Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Boiling Rock   Rewatch 
September 28, 2015 7:23 AM - Season 3, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Sokka learns of the existence of the Boiling Rock, a high security prison for the worse of the worse of the Fire Nation's enemies and villains. Enrolling the help of Zuko, the pair set off on a mission to rescue Sokka and Katara's father, who they believe must have been taken there after the failure on the Day of the Black Sun.
posted by Atreides (17 comments total)
Hey! Riot!

I hope Chit Sang sticks around - I like him a lot. (Having now watched to the end, he kinda does? He disappears during Sozin's Comet, I think.)

Someone definitely should've been watching Sokka during the lineup. He doesn't have much of a poker face.

Lots of good action from the women in these episodes, especially Suki. Mai and Ty Lee finally come good, too. Probably not forever, but it was enough.

I'm not sure friendship or fatherhood should be meats.

Oh, virtually no animals here, so I guess I'll give Appa another best animal award for his "insert hay here" open mouth.
posted by minsies at 7:32 AM on September 28, 2015

That's rough, buddy.
posted by chaiminda at 7:59 AM on September 28, 2015 [10 favorites]

Lots of good action from the women in these episodes, especially Suki. Mai and Ty Lee finally come good, too. Probably not forever, but it was enough.

I agree - I was looking at Sokka as the Brave Hero Boyfriend with suspicious eyes, and then Suki is a badass. "Hey, uh, fellas. I think your girlfriend's taking care of it."

I'm not sure friendship or fatherhood should be meats.

I agree, that was kind of weird.

Oh, virtually no animals here

No love for the (off-screen) badgerfrog?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:04 AM on September 28, 2015

My favorite thing about this episode is how it's structured around this material that's full of classic emotional high points: some good humorous moments, former enemies working together effectively, reunions and rescues... all of which is enough material for a good story. But the real emotional climax, I think, is contained in the "No, you miscalculated! You should have feared me more!" exchange at the end, which lingers with me a lot more than the prison break plot does.
posted by Kosh at 10:50 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

But the real emotional climax, I think, is contained in the "No, you miscalculated! You should have feared me more!" exchange at the end, which lingers with me a lot more than the prison break plot does.

Yeah, the most important moment of this episode is not anything any of the heroes do, but an action taken by one of the villains. I rate Mai's sacrifice as the purest expression of unconditional love in the entire series, and it comes from the character introduced as being unwilling if not incapable of showing any emotion whatsoever. And then Ty Lee backs her up, and Azula cuts them both loose -- I think earlier we talked about how Zuko and Azula face a similar moment where they throw away something they don't realize they value for the sake of accompishing their goals. Zuko eventually realizes his mistake and gets to walk it back when he comes to a second crux point, but for Azula, this is the beginning of the end.

Between Mai and Suki, this is very much the "non-benders represent!" episode. I'm glad Suki got to come back -- I would have preferred she joined Team Avatar a little earlier, but for an ascended extra who was only supposed to be in one episode she's done well for herself.
posted by bettafish at 8:04 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

The badgerfrog previously won for The Western Air Temple, so it hasn't been forgotten!

I think(?) I've kept the best animals to only on-screen representations, just because. (I also found I got a little bogged down in multi-part episodes, so I wasn't paying quite as much attention to every animal appearance.)
posted by minsies at 11:33 PM on September 28, 2015

I rate Mai's sacrifice as the purest expression of unconditional love in the entire series

I'd rate Ty Lee's about the same!
posted by chaiminda at 3:38 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

And Ty Lee looks so surprised at herself for it. That's always stuck with me for some reason, the "Oh my gosh I did it! I actually did it!" look on her face after she chi blocks Azula. She recovers pretty quickly, but for just a second there...the shock.
posted by angeline at 4:25 AM on September 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I also noticed her expression right before that as they leave the gondola, too -- like she can't believe Azula is leaving her brother to boil to death, but she doesn't know how to respond or what to do other than the default.
posted by bettafish at 9:12 AM on September 29, 2015

Oh, virtually no animals here, so I guess I'll give Appa another best animal award for his "insert hay here" open mouth.

I dunno, Momo had a pretty good sleeping sprawl while still clutching Sokka's note.
posted by A dead Quaker at 1:46 PM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Stayed up too late catching up on the show, so now my thoughts are scrambled. It was a great episode for women, be it showcasing them as incredible fighters or being complex actors in this fantasy world. I think Mai's defiance of Azula is one of my favorite moments of Season 3, followed instantly by Ty Lee's chi attack on Azula. When you look at how the scene is framed, Ty Lee is equidistant to either Mai or Azula, but she chooses Mai almost without hesitation. Mai's scolding rebuke to Azula, "I guess you don't know me as well as you thought," has to be the terrible seed that plants paranoia into the Fire Nation princess.

There were a lot of great throw away characters, one of the superior hallmarks of the show, in these two episodes, from the various guards to the prisoner who's feelings were hurt.

