Tuesday, December 18

Losing is Half the Battle

It's been awhile since my last Avatar: The Last Airbender update, but since then THREE episodes have come out, the most recent coming out only yesterday! We've gone over the halfway point of Book of Fire. Only eight more episodes to go (well, nine if the 21-episode count is to be believed) before this magnificent animated saga comes to a close.

The Day of Black Sun is a 2-episode arc (consisting of The Invasion and The Eclips) that serves as Chapter 10 for Season 3. The culmination of a plot point picked up during events in Season 2, this involves the Avatar and friends' attack on the Fire Nation on the day of a Solar Eclipse- a day when firebenders all over the world lose their powers. Unfortunately, given that events in the last season lost the support of the Earth Kingdom's vast armies, the 'Invasion Force' at Aang and company's disposal consists of little more than a handful of very brave souls- the Men of the Southern Water Tribe, led by Hakoda, Katara and Sokka's dad, and a smattering of familiar faces and friends made in previous episodes. It's pretty cool to see guys like the Swampbenders, Haru and his tribe, the Duke and Pipsqueak and even The Boulder and The Hippo back fighting for the good cause. The plan is so daring that it just may work... a fast, violent strike right at the heart of the enemy, with some pretty awesome war machines made by the Machinist, in order to pave the way for Aang to face off with The Firelord and end the war once and for all.

UNFORTUNATELY... it's only halfway into the season, so you just know that things won't work out quite the way it was planned. In any case, these two amazing episodes show off enough action and pyrotechnics to please anyone, and the drama and pathos is pretty gripping- it had me glued to the screen the whole time. The whole Invasion has a big budget feel to it which is a truly cool achievement, especially for a TV kids' cartoon. There's even a little tease for a long-running loose end that hopefully will be addressed soon. When all is said and done though, the Empire, er, Fire Nation strikes back, and things get even worse than ever, but at least we don't have to wait a year to see what happens next.

Episode 3.12, The Western Air Temple is the latest episode and involves the gang's retreat to an old and abandoned Airbender sanctuary as they try to plot out their next move. For the most part though, it's a Zuko-centric episode as the now-fully reformed Fire Nation Prince tries to find a way to break the news of his new viewpoint in life to a bunch of people he spent the last several months hunting down like dogs. It's certainly an episode with awkward and uncomfortable moments, which are thankfully mostly intentional. By the end, things work out- sort of. Friendship has to be earned, trust somehow rebuilt and somehow Zuko has to help Aang overcome a major hurdle he has had to becoming a full-fledged Avatar. In any case, it should make for pretty interesting interactions for the last few episodes. It's been a long road to his redemption, and as we, the audience, knows, he's earned and learned so much. It's time this started to pay off.

The last stretch of episodes now beckons- the series is set to end with a momentous 4-episode finale (episodes 18 to 21), so we have five episodes of buildup to the endgame. It's been a long time coming, but this should be awesome. Book of Fire is going to end with a blast.