Book Three: Fire || Chapter Fifteen: The Boiling Rock, Part 2

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It’s time to bust out of prison on the fifty-fifth installment of the Avatar: The Last Airbender rewatch! Episode 3.15 gives us a father-son reunion, lets Suki show off how awesome she is, makes Mai one of my favorite characters in the entire series, and sets in motion some serious problems for Azula.

Please note that while the summary will remain spoiler free (aside for everything up to and including the current episode, of course), the subsequent commentary (and comments) will not be. If you haven’t already seen the series, go do it now. This post will be waiting for you when you come back.

Note: I would like this rewatch to remain spoiler free for The Legend of Korra. Please choose your comments wisely. If you wish to discuss Korra, you can do so on these posts.

Summary
The warden surveys the new prisoners that arrived on the gondola. Sokka hurries up to join in with the waiting guards, trying to sneak closer to get a better look at Hakoda. The warden welcomes the prisoners to the Boiling Rock and reassures the, that the horrible rumors they’ve heard about the prison don’t have to be true—as long as they do everything he says.

The warden gets pissed off when Hakoda refuses to look him in the eyes, so he yanks him down onto the ground. He tells Hakoda they will get rid of his strong will and demands that Hakoda look him in the eye. Hakoda finally lifts his head to glare up at the warden, and the warden gets all smug about his obedience.

As the warden steps away from Hakoda, Hakoda deliberately trips him. While Sokka struggles to hide his laugh, the warden climbs to his feet and orders the prisoners out of his sight.


Warden, you have just jumped to the top of Hakoda’s Need to Be Killed list.

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Sokka sneaks into his father’s cell, happy that Hakoda is alive. Hakoda threatens Sokka—until Sokka pulls back the visor on his helmet and reveals his identity. Sokka and Hakoda embrace, though Hakoda advises his son to be more careful when he’s wearing the guard uniform.

The warden strides into a holding cell. Chit Sang is strapped to a chair inside and insists that he isn’t a squealer when the warden asks if he’s comfortable. The warden kicks over Chit Sang’s chair and points out that Chit Sang and his friends aren’t smart enough to think of the escape plan on their own. The warden tells Chit Sang that he will reveal who it was that came up with the plan.

Sokka asks what happened to the rest of the invasion force, and Hakoda tells him that everyone else is in a prison near the Fire Nation palace. Since Hakoda was their leader, he got sent to the Boiling Rock. Hakoda says that he met some of the Kyoshi Warriors at the other prison, so Sokka tells his dad that their leader, Suki, will be escaping with them.

Sokka then tells Hakoda that Prince Zuko is at the Boiling Rock as well. Hakoda thinks that Zuko will be a major problem, but Sokka reveals that Zuko is on their side. When Hakoda gives him a very dubious look, Sokka explains that Zuko has proven himself and that he wouldn’t have found Hakoda without Zuko’s help. Hakoda nods and then asks his son if he has a plan.

Sokka admits that they had a plan—until some other prisoners got involved and screwed it up. He doesn’t know if there’s another way off the island. Hakoda reassures Sokka that there is no prison in the world that can hold two Water Tribe geniuses, and Sokka jokes that they had better find two.


Two Water Tribe geniuses.

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Sokka creeps over to Zuko’s cell and tells him that they have an escape plan now. Before he can go into detail, two guards arrive and demand to know what Sokka is doing outside Zuko’s door. Sokka claims he was telling “this dirty lowlife” what he thought of him, and the guards tell him he will have to do it later. They have orders from the warden to take Zuko elsewhere.

Sokka asks for ten more seconds in which to rough Zuko up, and the guards grant him that. They seem amused to hear Sokka beating the crap out of Zuko. Luckily, Sokka is actually just beating up Zuko’s mattress while Zuko makes the appropriate noises. Sokka whispers to Zuko that their new plan requires a big distraction and that Zuko will need to be in the yard in one hour.

The door opens, and Zuko drops his mattress so he and Sokka can wrestle a bit. The guards tell Sokka that’s enough and haul Zuko out of the cell. Zuko demands to know where the guards are taking him, but they won’t tell him. Instead, they throw him into one of the larger cells.

Zuko insists that he hasn’t done anything wrong, which is when Mai steps out of the shadows and tells him everyone knows that’s a lie.


Yeah, I hadn’t expected this plot twist either.

