Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Boy In The Iceberg   Rewatch 
February 21, 2015 5:08 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Two Southern Water Tribe siblings, Sokka and Katara, plan to enjoy a peaceful day of fishing and bickering, until they discover an Air Nomad boy frozen in an iceberg. Could he know what happened to the Avatar?

As Katara's intro states: "Water. Earth. Fire. Air. My grandmother used to tell me stories about the old days: a time of peace when the Avatar kept balance between the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation and Air Nomads. But that all changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar mastered all four elements; only he could stop the ruthless firebenders. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years have passed, and the Fire Nation is nearing victory in the war. Two years ago, my father and the men of my tribe journeyed to the Earth Kingdom to help fight against the Fire Nation, leaving me and my brother to look after our tribe. Some people believe that the Avatar was never reborn into the Air Nomads and that the cycle is broken, but I haven't lost hope. I still believe that, somehow, the Avatar will return to save the world."
posted by Katemonkey (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Since's it's the 10th anniversary of when the show started, we thought we'd get this sky bison in the air.

Amazon Prime US
Amazon Prime UK

(Can someone else dig out the Netflix links? I don't have an account and they don't let you search otherwise.)

So what makes this first episode delightful? Sibling bickering, Sokka being sexist and Katara calling him out on it, introducing waterbending, Uncle Iroh offering tea, Aang's first question to Katara being about penguin sledding, the heartbreakingly tiny village that Katara and Sokka help run (because all the men are off at war), introducing firebending, Sokka trying to be a strong warrior and teach the children (even though he's a child himself), and, of course, Aang realising just how long he's been in the ice.

It's a fantastic introduction, and after trying to get all my friends into it, I'm just waiting for my niece to be old enough to cope with some of the scarier elements.
posted by Katemonkey at 5:22 AM on February 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


The first episode does an incredible job of introducing our major characters and making them interesting in the process. The sibling dynamic between Katara and Sokka, with Katara's curiosity with her water bending and Sokka's focus on his role in the Southern Water Tribe with the men having left for war. It's completely awkward watching Katara water bend the fish as she does so with almost no form or grace in comparison to the elite water bender we have by the end of the show. This is also one of the few times we see a water bender's temper correspond with unconscious water bending (perhaps the only time?).

Zuko is presented as not having learned the "advanced" fire bending techniques and I wonder if his skill level was set a bit too low for this episode, as later on the only advance technique he learns is essentially lightning bending, but is able to hold his own against advanced benders, be it his sister or our Admiral Chow. We also have placed on his shoulders a duty that three successive generations had failed to do, find and kill the Avatar. Iroh's, "We have been through this before..." so one must wonder what false leads Zuko chased after in the past.

One thing I didn't notice before was the game that Uncle Iroh was playing with the tiles/cards. It involved something with the symbols of the various elements and the last line he played was a solid line of air symbols, which kind of reflected that an air nomad and the Avatar had returned to the world.

We also enjoyed the introduction of the unique animals of the Avatar world with a flying bison, otter penguin, and what looked like some kind of striped cat creature (which I think we never see again). The crazy animal combinations quickly represent a major world building touch that's unique to the show and a source of constant amusement.
posted by Atreides at 7:07 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can someone else dig out the Netflix links?

It looks like it isn't currently available to stream. And Hulu just forwards me to Nick.com, where the videos look to mostly be clips (spoilers ahoy).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:25 AM on February 21, 2015


In the UK, A:TLA is available to stream on Netflix. link
posted by Ziggy500 at 7:42 AM on February 21, 2015


Ok. The Avatar FPP got me to finally plug into FanFare. Let's do this.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:52 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Atreides: " This is also one of the few times we see a water bender's temper correspond with unconscious water bending (perhaps the only time?). "

When Katara's seething with anger at master Pakku's demand for an apology in s01e18, she cracks the ice floor and some pots around her, apparently involuntarily.
posted by signal at 7:58 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sokka being sexist and Katara calling him out on it

Sokka is the character that Xander should've been on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".
posted by Ipsifendus at 11:02 AM on February 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


The source for this (the Amazon Video version) looks like it came from the same master as the Book 1 DVDs, with the crappy visual artifacts going on with the animation all the time... the jagged lines around the characters' faces when they move, etc. I can't remember if the later sets fixed that or not.

This is a really great introduction, though. I like how well the character personalities are sketched out from the beginning, and the bending philosophy stuff (this small taste of it, at least) is pretty consistent too, though I agree it strains credibility a little bit to think that Zuko doesn't know any "advanced" techniques given what we see later in this season alone. I had also forgotten how dire the Southern Tribe's situation was at the beginning of this series, given that they aren't doing too badly a hundred years later when LoK rolls around.

