had a reason to be suspicious of Zuko? Well, this was one of the main reasons why in my mind. They have signal lights that go off when Aang is reawakened, so, I don't really get why Zhao was so bent on the assumption that Zuko actually knew anything, when he knows that had he awakened, there would've been a very clear and distinct signal to alert him to it. But, whatever, maybe I missed something.
To end this view of Episode 3, I like the music that starts playing as Aang and Co. leave the Air Temple. It was soft and tender, was melancholy, airy, and just seemed like a good theme for Aang in general. Besides that, the instruments reminded me of the soundtrack for "7th Saga", one of my favorite RPG's, with one of my favorite soundtracks from any RPG.
Besides that, I loved how consistently exciting this episode was. You could feel tension all throughout out it, whether it was Zuko's heated rivalry with Zhao, or whether it was Aang exploring the Air Temple, when you just knew he was going to be getting a nasty surprise. All in all, great episode, but kept from getting an A by a few things. Some of them just those little feelings you can't quite give shape to, but, there were specific things as well.
1) It still really doesn't make sense to me that Zhao was as suspicious of Zuko as he was. And that was a pretty big part of the episode, so to have something like that without any real explanation was kind of weak to me.
2) It seemed strange that there were so few corpses to hide from Aang, when pretty much the entire temple had been ravaged, I thought there was more that could've been done with that.
3) This last one is really nitpicking, but, it seemed somewhat cheesy to have threatening, scary music the moment Zhao walked on screen, when we shouldn't otherwise be able to tell whether he's friend or foe.
So, my final thoughts? B