Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Ember Island Players   Rewatch 
October 5, 2015 9:36 AM - Season 3, Episode 17 - Subscribe

The Avatar saga told and performed by the Ember Island Players, a trip through memory lane based on reliable information, partly obtained from a merchant of cabbages. As Sozin's Comet approaches, the gang get to reflect on the past, while preparing for the future and final showdown with the Fire Lord Ozai.
posted by Atreides (16 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by angeline at 9:47 AM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

... and a surprisingly knowledgeable merchant of cabbage.

So play Iroh is Cookie Monster, Zuko has the best hair for tossing ever, and this is mostly timewasting filler. I really could've done without Aang's idiot move.

However, entirely worth it for this:
Did Jet just die?
I don't know. It was really unclear.

Best animal is a combination of play Appa (during his first appearance) and play Bosco, who is pretty much only there as feet. Play Momo is pretty terrifying. (So is play Aang. Eek.)
posted by minsies at 9:50 AM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I mean, as far as filler episodes go, I really think this one was quite cleverly done, and very funny. It's a nice little diversion before things have to go dark again.

Although yeah, Aang, what a bonehead maneuver with Katara.

I liked that they got Dante Basco's brother to voice play!Zuko, and Grey DeLisle took an Azula break to do play!Katara.

"Great Zuko costume! But your scar's on the wrong side."

"It's not on the wrong side!" Oh, Zuko. Forever misunderstood.

posted by angeline at 10:17 AM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Given that the next stage in the show is a four-episode finale, a recap episode makes sense, and I agree that this was a fun way to do it.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:18 AM on October 5, 2015

Oh, right. I should clarify that when I watched this episode, I think I was in my second or third hour straight of watching the show, and I was just so tired of sitting.

So, uh, judge my "timewasting filler" by those metrics, please! If I had watched it on its own, I'm sure I would've found it charming.
posted by minsies at 11:37 AM on October 5, 2015

I love this episode. I love that they're in a place where they're trying to forget about what's going to happen, and what could happen, and they're like "LOLS a play about us!" and "LOLS the beach!" and then "Oh shit we're going to die oh my god we're going to die look at us on the stage dying."

They're just so young and have something so massive in front of them, and while we all go "aww, filler! Such great filler!" it really is all about "While you love this show, and find it entertaining, there's heavy shit going on, and it can get dark."

I try to not compare Remembrances to this episode, but it's really difficult not to, and it's really painful to see what the team can do when they have the budget and Nickelodeon behind them, and then see what they...don't.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:38 PM on October 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh jeez minsies you must have been going, "I JUST WATCHED HALF OF THIS STUFF HAPPEN ALREADY."
posted by angeline at 1:31 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Edited--what I wrote didn't make sense!

Play!Toph is great.

"This is just the kind of time-wasting nonsense we've been missing!"

posted by chaiminda at 5:12 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love how meta this episode is, especially the time-wasting nonsense line chaiminda quoted. Sozin's Comet is heavy enough that this is a nice little departure before that happens, and I think the only bad thing about it is the awkwardness of the Aang and Katara scene (though I guess that's authentic to how an impulsive kid might act). It's a nice trick how it's pretty light-hearted throughout and then takes a pretty dark turn at the end.

It's been a great journey watching this again over the past few months. I've watched a few episodes (or scenes) here and there over the years, but the last full rewatch I did was 3 years ago, and before that it was just the original airing. I was never in the target demographic, but it's been interesting to revisit this at different points in my life and find that the consistent things are that I learn something each time, and come out of it loving it a little bit more.

Looking forward to wrapping this up with you all!
posted by Kosh at 6:26 PM on October 5, 2015

Favorite comedy moments:
- Mickey Mai and her bun-swords
- The way Zuko outs himself as a theater nerd and everybody kind of looks at him for a second before going back to their conversation. The Gaang has acclimated to dork Zuko.
- I know I'm a bad person, but "HONOOOOOOOR!!!" and the Gaang's reaction
- The perfect depiction of embarrassment squick body language

If this were a show for adults, I would probably be super mad about Aang kissing Katara like that, but since this is a kid's show, I actually appreciate the strong counter-messaging (in relation to a lot of other media) that consent is important and it's not right to second-guess or badger someone for not feeling the same way you do about a relationship.

