It’s the last chapter for the Avatar: The Last Airbender rewatch! Episode 3.21 features a breakdown, a game-breaking power mode, tears, and a lot of happy endings. There are even two makeout sessions!
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: This is the one and only post that it is okay to post Legend of Korra spoilers. Why? Because there’s something I have to rant about, and I cannot do it without pulling in that show. Please try to stay on topic about this in the comments, though.
Ozai throws fireball after fireball at Aang and taunts him about being unable to hide for forever. Aang swelters as the attacks heat up his shield of earth.
The firebenders on the airships continue set the Earth Kingdom ablaze. Sokka tells Toph to metalbend the airship’s rudder so the ship will spiral and smash into the others. She does so, but after two impacts a soldier shows up to see what the problem is.
Sokka grabs Toph and makes a break for it, and they’re forced over the edge of the airship. Sokka tries to use his sword to slow their fall. It helps a little, but not enough to keep him from slamming onto one of the firebending platforms. He hurts his leg in the process—and Toph ends up dangling in the air, only saved from falling by Sokka’s grip on her hand.
Sokka yells at Toph to hang on. Two firebenders appear on the platforms on either side of Sokka and get ready to aim. Sokka throws his boomerang at one and his sword at the other to save himself and Toph. He only has a moment to mourn the loss of his space sword before seven new firebenders show up.
Toph’s hand starts slipping. Sokka shouts to Toph that boomerang isn’t coming back. He tells her this looks like the end, and Toph begins to cry.
The firebenders suddenly make a break for it, and the platform shudders under the impact of another airship. Sokka drops Toph onto the new airship and follows her, though when he lands, he yelps, clutches his knee, and rolls around in agony.
Toph demands to know what happened and asks if boomerang came back. Sokka looks up and spots Suki using the rudder to pilot this new airship. He happily announces that Suki came back instead.
Ozai aims blast after blast of fire at Aang while Aang tries to withstand his blows. Eventually, Ozai duplicates the same technique he used to set the Earth Kingdom on fire. The fire breaks through Aang’s shield of earth, though Aang’s shield of air keeps him from frying immediately. The blast slams Aang against a pillar of earth, and one of the jagged bits slams straight into the point where Azula hit him with lightning.
Aang flashes to that moment in Ba Sing Se. He has visions of the previous Avatar incarnations and of the times he entered the Avatar State in the past. The vision ends with a shot of the glowy-cosmic-Aang.
Ozai approaches the pile of rubble and tells Aang to come on out. Before he can get too far in his gloating, Aang—now in the Avatar State—grabs him by the beard and pulls himself out of the rubble. Ozai aims a blast of fire at Aang’s head, but Aang knocks Ozai’s hand off course, and the fire shoots uselessly into the sky.
Aang blasts Ozai back with airbending, and the Phoenix King tumbles until he slams into a pillar. Ozai falls to his knees, but when the dust clears, he looks up and sees Aang. Aang roars, and huge streams of fire erupt from his mouth, hands, and feet.
And then Aang gathers the four elements around him while Ozai looks on in shock.
Bumi burrows to the surface only to find himself face-to-face with several Fire Nation tanks. He shields himself from the first fireball before using his earthbending to disable the tanks.
Iroh stands before the palace of Ba Sing Se while the fighting continues in the city behind him. He sets the Fire Nation banner ablaze, and as it burns away, the Earth Kingdom’s seal is revealed beneath it.
Ozai braces himself, but he still gets thrown around like a toy when Aang’s sphere of air slams into him. He manages to rocket away with his firebending, but Aang uses his earthbending to shoot pellets at him. Ozai dodges this attack as well, so Aang chases after him.
Zuko groans and tries to move. Katara rushes forward, ready to heal him, only to be stopped by a blast of fire. Azula cackles madly and shoots a bolt of lightning at Katara, who manages to dodge the attack. Zuko tries to help, but he can’t even sit up.
Katara dodges a second bolt, and Azula tells Katara she would rather have the royal physician look at Zuko instead. The princess continues to attack Katara and forces her to take cover behind a column. Azula then shouts at “Zuzu” that he doesn’t look very good. She attacks Katara again, and Katara has to jump to new cover to avoid getting blown up.
