Doug Walker On: “Bato of the Water Tribe” and “The Deserter” (Plus Word on the Next “Korra” Video Review)
An episode Doug Walker doesn’t like?! Say it ain’t so!
It was bound to happen sooner or later, and while I’m surprised the episode to break the Avatar: the Last Airbender‘s track record was not “The Great Divide” (although he certainly had major issues with it), “Bato of the Water Tribe” is certainly not one of the show’s brightest spots. Were it not so contrived and manipulative, it might have been worthwhile. It certainly has it’s worthy moments, such as the last act action sequence and Sokka’s success with ice dodging (technically rock dodging).
This is the first episode where Doug’s thoughts and mine sync up perfectly on why it works and doesn’t work. As such, I don’t have a single thing to add to his analysis nor mine. Let’s just move on to the next one…
I was very taken aback by how underwhelmed Doug was with “The Deserter.” He didn’t dislike the episode, but it didn’t seem to make too big of an impression on him. Maybe his days away from Avatar that were spent trashing Man of Steel—and I don’t blame him one bit—got him out of the show’s groove.
Doug’s main issue with the episode was that the character’s actions (ex. Going to the Fire Festival; Aang’s showing off with fire; Katara learning of her healing powers) were either silly or out of place. Actually, each of these three plot points was not only clearly explained in the episode, but the characters themselves even double back on them to provide their own commentary.
Going to the Fire Festival—the entire sequence of which Doug says should have been cut—was indeed a silly idea and the kids knew it. But where else was Aang going to get some Firebending demonstrations (read: displays of Firebending that weren’t exclusively meant to kill him)? Besides, the sequence subtly sets up why Aang was so eager to fool around with fire: he was impressed by the Firebending performer at the festival. Aang’s attempt to emulate him results in him burning Katara’s hands. That in turn leads to her discovering her healing powers, which is elaborated on by Jeong-Jeong as an enviable quality, which also leads to him explaining why he hates having been born a Firebender. And all this connects to the main idea of the episode: that Firebending can only cause chaos and destruction, and requires a great deal of precision and self-control to master.
So Doug simply wasn’t paying that much attention as the episode progressed. That’s a real shame, because I’d say of all the Book One episodes, “The Deserter” is the best, and has the most believable character motivations and interactions. Aang actually feels like a real kid for crying out loud!
I can’t say with any certainty if this is just a case of “not-getting-it-the-first-time.” I honestly don’t know how I reacted to this episode the first time I watched it, but I do remember liking it a lot more than all the other episodes up to that point. Perhaps the writing was too subtle for Doug? I’m not sure, and I won’t speculate any further. I’ll simply stick by my belief that Doug grossly underrated Book One’s most successful episode and leave it at that. In any case, he does at least like the episode, especially the main ideas and the last-act action sequence.
P.S. Yeah, I’m way behind on my usual postings. There has been too much going on lately with work, family problems, and my own personal issues. As far as the Korranalysis is concerned, I’m aiming for a mid-July release for Part Four. Sorry for the wait/non-update, and thank you for your patience.
P.S.S. Going back to Doug’s vlogs, he really liked “The Northern Air Temple!” I mean, in a way, I’m glad he liked it, because his discussion on tradition vs. progress was very insightful and intriguing. Me, I found the episode too boring to delve into the ideas at all, but was worth another disagreement with Doug for that discussion alone. Thanks, Mr. Walker!