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The warden returns to Chit Sang’s cell and asks how he is. The guards, who have been holding Chit Sang upside down in his chair, believe that the prisoner is ready to talk. The warden asks if Chit Sang has had enough time to think about his questions, and Chit Sang confesses that another person masterminded the escape attempt—a fake prison guard.

Zuko sits in the chair and asks how Mai knew he was here. She sarcastically says that she knows him so well and then reminds him that the warden is her uncle. Mai claims that she doesn’t know Zuko, and then she pulls out the letter he left behind. She’s pissed that he didn’t even have the guts to look her in the eyes when he ripped out her heart, and Zuko’s feeble “I didn’t mean to” just makes it worse.

Mai starts quoting from the letter, but Zuko tells her stop. Him leaving wasn’t about her—it was about the Fire Nation. Mai throws the letter at the back of his head and sarcastically claims that that makes her feel all better.

Zuko finally stands up to face her. He admits that he never wanted to hurt her, but he had to leave to save his country. Mai points out that Zuko is betraying his country instead; Zuko says that’s not how he sees it. She crosses her arms and looks away from him.


You deserved that one, Zuko.

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Suki practices her fighting skills in her cells. Sokka slips inside to tell her that he doesn’t have much time—if the guards see him in here, they might think something is up. He tells her that they will be escaping today on the gondola. They will commandeer the gondola and take a hostage with them so the guards won’t cut the lines.

Suki is uncertain about their chances since there are so many guards, but Hakoda thought of staging a prison riot as a distraction. She points out that the warden will still cut the lines if they make it as far as the gondola, which is when Sokka reveals that the warden will be their captive.

Sokka hears some guards approaching and reassures Suki that he will find her before they start the riot. They hug for a moment before Sokka slips out of the cell. Unfortunately, two guards stop Sokka and inform him that the warden wants to see him now. They end up dragging Sokka to a lineup of other guards.

The warden tells the guards that one of them is an imposter. Chit Sang steps out from behind the warden, which causes Sokka to have a mild panic attack. Fortunately, Chit Sang singles out the guard that harassed him earlier as the imposter. That guard gets dragged away, insisting that Chit Sang is a liar. Sokka breathes a sigh of relief.


Suki has the best dubious face in the entire series, hands down.

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The falsely accused guard insists that he isn’t the one who helped Chit Sang in the escape attempt. The warden points out that the guard threw Chit Sang in the same cooler that he escaped in, but the guard insists it was a coincidence.

Another guard tells the warden that there’s someone that wants to see him. At first the warden is pissed off that someone would interrupt him—and then drops to his knees in a bow when Azula reveals herself. (Ty Lee is there as well.) The warden welcomes her to the Boiling Rock and, when she asks, explains that the guard was involved in a recent escape attempt. The guard insists again that he is innocent, and the warden shuts him up.

Azula, however, tells the warden that he is wasting his time—this guard wasn’t involved. When the warden asks how she knows, Azula simply says she is a people person.


Azula’s nearly as good a lie detector as Toph is.

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Sokka tells another guard that he got orders to let the prisoners out into the yard. When the guard claims that they’re still in a lockdown, Sokka threatens to tell the warden that the guard is undermining his authority. The guard starts to cave, and all Sokka has to do is convince him that the warden is in irrational and that it’s in his best interests to do what the warden says even if it is confusing. The guard lets the prisoners out of the cells.

Sokka, Hakoda, and Suki meet in the yard, and Sokka tells them it’s time to start a riot. Hakoda’s first attempt—shoving a random prisoner—doesn’t get anywhere. It’s not until Chit Sang shows up, wanting in on their next plan as payment for keeping his mouth shut earlier, that the riot starts.

There’s chaos everywhere as the prisoners riot in the yard. The warden is pissed off that the prisoners are even in the yard in the first place.

A guard shows up to protect Mai as there is a riot going on. Mai tells him that she doesn’t need his protection—which Zuko agrees with. However, when the guard approaches anyway, Zuko gets an idea. He firebends at the guard’s feet and rushes for the door. The guard immediately moves to put himself between Mai and Zuko, thus blocking her way to the door.

Mai throws the guard out of her way, but she can’t get to the door in time. Zuko shuts her inside the cell. Their eyes meet through the slit in the door. After a long moment, Zuko closes his eyes and runs away.


I love her angry-I’m-going-to-kill-you-or-possibly-cry-or-both eyes.

