Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Great Divide
March 23, 2015 6:36 AM - Season 1, Episode 11 - Subscribe

The gang's journey northward brings them to the Great Divide, the Grand Canyon of the Avatar world, and into the arguing midst of two rival Earth Kingdom tribes, the Gan Jin and the Zhang. In a bid to display the Avatar's expected ability to unite people, Aang volunteers to guide the two groups through the canyon and through their troubles.

In his first, but not last appearance on Avatar, René Auberjonois voices the leader of the Gan-Jin.
posted by Atreides (12 comments total)
In a bid to display the Avatar's expected ability to unite people, Aang Katara volunteers Aang to guide the two groups through the canyon and through their troubles.

Didn't Aang kind of throw up his hands at first? I thought Katara was the one who said "hey everyone, this kid is the Avatar! He'll fix your problems! Take it away, Aang!"

Every time someone does some bending with an element Aang is not familiar with, I expect him to be paying close attention, so he can try to master the elements in the short amount of time before the arrival of Sozin's Comet.

At least Aang learned that appearing to be a guileless kid (and being alive 100 years ago) can help you get people to believe your lies. The little kid version of the Jin Wei and Wei Jin are adorable! Avatar babies, we make our dreams come true! Avatar babies, we'll do the same for you! (Make it happen, Nick Jr., and you'll be printing a small quantity of money!) Actually, I really liked the animation for the dueling tribes' ancestor stories, because I like to see weird animation thrown into "normal" animation (though this show has more weird-out moments than most, which I also appreciate).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:44 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

This episode really had a message it was pushing. It was uncomfortable. Was it maybe just an excuse to have the Grand Canyon art in there and then they tried to fit a story around it?

That being said, I agree with flt in that the contrasting animation styles of the two rival tribes' stories was definitely a winner.

And it was pretty humorous how they convinced those canyon spiders (or whatever they were called) to climb them up out of the canyon.
posted by jillithd at 8:36 AM on March 23, 2015

Based on the reaction from the last thread about this episode, I wasn't looking forward to it. It wasn't quite as bad as I thought, but it wasn't good, either. It seemed fitting that the whole thing was sorted out by Aang's lie - it gives this dumb argument the weight it deserves.

The best animal was obviously the panda official in the redemption game. I liked the different styles between the 2 tribes' stories, as previously mentioned. Aang has some pretty awesome "perhaps the Avatar is right" eyes. Oh, and the Zhang leader's bear head shoulder pad is pretty great. The feedbag reins are clever, too.

That guide is worthless. Whoever's in control of the canyon crossing guide business needs to sort that out - they should be travelling in pairs, at least. Maybe employ lemurs as sniffers for food?
posted by minsies at 8:46 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

An episode without a "Previously" at the beginning is never a good sign. I don't find it as terrible an episode as much of the fandom does, but there is a bit of a slump in the middle of the first season where the kids are just kind of wandering around, not making much headway in their plan. They're not offensive but it's frustrating to know how much better they're going to be. It does do some nice worldbuilding, though, and the stand-alone episodes are a good way to show them to kids.

(related: I gave up on Korra after the first season, and apparently this was a huge mistake. So now I'm saving it for FanFare.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:11 AM on March 23, 2015

Here's the usual too long for posting recap and commentary.

This is not a terrible episode, there are few, if any terrible episodes in The Last Airbender, but definitely some are weaker than others. The main purpose of this episode seemed to rely heavily on Aang learning to be the Avatar, or rather, putting being the Avatar into practice. (I think Katara nominated him, but I don't think he backed down from the challenge since he was feeling pretty good about the tent/firewood and melon Appa/Momo disputes).

I do think the same story could have been told much better without having to go to the exaggerated character designs between the Gan-Jin and the Zhang (it's almost comparing people from two different periods of history, much less different nations). Beyond Aang's development, it was an episode to world build, and the world building is one of the incredible things the show does extremely well. In this episode, I think the results were somewhat mediocre, crafted a bit too much to reinforce the message at the expense of simply creating a fascinating world for our characters to live in. There's nothing fascinating about two tribes complaining over interference with a ritual that happened 100 years ago, which apparently did not negatively affect anything other than their own relations. If the Gan-Jin had suffered 40 years of famine and plague because the Redemption Ritual had been interrupted, that'd be one thing, but there were no obvious ill side effects other than ill manners.

Oh, and the Zhang leader's bear head shoulder pad is pretty great.

It dawned on me, to my horror, that it wasn't a bear head, but the head of one of those monkey things that were in traps at the start of 'Jet.' This is where the idea of baby air bison clothes was born, people.
posted by Atreides at 9:25 AM on March 23, 2015

What! NO! Obviously it was just a very good replica!

posted by minsies at 10:10 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't think this is a bad episode, per se. The problem is that it's a decent episode for a kids-only show bookended by particularly good episodes of a kids-and-adults show.

Crafty Aang is my favorite, though. And apparently Katara's too! I also liked that she was totally outraged about the theft of the Gan-Jin orb whereas on the Zhang side Sokka was like, "Yeah, injustice, sure, whatever, food plz."
posted by bettafish at 10:23 AM on March 23, 2015

This episode's existence is justified by the joke about it in season three--that's pretty much it. I agree that it's not the worst ever but I have never felt compelled to re-watch which is not something I can say about any other episode.
posted by chaiminda at 10:59 AM on March 23, 2015

I like this episode. There, I said it. I like that it ends with Aang telling a lie to get things done. I like that Sokka and Katara are ridiculous siblings and bicker over stupid stuff. I like René Auberjonois's voice.

And THIS FACE. Look at this faaaaaaaace!
posted by Katemonkey at 2:20 AM on March 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think I make the same face at a surprise custard tart.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:28 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I do like this episode a lot. I think it showcases Aang's ability to think on his feet and his struggle to learn what it really means to be the Avatar. I think it's a good balance between amusing and serious. Honestly I get bored during "Jet" and skip it on rewatch so I can get to this episode.

And then I'm seized with a three day desire to make egg custard.
posted by angeline at 9:39 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

It was a little jarring to start this episode with a real American vibe (in the music, the scenery, and the canyon guide's accent) but then have the feuding tribes be just as quasi-Chinese/Asian as everywhere else in the show. I was subconsciously expecting them to be based more on peoples of the Americas.

(Not that I'm complaining about basing the whole world on Asian cultures. So many other fantasy worlds are populated entirely by quasi-Britons, and few people complain about that.)
posted by mbrubeck at 1:00 PM on March 27, 2015

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