The Toph and Zuko bonding was adorable and perfect but also made me sad because I wanted them to have a field trip so badly. Especially since Toph needed the character arc. On the flip side, every time Suki showed up I got the feeling that the writers weren't really sure what to do with her outside of combat and never had time to figure it out before the series wrapped. I like her, but she doesn't really have a character hook other than being seemingly more mature, more disciplined and self-contained than the other members, and at this stage in the series that's not enough to bounce her off the others.

FUN COMICS TRIVIA: The antagonist of "Love Amongst the Dragons" is the Dark Water Spirit, who wears a certain blue mask. Zuko's mother Ursa was an actress before her marriage and he took his first season mask from her possessions when he was exiled. In context this is even more tearbendy than it sounds.

I can't believe it's almost over! I feel a bit melancholy and bereft even though I've been down this road before, and still have Korra and all the comics. Now I must go finish reading part 1 of Smoke and Shadow.
posted by bettafish at 12:02 AM on October 6, 2015

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Complete Series, a 16 DVD boxed set, is out today.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 10:26 AM on October 6, 2015

However, entirely worth it for this:
Did Jet just die?
I don't know. It was really unclear.

So, when I first watched this, and saw what they were doing, I had to sort of squint sideways at the screen to get through my embarrassment squick on behalf of the characters. Then, we hit these lines. And I. Just. Bellylaughed. Myself Half to DEATH, rolling around like a FOOL.

It made everything okay!
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:07 AM on October 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Toph's reactions to the play were my favorite part. And Sokka is right: the effects were excellent. (Seriously, I'm impressed at how much thought went into the design of the sets, costumes, machinery, etc.)
posted by mbrubeck at 6:01 PM on October 10, 2015

FUN COMICS TRIVIA Yes! It has been quite a few months since I read the comics, so I think I have to reread them again to get a better feel for that back story about Zuko's mom and the play.

This is the best "flashback" episode, especially as I usually hate those episodes. But you can't go wrong with all of the animated practical effects - throwing streamers for fire bending! Like, they purposely made their animation job HARDER so they could add the details of the practical stage effects.

I think it would be super cool to see the live-action sequences that the producer and his martial arts master did compared up against what was animated.

I think play!Toph is the absolute best caricature they could have done. With her sonic scream! Ah, how I laughed so hard at that the first time I saw it! The over-the-top-ness of this may only be matched with the Wormhole X-Treme! episode #100 from Stargate SG1.

I actually think this episode was necessary to help (me, at least) re-focus our attention at what still needs to be achieved, yet. Man, the ending of the play was a scary thing to see for the Gaang.
posted by jillithd at 11:40 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

My favorite part was how they seem to be ham-handedly setting up Toph for a comeuppance where everyone gets to laugh at her portrayal the way she laughed at theirs and hers is just as awful as everybody else's but she loves it anyway.

(It's one of my favorite things and so rare to see in TV or movies, someone getting completely skewered by a joke and loving and laughing at it as much as the person skewering them -- I would have loved if Aaang could have been the one to do this as it seems it would have been so much more in character for him to just find the entire thing really funny and not even get why anyone else is upset.)

I'm always kind of surprised by how many really cringeworthy bad jokes and broad line deliveries there are right next to so many brilliant and subtle jokes and sight-gags, but maybe the dumb jokes make the good ones hit that much harder? The possibility that the Toph bit was gonna be dumb definitely made it shine here.
posted by straight at 3:39 PM on July 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

This reminds me of one of the last episodes of ReBoot, where the binomes recite the entire plot of the season to the tune of "I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General."

It's a way for them to celebrate the show, see it from a slightly different perspective, AND have a ton of fun with it.

I think something similar goes here, the acknowledgement of what happened to Jet, the reference to our old friend the cabbage merchant, the exaggeration of Aang as whimsical, almost Mr B Natural figure...

Plus, because this is a Fire Nation play for a Fire Nation audience, the Fire Lord has to win in the end. Which is terrible for the Gaang up in the cheap seats. I do wish they'd given Suki a little more to do than react to Sokka's reactions, but I am glad they didn't dump her off to the side again.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:11 PM on October 18, 2020

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