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Zuko meets up with the rest of the would-be-escapees in the prison yard. Sokka tells them that all they have to do now is kidnap the warden and get to the gondolas. When Zuko asks how they’re going to do that, Sokka confesses that he isn’t sure. Zuko is annoyed as Sokka is supposed to think things through; Sokka points out that Zuko said it’s okay not to think everything through.

Chit Sang interrupts their argument to tell them that Suki’s taking care of it.


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The men catch up to Suki, and both Hakoda and Sokka are impressed with her performance.

Chit Sang carries the warden as they make the run for the gondolas. Some soldiers intercept them and throw fireballs, but Zuko is able to deflect them. Zuko orders the soldiers to stand down since they have the warden. After a second, the soldiers back off, and the group gets aboard the gondola. Zuko starts the lines moving and then breaks the lever so they can’t be stopped easily. He leaps for the gondola, and Sokka catches his hand and helps haul him aboard.

Hakoda spots Azula and Ty Lee on the gondola platform. The princess grabs a pair of handcuffs from a guard while Ty Lee leaps aboard the cable lines. Azula uses her firebending to rocket herself into the air and secure the handcuffs around a cable. Her firebending propels her forward again, and she and Ty Lee close in on the gondola.

Suki declares that this is a rematch she has been waiting for; Zuko agrees. The ex-prince climbs out the window and on top of the gondola, and Suki and Sokka are close behind. Ty Lee and Suki square off while Zuko and Sokka face Azula. Suki does an excellent job of not letting Ty Lee chi block her—the girls seem evenly matched—while Zuko acts as a firebending shield for Sokka (and occasionally striking on his own, too).


They fight so well together!

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While Hakoda and Chit Sang are distracted by the fight going on above them, the warden wriggles free of his bonds and shouts at the guards to cut the lines. Chit Sang quickly gets the warden back under control, but the damage has been done. The guards know their warden, and they know that the warden is well aware of what will happen if they follow through with the order.

The guards jam the spool of cable wire with large pieces of metal, bringing the gondola to a sudden stop. Our heroes and villains are taken by surprise by the unexpected swaying and struggle to regain their balance. Ty Lee is the first to recover, and she hurries to see what’s going on. She shouts to Azula that the guards are about to cut the line for their gondola.

Azula announces that it’s time to leave. She uses her firebending to leap to the returning gondola and bids Zuko goodbye. Ty Lee looks concerned by this development, but she joins Azula on the other gondola.


I bet you didn’t think anyone could believe you were expendable, huh?

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Sokka, Suki, and Zuko head back inside their stalled gondola with the news that the line is going to fail soon. Hakoda hopes that the gondola can float.

The guards methodically saw through the line—at least until they’re suddenly pinned to the wall by Mai’s throwing knives. One of the guards asks what she’s doing, and Mai claims she’s saving the jerk who dumped her.


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Mai kicks away the metal bar that was jamming the spool of cable wire so the gondola can start moving again. Sokka rushes to the end of the gondola and asks who is helping them. Zuko realizes that it is Mai, who is fighting off yet more guards to get them time to escape.

Azula also realizes that Mai has helped Zuko. The princess demands to know what Mai thinks she is doing, and Ty Lee can’t give her an answer.

The gondola reaches the end of the line, and Suki, Sokka, Zuko, Hakoda, and Chit Sang get out quickly. They toss the warden back inside, and Hakoda takes the time to inform him that his record is broken. Suki asks what they’re supposed to do now.

Zuko falls behind, looking back at the prison. Sokka asks what he’s doing, and Zuko points out that his sister is here, which means that she came to the island somehow. He rushes toward the shore and spots the airship that Azula traveled in.


Are you surprised that she was capable of this or that she did it for you?

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Mai, now captured by guards, is brought before Azula. The princess orders the guards to leave them alone while Ty Lee looks on anxiously. Once the guards are gone, Azula tells Mai she never expected a betrayal from her. She says she doesn’t understand why Mai would do it since she knows the consequences.

Mai tells Azula that she doesn’t know people as well as she thinks she does: You miscalculated. I love Zuko more than I fear you.

Azula insists that Mai is the one that miscalculated—she should have feared the princess more. The two girls square off.

Before either Azula or Mai can attack, Ty Lee chi blocks Azula.

The princess collapses, and Ty Lee rushes over to Mai and urges her to leave. Before they can get more than a few steps, they are surrounded by guards.