Katara tries to attack Azula, but Azula slips in behind her via some rockets and gives chase. The princess’s attacks eventually force Katara into a new area. She stumbles to her knees on a grate and sees water flowing beneath it. Katara looks up and spots a length of chain nearby as well.
Azula approaches Katara and calls her a filthy peasant. Katara attacks Azula, who rolls forward onto the grate to dodge. Just before Azula can blast her face off, Katara bends the water under the grate up and around both her and Azula, encasing them in ice.
Azula cannot move, but Katara bends the ice around herself into water so she can chain Azula’s hands behind her back. Katara anchors Azula to the grate before she lets the water go. Both girls gasp for breath, and Katara makes sure Azula’s restraints are secure before she runs to Zuko.
Katara turns Zuko onto his back and starts healing him. After a moment, Katara smiles, and Zuko—now healed—thanks her. Katara points out that she ought to be thanking him for living. She helps Zuko to his feet, and the two of them go over to Azula.
Azula is in the process of completely losing it. She screams and struggles in her chains, breathing fire and thrashing around. It isn’t long until she starts sobbing while Zuko and Katara look on.
Ozai rockets away for his life with Avatar State Aang close in pursuit. Aang forces Ozai to the ground with a giant wave of water. Ozai manages to get back in the air, but no matter what tactics he uses, Aang is able to counter them all—and close in on Ozai.
Aang floats over Ozai and informs him that since he and his forefathers devastated the balance of the world, he needs to pay the ultimate price. Ozai is terrified when Aang bends the four elements into a spiral of death.
But just before the blow lands, Aang regains control of the Avatar State. He lets go of the attack and lets it fall harmlessly over Ozai. He even releases the rock that was keeping Ozai in place.
Aang drops on top of the pillar and tells Ozai he won’t end it like this. Ozai marvels at how Aang can still be weak even with all the power in the world. He moves to attack Aang, but Aang’s seismic sense warns him about it. Aang uses earthbending to entrap both of Ozai’s hands in earth and force him to his knees. Then Aang presses his thumbs to Ozai’s forehead and heart. He closes his eyes and remembers the rest of his conversation with the lion turtle:
“In the era before the Avatar, we bent not the elements, but the energy within ourselves.”
The lion turtle touched Aang’s forehead and heart with its claws. A mysterious light shone out of Aang and the lion turtle.
A blue light shoots out of Aang’s eyes and mouth, and after a moment, a red light does the same from Ozai. Their respectively colored lights engulf each of them and light up the world.
The lion turtle continues its voiceover: “To bend another’s energy, your own spirit must be undbendable, or you will be corrupted and destroyed.”
Ozai’s red light engulfs Aang’s body, but at the last moment, Aang reasserts control and forces the light back. His blue light swiftly washes over Ozai until a pillar of light erupts from them both and shoots into the sky.
The pillar of light fades away. Aang staggers and lets go of Ozai’s restraints while Ozai flops onto his back. Ozai tries and fails to attack again (or stay upright). He demands to know what Aang did to him, and Aang tells him that he took away his firebending. Ozai will never be able to use his firebending to hurt anyone else ever again.
Aang looks out over the burning land and waterbends a giant tide. It sweeps up on shore and through the pillars of earth, drowning the fire as it goes. Once the fires are all out, Aang sends the water back into the ocean.
Momo lands on Aang’s shoulder while Aang looks over the wreckage of the airship fleet.
Sozin’s Comet heads for the horizon. Suki and Toph help an injured Sokka disembark from the airship, and Sokka geeks out over how awesome Aang was in his fight against the Fire Lord.
Suki goes over to Ozai gingerly and asks if Aang “finished the job,” and she’s a little startled when Ozai points out that he’s still alive. Aang reveals that he discovered he could defeat Ozai by taking his bending away. Toph asks how he learned to do that, and Aang admits that a giant lion turtle taught him the skill.
Sokka hobbles over to Ozai, and he, Toph, and Suki proceed to taunt Ozai about his defeat.
Sozin’s Comet disappears over the horizon, and the night sky goes dark.
