Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Chase   Rewatch 
June 11, 2015 7:09 AM - Season 2, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Nobody gets any sleep when the gaang is chased by the tank-riding Fire Nation girls. When they finally catch up, there's an Earth Kingdom Stand-off with added Iroh and Zuko.

Appa sheds, Toph and Katara discover that women can come in a lot of different varieties, and Iroh shares tea with a fascinating stranger.
posted by Katemonkey (17 comments total)
Excuse me, does anyone have a razor? Because I've got some hairy pits!
posted by Katemonkey at 7:10 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't think that Azula is a very nice person.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:04 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Return of the Western! Return of Iroh and his kind wisdom (and tea)!

Then Iroh gets shot!

Azula is a jerk. She hit Iroh because everyone loves Iroh, whereas it's less certain if Zuko would have rushed to the side of Katara or Sokka, and vis-versa, too. Hit the Avatar, and he might go all Ultimate Avatar on you, and I'm sure Azula has heard tales of that already.

I still don't remember how much I've seen of season 2 and beyond, so I had to check and make sure Iroh didn't die here.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:43 AM on June 11, 2015

Iroh is the heart, even if everyone hasn't quite grasped that yet. Azula has, though. She's a massive jerk, but she does have some skill with insight and tactical thinking. In a different world, without her psychopathic tendencies, her father might have put her in charge of the Fire Nation Army, and I think she might have done well.

Favorite bits of the episode include Sokka labeling them the "Dangerous Ladies" and the confrontation between Sokka, Katara, Mai and Ty Lee. Mai is SO BORED you guys. But Sokka is kinda cute!
posted by angeline at 8:55 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I thought that Azula attacked Iroh because he was distracted by recognizing Toph, but the higher-order tactical assessment makes a lot of sense and she's definitely capable of that insight. Either way, that's two close relations she's attacked if not outright attempted to kill.

That first Katara-Toph conversation should be the quintessential example of Guess vs. Ask. (Along with a clash of social class and family structure.) Meanwhile, Aang's hollow building trap is the quintessential example of Azula vs. Zuko.

I don't know if the body language and voice acting was deliberately being exaggerated because everyone was tired, but there were a lot of those great little beats there. I can't decide whether my favorite line delivery was Katara's "What's wrong with ponytails, Ponytail?"* or Toph's glass-shattering "What?!"

We were discussing animal bending after The Cave of Two Lovers -- here it's made extra-explicit that Appa is an airbender. Meanwhile, if I can't have a sky bison or a dragon friend, I'd love to have a mongoose-dragon. Alas.

*It's oddly endearing that Sokka thinks refers to the ponytail as Zuko's defining physical trait. Also one of the more subtle examples of how out of the loop the Gaang are about their Fire Nation opponents while the audience has been privy to all this side- and backstory.
posted by bettafish at 9:14 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Azula is a jerk. She hit Iroh because everyone loves Iroh, whereas it's less certain if Zuko would have rushed to the side of Katara or Sokka, and vis-versa, too.

I thought that Azula attacked Iroh because he was distracted by recognizing Toph

I interpreted her attack on Iroh as going for the biggest threat first. Layers!
posted by chaiminda at 9:51 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

bettafish: Extra explicit because Appa falls out of the sky if he falls asleep?

Azula is the worst, but I did like her Zuko impression. Iroh did put a pretty good hit on her before she took him down.

Appa is best animal again, mainly because of how his shedding enables the wig/beard/hairy pits.

I like how the newly-expanded gaang has't immediately settled into their partnership. Katara's rage face was great, and Sokka's was even better.
posted by minsies at 10:18 AM on June 11, 2015

This episode has SO MUCH GOING ON in it. It starts out like a normal day with some group forming/storming going on and somehow ends up as a three way showdown in an abandoned old western-type village with all of our main players together. BAM!

That heart-to-heart tea break with Iroh and Toph made me fall so much in love with both of them. I just want to rewatch that scene over and over again. The amount of love and care Iroh has for Zuko is just fantastic. And then Toph, ever the observant one (ouch!), does a backhand shot to Iroh that he has some work to do, too.

That Iroh double-take when he recognized Toph! And the Aang-Azula-Zuko interaction in that floorless building! And poor Zuko, yelling at Katara, when she could have actually really helped him out.
posted by jillithd at 1:28 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

minsies -- I wasn't thinking of the fall so much as the way his trajectory right-angles the moment he wakes up, but yeah! Appa is the coolest.

Unsurprisingly, "Zuko lets Katara heal Iroh" is practically a trope of its own in ATLA AU fanfics, whether as the instigator of a new timeline or the result of a butterfly effect from earlier in the story.
posted by bettafish at 2:49 PM on June 11, 2015

Bettafish, do you have any recs for ATLA fic? I have never managed to find much that I liked.
posted by chaiminda at 3:24 PM on June 11, 2015

I will dig up a few for you tomorrow, chaiminda! I've been planning to do fic rec lists at the end of s2 and s3, but I have a few that don't have any spoilers past this point in the series.
posted by bettafish at 7:40 PM on June 11, 2015

Thank you! Looking forward to it.
posted by chaiminda at 3:00 AM on June 12, 2015

Oh, Toph and Katara. Katara thinks of herself as the mom and voice of reason. Toph has been catered to all her life, and is rebelling against that so hard that she can't see the socially lubricating value of taking care of each other, or the ways in which she is not pulling her own (literal) weight by sleeping in a rock cave. Of course they're going to clash.

