Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Firebending Masters   Rewatch 
September 24, 2015 9:14 PM - Season 3, Episode 13 - Subscribe

Aang and his new firebending teacher are about to practice, when they find their abilities are significantly diminished. They travel to the temples of the Sun Warriors to learn about the ancient origin of firebending, assuming they'll be trying to learn from abandoned temples. The past comes alive, and they learn from the true firebending masters.
posted by filthy light thief (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Jumping on this because the episode was due today, right? Its late, and I forget things. And I didn't want to spoil the non-secret of who is training Aang in Firebending, thus the vague description. Anyway, DRAGONS!!
posted by filthy light thief at 9:16 PM on September 24, 2015

Yah, it is Monday/Thursday. Apparently katemonkey and I are both suffering from issues (hopefully hers are as non-serious as my own!).

I haven't had a chance to rewatch this (or the previous episode actually), but it sticks out in my mind for a number of reasons. I found it fascinating that writers not only chose to pluck a culture/society similar to a Western Hemisphere one (Central/South American), but also decided to keep it still in existence. Given that at least one proto-fire nation society existed at the time that Fire bending was being gifted by Lion Turtles as seen in the Wan episodes of Korra, and since it was distinctly Asian inspired, it made me wonder if they regretted this decision later or not. (Also noteworthy, you do get to see the Dragon Dance performed perhaps for the first time by a human in that episode, too).

Aang and Zuko make a great pairing because they are opposites.

And hurray, Iroh!
posted by Atreides at 6:29 AM on September 25, 2015

The part where Aang and Zuko are performing the dance, and their motions line up exactly with the dragons flying behind them? Hairs stood up on the back of my neck. Amazing, beautiful, perfect.
posted by Mrs. Davros at 10:30 AM on September 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

And the absolutely gorgeous animation of the flame funnel surrounding Aang and Zuko...so beautiful.
posted by angeline at 11:20 AM on September 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

Before I get to proper comments, some links:
- I am always mad that Avatar never got a soundtrack release, but I get extra mad whenever I listen to the bootleg extracted music from the dragon dance.
- Speaking of music, here's Matches, a single from hip hop artists Sifu Hotman.
- Breakdown of the Dragon Dance piece by piece from Avatar Fighting Forms.
- Storyboard doodle from Johane Matte, aka the Zhao of the Water Tribe artist.

And, favorite lines:
- "Please, I don't normally play this card, but... I'm the Avatar."
- (On a more serious note, Zuko's speech right after is great too. He's grown so much!)
- "You still think we can take 'em?" "Shh! I never said that!"
posted by bettafish at 1:50 PM on September 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Sorry! I was actually travelling and wifi was terrrrrible.

Also, this episode is always known to me as "How Zuko got his groove back."
posted by Katemonkey at 3:17 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agh, I love this episode so much -- it might be my very favorite of the series, and if not, it's definitely top two. The dragon dance scene is mindblowingly beautiful and the first thing I think of when I hear the name of the show. It's astonishing visual artistry, a great piece of worldbuilding, and a wonderful payoff to two narrative threads that have been dangling for two seasons now -- resolving Aang's fear of fire as well as showing that Aang and Zuko deliberately working together is even awesomer than anyone imagined back during The Blue Spirit. ~~Friendship feelings~~ and dragons, what more could anyone want?!

To me the mark of a well-developed character is when they can take actions that are superficially contradictory but read to the audience as part of a cohesive whole -- my favorite example of this is when Zuko ninjas his way through the sunstone lock in thirty seconds and then falls right into a blatant trap because he can't resist picking up the OBVIOUS FORBIDDEN ARTIFACT, WHAT ARE YOU DOING*, but there's a lot of that going on throughout the episode. Zuko and Aang click like they've been friends for years (even before firebending harmony dance routine) -- they're very different temperament-wise but they share the same weight of responsibility and the way they trade off being the insightful half and the dorky(/ier) half is adorable. I could watch a whole season of this.

Other moments of note: Toph's bending origins insight with the cute/badass flashback of baby Toph and the badgermoles, Sokka and Katara sublimating their discomfort through massive amounts of sarcasm, Zuko trying to brood with Appa and not pulling it off because Appa.

* (Mild Korra spoilers) I do subscribe to the fanon that the egg is Zuko's dragon friend Druk, so if that's the case it all worked out for the best.
posted by bettafish at 7:04 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sorry for being spammy, but I just found out that Comixology is having a sale on Avatar comics through Sunday. They've got the artbook, the Lost Adventures (short comics set during the series run, including some by Mefi's OwnTM Narrative Priorities), and the three complete post-series trilogies: The Promise, The Search, and The Rift (listed out of reading order for some reason), all by Gene Yuen Lang and Gurihiru. The Promise is a little wobbly but has a strong finish, and the other two are great. Unfortunately Smoke and Shadow part 1 isn't up yet, although it came out this past Wednesday.
posted by bettafish at 7:16 PM on September 25, 2015

Sorry, Sifu Hotman.

Hooray, more badgermoles! Best animal goes to the aardvark sloths for doing such a good job cleaning up.

I especially like Aang's Monkeyfeathers! and Zuko and Aang doing the Dancing Dragon throughout the episode. The animation with the dragons and the dance was really beautiful.

But seriously, don't tell anyone.
posted by minsies at 11:25 PM on September 25, 2015

The backgrounds in this episode, like the last one, were again gorgeously painted. So pretty!

I got the sense that the Sun Warriors' village was very much like Central America, but then, with the vines, maybe a bit of South East Asia, too? (I haven't watched any Korra yet)

This one is such a phenomenal episode. I agree, the dynamic duo of Zuko and Aang is really great. The first time I saw it, when those dragons came out, just, wow.
posted by jillithd at 12:08 PM on January 6, 2016

I got the sense that the Sun Warriors' village was very much like Central America, but then, with the vines, maybe a bit of South East Asia, too? (I haven't watched any Korra yet)

The village/ruined city is definitely Meso-American inspired, but we never return to it in this series or in Korra. If you loved the painted background, you will explode when you watch Korra. It's one seamless line of beautifully painted backgrounds (the art books are definitely worth grabbing).
posted by Atreides at 9:25 AM on January 7, 2016

Nice callback to this episode in the recent Smoke and Shadow storyline in the comics.
posted by bettafish at 5:32 AM on January 8, 2016

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