Zuko tries to get his robe on, but his injuries make it a painful experience. Suddenly, Mai asks if he needs help. Zuko is delighted to see her again and asks how she got out of prison. Mai reveals that her uncle pulled a few strings—and it didn’t hurt that the new Fire Lord was also her boyfriend.
Zuko asks if this means she doesn’t hate him anymore, and Mai says she thinks it means she actually kind of likes him. They kiss, but the cute moment is interrupted when she tells him very sternly not to ever break up with her again. The two of them embrace.
Sokka and Katara search through the crowd (which includes their allies that were captured after the failed invasion) and finally spot Hakoda. He embraces his children, and then he says that he is the proudest father in the world—and Kya would be proud of them, too. Katara cries a little when she hears that.
Suki shows up with the rest of her Kyoshi warriors in tow, and Sokka asks them how it feels to be back in uniform again. Ty Lee—dressed as one of the warriors—tells him it feels great. Sokka instantly moves to protect Suki despite his crutch and tells his girlfriend that Ty Lee is pretending to be a Kyoshi Warrior again.
However, Suki reassures him that it’s okay—Ty Lee has officially joined the Kyoshi Warriors. Sokka is aghast while Ty Lee explains how she bonded with the warriors while in prison. After a few chi blocking lessons, the girls let her into the group. Ty Lee and the other Kyoshi Warriors are going to be best friends forever.
Aang sits by a doorway. He is wearing the clothing of a full Air Nomad Monk for the first time. Zuko approaches him and reminisces about how a year ago his only purpose in life was hunting Aang down. Aang points out that they’re friends now, and Zuko agrees.
Aang says that a year ago he was frozen in a block of ice and that the world is so different now. Zuko points out that the world will be even more different since they will be building it together. The two boys hug before they step through the curtain.
The Fire Sages ring a gong as Zuko steps out onto the platform. The crowd—made of people from every nation—greets him with cheers, though Zuko is quick to point out that Aang is the real hero. Obligingly, the crowd cheers even more for the Avatar. Then Zuko addresses the people:
“Today, this war is finally over. I promised my uncle I would restore the honor of the Fire Nation, and I will. The road ahead of us is challenging. A hundred years of fighting has left the world scarred and divided. But with the Avatar’s help, we can get it back on the right path and begin a new era of love and peace.”
Zuko kneels so one of the Fire Sages can place the royal ornament in his topknot and proclaim him the new Fire Lord.
Fire Lord Zuko heads to the prison where Iroh had been kept and where Ozai is being held now. Ozai makes snide remarks about the Fire Lord gracing him with his presence, but Zuko points out that Ozai is lucky that Aang spared his life. Zuko reveals that banishing him was the best thing Ozai did for him as it put him on the right path and suggests that Ozai’s imprisonment will help him as well.
Ozai scoffs and asks Zuko what he’s really here for. Zuko leans in close to the bars and says that Ozai is going to tell him something—where Ursa is.
The kids in Ba Sing Se play in the streets around the ruins of Fire Nation tanks. Iroh plays the tsungi horn while Zuko serves tea to our assembled heroes.
Sokka orders Zuko to stop moving because he’s painting and trying to capture the moment. He wants them to always remember the good times they had together. Katara thinks it’s very thoughtful—at least until she is reminded of her brother’s artistic skills.
While everyone else bickers over Sokka’s drawing skills, Aang smiles and heads out the door. He watches the sun set over Ba Sing Se.
Katara follows him outside and stands next to him. Aang looks over and spots Katara blushing at him. She reaches out first, and the two of them embrace—and shortly thereafter, they kiss.
How’s that for a happy ending?
I’ll be covering my overall feelings for season three and the series as a whole on Friday, so today I’ll focus on just the events in this episode. There’s a lot to cover—except for the liberation of Ba Sing Se. Congrats on accomplishing your
boring goal without a hitch, White Lotus dudes. Now make room for all of the more interesting plot threads, though to be honest, they’re more difficult to talk about because they’re mostly just awesome moments that don’t need much commentary.
Going into the final episode, I had expected that the fight with Azula was going to capture my attention the most, but I found myself won over by Sokka, Toph, and Suki instead. I am always going to have a major soft spot for heroic sacrifices (whether or not they get so far as dying), and their plot thread is rife with it. It started at the end of “Into the Inferno” when Suki got left behind, but the drama truly gets into fine form in this episode.
