Avatar: The Last Airbender: Bitter Work
June 15, 2015 7:26 AM - Season 2, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Aang's earth bending lessons begin underneath the tutelage of his new teacher, Toph, with patience quickly becoming a commodity in short supply. Elsewhere, Zuko reunites with his uncle Iroh, who decides its time for his nephew to learn a more advanced technique of fire bending. Also, Sokka gets stuck in a hole.
posted by Atreides (8 comments total)

No one gets any prizes for guessing best animal this episode. (I am so glad Foo Foo Cuddlypoops is in the tags.)

The contrast of Iroh training Zuko vs. Toph (with unwanted assistance from Katara) training Aang made this episode a lot more interesting. It seemed like Iroh was doing better work, overall, but then Zuko's inner Zukoness took over and ruined all his progress. The gaang's progress is a bit slower, but a hell of a lot more steady.

I would pretty much watch any number of episodes that consist solely of Sokka in a hole. Just call it "The Meat and Sarcasm Guy" and I'll be set.
posted by minsies at 10:55 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

I love Iroh's training. I love the lightning, I love the drawings in the sand, I love everything about it, and then freakin' Zuzu has to go and be a ridiculous dumbass and shout at the sky.

Toph's style of training irritates me almost as much as it does Katara, but, really, it's when she uses Aang's glider to crack nuts...aaaaaaah. I'm gonna punch you with a rock, Toph. And that was your plan the entire time.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:48 PM on June 15, 2015

Poor grunty tired Sokka, so tired he wasn't even saying words. Poor, wonderful Iroh, you're back! And mostly better! Poor Sokka, stuck in the ground with nobody but a baby saber-tooth moose-lion cub for company, even your boomerang has failed you.
Okay, karma person or thing, whoever's in charge of this stuff. If I can just get out of this situation alive, I will give up meat and sarcasm. Okay? [Sokka's warrior's wolf tail gets yanked out of his hair by the cub.] Ow! That's all I got. It's pretty much my whole identity. Sokka, the meat and sarcasm guy. But I'm willing to be Sokka, the veggies and straight talk fellow. Deal?
Poor Zuko vs the world.

But we got to see Iroh's "feel the flow" snaky arm dance, AND Aang's happy-slappy, distracting the saber-tooth moose-lion dance.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:55 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I could watch an entire season of Sifuncle Iroh and his inept but endearingly earnest comic relief nephew. Especially if we get more bending philosophy and scientifically accurate magic. And "just like everything always does!" And bad tea.

That being said, I also liked that everyone got at least a little moment during this ep, even Katara who was a tertiary player in the Aang-Toph plot.
posted by bettafish at 5:24 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sokka's business this ep is my favorite business. Especially because, as usual, it is self-inflicted. (And lest too many lessons be learned, Sokka the Vegetables and Straight Talk Fellow reverts to type *before he's even fully saved*.)

I'm not sure that Toph's a bad teacher considering Aang only takes a little longer to learn earthbending, which seems like it ought to be tough for him, and also considering Toph's not really been well-socialized to begin with. Toph the Demands and Gracelessness Gal gets him there in the end.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:08 PM on June 15, 2015

I love where Zuko is saying, "I know, she's my sister, I should learn to get along with her" and Iroh says, "No. She's crazy. She has to go down." Ha ha!

Sifuncle Iroh <3 <3 <3 <3

Oh, angsty teenage Zuko screaming at the storm clouds. Angsty teenaged jillithd would be so smitten with you right now.

Toph handled Katara a lot better than I would have. "Do you know how to Earthbend, Katara? No? Then STFU!" Which is why I am not Toph and am certainly not training any avatars.
posted by jillithd at 6:45 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Long thoughts here...shorter thoughts below!

It's a solid episode with genuine awesome moments stirred into the mix, coincidentally, having nothing to do with the subjects of the episode, Aang and Zuko. The Sokka adventure is a fantastic use of a non-bending character in an episode that revolves around bending, and even better, his predicament is ultimately used to help Aang overcome his own barriers to earth bending. Better yet, Iroh. Not only do we get the show stealing tea scenes with funny face and tea over the shoulder, but the quote above on handling Azula. More sentimentally, the flashback of Iroh with his son and then his son's grave. That comes back in big dividends in "Tales of Ba Sing Se." So much love is showered on Iroh, but it doesn't take away from everything else going on in the episode. Awesome.

Toph's teaching style, geez. She's R. Lee Armey, complete in the battlefield green. I thought a lot about her decision to teach Aang in this very aggressive in your face style versus the style Katara uses with him for water bending. I came to the conclusion, she ignores Katara's advice because she knows it simply will not suffice for teaching earth bending. By all accounts, it seems like earth bending might very well be the most painful bending to learn!

It also stood out in this episode how weather, or should I say, the elements, are used in a world of element bending to reflect the emotions of characters. Twice in this episode, we saw rain and storms used to better convey the inner feelings of two characters. the rain for Iroh and the storm for Zuko (storm number two! Will he get the hat trick in Season Three?!).

Third favorite moment? Sokka throwing his boomerang at the apple.
posted by Atreides at 6:25 PM on July 5, 2015

I started watching this show just a couple of weeks ago, never having heard of it before - it's been really great so far but THIS EPISODE oh my god! I think it might be my favorite episode so far. It packs so much lore, so many excellent character moments for every single character, hilarity, plot progression, and we even get Zuko's angst!! <3 Just wanted to note my sheer delight at this episode even though it's almost five years after the last person posted on here, lol.
posted by MiraK at 8:41 AM on June 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

« Older Adventure Time: Evicted!...   |  Halt and Catch Fire: The Way I... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments