Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Day of Black Sun   Rewatch 
September 17, 2015 7:58 AM - Season 3, Episode 10 - Subscribe

All the plans are in place, the sun is about to be eclipsed, and it's time to take on Ozai and the Fire Nation. Aang's army is ready to go, but has the Fire Lord changed his game? Everything is revealed and everything changes in this two-parter.

Contains both "The Invasion" and "The Eclipse".

The army consists of:
Hakoda, Bato, and the other Southern Water Tribe men
Huu, Due, and the other Foggy Swamp Tribe waterbenders
Haru and Tyro, with Haru rockin' a new 'stache
Pipsqueak and The Duke
The Mechanist and Teo, with a new glider for Aang
The Boulder and The Hippo, who are over their conflicted feelings
And Appa in a snazzy new outfit

Not to mention Iroh's break-out, Zuko standing up to his father, Azula being trouble, and Aang and Katara kissing.
posted by Katemonkey (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
First thing first, was it just me or did the animation for these two episodes step up a level in quality?

This was a fantastic non-finale finale for the show. It's what every other finale for almost any other show would have been about, but not in the Avatar universe. Our heroes have to make this big dramatic attempt to save the world when all the odds are on their side...and fail completely. In fact, fail before they even began thanks to the events laid out back in Season Two, when the Earth King unintentionally spilled the beans.

The kiss. It's when I wish our heroes were a bit older, but ce la vie. I did appreciate two things about it: One, the hopeful expression that they would win and the world would be different, and two, Aang's actions kissing Katara essentially also saying that there was a real possibility he may never get the chance to do so again.

Sokka, battlefield master on his battle air bison, Appa, taking names and kicking butt. It's only his heart he doesn't have control of, and it helps cost Team Avatar a chance at a solar eclipse depowered Ozai.

I also liked how everyone shed their Fire Nation clothes and particularly, Toph's Earth Kingdom uniform.

If "The Mechanist," didn't set the steam punk-like world of Legend of Korra into motion, then these two episodes finished off the job with everything from mini-Nautiluses to crazy armored millipede like tanks. Sokka on an armored Appa at the head of these things seemed almost anachronistic.

Sokka, your mother is alive, but banished. You finally have come to terms with who you truly are now and defied the man you wanted only to please for the past few years. His ability to redirect the lightning strike by his father was a masterful touch, as well his father's shocked/amazed expression that his son had done so. It was a physical representation that Ozai no longer had any power over him.

Note: I've wondered ever since Season 3 of Korra if the glider she uses is the same one given to Aang here. That can be a Season 3 question to be answered.
posted by Atreides at 8:21 AM on September 17, 2015


I mentioned this before in another Avatar thread, but the scene where Zuko confronts his father and says a) that he doesn't need his father's approval, b) he never deserved to be treated that way, and c) attacking your own thirteen year old son is wrong. If I had been twelve years old when this aired, my whole life could have turned out differently. This is seriously one of the most important children's TV episodes ever to air, and there needs to be way more that attack subjects like this head on.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:16 AM on September 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yay, a reunion!

One koala sheep here, and not many animals besides the Fire Nation's rhino mounts. Another best animal for Appa, then, in his battle armour and during his time underwater.

Because this is a double episode, hard to pick out a lot of specifics - though Zuko finally managed to sort himself out (and he gave a killer speech to Ozai).

Ugh - I like this show, but at this point, I just want things to be finished. (I think this was the point where I started having to binge-watch - I think I was mainly tired of sitting on my sofa.)

I'll be posting the next 2 in arrears as I'll be away, but I'll definitely make sure to hand out best animal nonsense as soon as I'm back.
posted by minsies at 3:53 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're not imagining it, Atreides; the animation from here on out is noticeably better than it was even earlier in the season, let alone compared to the previous ones.

It is absolutely heartwrenching that the kid cohort are not only on the front lines along with the adults but by the end of the episode are the collectively the last, best hope for saving the world. It's not even "Aang, the Gaang, and help from local adults" any more, it's literally a handful of teens and preteens on a sky bison (plus one slightly older teen on a war balloon).

That said, so many wonderful moments of growing up and stepping up. Sokka as visionary and war leader, Aang taking ownership of his fears and his yearnings -- ZUKO, obviously, holy shit, how amazing is it for him to not just stand up to his abuser but call out his entire imperialist culture in one glorious speech and then give us that lightning redirection payoff we've been waiting on for a whole season. I was so frustrated with the kid for what he pulled in Crossroads of Destiny, but it made sense to me that he wasn't ready and having his redemption arc culminate here is so, so much more satisfying than it would have been at the end of season 2 even though I wish we had more than half a season of the complete Team Avatar.

Katara was kind of obviously sidelined to keep a certain level of plausibility in the Azula-Gaang faceoff, but given the overall strength of her arc this season I don't mind so much.

I got into ATLA in spring of 2008, so this was the last episode I was able to binge-watch before I had to wait months and months (okay, not as bad as the people who'd been waiting since November 2007) to find out how Zuko would join the Gaang. Luckily the wait was worth it.
posted by bettafish at 8:35 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


The first time I watched the series I was confused: as Atreides says, it would have been the finale for any other show, and I was expecting it to be the finale here. But rewatching, it seems a bit more obvious, because they need to resolve the character arcs of Zuko and Aang, and a big fight couldn't do that.

I'm probably not the first to notice this, but it's possible the larger structure of the story in ATLA is a "ring composition": it starts with Roku and Sozin, an avatar and a firelord, friends who become enemies, and ends with Aang and Zuko who do the opposite.

By that theory, then, the battle in this episode(s) can't be the finale, because the ring composition hasn't come around to where it started yet.

(Also, in any case, during "The Beach" Zuko sortof hit bottom -- and has now sorted himself out. He's resolved his anger. Eventually we get to see Azula try the same thing.)
posted by dsquared at 8:38 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, random fun fact: Ming the prison guard is voiced by Serena Williams.
posted by bettafish at 7:33 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


did the animation for these two episodes step up a level in quality?

All you have to do is look for episodes that are directed by Joaquim Dos Santos.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:34 AM on September 19, 2015


So much to love here, so, just some random thoughts and reactions:

I love Grey DeLisle's line delivery... well, everywhere, but Azula's "oh, I'm giving it my all" made me laugh.

The only thing I wish we had gotten to see was Iroh busting out of prison... I had remembered seeing it, but I think I jumbled it up in my head with the scene in season 2 where he uses lightning to blow out the wall and escape from Azula. I had never realized that Ming was voiced by Serena Williams before, but researching it this time around turned up some interviews where she called it her favorite show, which was kind of cool to see.

One of the things that I realized with this episode is that Ozai's banishing Zuko was one of the worst mistakes he could have made--he would have been better off just restricting him to the palace for the rest of his life, or imprisoning him. That whole bounty of lived experience, of being out in the world and being able to see things as they really were, was what made the growth that led to this confrontation possible. There's a lot of great stuff in this one for everybody, but that scene is really the emotional heart of the whole thing.

a "ring composition": it starts with Roku and Sozin, an avatar and a firelord, friends who become enemies, and ends with Aang and Zuko who do the opposite. I really like this way of looking at it. Although the show doesn't dwell on it much (it's right there in the opening narration, admittedly, but in the actual episodes it doesn't come up that often), the core of the main narrative is about Aang repairing Roku's incomplete duty and closing the circle. I'm not a big fan of the genetic essentialism that's suggested sometimes in the dialogue (when Iroh suggests that Zuko's "bad" side is Sozin's lineage and his "good" side is Roku's), but the overall journey works.

Also, the amount of times that Toph saves the day because of her (at least in this era) unique talents kind of makes me think of the number of episodes of Star Trek TNG that would have ended in disaster without Data there...
posted by Kosh at 1:56 PM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the things that I realized with this episode is that Ozai's banishing Zuko was one of the worst mistakes he could have made--he would have been better off just restricting him to the palace for the rest of his life, or imprisoning him.

It's hard to evaluate Ozai's decision-making here because even though we've spent a lot of time with the Fire Nation royal family (and a couple of their closest friends/coerced flunkies), we don't have an especially clear sense of how they relate to the rest of the upper echelons. You'd think from what's shown on screen that the royal family's power is absolute, but for all that Zuko's exile is basically a sadistic death sentence in the form of a snipe hunt, it's... actually weirdly cushy? You'd think exile wouldn't include a ship (however battered), crew, and the resources to keep them running and following orders for at least three years.

One possibility is that it's a nice gloss of plausible deniability for PR purposes; another popular theory is that Iroh funded the expedition, without which Zuko would have been cast out with nothing. But either one suggests that there's some amount of plotting and politicking going on beyond "everybody jumps when Ozai says so," and there's a lot of room for interpretation and speculation.

No matter how good an actor Iroh is, though, it was spectacularly arrogant of Ozai to essentially hand Zuko over to his care -- broken by Ba Sing Se or not, it's hard to see how Iroh wouldn't still be one of the greatest threats to Ozai's reign.

the core of the main narrative is about Aang repairing Roku's incomplete duty and closing the circle.

It seems as though a lot of what the Avatars do is not only fixing the out-and-out mistakes of their predecessors (like Aang did for Roku) but course correcting for the unintended bad consequences of previous good decisions or unavoidable choices (like Korra did for Aang and Wan). It's a more realistic gloss on the whole Chosen One thing and makes the world itself feel lived-in, because its politics and culture aren't static and every action has consequences, good or bad.
posted by bettafish at 3:09 PM on September 19, 2015


They look so cyber in those eclipse glasses!

And I can never get enough of Sokka's attempts at drawing.
posted by mbrubeck at 12:33 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


These were beautiful episodes. Those millipede tanks are phenomenal. Some suspension of reality had to occur when those submarines were exactly the right size to fit through those holes en route to the landing ground. I feel for poor Sokka and all of his plans, when his inexperience with public speaking caused him to completely doubt himself.

Zuko's speech was so amazing and heartfelt and brave. I just got Smoke and Shadows Part II in the mail this week, and contrasting his opponents' view of him as a coward with just watching this episode where he is so brave (even if it was during the eclipse)...

I'm so glad this was NOT a finale, because this show seems to try to say that violence isn't the answer. And having this elaborate, intricately drawn battle as how they save the day felt out of place with everything else. Thanks for the commentary above that confirms it.
posted by jillithd at 12:34 PM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Zuko's speech was so amazing and heartfelt and brave. I just got Smoke and Shadows Part II in the mail this week, and contrasting his opponents' view of him as a coward with just watching this episode where he is so brave (even if it was during the eclipse)...

Now that you mention it, ouch. Thanks for that moment of sad this morning. Also you might be getting an S&S related memail shortly.
posted by bettafish at 5:22 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


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