Even though Sokka is understandably upset about being separated from Suki, he still formulates a new plan—there is still work to be done after all—in order to take out as many airships as they can. And that plan is more than a little disastrous.
Not going to lie: I absolutely loved that Sokka got hurt and that his grip was the only thing keeping Toph from plunging to her death. Then on top of that, he was able to take out two firebenders by sacrificing his two most beloved weapons—and that still wasn’t enough to save them. To twist the knife even more, Sokka had to tell Toph what was going on because she couldn’t sense what was happing, and her tears at being told that this was the end—
That, my friends, is how you do drama and set up your heroic sacrifices. Sokka, Suki, and Toph were put in vulnerable positions—not of their own choosing, like Aang and Zuko—and the danger was authentic.
And I cannot be the only one who cheered at the final “come back” joke, only with Suki coming to save the day instead of boomerang. No idea how she managed to take complete control of that airship, as I imagine soldiers would have come up to see what on earth was wrong with the airship’s rudder, but I don’t care, because she was awesome and she saved Sokka and Toph. Nicely done, Suki! I’ll forgive you for disappearing for so long.
As for the Katara vs. Azula fight, well—I don’t have much to say about it. Which is kind of lame, considering I really like both Katara and Azula as characters. I did enjoy that Zuko’s decision to take on Azula by himself did have some nice narrative consequences for Katara: she needed to defeat Azula in enough time to keep Zuko from dying. So from that perspective, it really heightens the tension as Katara is forced to take shelter from Azula’s attacks.
On the other hand, I have no idea why Azula simply didn’t just fry her brother when she had the chance. Zuko was twitching on the ground, and instead of shooting him again and finishing him off, Azula decided to aim a couple feet to the right in order to block Katara from reaching Zuko. Why didn’t she just wait three more seconds until Katara was crouched over Zuko before she attacked again? Then she could have killed them both and gotten back to her coronation.
Speaking of coronation, where on earth did the Fire Sages go? They just standing witness to the agni kai or something?
I know that Azula is rather unstable at the moment, but her crazy hasn’t cost her all sense of good tactics. After all, she did aim for Katara with the lightning and force Zuko to intercept the strike. But somehow she can’t figure out that this would be an excellent time to zap Zuko again, and this time when he is completely unable to defend himself. Show, if you’re going to give the villains the smarts to do something sneaky (like aiming for a bystander), you really ought to let that same character do the obvious thing as well. I know you didn’t want Zuko to die, but wouldn’t it have been easy to get Katara to block that follow up strike by Azula?
Then again, once Katara was standing by/protecting Zuko, I doubt she would have sought shelter just by herself, and that wouldn’t have allowed her to find the pieces she needed in order to win.
And it was a pretty awesome win. I’m always pleased when characters are clever under stressful circumstances/tight deadlines, and Katara excelled at it. And while the mechanics of freezing both herself and Azula in ice was very fun, what most impressed me is that Katara deliberately lured Azula onto the grate. She didn’t wait for Azula to attack her—she attacked first, to force Azula to move where she wanted her to. That was a very risky move, as evidenced by how close Azula was to melting Katara’s face off. It was clever and gutsy and I loved it.
(Though I will admit to being confused as to how the mechanics of Katara moving within the ice actually worked. I mean, you can see the ice turning to water around her, and Katara moving within the block of ice to chain Azula’s arms behind her back. But shouldn’t that mean that the ice around Azula’s arms was also being turned into water? Shouldn’t Azula have been able to fight back? We’ve seen Iroh heat metal until it glowed and burned enemies—shouldn’t Azula be able to do something similar to the water and ice? Why can’t she fight back at this point?)
What I don’t love is Azula’s complete breakdown. It’s just—it’s so very hard to watch. There’s nothing triumphant in her defeat. Neither Katara nor Zuko take any joy in watching her thrash around and sob and scream like a child, and for that I’m grateful. Watching Azula fall apart was difficult, and I felt a great deal of pity for her. After spending a good chunk of “Into the Inferno” seeing just how flawed and broken Azula was, I desperately wished that she could heal somehow. She was a fascinating character and a lot of fun to watch, but in the end I can’t help but feel dissatisfied that her meltdown was the end of her story.
