Strap in for another few minutes of reading folks, it's time for some more Avatar: The Last Airbender!
NO SPOILERS, I REPEAT, NO SPOILERS, from any Episode taking place after this one, ok? If I ask any questions about any future plot that can't be answered without spoilers, then either ignore them, or be very, very vague
Now, before posting this, I've gone onto the Reviews section of this, and I have to say, I'm really surprised that this got such a high grade. Well, ok, I guess a B- isn't THAT high of a grade, but even that's being pretty generous to the Episode, from my perspective anyways. I just thought this was by far the weakest episode so far in terms of writing, dialouge, and especially in suspension of disbelief. Heck, I would've given this episode a C if I were reviewing it, as it just seemed below the standard considering the first three episodes.
Firstly, to my unpleasant surprise, the set ups to the jokes and a lot of what happened were just so painfully obvious, to the point where my brain was kind of on autopilot for a lot of the episode. A great example is the very first scene...
"Iroh: Well, there is news prince Zuko, but you might not like it. Don't get too upset"
"Zuko: Uncle, you taught me that keeping a level head is the sign of a great leader. Now, whatever you have to say, I'm sure I can take it"
"Iroh: Ok then, we have no idea where he is"
"Zuko: WHAT?!! (flames burst)"
Yeah, a lot of really obvious set ups like that, setups that I think have been used literally hundreds of times before. It's just, to me, you can't really just transcribe a joke like that without even putting some kind of spin on it. It felt like their lines were repeated almost word for word from countless other shows.
As for the rest of the episode, I think this whole "Aang being able to ride anything" thing has gone a little too far. The way he can apparently get these HUGE fish to go anywhere he wants to just by grabbing them isn't really making any sense with creatues as big as the ones he's riding, nor does it really even make sense that they're willing to follow him. Even horses aren't that willing so quickly. But, that's the least of my problems in terms of suspension of disbelief go with this episode.
The gang then gets jumped by warriors from all around, and just to nitpick a bit more, I disliked how Aang just sat there and let himself be captured. Sokka looked like he was at least trying to do something, but was too disoriented to act before being captured, and ok, Katara isn't much of a fighter yet, fine. But Aang had no excuse to be as helpless as he was. According to my count, it took at least 5 seconds for him to be captured. He could've easily jumped into the air (we've already established his ability to clear 25 feet) and summoned up that air orb or flying stick to get away from them.
Seriously though, it should NEVER take you more than 5 seconds to react to anything, not if you've spent your whole life training like Aang has. It's something that should've been drilled out of Aang a long time ago if his teachers knew he would become Avatar. But whatever, just nitpicking.
For the next 5 minutes or so after this, it's really just Aang letting all the glory go to his head after another obvious set up to this development, and dancing around the village like a goldarned fool. There's not really anything wrong with this in storytelling terms, so I guess I can't really complain, as it does lay the groundwork for Aang to grow up, but, I just wish the Episode had focused a little less on that, and on events that happen later on in the Episode. Plus, I always find it really exasperating when anyone, fictional or not, goes on the ego trip Aang goes on. Heck, it's not even really anything to be proud of, it's just a bunch of little girls following him around >_<...
After that 5 minutes of exasperation, and 17 minutes in, we get to the first, and one of the only parts of the episode that I actually really liked. Sokka getting his butt kicked by Suki (dunno if her name was revealed yet, but I'm NOT referring to her as "that Kyoshi Warior" either way).
I don't really know what Sokka was trying to accomplish with his showboating in the Kyoshi dojo. At first, I thought he was trying to pick a fight with one of the girls, but then he acts shocked when he's asked to actually demonstrate his prowess...so, I don't know.
He begins fighting Suki, and boy, Sokka stinks, and if Suki was really being serious in that fight, than she isn't that great either (although to be fair, it's her style of martial arts that needs work if she wasn't just toying with him. In terms of speed, power, and technique, she's actually really good). First of all, Sokka he keeps telegraphing his blows. Twice in this fight, he winds up and brings his rear arm back before actually throwing a punch, which not only leaves more distance that his arm has to cross before actually landing, but forces him to put all of his weight behind one slow, easily predictable punch.
First of all, if you're in any kind of sparring match, you should never lead off with your rear arm. It may have slightly more power, but it's much further away from your opponents face than your front arm, so it takes more time for that punch to actually reach your opponent. A rear arm punch should generally be the follow up strike in a combination, not the start of one.
