Avatar: The Last Airbender: Sozin's Comet   Rewatch 
October 9, 2015 1:00 AM - Season 3, Episode 18 - Subscribe

Everything comes to an end when Sozin's comet is in the sky. Lines are drawn, people choose sides, power is discovered, and we end on a balcony with a single kiss.

This includes "The Phoenix King", "The Old Masters", "Into The Inferno", and "Avatar Aang".

This also includes:

The coronation of the Phoenix King and the Firelord
The reveal of the White Lotus (including Iroh, Bumi, Jeong-Jeong, Piandao, and Pakku)
A tearful reconciliation between Iroh and Zuko
The introduction of the Lion Turtle
The return of June and Nyla
Aang having a conversation with his previous lives
The introduction of being able to remove bending abilities
The loss of space sword and boomerang
The reopening of the Jasmine Dragon
posted by Katemonkey (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's so much to take in and it refers to so much, but there's no way you can really break it up.

Instead, I'll just post this picture and try to not cry.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:01 AM on October 9, 2015

The true mind can weather all the lies and illusions without being lost.
The true heart can touch the poison of hatred without being harmed.
Since beginningless time, darkness thrives in the void,
But always yields to purifying light.

posted by A dead Quaker at 6:45 AM on October 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Before saying anything else, Katemonkey and Atreides, thank you for keeping this rewatch on track for a better part of a year. To you and all the regulars, thanks for the great discussion! I would have rewatched ATLA eventually as it's one of my favorite tv series, but doing so on my own wouldn't have been nearly as much fun.

If there's interest in doing posts for the comics and or a Korra rewatch, I hereby volunteer for the posting team or as pinch-hitter/substitute if our current team would prefer to keep going.
posted by bettafish at 7:32 AM on October 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't even know where to start. I think the thing that lingers with me most from this episode is the gorgeous music, with Last Agni Kai as the star. They really pulled out all the stops with the live players for this as opposed to the synths used throughout the rest of the episodes. (I think Korra's music is actually even better--I'm not sure if that's Jeremy Zuckerman maturing as a composer, the fact that Korra has recording of live musicians for EVERY episode, or both--and I look forward to discussing it there.)

Potpourri of observations:

The Lion Turtle doesn't quite come out of nowhere (there's a Tumblr somewhere documenting all the places that lion turtle imagery appears in ATLA before this episode), but close to it. It's one of those things that actually works better after you've seen Korra (specifically the Beginnings two-parter in book 2). I do, however, think the solution to the no-kill problem works. I like this ending a lot better than the alternative that they would have had to do within the constraints of children's television, which probably would have been a tired retread of the whole "villain gets knocked off a high surface, clings to the noble hero's hand, and then bitterly lets go and chooses to die" trope that characterizes the end of a lot of children's cartoon antagonists.

I actually really like the 'spiritual conflict' that takes place between Aang and Ozai at the very end here. We never see Ozai as anything less than completely confident that he's on the right course with his plan, and the only times he ever shows any fear at all are when (1) Zuko redirects his lightning back at him during the eclipse, (2) Aang redirects his lightning back at him here, and (3) Avatar-state Aang is about to execute him, so it makes sense that his spirit would be nigh-"unbendable". Makes one wonder what we would have seen if we could have had a window into the 'battle' that goes on there before it concludes. Also, I love the beautiful music cue at that moment that resolves into the main theme (and is quoted again in Korra when Avatar Wan does something particularly amazing).

I had completely forgotten the conversation where the Aang-less Gaang are trying to recruit Iroh to take on Ozai. Obviously, it wouldn't have worked dramatically, but it would have been an interesting thing to see, and Iroh's reasoning is sort of spurious (don't want the appearance of this just being a conflict between brothers over the throne) in light of the fact that what happens with Zuko and Azula--which he encourages--could be subject to the same criticism.

The Avatar State getting unlocked with a blow to the spine is a cheap shortcut, but I think it gets absorbed into the greater awesomeness that is this episode.

I love the shot of the fully-realized Avatar Aang after the conclusion of the fight, where he (peacefully!) uses the Avatar State to bring in the tides and extinguish the fires. His 'dress uniform' robe during the celebration at the end is also a really nice costume.

bettafish, I don't know about everyone else, but I'd be disappointed if we didn't do Korra after this, and if FanFare can support it I'd love to see some posts about the comics too. (I've read The Promise and The Search, still need to read The Rift, and will probably get Smoke and Shadow when it's done and they issue a collected hardcover.) Korra is definitely not as "even" as ATLA is (owing in large part, I'm sure, to the fact that it was planned on a season-by-season basis for the first couple of years), but it's worth it to get to the discussion of the incredible stuff in book 3 and book 4.
posted by Kosh at 9:56 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I will be back to post on Sunday, as I'm away from my Notepad file of thoughts.

Until then, seconding bettafish's thanks of Katemonkey and Atreides - I am extremely grateful that you provided a best animal platform for me!

Last best animal (sob) Sunday!
posted by minsies at 1:04 PM on October 9, 2015

Yes, thank you for running this show, as it were! Much appreciated.

