Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Serpent's Pass   Rewatch 
June 26, 2015 2:00 AM - Season 2, Episode 12 - Subscribe

As they prepare to reach Ba Sing Se, the Gaang can either go by ferry, or take the Serpent's Pass. Being a friendly bunch, they find other travelers on the way, and discover that even in the worst situations, you can always find hope.

Meanwhile, on the ferry, Zuko makes friends with another traveler. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Plus we see the return of Suki, the Cabbage Man, and Jet.
posted by Katemonkey (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
FYI for anyone watching via iTunes or Netflix -- this episode is the first half of the double-length entry The Secret of the Fire Nation.
posted by bettafish at 3:20 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

And listed elsewhere as part one of the two-part "Journey to Ba Sing Se."

Poor cabbage man. (Yaah platypus bear inspector/enforcer!)

Jet: Here's the deal. I hear the captain's eating like a king while the refugees have to feed off his scraps. Doesn't seem fair, does it?
Iroh: What sort of king is he eating like?
Jet: The fat, happy kind.

Fair question, Iroh.

With the appearance of the serpent, we get School Time Shipping, a super deformed/chibi short.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:13 AM on June 26, 2015

Maybe I'm missing something here, but 'The Secret of the Fire Nation' never made a lot of sense to me as the omnibus title for this episode and the one that follows, so I assume Nick made it up to have something vaguely mysterious-sounding. The biggest secret was revealed in The Library already with the eclipse, so, what's the secret? The existence of the drill?

My favorite thing about this episode this time through (other than Toph pulling rank only to not have it amount to anything) is probably Aang and Katara's teamwork. The way they deal with the serpent underscores what a powerful pair they are.
posted by Kosh at 7:44 AM on June 26, 2015

Okay, but finally I get to gripe about the part of the episode which has always bothered me which is that nobody grabbed Toph's hand to help her along the ice bridge. I mean I know, plot, but ALL THOSE PEOPLE and nobody thought to help the blind girl BEFORE she got stuck on the little dirt island she had made?

Now that I'm writing it out I can see where maybe she'd demonstrated such relentless capability since joining the group that everyone just assumed she'd follow along but it still bugs me.
posted by angeline at 8:58 AM on June 26, 2015

The platypus bear security is best animal by a long way. The best hat is Iroh's tourist hat.

Toph's reaction when she thought Sokka had saved her seemed strange to me, especially as she hadn't been particularly pleased with Sokka so far. Maybe it was just that he was the only one really trying to help her across (though, yeah, a hand definitely would've been more use, as angeline said). It didn't even really feel like she was trying to interrupt what was starting to happen with Sokka and Suki.

Ba Sing Se's wall definitely isn't screwing around.
posted by minsies at 9:04 AM on June 26, 2015

Toph being stranded bothered me in an "adult fear" way as well, but there were only two adults present and they had a lot on their minds. Her reaction to being rescued struck me as out of character, too; I thought maybe I missed something, but I guess it's just a brief indication that she cares about Sokka more than she lets on with her tough guy exterior? Or part of a plot thread that got dropped?

I'm just excited that we're almost to my favorite episode ("Tales of Ba Sing Se").
posted by byanyothername at 10:02 AM on June 26, 2015

Oh man that one makes me sob without fail at the one part, YOU KNOW THE PART.
posted by angeline at 10:25 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

My "adult fear" moment came before Toph's stranding, during the walking-underwater thing. A gorgeous moment, especially with the symbolic power of Katara parting the waves -- but wouldn't it have been safer just to make an ice bridge? Even putting aside the serpent they didn't know about, the failure mode is slipping off the ice versus, uh, DROWNING. But it was super pretty, so oh well.

I remembered there was a bunch of reunions and near-misses around this point in the series but I forgot that Suki and Jet's crew made their triumphant returns the same episode the Gaang miss Zuko and Iroh by like five minutes and end up escorting the expecting couple Zuko decided not to rob in "Zuko Alone" to Ba Sing Se. Whoa. But it all feels organic, not crammed in.

Zuko is now in the orbit of possibly the WORST person to get involved with while having an extended moral-identity crisis, but Suki is the BEST person for Sokka to meet again and they are so cute and confused and yearning and mutally protective together. NOOO SUKI COME BACK YOU RESPONSIBLE DO-GOODER YOU also props on that waterproof makeup.

I giggled at the kazoo-ish take on Aang's theme when we saw the fake Avatars. Also, not the last time we see someone criticize a main character for poorly cosplaying themselves.
posted by bettafish at 12:52 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Does anyone not cry during Tales of Ba Sing Se? Serious question.
posted by bettafish at 3:56 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Long thoughts here, shorter thoughts below!

The combination of this episode with the upcoming "The Drill," under the title of "Secret of the Fire Nation," is definitely baffling. The only thing that makes sense is the drill, which I suppose the executives at Nick figured constituted an exciting action packed finale to a two parter. Technically, it's hinted at as a secret in this episode, but whatevs.

Really, this episode should be dropped as the final part of a three episode arc starting with "The Library" as act one, then "The Desert," as act two, with "The Serpent's Pass," as the third act. While we're no longer in the desert, I'd argue that one of the more important themes of the episode is the resolution of Aang's handling of his grief and pain concerning Appa's loss. Sokka even gets in on the resolution area by overcoming his fear to be involved again and losing someone, by kissing Suki at the end. But yah, this episode completes Aang's emotional arc when it comes to his feelings with Appa, and serve as a great example as a whole on dealing with loss in general.

The Cabbage Man. I had forgotten, FORGOTTEN MIND YOU, that he was in this episode. It was a delight all over again!

Toph's reaction to being rescued was out of character, but I think it's also explainable. Initially, I assumed that perhaps Toph had some feelings for Sokka and it was an idea that was simply dropped after this point. Given the level of planning and consideration given to our characters, I have to believe that's just not the case. Instead, I think it's more of a combination of Toph reacting to truly being in a place where she does need someone's help. Her persona is wrapped around self-reliance, but in water where she can't swim (WAY TO GO OVER PROTECTIVE PARENTS), she's knocked out of her comfort zone. Further, she never felt she could rely upon her family growing up - they wanted to force her into a conforming stereotype of helpless blind girl, and so, Toph is not used to having a true supporting family. When she thought Sokka rescued her, it was a confirmation that she had a family that not only loved her for who she was, but also, provided the help she needed when she actually needed it. It sounds a little convoluted, but I don't think there was romantic affection, just joy at having a confirmation that her new family was willing to actually help her - particularly given the fact that in "The Desert," Aang tore into her, and then, three episodes back,"The Chase," both Katara and Aang bit her head off.

Jet and Zuko. Two guys defined originally by their obsessions. Who will want to actually change their lives and who will be unable to let go? And at what cost?

Good solid episode!
posted by Atreides at 10:11 AM on July 7, 2015

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