Second mistake Sokka makes, he tries to nail her with a front kick, again using his rear leg which makes him that much easier to block. Then, Sukki here makes her first major mistake, by ducking down and using her back to catch Sokka's kick. Even though it worked (because Sokka is a poorly trained dolt), that could've easily backfired had Sokka grabbed her hair and used his strength to pull her down with him. Had he tried that, there wouldn't have been anything she could've done to defend against that based on her position. Basically, had she used something simpler, like a crane block (basically a circular sweep of your arm where you redirect the force of the kick and end up trapping the opponents leg between your shoulder and head), not only could she have trapped his leg and threw off his balance, she could've moved his leg in a way that spun him around to expose his back, or even landed a nice kick the the groin if she felt like it.
Then, Sokka makes his biggest mistake of all, by again trying to use a haymaker off of his rear arm, and this time, he actually tries to run towards her. Running towards your opponent when you're as far away from them as Sokka was is by far one of the biggest mistakes you can make in a sparring match. By doing this, you have no way of blocking any powerful kicks (which, by the way, are going to hurt a heck of a lot more with the momentum you've already created by running), but it once again leaves your balls completed exposed and ripe for kicking.
If you're ever going to run forward in any martial arts fights, you need to be close enough that your opponent can't stop you with a powerful kick, and should only be doing it if you intend to tackle your opponents to the ground, slam your opponents into a wall, get them in some kind of clench, or intend to trap their arms in some powerful hug, as to restrict their mobility.
Suki of course has no trouble blocking this, redirects the punch, and traps Sokka's arm in this beautifully done shoulder lock. So now, she's got his entire arm locked out, and could easily end this by pushing down on his shoulder, posting her leg between his, and turning Sokka's body so that he ends up tripping over her leg and landing on his face.
But instead, she makes the baffling decision of actually letting go of the shoulder lock, and swinging Sokka around, even stopping at one point to turn him around. Not only could Sokka have easily used the momentum to swing his body around and wrap his arm around her throat, putting him in the superior position, but the way she stops before spinning him leaves her face completely open to a sucker punch from Sokka.
I'm not going to comment on her using his armbands to wrap his arm to his leg, because I've never done that before, so therefore, I don't know whether it's implausible or not.
I'm not totally sure whether this was an honest mistake, or Suki just toying with Sokka (probably the latter now that I think about it), but either way, Sokka is a poorly trained ragamuffin, and so finds his pride in shambles.
Cut back to Aang and Katara, and it's at this point that I'm beginning to get a little unsettled by how fast their relationship seems to be going. Katara is only 14, and Aang hasn't even reached puberty yet, and already Katara's at the point where she's actually jealous because Aang's hanging out with little girls instead of her....
Then, comes my absolute favorite moment, and probably best part of the episode, in which Sokka displays a level of maturity and humility that I didn't think he was anywhere near at yet, a level of maturity that I really wish he would've had in that one OTHER episode I mentioned in Episode 1, that I...didn't like to say the least. He actually gets down on his knees, admits that he was wrong, and asks that he could please learn from Suki and her warriors. And all this packaged with some particularly effective tunes from the soundtrack that makes his apology all the more touching.
I remember watching this episode, before, and other episodes in which Sokka acted like a jerk to women, and I was actually planning to have a "Sokka Owned by Girl" counter, just to see how much pain his chauvinism brought him. But, it's scrapped now, thanks to Sokka acting like a man instead of a boy....now, if the Kyoshi Warriors would just start acting like women instead of girls...
See, this is the one me about this, the seeming hypocrisy of the Kyoshi Warriors. They get on Sokka's case for being arrogant and sexist, and yet, when you look at how they tell him that they don't normally train boys, they're probably even more sexist than he is.
Sokka may have been sexist, but at least he didn't outright refuse to accept having the opposite gender doing the same things that men do, as the Kyoshi Warriors did before he came along (even if he did think it was silly and foolish, he at least went along with it from what I can tell).
But whatever. Sokka learned pretty quickly to, even rivaling Suki in just a short scenes. Nothing to nitpick though, as it's already implied that Aang and Co. spent a great deal of time here.
Then of course is Aang's comeuppance for all of his tomfoolery, in which he almost gets killed when he tries to ride something out of his league (it's about time it finally comes back to bite him to). Aang and Katara make up, but just then, Zuko's gang appears, once again proving that although Zhao may talk a big game, he's just as much of a ninnie as Zuko, if not moreso.
Seriously though, does anyone else find it hilarious that despite all of Zhao's talk and power, that Zuko, THE EXILED PRINCE WITH NO RESOURCES, apparently has a better network of spies than Commander Zhao himself has?
Unfortunately, this is where things get really stupid in a short bit. Zuko's goons get their butts kicked by the Kyoshi warriors. Zuko however is another story, and in yet another display of awesomeness, he goes on to pwnstomp three Kyoshi warriors at once with his firebending and proving that his fire can indeed burn things, and topping it off with his most badass line, as well as the only one that was actually legitametly funny.
"Zuko: Nice try Avatar! But these little girls can't save you!"
Aang goes on, loses his staff when Zuko knocks it out of his hand yet again when Aang tries to block his fire with his staff (I don't know why Aang keeps trying to do that), and Aang goes around and this time, it only takes him one blow to utterly destroy Zuko. Now, from here, Aang could've easily gone on, pounded Zuko into submission, then went on to dominating a crew that we've already established he could beat with two hands tied behind his back (literally). All this could've been done, Zuko's gang could've been captured and hogtied like Aang and Co. were at the beginning, the Kyoshi village would be saved with nobody hurt, and they would be out of Aang's hair for the rest of the series.
But no, Aang doesn't do that. Instead, he gets his staff, flies off, gathers his crew, and completely ditches the Kyoshi warriors.
Great way to thank the village that fed you, housed you, and treated you like a star huh?! I know that Aang was trying to lead Zuko and his gang away, but we've already established that he could've easily beaten them by himself, so with the Kyoshi warriors, it should've been a cinch.
He seriously couldn't have taken two minutes to run off the fire benders?! I knew that Aang wasn't exactly taking his Avatar duties seriously so far, but this...this was just...ugh...
And why aren't any of his friends calling him out on this?! Everyone acts like Aang's doing the right thing, to the point of grating on my nerves, even Sokka! Of all the people to call him out on this, I'dve at least thought Sokka would have something to say, but nope.
Just to make it seem like Aang actually did something, he jumps back into the water and foolishly risks his life to catch that Leviathin that almost killed him (whom he can now suddenly control without any effort or difficulty for some reason...I don't know), and douses the village.
Oh, just so I have my bases covered, I'm not going to nitpick about Sokka and Suki's spontaneous romance. It's implied in the episode that Aang and Co. spent a great deal of time there, and besides that, both of them are 15 years old, so it's not nearly as bothersome as Aang and Katara's romance.
So ends Episode 4, which I thought was by far the weakest episode in terms of suspension of disbelief. I know I said that, but...I felt like saying it again. Besides what I complained about, I really wish the episode had spent more time focusing on Sokka's training with Suki. There were a lot of little things in the episode that weren't altogether necessary, weren't particular interesting, and could've been easily cut so that we could've gotten more of that.
A great example would be the opening scene, where nothing happens but Zuko and Iroh delivering one of the most tired and overused jokes in media, and one not so tired, but still equally lame joke. It didn't contribute anything to the actual plot, so it could've easily been cut with no repercussions. I just think it would've been nice to have at least one more scene of Sokka's training, preferably one that sort of built up the romance between Sokka and Suki. Their romance came completely out of left field, so I just think having an extra scene to build up to that would've been much more effective than that lame scene we had with Iroh and Zuko.
It just seems like wasted opportunity to me. Seriously, not only was this episode a major stepping stone in Sokka's evolution, but it led to his very first love interest! How could you only have only one scene actually dedicated to the training that he recieved, and the creation of the relationship?! We couldn't have cut out that Zuko and Iroh scene, or gotten rid of some of the Aang showboating stuff to see more of that?!
In addition, there were things that also kind of stretched the limits of my suspension of disbelief. Alright, so Zuko apparently has a better network of spies than Zhao does? Fine, Zhao sucks anyways. So Sokka and Suki fell in love in such a short period of time? I'll roll with that to, there are lots of lovers who rush relationships like that, and besides, we never got an exact estimate of the time they spent there, so, it may not have been as rushed as it seemed. Aang being completely helpless when captured by the Kyoshi Warriors? Well, he still should've done SOMETHING, but, he's inexperienced, he's new at this whole thing, so, I can't expect him to do everything correctly, right? Why were Aang and the Kyoshi Warriors not more upset about Aang ditching the Kyoshi Warriors? Now your stretching it, but, all of Aang's most impressive stuff was really when he was alone so...maybe they all just thought he was weaker than he was? Fine, that's cool
But then you hit me with all that stuff with Aang just automatically being able to ride all of these giant fish for no explicable reason, and that's what ends up being the final straw on the camels back. Not only did Aang controlling that Leviathan not make any sense, but, it just felt like a cheap Deus Ex Machina pulled out to make it look like he did something to help the village.
But, those were my thoughts. It wasn't bad or anything, but, I didn't find it particularly good either. Overall, I guess I just didn't enjoy it as much as the other three. Your thoughts?