Avatar: The Last Airbender: Sokka's Master   First Watch 
August 27, 2015 7:50 AM - Season 3, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Sokka's feeling a little left out on the whole "saving the world" thing, so he goes to find himself a master to teach him the ways of the sword. Includes meteorites, the joys of shopping, landscape painting, Katara failing at jokes, and a familiar pai sho tile.

Meanwhile, is Iroh really the crazy sad old man in prison, or is it possible to do one-armed pull-ups in prison?

And in "That voice sounds familiar," Piandao, Sokka's swordmaster, is voiced by Robert Patrick.
posted by Katemonkey (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Also, that shot of Aang in the ridiculous armour is entirely there because the merchandise people wanted to put Aang toys in plenty of armour (more armour = more toys).
posted by Katemonkey at 7:51 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is one of the most satisfying episodes to me on both the A and B story. Sokka has been second banana for a long time and it's good to see that he wants more than Meat and Sarcasm and Shopping Guy. It's also good to see a master respect him for who he is, even if it certainly wasn't his skills that impressed Piandao. One quibble to me is that I think this one should come before the Painted Lady, since Sokka seems to have forgotten about the schedule.

And Iroh, hot damn son with the one handed pullups. Biding his time for the right moment in jail, letting his jailers think him weak, and crazy like a fox, like at least one other person we know in-universe.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:10 AM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

You messed things up in a very special way. I'm taking that as my motto. Maybe I should design a family crest...

Not much animal action here, so I'm going to give best animal to an animal no longer alive: Sokka's smoked seaslug. It was still cute, even cooked! (I am glad he didn't eat it.)

I didn't think Sokka was particularly short before, but the scenes with him and the master show him as substantially shorter. I guess all the Gaang still have some growing to do.

Woo, Iroh! Get your newly-sculpted self out of there and start putting the white lotus pieces together.

I was surprised the schedule had been forgotten so long, and it wasn't even Sokka who brought it up. (Or as tchemgrrl said.)

*clapclapclapclapclap* SHOPPING!
posted by minsies at 9:23 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the rpg version of A:tLA, this is where Sokka spends all that experience he's been accumulating. "Wait, you want training AND a cool sword?"
posted by happyroach at 10:03 AM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Watching this ep helped me figure out why I love it and The Headband while The Painted Lady doesn't quite work for me, despite a lot of individually great moments/lines:

- In The Headband, Aang reclaims the playfulness that's been slowly ripped away from him over two seasons, but instead of just goofing off he uses it to fulfill his role as the Avatar by helping people/building bridges between the nations.
- In Sokka's Master, we see how far Sokka has grown from the swaggering lout of The Warriors of Kyoshi to where he is now while still keeping his earnestness, his sense of fair play and his humor.
- In The Painted Lady, Katara acts... pretty much exactly as she would have in Imprisoned/The Waterbending Scroll if she'd already been a bending master? As a standalone instance of endearingly reckless badassery it's fine, but the story doesn't respect the journey her character's been on the same way Aang and Sokka's eps do theirs. YMMV?

I love the line delivery on, "You added a rainbow." Also Katara's hair panic, because we've all been there.

- In comics canon, Zuko was another student of Piandao's back in the day.
- Piandao himself is based on Sifu Kisu, ATLA's martial arts consultant/action coordinator. (Given that he's not a white guy it would have been nice if the character inspired by him were also not voiced by a white guy, but..... that's a somewhat more glaring example of an issue with ATLAverse casting choices as a whole.)
posted by bettafish at 5:40 PM on August 27, 2015 [6 favorites]

I know, WHAT ABOUT THE SCHEDULE?! At first I was worried they had spent days for Sokka to get his skills, but the training montage (of sorts) was only a single day? Props to Sokka / oh, make-believe world.

bettafish, well put regarding The Headband and Sokka's Master, compared to The Painted Lady. But in some ways, I see that this is still true to their characters - while everyone in the gaang can survive on their own, Katara still fills the role of "mother" in many ways. She is the most mature, the most composed, and generally focused on the well-being of the group and others. Everyone else is more of a kid, and even when kids can act mature and adult, they have moments where they'll remind you "hey, I'm still a kid." (Reflections of a parent.)
posted by filthy light thief at 7:34 PM on August 27, 2015

I mean honestly I think Master Piandao was both impressed with Sokka's heart and determination but also kind of wanted him the hell out of his house while he still had some of it standing.
posted by angeline at 7:49 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

S3 is full of this kind of episode (Sokka later refers to it as "the time-wasting nonsense we've been missing!") and it's kind of frustrating. Though I love each individual episode, this season feels a lot less tightly plotted than season two, particularly the second half of season two.
posted by chaiminda at 6:13 AM on August 28, 2015

filthy light thief, can you clarify? I agree with what you're saying, I'm just not quite following how the thing you said connects to the thing I said. Sorry if I'm being obtuse!
posted by bettafish at 6:41 PM on August 28, 2015

I read it that Katara's journey has involved less in the way of internal growth; she was always the most grown-up of the characters, and her advancement has mostly been in owning that and becoming self-confident enough to assert herself, so her change is from impulsive badassery that she feels guilty about afterward to straightforward badassery, and thus is less noticeable in comparison.
posted by Scattercat at 5:08 PM on August 29, 2015

Long thoughts here, shorter below...

