Avatar: The Last Airbender: Lake Laogai   Rewatch 
July 13, 2015 7:35 AM - Season 2, Episode 17 - Subscribe

Determined to find Appa, Aang's activities draws the ire of Long Feng, who uses a brain washed Jet to try and trick Team Avatar into leaving the city. Instead, Jet's return leads to the discovery of a hidden Dai Li facility beneath Lake Laogai. Meanwhile, Zuko discovers the Avatar's presence and is forced to make a life changing decision. Also, there is no war in Ba Sing Se.

RIP - Jet.

And. No one cares about poor Sweepie.
posted by Atreides (14 comments total)
How did Iroh find Zuko down there in the dungeon? And how long has Iroh known who the Blue Spirit was? And BAM! with that speech about how he doesn't think beyond his original goal. I think the way that Iroh talks about the Gaang, too, shows how sympathetic he is to them as people. "His friends", not his co-conspirators or allies or any other war-ish term. "Friends".

Is this the first time we've actually seen someone die? I am thinking back and can't remember any other obvious fatalities. I mean, yeah, getting hit in the chest with a big solid rock tower is gonna cause some damage. We don't ever really see the aftermath of any other battles so far in the series. It is also interesting to note that Katara's water healing skills do have limits. Or was she just not as dedicated to healing him as she could be?

I love this turning point in Zuko that is starting to happen.
posted by jillithd at 7:44 AM on July 13, 2015

I would count General Zhao as the first time someone died, but it was weird and you didn't see anything other than him going under, plus, screw him after what he did :)
posted by hobgadling at 8:51 AM on July 13, 2015

Appa! Appa! Appa!

(So I haven't teared up during the last few, but I totally did when Appa came down out of the sky and smashed the hell out of those earth structures.)

Appa is best animal forever, but Momo wins this episode for his leaflet-dropping skills.

The army of Ju Dees was terrifying. I would like to be done with Ba Sing Se now, please.

Maybe Old Sweepy can take Iroh's place as Senior Executive Assistant Manager.
posted by minsies at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2015

Long thoughts here, short thoughts below!

Technically, we didn't see Admiral Zhao die at the end of the first season, he's just carried away and out of sight by the Ocean Spirit. It's something like falling off a cliff and out of sight, though, so it's closest thing to a death occurring (there's more to it - but that's spoilers!).

Death, in general, is treated very subtly in The Last Airbender as virtually always off screen but with the heavy implication that whatever is about to happen, death is the only conclusion. In Season 3 we get shown another death (WON'T SAY WHO), which is treated very similarly to Jet's here - where we know he's going to die, but we don't linger to see him gasp his last breath. I don't think it's for a lack of Katara trying, either, it's just beyond her abilities at the moment.

This ties up the Jet/Zuko arc of being two sides of the same coin. Both were driven by obsessions, but only Zuko had the strength or better put, desire, to leave his behind. The result? One fellow dies and the other gets to start anew in life. There's even an odd baptismal perspective to the events for Zuko in the episode, with him going under water (technically below the surface of Lake Laogai) as the Blue Spirit, then emerging later with a new identity and new life ahead of him. His past was swept away, so to speak, as he chose to leave his desire to capture the avatar behind him when he freed Appa and let the mask go into the water. Also important message for the kids, OBSESSIONS ARE BAD.

I have to think, Appa has one heckuva strong skull to smash through rock like he does. I'm perpetually worried of adult air bison concussion damage happening. The manner in which Appa deals with Long Feng is most excellently brought up in the next episode!

The class of Joo Dees. Terrifying. Women, volunteers or not, essentially stripped of their personalities for the sole purpose of serving as the mouthpieces of the Dai Li. We can also chalk down one for the Manchurian Earth Kingdom Candidate in turning Jet into a mindless killer with the utterance of one phrase, which ties the Dai Li's claimed purpose for their nefarious activities and those activities together, "The Earth King invites you to Lake Laogai."

I don't know if I'm just noticing it, but the animation has been stunning for the past few episodes from the colors, the lines, and everything else. Poor Sokka. He's an idea man, but he's not an artist. I loved Toph's glee at breaking the rules and instantly destroying a corner of the house.