Azula, unable to move, calls them both fools. Two guards haul her upright while Mai and Ty Lee are taken into custody. When a guard asks Azula what they should do with the two girls, the princess orders the guards to let them rot somewhere she can never see their faces again.


Well, at least your independence was pretty awesome while it lasted.

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Sokka and Zuko disembark from the airship, and Katara questions them about how they got the airship and what happened to the war balloon. Zuko reveals that the air balloon got destroyed. Toph asks if they got meat, and Sokka claims they got the best meat of all—the meat of friendship and fatherhood.

Hakoda, Suki, and Chit Sang head down the airship ramp. Katara is so happy to see her father that she cries, and the two of them embrace. Sokka confesses that their fishing trip was actually infiltrating a Fire Nation prison. Katara doesn’t really care and pulls her brother in for a group hug with Hakoda.


Yay for happy families!

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Commentary
Right, so, I’m going to do my utmost best to make this commentary more than just a Mai appreciation post, but I want you all to know that this is a difficult thing for me. Mai’s confrontation with Azula is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. However, we should deal with our heroes first in order to save the best bits for last.

This is the third reunion scene between Hakoda and Sokka, and I’m just as charmed by it as I was the previous two. I’m always going to be a sucker for parent-child reunions, and these two never fail to disappoint. Hakoda even got teary-eyed at seeing his son! And I loved that Hakoda advised Sokka to be more careful when he was wearing the guard uniform. It was a very fatherly thing to say, though Sokka really ought to have known better considering how Suki threw him across the room in the previous episode.

Of course, the Hakoda and Sokka reunion, besides just being heartwarming, also helped fill in some minor details that I some people cared about. Hakoda was able to reveal that the rest of the invasion force was being held in a prison near the Fire Nation palace instead of being slaughtered. He also bothered to mention that the rest of the Kyoshi Warriors were at the same prison.

(Small Tangent #1: Personally, I think that the invasion force is being kept near the palace so that Ozai can coerce the mechanist into churning out more weapons for him. All Ozai has to do is threaten to start killing other members of the invasion force to get him to cave.

Small Tangent #2: Anyone else think that the Fire Nation prison system is just…really weird? I’m fine with the Boiling Rock existing as a maximum security prison for important folks, but why on earth would you transfer a bunch of redshirts like the Kyoshi Warriors from somewhere near Ba Sing Se all the way to a prison on the capital island? Surely there are other prisons throughout the Fire Nation that could handle the Kyoshi Warriors. They could even be split up into smaller groups and sent to a bunch of prisons to make things easier.)

Hakoda continues to be one of the best fictional dads ever. He trusts Sokka’s judgment, even when it comes to Zuko’s loyalties. As soon as Sokka says that Zuko has proven himself, Hakoda doesn’t press for details or any type of reassurance. He just accepts Sokka’s judgment and moves on to more important things. Furthermore, I love that Hakoda believes in Sokka and that they will be able to think of another plan to escape. Yay for two Water Tribe geniuses!

As for the escape plan, it was less inventive than the original, but it definitely got the job done. They worked in a surprising amount of humor—surely I wasn’t the only person amused by the prisoner trying to control his anger or Chit Sang starting a riot by tossing a guy into the air and ordering people to riot—and an exceptional amount of awesome. And by awesome, I mean Suki.

I totally don’t believe that Suki could channel Spider-man like that, but it was so amazing, I don’t care. Aside from her introductory episode (sorry, folks, I still dislike it a lot), Suki’s appearances have always been guaranteed to make an episode fun. I love that while Zuko and Sokka were arguing over what to do, Suki not only came up with a plan but executed it perfectly. Her single-handed captured the warden is what made the entire plan possible—and besides, it was a ton of fun to watch even though my brain still broke at the implausibility of it. Did you see how many guards she took out on her way to the warden?

(Small Tangent #3: Now that I think about it, either Sokka, Zuko, Hakoda, and Chit Sang found a less complicated route up, or else they all followed Suki. Even if they arrived out of breath, they still arrived, and that’s no small feat if they followed in her footsteps. Nicely done, boys!)

The one major flaw to their escape plan is a flaw none of them could have predicted: the warden’s obsession with making sure the Boiling Rock’s no escape record remained pristine. I certainly didn’t expect the warden to order his people to cut the line, even if it had been foreshadowed in part one. There’s cracking down hard on escape attempts, and then there’s sacrificing your life in order to take everyone down with you—including the princess. Granted, the warden wouldn’t have had to deal with the aftermath of killing Azula, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been pretty for his family or for the guards that cut the lines.