This has to be one of the best directed/framed episodes of Season Three, if not the series, and thus, renders veritably every scene a treat to the eyes. Also loved what I felt was an extra attention to design and detail in the background and scene settings (which plays into the framing).

Not until I read the comments above did it dawn on me that the start of the episode highlights the superficial attributes of Sokka, shopping/cynicism, etc, before delving into an episode based in part as a celebration of his strategic mind. In every lesson/task provided by Piandao for Sokka, he almost always responds with an out of the box answer, be it adding a rainbow, choosing a meteorite for his sword metal, or painting his face onto the paper. It's also the one thing that none of his friends mention while they sit around talking about how they miss him, which granted, probably wouldn't come to mind unless faced with a situation calling for it.

Also note: Sokka has a new Water Tribe sword!

I do see this episode as kind of a love letter to the martial arts of the show, and it's not surprising that Piandao was based off of their go to man for martial arts. White man aside, I did enjoy Robert Patrick's (Yes, the same guy who was asking for John Connor almost two decades ago) voice work. Piandao came across more than almost any other 'master' as someone who has balanced his life to in the pursuit of perfecting his art. Perhap's Iroh is the only one who I would say has been as well presented by the show. White Lotus Society for teh win!

S3 is full of this kind of episode (Sokka later refers to it as "the time-wasting nonsense we've been missing!") and it's kind of frustrating. Though I love each individual episode, this season feels a lot less tightly plotted than season two, particularly the second half of season two.

I think the sacrifice in plot (things happening) versus these episodes is well worth it, as the show moved towards deeper characterization (Some deeper than others) instead. Next week we have "The Beach," which as plot goes, doesn't do a lot, but man, it's a powerful episode for Azula, Zuko, Ty Lee and Mai. Likewise, now that they're in the Fire Nation, there's not a lot to do other than find conflict with the Fire Nation army/police, which we've been doing for one and a half seasons (all Season 1 and part of Season 2). So this appears to be the best choice to move forward without being repetitive. Also, well, our main antagonists have they, themselves, returned home with their missions accomplished and no obvious goals to pursue which require crossing paths with our heroes.

The schedule. ARGH. Yeah, that went to the wayside fast.

Iroh. Nick Cage from Con Air would be darn proud of your workout!
posted by Atreides at 11:24 AM on August 30, 2015

This batch of episodes is vulnerable to criticism about pacing and lack of urgency, but... a lot of things about books 1 and 2 are vulnerable to that criticism as well, and we've discussed those things in these threads in the past (Aang's accelerated mastery of everything, etc.). It's a bit of a problem how the show ambles sometimes, but only when it's being measured against the thrust of the main story. And the quality of the narrative and the characterization is such that it's forgivable. This stretch of episodes is really great for those moments of character shading, and it's really our last set of opportunities for it, too, because this season goes full throttle at the halfway point and doesn't really stop until the end.

Regarding the framing and direction, agreed that this episode is a treat to watch, especially the fight sequence at the end. ATLA and LoK have phenomenal fight "choreography" in general but it's neat, in this episode, to see it oriented around something other than bending.
posted by Kosh at 3:19 PM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Regarding the framing and direction, agreed that this episode is a treat to watch, especially the fight sequence at the end. ATLA and LoK have phenomenal fight "choreography" in general but it's neat, in this episode, to see it oriented around something other than bending.

I examined some of the frame composition in LoK, and this may be one of the first ones I do the same for in ATLA (there have been past episodes, but this one really stood out.). It makes me wonder what a Wes Anderson directed ATLA episode would look like composition-wise. Heh.
posted by Atreides at 7:22 AM on August 31, 2015

The most disbelief I had of this was definitely that it was only 1 or 2 days where Sokka went from running away from his opponent to putting up a good defensive fight against his master. They sure stuffed a lot of stuff into those 1 or two days (including hiking to a waterfall!).

Such gorgeous backdrops, though, and the choreography and animation with regards to the martial arts and even just the flow of fabric on Sokka and the Master was phenomenal.

And it really gave something Sokka to be proud of. His own space sword!
posted by jillithd at 11:38 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

If they hadn't established the dreaded schedule of time between where they were and the arrival of Sozin's Comet, they probably could have extended Sokka's training to a bit more plausible time period. In a way, they hemmed themselves into this trope, which is probably best demonstrated by Luke Skywalker's training by Yoda. His time on Dagobah had to be only a number of days, and at best, a few weeks, but we were supposed to appreciate and acknowledged (especially by Return of the Jedi,) that Luke had gained enough training to be recognized as a Jedi Knight. Yowza.

There's a blacksmith, a swordsmith I should say, who has a hobby of recreating swords from television shows and movies. Here, he made Sokka's space metal sword from iron that was supposed to be from a meteorite.
posted by Atreides at 12:06 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Very cool to see one in real life! Too bad it isn't Sokka's awesome gunmetal-gray color. But amazing nonetheless!
posted by jillithd at 1:14 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

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