And I can’t help but feel a little robbed about that, too. Why did Zuko get the offer of redemption extended to him over and over and not Azula? Why was Zuko told that he had a choice about following Roku’s lineage instead of Sozin’s and not Azula? Why did we get to see the difficulties and hard parts of Zuko growing up and not Azula?
It’s only in the final two episodes of the series that we finally get a deeper understanding of Azula’s worldview, and it’s an awful thing to realize that—so far as the primary canon of the universe is concerned—she never gets the same chances for good as Zuko does. Azula ends completely broken, overwhelmed by despair and loneliness and fear, and I wish we had been given some hint that she is not irredeemable and past healing.
And with all those major threads out of the way, that means it’s time for me to talk about Aang. Oh, Aang. I really wish I liked your fight with Ozai better than I did. But at least the actual fighting is better than it was in the previous episode?
Because it was. Aang in the Avatar State was a very terrifying image, possibly even more so than when he merged with the ocean spirit at the North Pole. At least then the viewers could imagine that a great deal of the power was coming from the ocean itself. Today though—today we had the might, power, and knowledge of untold numbers of previous Avatars all crammed into one twelve-year-old boy’s body, and that’s more than a little terrifying. I will admit to getting a bit of vicious satisfaction when Ozai was on the run, because you could clearly tell that the ferocity and majesty of the Avatar was not something he had actually been able to envision.
On the other hand, I’m a little annoyed that all it took to unblock Aang’s chakra was a sufficiently hard blow to his back. Did no one try this before? I mean, our heroes had plenty of encounters with Ty Lee, and Aang actually got an intensive this-is-how-chakras-work lesson from Guru Pathik. Either none of our heroes were able to put the dots together or else they did try it and it didn’t work. And if it’s the latter, I really wish the show 1) had bothered to show us and 2) explained why rock-to-the-back worked better than fist-to-the-back.
But hey, who am I to ask for explanations when systems of magic the audience thought they understood suddenly change the rules?
I could totally let that go, though, if the show hadn’t cheated again by revealing at the last moment that there was more to the conversation between the lion turtle and Aang. Why on earth would the show hide these two lines from us?
“In the era before the Avatar, we bent not the elements, but the energy within ourselves. To bend another’s energy, your own spirit must be undbendable, or you will be corrupted and destroyed.”
No, seriously, why? There was no way the audience could have figured out what energybending would actually do before we saw it happening. Heck, it wasn’t until Aang flat out told Ozai that he took away his bending that any of the lion turtle’s ramblings made sense to me. There was no reason to withhold this information from the audience other than to artificially ramp up tension, and that is nearly as infuriating a cheat as Zuko not telling everyone that Ozai was planning to burn down the Earth Kingdom. The lion turtle was already a terrible deus ex machina, you don’t have to compound that by withholding key information!
(That said, I’m ambivalent toward energybending as a power in the first place. We’d had hints from Guru Pathik prior to this that the separation of the elements was an illusion, and I suppose I can accept energybending as some kind of extension of the “true” nature of bending
even if the power was introduced at the last moment and used to solve a moral quandary that Aang should have at least spent more than three days agonizing over.
If the show wants energybending, fine. Just make sure it fits into the cosmology in a semi-coherent manner. Because how it is explained now makes it sound as if Ozai was also capable of energybending—if he could fight the technique, corrupt Aang, and even destroy him, doesn’t that mean he is energybending right back at Aang? And if Ozai is not energybending back at Aang, then how else is he resisting him? I have no idea, but it doesn’t make any sense.)
And here’s the point where I enter spoiler territory for Legend of Korra, because there’s no way that I can talk about this without bringing up key plot points in that show. Skip this part if you don’t want to be spoiled.
The whole battle between Ozai’s red light and Aang’s blue light can’t just be a metaphorical representation of their battle wills. I mean, maybe the red and blue are only there for the audience’s benefit—that I’m okay with. It makes for some very dramatic (and very symbolic) visuals. But it can’t be just a metaphor, guys.
When Aang is victorious? There is a pillar of blue light that punches into the sky and parts the clouds. A perfect, circular opening around that pillar of light. Whether or not the colors were visible to anyone else, there was an actual, physical consequence for taking away Ozai’s bending, something that people ought to have seen for miles. Sokka at the very least saw the end of the battle—he geeked out over how awesome Aang looked in the Avatar State—and if he was intently focused on watching his friend fighting the Fire Lord, surely he noticed the sudden hole drilled into the sky. On top of that, Suki and all the Fire Nation soldiers huddling on top of the downed airships would have been close enough to see it, too.
Of course, what this all means is that no one should have believed that Amon could energybend. He can’t fake perfectly parting clouds directly overhead whenever he bloodbended someone’s abilities away. I mean, unless Aang somehow got enough practice stripping people of their bending powers to finesse energybending to the point that we didn’t have parting clouds anymore, then energybending should never have been on the table as a possibility. Granted, I don’t think Amon ever directly claimed he could energybend—he just said something about getting powers from the spirits—but Korra et al. really needed to be looking at this as a different type of technique entirely.
I just don’t see why they latched onto an almost definitely impossible explanation instead of going through all the more mundane explanations first. Most of my friends were convinced that Amon was simply doing some kind of chi blocking (‘cuz of Combustion Man blowing himself up and Aang’s blocked chakra that kept him from entering the Avatar State), and shouldn’t someone at some point think, hey, Katara’s supposed to be one of the best healers in the world, maybe we should see if she’d be interested in coming to Republic City? Oh, and isn’t she a bloodbender, too? Maybe she can give us some insight!
Then again, maybe the showrunners simply decided to change the rules of the game
again in Legend of Korra. The times we see Aang (in flashback) and Korra perform energybending, there’s a distinct lack of pillars of light and/or clouds parting and/or some other evidence of energy being released. *sighs* But hey, continuity! Who cares, right?
I don’t have a ton to say about the denouements other than to note that most of them were very cute. I was happy to see Mai and Zuko reconcile, Ty Lee find herself some new friends, and Sokka and Katara reunite with their dad. The stronger moments for me were Zuko and Aang talking before Zuko’s coronation and Zuko’s speech. I wanted to be swept up in Zuko’s enthusiastic hope for the world, but the more cynical side of me is sure it was far from smooth sailing at that point. You can’t heal the world’s wounds after a hundred years of war with just a pretty speech.
I will say that I adored that Iroh had retaken his tea shop—and that Zuko served everyone tea while Iroh played the tsungi horn. And then Sokka tried and failed (or won, depending on your perspective) to do some commemorative art. How adorable was that?
Oh, and then Aang and Katara kissed and made up
even though we never got to see them readdress the issue of their kind of romance on screen after Aang’s disastrous blunder in “The Ember Island Players. And I am still annoyed that we have no idea what happened to Ursa.
- I really don’t think I’ll ever stop loving Sokka trying so hard to keep a hold of Toph and ultimately being forced to tell her that he thinks it’s the end for them. My heart. ;_;
- Can I just say that Sokka landing that second time made me wince? How he rolled around on the ground, clutching his knee? Yeeeesh. It must have been pretty bad, considering he was still using a crutch during Zuko’s coronation.
- It was rather adorable to see how happy Katara was that Zuko was alive. I was also very happy that Zuko was alive, as otherwise the Fire Nation was about to head straight for a succession crisis if Iroh refused the crown. >.>
- Did anyone else notice how the Fire Nation soldiers all huddled together when they realized the water was coming in? I can’t blame them for thinking that the ocean might actually be coming up to eat them, especially if they’d heard about what happened at the North Pole.
- I was very amused that Toph commented on how Aang has the craziest adventures when he disappears. Now if only Toph could get her own life-changing field trip…
- I was not a fan of the kids taunting Ozai when he was helpless. Actually, I take that back—I was very unhappy that the show would have them gloat over their defeated and helpless enemy. Not cool.
- Ahahaha, Zuko went in for a hug, but Mai helped him finish getting dressed first.
- Pretty much everyone got nice closure except for Toph. I hope she was able to go home and make up with her parents somehow.
And that’s it for the rewatch proper! You can come back on Friday for my final thoughts on season three and the series as a whole. If you don’t, then I wish you all the best. Thanks for sticking around so long!