The Warden's character design has always interested me. I've always wondered if he was initially supposed to be a rather mannish woman, versus a womanish man, which is how I interpret his appearance. It's almost as if he's a trans character. Regardless, he was a hardcore true believer of his beliefs, "CUT THE LINE!"

The Azula/Zuko fight. I don't think the two have ever appeared as evenly matched. Zuko's new source for fire bending has raised his game.

"My first girlfriend turned into the moon."

"That's rough, man."

posted by Atreides at 6:28 AM on October 1, 2015

Atreides, it's possible I'm dramatically misreading you due to the perils of text-only communication, but I'm deeply uncomfortable (disclaimer: as a cis person) with the assumptions you seem to be making about trans people's appearances in your last long paragraph, especially given the wider social context that trans people face not just mockery but physical violence for both conforming and not conforming enough to gender appearance norms.

One of the things I like about ATLA's animation is that even one-shot characters have distinctive, realistic designs that don't conform to cookie-cutter templates. In the Warden's case his design is based off ATLA staff member Oh Seung-hyun -- I think he was part of the animation team? -- who was also the inspiration for one of the pirates in The Waterbending Scroll.
posted by bettafish at 2:14 PM on October 1, 2015

Yeah I read that and I just...did not understand what point you were trying to make. Sounds like you were Posting While Tired so maybe that's why?
posted by chaiminda at 5:06 AM on October 2, 2015

My comment wasn't intended as some kind of negative criticism, and most definitely was awfully worded. I probably didn't get enough sleep last night to make up for the lack of it from the night before, so I apologize for any apparent or implied offensiveness to it. I'll try to explain it, or at least intent.

Almost across the board, the character design in the show has been very hetero normative, i.e., all men and women are designed and represented along those lines. We do not see either sexes represented outside of it, with only, actually, the exception of the pirates in "The Water Bending Scroll," who are definitely presented as outsiders to the 'norm.' Rather than drawing upon the terminology of 'trans' I probably should have described it as a potential representation of something outside of the heteronormative expectations. One of the things I appreciate about the Avatar series is its willingness toward inclusiveness, and I think I was trying to touch upon that in my comment. That same comment was sourced out of a lifetime of media projecting a stereotypical representation of trans individuals who are presented as having appearances that confound easy identification of a biological gender (not to speak to a sexual gender/preference).

So, from that background, I was trying to observe something which I simply lack the appropriate vocabulary to express. I was trying to make a positive statement, not one intended to offend or insult. To anyone who was offended, please accept my apologies, particularly and especially, if in my attempt to explain my non-intention to harm, I did so again.
posted by Atreides at 8:01 AM on October 2, 2015

When I first watched this series, I got kinda annoyed at Azula's character: she always shows up, acts smarmy, beats the crap out of everyone, and wins. In a series with characters that were, in general, so complex, she seemed a little too simplistic.

I also posted a while back that Zuko got what he wanted -- his banishment was over, he was in war councils with his father -- found himself unsatisfied, and successfully figured out what to do. Azula, though, gets what she wants, but (as we'll see) doesn't successfully figure out what to do. She drives past the sign that says "bridge out", as it were.

The quarter-second where Azula is falling after being punched by Tai Lee is absolutely my favorite quarter-second of ATLA. The look on her face is priceless, and is the beginning of her realization that something is very, very wrong. (The beginning of the end, as bettafish points out above.)
posted by dsquared at 7:44 PM on October 3, 2015

Atreides, if you're still reading this -- I get what you're trying to say in that the character models of ATLA aren't those of, say, a Bruce Timm cartoon. But the problem I'm having is with singling out real people's bodies -- and since the warden along with many other bit characters is modeled after a real person, that's the argument you're effectively making -- as being inherently more or less "heteronormative" by their mere appearance, and that's before getting into the trans stuff which I'm still ??? about being brought into this. (By the by, I think you mean biological sex, although in reality even that exists on a spectrum rather than a binary). Frankly, if the warden and the pirates were supposed to be gender non-normative I don't think that would be good representation or demonstration of inclusiveness considering they're pretty evil and unsavory.

Again, I myself am cis, and if I've misspoken here I'm more than happy to be corrected.
posted by bettafish at 11:43 PM on October 5, 2015

I believe the line that Mai says to Azula is "I guess you don't know people as well as you thought," which is particularly cutting as Azula earlier in the episode said she was a people person, when she knew the guard wasn't the culprit. Well, especially cutting considering it comes from her supposed friend Mai who knows her so well. Azula's ego is tied to her ability to know everything before anyone else, so having Mai add some doubt into it is a very well placed dart. (Mai and her aim, amirite?)

I loved the scene where Suki is shown running on top of people's heads, climbing walls, doing fantastic gymnastic feats, and then capturing the warden without breaking a sweat, and up run the other four guys, definitely worn out from their smaller efforts. Suki is so awesome.

And you can tell she'd been practicing, because she and Ty Lee were pretty well matched. You could almost see them hesitate when recognizing the stalemate.
posted by jillithd at 11:51 AM on January 13, 2016

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