The fight on the gondola was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed seeing how our heroes and our villains squared off. I was rather hoping that Suki would face off with Azula, but it made a lot more sense for her to deal with Ty Lee. Neither of the boys are bare-handed combat fighters, and letting Ty Lee get in close would have been a disaster for them. I can totally believe that Suki practiced her heart out to figure out how to fight someone like Ty Lee after watching Ty Lee take down several of her fellow warriors. We didn’t get a whole lot of screen-time on their fight, but Suki was very good at blocking Ty Lee and forcing her strikes to go to the outside instead of letting her get in close.

Watching Zuko and Sokka work together to fight Azula was also a lot of fun. Visually it works well with the theme of Zuko and Sokka learning to adapt to each other’s strengths and to work as a team. It also gave Zuko an opportunity to spend a lot of his time on defense, which is not his normal fighting style. He effectively functioned as Sokka’s shield while Sokka struck at Azula with his sword. I enjoyed the give and take immensely, and I especially enjoyed all the crazy feats of strength and acrobatics Azula employed to dodge those attacks—like balancing on her palms with her body held perfectly parallel to the top of the gondola. That just makes my wrists ache thinking about it. Given enough time, I think it’s like that Zuko and Sokka could have fought Azula into a draw—or even knocked her off the gondola entirely. They were very good at forcing her backward.

My one very tiny complaint with the fight scene on top of the gondola is that Hakoda doesn’t join in on the fight. Granted, there isn’t a whole ton of room on the gondola in the first place, and he doesn’t have any weapons on him. It’s also possible that he hasn’t recovered fully from the injury he sustained on the Day of Black Sun. But most likely I’m guessing that he ended up babysitting the warden because it would be a bit uncomfortable watching a grown man trying to kill two teenaged girls. He and Chit Sang still really sucked as warden babysitters, though.

With the A Plot out of the way, it’s time to focus on our B Plot—the part I love most—Mai (with a smidgen of Ty Lee thrown in for flavor). While we don’t know much of anything about Mai’s relationship with her uncle, we do know that the warden must have sent her a message almost as soon as he discovered Zuko. Mai must have brought Azula and Ty Lee with her as I can’t imagine she would have been able to hide where she was going and why.

But mostly what I love about Mai’s confrontation with Zuko is that she is pissed at him for what he did. Her bluntness is as refreshing as it is hurtful, and it is fascinating watching how Zuko reacts to the things she does and says. Watch his face when Mai accuses him of not having the guts to look her in the eyes when he ripped out her heart or when she starts reading his letter aloud.

What makes things even worse for Zuko is when he tells Mai that leaving was about the Fire Nation and not her. Nice job, Zuko. It’s a wonder she doesn’t gut you now when you imply that she isn’t as important to you as your country—which you totally just betrayed from her point of view. Mai showed some amazing restraint by just pitching the letter at the back of his head instead of one of her knives. While Zuko gets a few points for admitting he never wanted to hurt Mai, that doesn’t erase the fact that he did hurt her, and badly.

And he hurts her again when he escapes. Zuko never gets around to explaining to Mai why he dumped her and left the Fire Nation to join the Avatar. I honestly think that she would have heard him out if there had been time for it, but the riot started, the guard showed up to protect Mai, and Zuko realized how he could make his escape. Mai and Zuko don’t say anything when he shuts the door in her face, but it’s still an extremely powerful moment. At least Zuko meets her eyes before he rips out her heart for the second time?

The fact that Mai still chooses to save Zuko after he betrays her twice speaks volumes for how much she really does love him. To make it even better, she takes down around a dozen guards on top of betraying Azula in order to buy him time. I have no idea how anyone managed to capture her as Mai was pretty much wiping the floor with everyone, but perhaps someone grabbed her during her last soulful look at Zuko.

I’m not sure why Azula dismissed the guards, thus freeing Mai—perhaps some part of her suspected that Mai would say unflattering things when explaining why she betrayed Azula—but it made for an amazing confrontation, especially when Ty Lee made her choice. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.