Not much to say except that I have always loved the Agni Kai scene for all of its heartbreak. The scene with Ozai spraying fire down on the Earth Kingdom is also awesome and chilling, I can't watch it without my stomach churning at the sheer power on display.
posted by angeline at 1:50 PM on October 9, 2015

There were a few contrivances to wind up the story in an hour and a half (Appa's sudden ability to fly at the speed of plot, Nyla the super-sniffer, the convenient spur of rock), but the wrap up was so emotionally satisfying I did not even remotely care. Love! Friendship! Peace between all nations! Group hugs!

For some reason I barely remembered Aang's consultation with the past Avatars (Yangchen's my fave, for the record) and the lion-turtle. It really does seem more like a sequence from Korra than from ATLA, and works best considering the two series as a whole. Mad props for finding your way through, Aang. I love that the four nations are ultimately saved by the only kid in the world who remembers what it's like to grow up in peace.

I'm with Kosh that the music is fantastic, and having live performers here helps to bridge the series together. While Zuckerman's music for Korra is definitely more impressive aurally, I am a huge sucker for the tsungi horn leitmotif and the way he created a distinct and very non-Western musical identity for the Fire Nation, so I can't say which I prefer. (I also need to listen to the fan compilations for Korra seasons 2-4, so.)

Last Agni Kai is absolutely heartrending, but my favorite part, which I completely missed the first time around, is that it's one of the Avatar themes that plays when Zuko sacrifices himself.

On first viewing I thought both Zuko and Katara got shafted by not getting their own boss battles, but now I think the way it played out was perfect. Azula was foil to both of them, and the way Zuko sacrifices himself to protect his Water Tribe friend from his own family and Katara saves a boy from the Fire Nation with skill, cleverness and compassion is the perfect wrap to both their character arcs.

I was also utterly convinced that Suki or Toph was going to die the first time through, and I'm glad that didn't happen and that everybody's survival felt earned.

Overall thoughts after my second watch:
- I'm astounded by how much detail there was in the worldbuilding, set and background character design, and use of musical motifs that I was completely oblivious to the first time. How is this show so detailed?
- Katara went from a character I liked but was frustrated by to one of my absolute favorites -- call it 50% unlearning internalized sexism, 50% appreciation of the right things the writers did with her arc and not just the stuff they messed up. I still would have liked her to get more time in season 2, and for her "confused" feelings to be resolved better before that (beautiful) wordless ending.
- Toph went from a favorite to one I'm frustrated by -- she's awesome, but it's now quite clear to me that while she did grow up over the course of the show, she didn't have a meaningful throughline for that growth like all four of the rest of the main cast did.
- Sokka went up in my estimation and Aang went down (mostly by default, I still love him to bits); Zuko is still my favorite dorkbender.

A question for discussion: what was your favorite episode of each season? Feel free to elaborate.
(Mine: The Blue Spirit, The Desert, The Firebending Masters. My priorities are so blatant.)
posted by bettafish at 7:27 PM on October 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Nthing the thanks to Katemonkey and Atreides for these posts, plus everyone else for the discussions! It's been a lot of fun.

bettafish: If there's interest in doing posts for the comics and or a Korra rewatch, I hereby volunteer for the posting team or as pinch-hitter/substitute if our current team would prefer to keep going.

FanFare doesn't support comics or books (yet), but we could do "books included" for a re-watch, as was done for The Walking Dead. We could have parallel re-watches, for those who want to discuss the connections in/to the comics, and those who don't.

When would the Korra (re)watch begin? Taking a few weeks off, or keep going?
posted by filthy light thief at 10:40 AM on October 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Welcome to old people camp.

(Last) best animal? Well, the lionturtle and the eelhound and Momo are all close seconds to Appa and Nyla's meeting, which is pretty much the best.

The conversation before everyone was dumped out of the bomb bay doors was the best office introduction meeting ever.

Azula's ending was pretty dark - I think Azula's ending is worse than any on-screen killing of Ozai could've been.

posted by minsies at 11:12 AM on October 11, 2015

I wanted to say thanks to everyone here. I started watching ATLA after the 10th anniversary FPP earlier this year, and this is the first time I've done this kind of mostly-synchronous discussion. ATLA and LOK work well with this format; while watching Korra, I even started reading the discussions from last year.

In fact, a month or so ago when I finished Korra, I found myself actually kinda sad that it was over. I was surprised -- it was like being a teenager or adolescent again. (Somehow it seemed more common when I was younger to get emotionally wrapped up in a tv or book series.) I'm still curious as to why I got so invested in these two series.
posted by dsquared at 7:11 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

In fact, I will admit that I sometimes load up the music from the final scene of Korra and I get really teary.

So here's an observation: the closing credits music from the two series seems swapped. The ATLA music is fast, high energy, very...martial. More like Korra than Aang. The LOK closing credit music is so terribly sad, it seems more appropriate to a boy who has lost everyone he knew, and whose people and culture have been destroyed.

