I feel bad for Sokka. Despite his bravery against Zuko’s threats to his village, and despite his often clear-eyed grasp of the obvious problems that no one else seems to take seriously, he seems to get the short end of the stick in every episode.
With that said, I was grateful to see Sokka get a little more serious treatment in this episode. Admittedly, it is preceded by a well-earned comeuppance (though delivered in overstated characterization by the writer(s)), but it was nice to see Sokka get to exercise restraint, respect, and even show some competence for once. Constant comic relief does not make for a well-rounded character.
Of course, all of this goes on in the midst of Aang’s continuing campaign to distract himself from the reality of who he is meant to be. His detour to Kyoshi island, ostensibly to ride elephant koi for fun, goes awry. This is first due to an unexpected attack by an unagi (basically a giant eel that shoots water – and has an uncanny resemblance to Spirited Away’s Kohaku, an influence to which the makers of this show readily admit) and thereafter, capture by the warriors of Kyoshi – who are all women.
Sokka’s interactions with the warriors eventually brings him first into conflict and later into a relationship of mutual respect with Suki, their leader. Aang, on the other hand, uses his status as Avatar (proven by his use of airbending) to amuse the crowds who follow him wherever he goes, looking to get a little closer to the latest Avatar – it turns out that the island of Kyoshi is named after a previous incarnation.
All of this attention means that words spreads and finally reaches Zuko, who had been thrown from the scent due to Aang’s unpredictable tourist-like travelling. As with the Southern Water Tribe, he arrives and threatens the locals unless Aang surrenders. This time, Aang simply leaves, knowing that Zuko will abandon any attack to pursue him. His use of the unagi to put out the fires from the attack is a neat, though it seems a waste to introduce both the elephant koi and the unagi to such a short end.
Of these first four episodes, this is definitely the weakest yet. Though it introduces the warriors of Kyoshi, the overall storyline is basically in limbo. Admittedly, the warriors are just too interesting to be a one-off and I look forward to seeing how they enter the storyline in the future. The budding romance between Suki & Sokka seems a bit rushed even for a 20-minute show, but is balanced by the antagonism they have to overcome, and the development of Sokka’s otherwise weak fighting skills. I must admit, Sokka’s non-apology apology (“I’m sorry if I insulted you earlier”) made me grind my teeth. I doubt there will ever be any follow-up, but man is that not the way to genuinely say ‘I’m sorry’.
A quick note to acknowledge ‘foaming mouth guy’ – the character that goes into hysterics before foaming at the mouth and collapsing when Aang reveals himself as the Avatar by airbending. Apparently he has quite a following among fans, evidenced by the wiki entry that he has online.