While Azula had a great moment earlier in the episode by correctly guessing that the guard Chit Sang had set up hadn’t been in the escape attempt, the princess is not infallible at reading people. Remember, Azula is the person who, between a combination of sheer charisma and the idea of the mandate of heaven, talked Long Feng into his own defeat. Azula is exceptional at reading others, but she has a one fatal flaw: she doesn’t believe that there’s anything greater or more terrible than she is.

Azula believed that Mai was incapable of betrayal because Mai knew that doing so would likely end up with her death. So when Mai told Azula flat out that she miscalculated—that Mai did indeed love Zuko more than she feared Azula—Azula was forced with the prospect of having to change her worldview. Mai was telling Azula that she was not the person that mattered most in her world, and Azula couldn’t handle it. Instead, Azula tells Mai that Mai is the one that miscalculated—that if Mai would just do the math over again she would see that Azula was the one she needed to be concerned about, not Zuko.

We don’t know how long Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee have been friends, but it has always been clear that this friendship was not one between peers. Azula was the princess, and Mai and Ty Lee were part of the noble class beneath her. While both Mai’s and Ty Lee’s reunions with Azula in “Return to Omashu” are different, both of the girls bow to Azula and submit to her command. Mai’s relationship with Azula seemed closest to an equal friendship, if only because Mai didn’t need to be coerced into joining Azula on her hunt for Iroh and Zuko.

But Ty Lee had to be coerced from the very beginning. We never had any hints that Ty Lee resented Azula for her threats—she was the very capable and happy minion—but Mai wasn’t nearly as docile under Azula’s leadership. Mai hesitated after Azula’s negotiation suggestion in “Return to Omashu,” refused to follow Katara and Sokka down the slurry pipes in “The Drill,” easily gave up Bosco to Sokka and Toph in “The Crossroads of Destiny,” glared at Azula for interrupting her date in “The Headband,” and yelled at Azula to leave her alone in “The Beach.”

All of those tiny rebellions foreshadowed Mai’s willingness to choose something else—her own preferences or feelings—over Azula. It was only a matter of time before Mai discovered something that was more important than Azula, and it just so happened to be Zuko.

That’s what makes Ty Lee’s split-second decision to side with Mai all the more amazing. Mai’s rebellion has been building up over the course of a season and a half, but aside a brief moment in “Return to Omashu” and “The Beach,” Ty Lee has been nothing but a loyal minion. It’s not until Ty Lee realizes that Mai has betrayed Azula that she starts looking uneasy, and her indecision and fear are quite obvious during Mai and Azula’s confrontation.

I honestly didn’t expect Ty Lee to interfere in the fight, much less choose Mai over Azula—and neither can they. The stunned looks on Mai and Azula’s faces are a thing of beauty. Mai is so taken aback by it that Ty Lee has to yank on her arm to try to get her to run away. Unfortunately, the two girls are caught and conveniently left to rot in jail for the remainder of the important stuff. I’ll survive, somehow—if only because their betrayal of Azula is what sets the stage for the princess’s implosion in the finale. (On-screen, anyway. I still think that Ozai’s trust in his daughter took a major nosedive after the Day of Black Sun.)

I think one of the reasons Mai and Ty Lee’s betrayal hits Azula so hard is that Azula had started to believe her own hype. She was a firebending prodigy, the one who lightning’d up the Avatar, the conqueror of Ba Sing Se, etc. Azula truly believed she was a people person—and for the most part, she was right. She felt that Mai and Ty Lee were safe to trust because they were her friends and because, if nothing else, she knew how to control them.

But Azula was wrong.

Not only was she wrong, but she was spectacularly wrong. Ty Lee took her down in seconds—and if Ty Lee had been a more ruthless character and this hadn’t been a kid’s show, Azula could have died right then and there. For someone like Azula, being rendered powerless and humiliated on top of having two of the only stable people in your life metaphorically stabbing you in the back is not an uplifting experience. Remember, Mai and Ty Lee are possibly the only people Azula has allowed herself to be vulnerable with in years, if the events in “The Beach” are any indication.

Azula has fought the Avatar—arguably the most powerful fighter in the world—and got the best of him. I’m certain it never occurred to her that someone like Ty Lee could take her down so easily, and the sudden realization that she was just as weak and human as everyone else can’t have been a pleasant moment. And based on Azula’s expression as she fell, I think she might have actually been genuinely afraid for a few seconds.

This episode gave Mai and Ty Lee their chance to shine, but it also stripped Azula of her illusion of perfection—and the only people in the world she could call friends.

  • I appreciated that Chit Sang singled out the guard that was a jerk to him before. Nicely done!
  • Suki has some of the best expressions in this episode—especially that smirk when she gags the warden. I think she enjoyed that a little too much.
  • Azula really likes using her firebending like rockets, doesn’t she? Not to mention that had to take a crazy amount of courage and confidence to leap up onto the cables like that. There was absolutely no room for error once she was over the lake.
  • “I love Zuko more than I fear you” will always be one of my favorite lines in this series. I don’t care what anyone else says.
  • Does anyone else wonder why Chit Sang was in prison in the first place? Part of me wants to believe that our intrepid heroes have just broken a serial killer out of jail and set him free.
  • With this episode out of the way, not only do we get our final “our heroes” roster, but we also have an equal number of boys and girls again. Nicely done, Suki! I’m so glad you’re officially on our side.
  • I’m always a sucker for family reunions, and it was lovely to have Hakoda, Sokka, and Katara embrace at the end of the episode.
  • I snickered over Toph’s closing question about the boys bringing back meat. Food’s the important part in her mind—who cares about these new people, two of which she hasn’t met before? She was promised meat, goshdarnit.
  • We aren’t going to have long to wait before the first of Azula’s cracks show up. The princess seems more than a little unhinged in her appearance at the beginning of “The Southern Raiders.”

Now that Aang and Sokka have had their life-changing fieldtrips with Zuko, it’s time for Katara to get her own. Come back on Monday for Book Three: Fire || Chapter Sixteen: The Southern Raiders.

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4 thoughts on “Book Three: Fire || Chapter Fifteen: The Boiling Rock, Part 2

    1. Mai is wonderful, and I desperately wish we’d gotten more of her in season three simply because I think we needed to see more of her and Zuko’s relationship to fully justify this scene. I think it would have been great if we’d seen more of Mai being supportive of Zuko or even taking his side in smaller issues when it came to Azula.

  1. Scattered thoughts are scattered

    So, while I giggle at Hakoda and Sokka’s reaction to Suki kicking butt and taking names, it never fails to irk me. I have all sorts of complicated feels about it that I won’t go into, except to say I noticed a bit of a parallel between how they are impressed with Suki versus Katara’s lack of participation and crutch like powers during the invasion. While the Southern Water Tribe is no where near as divided in their gender roles as the Northern Water Tribe, there is still a separation of labor as it comes to war. In the current generation, women don’t fight and battle the same way men do. So while, Hakoda and Sokka are miles ahead of men like Pakku, they’re still shocked when a woman is battle capable.

    As much as my Zutara heart hates to admit it, I really like Mai. I like that she wasn’t okay with the weak letter Zuko left for her. I like that even though her heart was broken TWICE she still did what she could to help him escape. I’m a little sad that she didn’t fight more to escape herself. Betraying Azula is enough to make anyone want to run away hard.

    Also, Suki keeps her heel down in all of her stances, which impresses me. I have no problem suspending my disbelief in what she did to capture the warden. If you watch people practice Wushu (Northern Kung Fu) which is very aerial and twirly, and some of the stuff the Shaolin monks and parkour experts can do, she’s totally in the realm of possibility, especially in a fantasy setting >.>

    So. Those are my random thoughts!

    1. Those are the best kind!

      I sort of agree with your assessment of Sokka and Hakoda, except that neither of them have actively shielded Katara from fighting. (Sokka was spectacularly sexist in season one). Katara got sidelined by the story and not by the guys in her life. As for Suki, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt–because let’s face it, Suki went above and beyond in her crazy acrobatics. She ended up taking the warden without even breathing hard, and all the guys were left behind in the dust. When they finally caught up with her, all of them were out of breath. I see that moment as more of them being astounded that anyone could do what she did, not that a woman did it.

      Mai is so awesome, and I love that she called out Zuko on his behavior but still loved him enough to help him escape. And again, I think Ty Lee and Mai only got captured because the writers couldn’t have them join the rest of our heroes so late in the game–they’d just be a distraction before the finale. There’s no reason Mai and Ty Lee, working together, couldn’t have taken down all those guards that surrounded them, especially when we’ve seen both girls handle at least that many combatants before on their own.

      I shall believe you! *still has no more martial art experience than she did last week* I think it’s just the climbing up the wall with no visible handholds thing that gets me. XD

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