Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Avatar and the Fire Lord   Rewatch 
September 3, 2015 9:14 AM - Season 3, Episode 6 - Subscribe

While Zuko explores the history of his great-grandfather, Fire Lord Sozin, Aang gets in touch with his previous life, Avatar Roku. And both learn lessons about good, evil, and the power of friendship.

In "I've heard this voice before," Sozin is voiced by Ron Perlman.
posted by Katemonkey (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Saddest moment of the episode: Fang's sacrifice. NOOO DRAGON FRIEND NOOOO
posted by bettafish at 9:17 AM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Fang better win best animal this episode. *crosses arms mutinously*
posted by angeline at 10:23 AM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Kind of weird to see the Zuko-Iroh relationship take a sudden 180° from where it was just an episode or two ago. Iroh was deservedly snubbing Zuko, and now suddenly for this episode he's actively helping him?
posted by 1970s Antihero at 10:23 AM on September 3, 2015

It goes back to Iroh's deep-seated conviction that Zuko is ultimately a good person who needs guidance, and he's the only one who can provide the right sort of guidance, so while his feelings are probably still very hurt, he will do what he needs to do because he loves his nephew and his nation and he believes that the one is the best option for saving the other.
posted by angeline at 10:41 AM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I mean I assume Iroh has had a lot of time while sitting in prison to contemplate his feelings and decide the best course of action.
posted by angeline at 10:42 AM on September 3, 2015

Don't worry, angeline!

Very, very few animals here, so best animal to Fang, the loyalest dragon of all. (He would've won anyway.) Good work, Fang.

The reveal of Zuko's two grandfathers as Roku and Sozin had me worried about incest for a second. I'm not sure what it was about the way that it was phrased, but I had this momentary "but! what! ... oh, right." So, anyway, good work, show: no incest!

Whatever message Aang (and Zuko) got from the story, I was still pissed at Sozin.

The conversation between Sozin and Roku that happens in front of the silhouette of the royal palace at sunset (after Roku's wedding) was beautiful.
posted by minsies at 11:25 AM on September 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Iroh speaks! I was impressed at how long the writers managed to keep him dialogue-less.

I like these world-building episodes a lot. They do a good job of building up a realistically flawed, complicated history (and not just some half-forgotten Golden Age).
posted by mbrubeck at 1:43 PM on September 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

CONFESSION: This episode left me so emotionally compromised that I ended up making an AMV about Roku and Sozin and their Doomed Love set to Mirah's "Mt. St. Helens."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:05 PM on September 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

There's a lot of of great scenery eyecandy this episode, like the sunset conversation minsies mentions. My personal favorite was the sumptuously lit pre-war Fire Nation throne room with its great golden dragon -- nice little history-building touch there for the viewers to pick up on. Overall there were a lot more distance shots than usual which really helped to convey the grandeur and scale of the historical forces unleashed by these two friends, as well as the natural forces that were their downfall.

The "you literally have good and evil running through your veins, Zuko" thing is a little on-the-nose, not to mention kind of awkward when he has a full sibling who is in no way bringing balance to anything, but aside from the ramifications in the show it also leads to the more entertaining parts of The Promise, so I guess I can live with it. I did really like the cut from Zuko brooding in the catacombs to the nearly identical shot of Roku brooding after his birthday party which foreshadows their relationship long before it's stated explicitly.

The handholding at the end was super cute.

NarrativePriorities: if you haven't read the fic Adaptation by AliWildgoose you should, because I think you'll like it. (Spoilers through Ember Island Players.)
posted by bettafish at 2:14 PM on September 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Oh christ did I just recommend your own fic to you? That's embarrassing. HELLO I LIKE YOUR STUFF.

(This is already the second time this has happened to me with fic recs on Metafilter.)
posted by bettafish at 2:16 PM on September 3, 2015 [15 favorites]

Oh christ did I just recommend your own fic to you?

This is best thing that has ever happened to me on Metafilter.

I'm kind of not even joking.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:18 PM on September 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

Okay, that is friggin' delightful.
posted by angeline at 2:33 PM on September 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Awwww :)

I originally thought Iroh's silence was due to them getting a new voice actor for the role, but the Avatar Wiki says the silence was planned anyway. It's a good choice.
posted by invisible_al at 4:18 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Short thoughts below...longer thoughts written two days ago, but unable to post the mat the minute...

I had also assumed the silence was to give time for Mako's understudy to finish preparing for the role of Iroh, so that is interesting. Not to mention, if going off the broadcast, it put a number of weeks, if not months (from season 2's conclusion to Season three) for watchers to lose the immediacy of Mako's Iroh's voice and not be as surprised by the slightly different replacement.

Yup, when it comes to invading and conquering others, the Fire Nation is the Empire of Japan with its own personal Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. It's very odd, however, as in real life, the Co-Prosperity Sphere was from the beginning, just propaganda to try and convince everyone that Japanese conquest was meant as a good thing. In this episode, Sozin seems genuine in his expression of a desire to share the prosperity of the Fire Nation. Though, this was young, freshly crowned Fire Lord Sozin. By the time he finally carries out his plan, he's a much different man, willing to attack his friend who has the gall to call him out.

I also loved the evolution of the Fire Nation throne room as time passed and Sozin went from being what one might assume was a decent ruler to a villain.

Yes, in this episode, Sozin wins "WORSE PERSON EVER" award for letting his friend die on the side of an erupting volcano. There hasn't been this type of betrayal since Frodo went full One Ring on Mt. Doom!

My heart breaks twice in this episode: 1) When Fang wraps himself around Roku and 2) when Toph asks about friendships lasting beyond lives. It's such a sad thing for Toph to say, and it makes you realize how much she values her friendship with Aang, Katara and Sokka. All her life she's been so sheltered, the only thing next to friends she's had were badger moles who taught her how to earth bend. It's incredible touching then that she wants her friendships to continue on forever. (Legend of Korra note: This makes for an awesome connection later on.)

Decor of note: Zuko walks down a hallway full of dragon skulls. Hrm.

I like how Roku, while noting his failure to stop his friend Sozin, seemed to infer a certain level of bragging into his background to Aang. "I was pretty dang good...except when that whole Sozin leaving me to die on the side of a mountain and I failed earlier to actually 'end him.' It was slightly strange that despite the whole conclusion being that Zuko is his descendant, there was never a reference to Roku actually having children in the background animation, be it said or shown. We only see his wife.

Minus points: Aang appearing to deal with a hard bowel movement in the spirit world and subsequent potty joke. BOO, don't take the low hanging fruit writers!
posted by Atreides at 3:09 PM on September 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Minus points for you Atreides are bonus points for me, I guess. :D I laughed at the BM miming.

Now that I've read the comics, I appreciate more the Roku-as-great-grandfather story line. I like the humanization of Sozin as a person who had friends! And carrying that through to Aang who already had friends in both Fire and Earth Nations. Aang is a connector of Nations in that way.
posted by jillithd at 7:38 PM on November 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, The Promise made use of the "X character is the secret descendant of virtuous important-to-backstory Y character" trope in a way I haven't seen before. Zuko's family patriarchs sure do like to make life hard for him.
posted by bettafish at 11:56 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

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