After diving in, oblivious, into the first season/book of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and loving 99% of it, I was fast and equally loving of Book Two. Book Two builds on the strengths and foundations that Book One so beautifully laid whilst introducing some new key players that further light up with vibrant and rich world.
Before we get into specific episodes, ups and downs and developments, let’s talk in broader terms. I believe that when it comes to trilogies, even in 20+ episodic television, the second instalment is always the best. Now, I haven’t seen Book Three so I don’t know if that’s the case here but Book Two feels like it follows that trend. The thinking here is that the first instalment spends a good amount of time, and rightly so, introducing the world, the lore and the characters whilst peppering in some larger ideas and themes. The second instalment can then take these established characters and narratives and have fun with it, go crazy with it and really push the boat out. The final instalment has to tie the whole narrative together in a cathartic and gratifying conclusion whilst trying to live up to the gung-ho nature of the second instalment. Book Two of Avatar: The Last Airbender, certainly felt like the show going gung-ho but also using the long form aspect of television to really hammer home these tangible characters.
Zuko, who remains one of my favourite characters in the show (I like broken things), gets some awesome toys to play with this season as his relationship with Uncle Iroh blossoms only to take another turn and become tenuous.
Sokka continues to surprise me each and every single time. I honestly don’t know why, I should expect it by now. Basically, I initially pegged Sokka as the simple comic relief judging by the first two episodes of Book One. But the show quickly revealed that it does not deal in black and white but rather in plenty of shades of grey. Characters aren’t simply one thing or one aspect of the show. This is a fluid narrative and Sokka whilst primarily used as a comic foil, has some of the most tender and heart-warming moments in Book Two and I’m sure that will flow freely into the final Book.
Hell, even Appa gets a terrific episode almost entirely devoted to himself, with a small portion dedicated to Momo (also great), that plays like Wall-E. I kind of wished the episode went that much further and played the narrative entirely through Appa’s mind thus taking out the dialogue entirely. it would have been that much more powerful but what they gave us was still a danm good reveal.
One must also take the time to commend the show for changing and shifting the team about. The creators and writers could have very easily left it as Momo, Appa, Aang, Katara and Sokka and it would have been perfectly fine. The characters have such great chemistry and voice acting behind them that it wouldn’t have been a problem. But by taking Appa away for a few episodes it sent Aang into a frenzy and resulted into the best moment of the series thus far; Katara consoling Aang, whilst in the Avatar State, in the desert. I’ve never really felt powerful emotions like that from a cartoon before and if I have, I’m sure this sequence surpassed it.
And whilst Appa left the team for a while, Toph joined the team. Now, I love Toph. It’s difficult to accept a character that comes out of nowehere only to worm their way into a team that has engrained itself in your mind for the better part of 20-episodes. Nevertheless, the show made Toph into an interesting character from the get-go and a loveable one instantly. By introducing the would-be team member via a hilarious wrestling themed episode, that even touts the voice of Mick Foley as The Boulder, audiences will naturally be enamoured to her. And then they go and make her one of the most powerful characters in the show. Now, I’m not a girl but I have to sit back and wonder how great this would have been for a young girl to see. Not only is Toph blind but she’s also this young girl that people hold prejudices against, yet she counters and crushes all of them. From there Toph simply becomes a part of the family and never feels out of place, and that’s just good, solid writing.
I looked back on my Book One retrospective before I started to type this ‘Noob’s take …’ and I realised a serious blunder. I didn’t even talk about the action. And then I realised why. The action in Avatar: The Last Airbender is so imaginative and gloriously done it sort of becomes the show. It’s a given. Everyone knows that when the drums start playing and the tension builds, you’re in for some really well thought out cool sequences and a million people have already raved about it online. That’s the reason I started watching this show. I fell in love with RWBY because of the choreography and I heard that Avatar does the same thing but in a very different way, perhaps even better. Whilst I’m not ready to compare the two styles of action, I do adore both. Either that’s the reason I omitted it from my earlier post or I’m just a great supine invertebrate jelly that forgets things (Thanks, Boris … let’s see how many get that).
Nevertheless, Book Two of Avatar: The Last Airbender is simply more of the same from Book One just more refined, more seasoned and more thought out. There are very few low points and if there are any, they find themselves swarmed and forgotten due to the volume of high points. Book Three has a tough job ahead of itself to really hammer home this story and this narrative whilst doing all this set-up some justice.
Next up … Book Three.