Sorry for getting off-topic but I really like that Korra music and am curious about the closing music for the two series...
posted by dsquared at 8:15 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've actually had the same thought before, dsquared! I like to think of it as a moment of synergy between two incarnations of the same version.

Kosh, my inclination would be to start the Korra rewatch sometime next month with the comics before/during, but we haven't heard back yet from Katemonkey and Atreides, much less anyone else, so I don't know. Re: comics on FanFare I know the Hannibal folks improvised a club talk post that was a de facto book post, but we don't actually have a club yet.
posted by bettafish at 10:58 PM on October 11, 2015

Starting next month sounds good--gives this a little time to breathe, assuming that our gracious hosts are in agreement. Also, supposing we can find a technical solution that works, maybe we could look at putting up the comics in a couple weeks, so as to give people who haven't read them a chance to acquire them and do so? I'm an internet anomaly in that I don't care about spoilers for anything, but I know a lot of people do, and I'm not sure it's fair to consider the comics covered under a 'rewatch' aegis for either show, because they're kind of their own thing (whereas with stuff like TWD they're source material for the show, right? sort of like the 'Books Included' Game of Thrones posts) ... they continue ATLA, but they provide pretty limited background for LOK (just setting the stage for the rise of Republic City, really), so it's not like we can assume someone watching LOK should automatically also know what happened in the comics. If we could have them in their own post I think that'd be ideal.

Regarding the music, I think I've linked this before, but Jeremy Zuckerman's SoundCloud page is great. Most of it is Korra stuff, so those of you who are new to that won't recognize a lot of it, but the playlist he has marked "PlayFest 2014" has a nice orchestral arrangement of a number of the ATLA themes. There are a couple of interesting interviews with him and the sound designer that I'd like to bring into the discussions later when we reach that point in LOK.

Favorite episodes from each season... Siege of the North (I think that's when the show really steps up and you realize it's serious), definitely The Desert, and I have to admit, this time around, although I wouldn't call it my favorite, much more appreciation for The Headband, if only because it was way funnier than I remembered it being and also because it establishes 'flameo, hotman' and sets up the callback later when Aang's firebending lessons start.
posted by Kosh at 7:00 AM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am interested in watching Korra but am not so good at watching TV on a schedule at the moment (and I'd have to subscribe to Amazon Prime or buy the DVDs - I definitely have a case of the don't wannas about the former and the physical media doesn't excite me about the latter).

Still, if I did watch, I'd want to read the comics, too. (However, I am with Kosh on the spoiler thing - I do not care at all about spoilers either.)

That's not much of a vote, but there it is anyway.

In terms of favourite episodes, my off-the-cuff selections are "The King of Omashu" (can't get enough of that mail delivery system or Flopsie), "Bitter Work" (for Iroh's description of the elements working together and Foo Foo Cuddlypoops, of course), and "Sokka's Master" (because I like Sokka best).
posted by minsies at 10:15 AM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I finally finished this. I'm glad Azula at least got to have fun banishing a bunch of people before her downfall. She was by far the best villain in the series. My favorite moments of the four-part episode were Toph as the Melon Lord, and Katara's takedown of Azula.

Thank you to the hosts and everyone else! I'm starting on the comics now, and I can't wait to watch Korra with you all.

Favorite episodes from each season: The Storm, The Chase, and The Puppetmaster.
posted by mbrubeck at 3:09 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Okay, I don't know if anyone's reading this, but good news, Books have come to Fanfare! I already made an inquiry about collected comics/graphic novels, and if I get a yes will make an Avatar Comics Club when the club-making option is opened to all. Meanwhile... I'll poke Atreides and Katemonkey and see whether they want to keep the baton or pass it on?
posted by bettafish at 4:24 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


(the creators, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, are going to create a live-action series based in the ATLA universe)
posted by numaner at 2:12 PM on September 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just finished watching this series (for the first time)!

The scene with the war balloon staff congregating ("the captain does remember my birthday!") is incredible, and Toph just gets better and better.

Also am I right that this is a rare case of an Asian male (like technically there isn't "race" in avatar-land, but let's be real) "getting the girl"? Especially after objecting to being portrayed by a woman in the Ember Island Players?
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:18 AM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Asian male getting the dark-skinned girl. I was pretty happy with that, considering we didn't even get a kiss out of Romeo Must Die.
posted by numaner at 3:51 AM on October 28, 2018

It's back on netflix! perfect time because of this quarantine to introduce a loved one who's never seen the series to it!
posted by numaner at 10:11 AM on May 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Completed this watch on Netflix, after an attempt a few years ago that I don't think got past The Beach.

Lead-up to the finale had everything! Tearful reunions, old friends from the past, the payoff of the Pai Sho tiles, and actor extraordinaire Jennifer Hale in two separate roles! Plus lion turtles, as has been hinted for several seasons! Oh, and Azula breaking down and banishing everything in sight in a fit of extreme paranoia.

That final set of fights was quite good, I particularly liked Avatar Aang in his "solar system of the elements" mode. I kinda hoped we'd see the Earth King and Bosco again, though we did see them in sand sculpture form.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:05 PM on October 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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