Does Azula know about Iroh and lightning-bending? Whether she does makes the scene at the end either mean she's an excellent tactician by taking out the other side's best tactician, or, if she knows he has lightning-defending abilities, she's an excellent tactician AND doing the riskiest possible thing. Based on her continued arc I'd assume the latter.

A thing I noticed on this rewatch: the mirroring of the scene at the end of Zuko Alone, where Lee rejects Zuko's help, and the end of this episode, where Zuko rejects Katara's help. Zuko had just been reminded that the only person he can trust is himself, so of course he pushes the Gaang away.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:58 AM on June 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Zuko had just been reminded that the only person he can trust is himself, so of course he pushes the Gaang away.

And he's been hunting the Avatar for years, so anyone with Aang is against Zuko (even if an enemy of his enemy was his friend, for a moment or two). And I can imagine that he feels like he failed Iroh by not defeating Azula himself. More layers!

Which is to say, this is such a good show, from the aspects of world-building, character-building, character-acting, and animation. So good!
posted by filthy light thief at 7:08 AM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

For me the hardest part of rewatching this show has been forcing myself to finish the watchthrough before I start over so I can bully convince my friends to watch with me.

What Azula knows about lightning redirection is an interesting question that raises several others! Iroh already used it to save Zuko's life in "The Avatar State," so I guess the issue is how much she understands of what he did and how much that factored into her decision to attack him first this time. Not to mention what it implies for later episodes, etc.

Okay, fic recs, roughly ordered by length. A * indicates the to not be missed.

- Keep Your Eyes on Her Horizon (ft. Kanna) and *Put Away Childish Things (ft. Gyatso), both by Sophia Prester. TEARBENDING WARNING.
- Appropriate by booksong. For all your "Iroh lols at baby Zuko and Mai" needs.
- Two Guys in the Woods by Blue_Lacquer. Chong and Moku feel really bad for that Mushi fella. I just discovered this today and I laughed so hard. (Also check out Sozin's Bay by the same author.)
- *The Boy From Babel, by Lavanya_Six. What if the four nations spoke different languages?
- *Grandfather and Son and *Grandfather and Daughter, by NeleX. In the first, Zuko greets the sun with Azulon and Iroh; in the second, "Ursa commits conversation instead of murder."

- Stuck in a Hole by VickyVicarious. Sokka and Zuko must cooperate to escape an Earth Kingdom prison.
- Big Damn Heroes by Damikianna. What if... the casting practices of Firefly hadn't been incredibly racist?
- *The Problem with Zuko by AvocadoLove. An unsettlingly plausible "for want of Lu Ten's death" AU. (I also love the pre-show-timeline chapters of their long AU Another Brother, but warning, it's on permanent hiatus.)
- *The Princess and the Badger-Cat by panaili. A light-hearted "no war" AU featuring all the main cast.

Yeah, this is what happens when there's an ENTIRE MONTH between FanFare season rewatches, the horrors. I have more but I think this should do until the end of s2.
posted by bettafish at 2:04 PM on June 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

All right, actual commentary, rather than just ridiculous quotes.

I love episodes like this. I love the ongoing exhausted chase, where it's relentless and horrific and even in this Y7 show, you're getting the exhaustion and the fear and Appa falling out of the sky.

The second half, while interesting, didn't keep me as interested as the first half did, just because I love chase episodes. But it was great to see them all together, and it was great to see Zuko almost change and then revert back. He's so close and yet so far.

But it doesn't match up to Toph and Katara's fights, the giant tank destroying the landscape, Iroh and Toph having tea, and the tension of the endless chase.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:34 PM on June 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Long thoughts here....and shorter thoughts below!

I agree with most of the thoughts on Azula's targeting of Zuko. I'll add another suggestion, she chose to hit Iroh, also, because it was also the most painful strike she could do to her brother. After fighting him, and the Avatar, and him being in the way of her taking down Aang, she must have been quite frustrated with her sibling and ready to punish him for his interference.

While I'm far from the first person to note this (thanks Google for proving I'm completely unoriginal), but the episode definitely borrows from BSG's episode, "33," where the colonists are pursued relentlessly by the Cylons with the mystery of how they keep tracking them down and with the element of the colonists being pushed to the breaking point. That episode came out in 2004 and the Chase aired in 2006, so I don't think it's a jump that it could have been the inspiration.

I loved how the show dedicated an episode with that type of setting for the integration of Toph into the group. Using the stress of lack of sleep and sense of being chased only accelerated something that could have taken a bit longer to develop, so kudos for that decision. Incidentally, while things are "resolved," so to speak, it's a friction that will kind of continue all the way until we get to mid-way into Season 3. I love that not everyone is happy happy friend friends. Bonus points for pushing Aang the peaceful nomad to freaking out on Toph.

I also appreciate the lack of any true emotional attachment by Mai and Ty Lee to what they're doing. Azula enjoys the hunt, but they're...just there because they're either bored or were essentially blackmailed into joining. That comes across in their reactions to the fights.

And yes, definitely a return to the Western that was "Zuko Alone," but instead of Shane we get The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, with the Mexican stand off between Azula, Zuko and Aang. What really stands out in this episode, beside the western movie framing (Azula's hands at her hips and the focus on eye reactions), is how Azula is depicted with her claw-like hands. It isn't the first time, but it is something that was really never done with Zuko. In a way, the animators are showing us that Azula is something much more frightening. She's something less than human and perhaps, a bit more monstrous. We can't associate with her nearly as much as we did with our past villains ,be them Admiral Zhao or Zuko. Even her fire is unearthly, a blue where every other fire bender has red flames. She's Ozai's daughter, but also, something worse.
posted by Atreides at 3:13 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

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