Longshot talks. Worth the wait. I would love a short comic or something showing him and Smellerbee carrying his body out of the Lake Laogai complex and burying him by the lake shore, perhaps using one of his swords as his grave marker. (MAKE IT HAPPEN SOMEONE ARTISTICALLY INCLINED).
posted by Atreides at 11:40 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

I wasn't super attached to Jet (though his eponymous episode was the first episode of this show I ever saw, when it first aired and I was flipping through channels, and I'll always remember it fondly for drawing me in!), but man, I think this episode is probably the darkest one since The Library/The Desert. We're moving into full Empire Strikes Back mode here. We do get a victory in the triumphant return of Appa, but almost everything else that happens is not that great. The off-screen death is one of those concessions to the network and the demographic, and I remember it being one of those things that the creators of the show had to spell out to the fans afterward because people were seizing on the usually-reliable trope of not-dead-if-you-don't-see-the-body. In rewatching this, I didn't realize that even Long Feng's earthbending attack is mostly obfuscated; we only see the aftermath, not the actual impact.

I assume it was the change in the show's age demographic (and avoiding specificity here because I don't think the rewatch spoiler amnesty extends to sequel series!) but it was always interesting to me to contrast this and other incidents in ATLA where death is obfuscated--I'm thinking in particular of times when Fire Nation military equipment is destroyed, presumably with all the soldiers inside--with Legend of Korra, which is more willing to kill characters on-screen (either explicitly or "close enough," situations where the cutaway was more for taste reasons).

I also forgot how much I enjoyed the little light touches with Iroh and the tea shop thing. Sad to realize that these last few episodes are the last time we hear Mako's voice. His understudy is fine (and I think we've technically already heard him; there's an overdubbed line or two in Tales of BSS if I recall correctly), but doesn't quite have the same magic.

The run up to the end of book 2 is my favorite stretch in the whole show, maybe the whole franchise, and I'm looking forward to discussing it here, as well as seeing how the first-time watchers who are joining us like it... those of you who haven't given in and already run ahead to the end, that is. :)
posted by Kosh at 5:06 AM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

We're moving into full Empire Strikes Back mode here.

This has been crossing my mind since "The Library," to be honest. Season Two is turning into one of the few successful Empire replicas of the darker middle chapter....and now I'm hard pressed to think of the others.
posted by Atreides at 7:41 AM on July 14, 2015

The closest thing I've encountered aside from Empire is the second installment of The Queen's Thief series but at the beginning of the book, not the end. (Which made it even more traumatizing because it was so unexpected.)

Similarly to Star Wars, though, I agree with popular sentiment that the second part of the trilogy is the best from an overall quality perspective, but the third installment gives me all the feeeeeeeeeels so narrowly edges out as a favorite. ;)
posted by bettafish at 3:51 PM on July 14, 2015

I guess if we're going to have the Admiral Zhao tangent it's a good time to bring up the alternate-universe comic in which he ends up in the water tribe after losing his memory: [here, though be warned it's deviantart and the navigation sucks.]
posted by heeeraldo at 10:19 PM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

bettafish, I agree. I've never heard any serious complaints about the second half of book 3, but I think the first half is a bit unjustly maligned. I mean, yeah, it feels a little off tonally because the urgency seems to have temporarily disappeared, but I think some of those standalone episodes at the beginning are quite good and fill in some necessary background.

And yeah, the emotional payoff at the end is just so strong. But, more on that when we get there. :)
posted by Kosh at 4:58 AM on July 15, 2015

That Zhao stuff is pretty good quality!
posted by Atreides at 7:14 AM on July 15, 2015

Wow, I just finished the first part of that Zhao comic. That is really really good! Thanks for sharing the link!
posted by jillithd at 7:37 AM on July 15, 2015

FYI, the artist of the Zhao comic has also worked on some of the ATLA comics and storyboarded a few Korra episodes, I believe.
posted by bettafish at 2:24 AM on July 16, 2015

That makes a lot of sense. I got sucked into reading through the first three chapters yesterday.
posted by Atreides at 8:48 AM on July 16, 2015

Appa doesn't even like caves -- how did they get him down there? And the cave after the ordeal with the fire, poor thing.

Also, I think this is the angriest or at least most forceful we've ever seen Iroh. Is this what it took to get through to Zuko? Or was Zuko just ready for change?
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:57 PM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

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