I wonder if Katara's accidental bending here is supposed to be a reflection of the prodigy that she turns out to be. It can work that way on a rewatch, even if it wasn't originally intended.
posted by Kosh at 12:48 PM on February 21, 2015


IIRC, a lot of the Southern Water tribe by the time of Korra are actually immigrants from the Northern Water Tribe. But still, things must have been pretty bad for all the men to leave on a roaring ride of revenge.
posted by happyroach at 12:30 AM on February 22, 2015


Because this was posted here yesterday, I decided to switch my normal treadmill watching from Archer to Avatar today. I haven't watched the show before, and really enjoyed the 2 episodes I saw, so I'll definitely be keeping up with this.

Atreides already mentioned the animals, which were one of my favourite things. I am sad that the cat/walruses (catruses? walats?) may not be seen again. Penguin sledding is superb. And Appa is the best. I am maaaaaaybe OK with seeing animated animal injury, as long as there's a recovery, but do bad things happen to him? I will have to stop watching before that point if so.

I'm watching on UK Netflix, and it has the same bad visual artifacts that Kosh mentioned on Amazon Video. It's mostly on character movement and sudden changes in facial expressions.
posted by minsies at 7:14 AM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


And Appa is the best. I am maaaaaaybe OK with seeing animated animal injury, as long as there's a recovery, but do bad things happen to him? I will have to stop watching before that point if so.

In Season Two, Appa has what can be considered a pretty bad day, but there's no graphic injury to any creatures in Avatar. Concerning Appa, it's equivalent to a dog encountering a porcupine, and there's definitely recovery.
posted by Atreides at 7:34 AM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the information! I can handle that.
posted by minsies at 9:01 AM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit jealous that minsies gets to watch it for the first time.
posted by idb at 1:51 PM on February 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've got a wednesday night thing planned to do a re-watch with a friend who has the dvd set . I'll share my thoughts here, how long do fan fare threads stay open?
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:46 PM on February 22, 2015


Forever!
posted by Atreides at 6:47 PM on February 22, 2015


Oh man, Avatar. What a series. What a franchise.

In a lot of ways, I feel like Avatar was the same kind of "flower that grew out of the dirt" of children's animation as, say, the original Gundam. It's clear, too, that the first season is susceptible to a whole lot more executive meddling to enforce More Silly Sidekick Hijinks than the rest of the series, and while some of the moments are a little groan-worthy through the first season, the franchise absolutely grows up as much as the Harry Potter series by the time you get through Legend of Korra.

It's not perfect — nothing is — but when it's good, it's great. If only I had more room in my stuff-to-watch schedule to fit in a rewatch. I'll just have to enjoy it vicariously through everyone here. : )
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:53 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Rewatching a while back, I realized that the entire plot gets rolling because of a passionate rant against someone else's antifeminist worldview, *which is shown as totally valid*.

Which is the mostly-non-spoilery thing I use to convince people that it is more than an infantile kid's show. Avatar, so good.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:32 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


One thing I didn't notice before was the game that Uncle Iroh was playing with the tiles/cards. It involved something with the symbols of the various elements and the last line he played was a solid line of air symbols, which kind of reflected that an air nomad and the Avatar had returned to the world.

I just started my rewatch a few minutes ago, and noticed it for the first time too. He actually places an air tile over a fire tile. Fun little detail.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:05 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've also been inspired by this post to watch this for the first time. I'm now three episodes in and enjoying it so far.

And yes, I love Appa, because how can you not love a giant, six-legged flying bison with a broad flat tail?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:23 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


>And Appa is the best. I am maaaaaaybe OK with seeing animated animal injury, as long as there's a recovery, but do bad things happen to him? I will have to stop watching before that point if so.

I'm just going to add on to this to be more specific and say that the worst ep for Appa pain is Appa's Lost Days (that's the part Atreides mentions), and The Library too, if an animal feeling scared and sad is too hard (The Library is the episode where I cried.) They could be skipped.

That said, I felt like the animal characters were handled with a lot more respect than, say, the animal characters in Harry Potter, if you need a point of reference.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:08 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Since we're allowed to discuss the future here, I would second what everyone is saying and say that I think Appa fares better during that arc than some of the human characters do in reacting to it, honestly. Aang's reaction (and Katara bringing him down), the Avatar State music... gives me chills just thinking about it. But we'll get there soon enough.
posted by Kosh at 1:28 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Atreides: We also have placed on his shoulders a duty that three successive generations had failed to do, find and kill the Avatar.

Considering 1) the avatar hasn't been seen or heard from in 100 years, 2) his father cast him out, and 3) his only real support (as seen in the first episode) is his retired uncle, I considered the task to be 90% exile, 5% family duty, and 5% potential for redemption.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:37 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've been out of town for the past couple of weekends and busy during the week, but I finally remembered this was happening!

OMG, I did not realize/recall that Aang had a crush on Katara right from the first episode. I'm going to have to keep an eye on how that develops.

And seeing this serious no-fun Sokka at the start of the show is also quite interesting. Fortunately, that doesn't last all that long.
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:59 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's interesting, but one can wonder if Sokka leaving the village made a significant impact on his personality because it relieved him of the incredible burden of being the protector and only warrior of the village. Pre-Avatar Sokka was a stressful Sokka. Post-Avatar Sokka is Fun Sokka.
posted by Atreides at 9:40 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


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