Because fans should be critical, too

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 Steeland 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!


13 responses

  1. Dman

    Hey Marshall can you talk a little about Doug’s review on the Siege of the North. I know you too found those episodes underwhelming, but I believe you had detailed explaining while Doug simply said things didn’t make sense when they were outright stated.

    June 25, 2013 at 12:15 am

    • Sorry, but this is one of those episodes I feel no need to further comment on. I agree with Doug on everything but that the big battle scenes were in any way exciting.

      June 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm

  2. Rosemon
    Here’s a new review of Korra episode two, this guy may have picked up things that bothered him that maybe nobody else noticed the first time?

    June 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    • JMR

      I actually don’t much agree with him.

      1) I’ve heard the complaint about the retcon of “the avatar is the worst at their opposite element thing”, but I honestly think that was the lesser of two evils. Trying to convince us that ultra aggressive Korra is somehow struggling with firebending of all things would have been far worse. This explanation actually makes a good deal more sense to me than the original one.

      2) His complaints about pro-bending’s rules not being made clear enough strike me as fairly bizarre, as I thought the introduction to pro-bending was actually very well done. We get a well executed, organic introduction to the rules through Korra’s own struggles to learn them so that the show doesn’t end up just sitting us down and giving us a lecture. I think the far more confusing thing is how Korra, a self professed fan of pro-bending, is somehow entirely unaware of basic rules.

      Beyond that, I had to have a bit of a chuckle to myself when I remembered Tenzin remarking to Korra that she had to learn that “being the Avatar was about more than fighting.” Yeah. I think that lesson got more lost than the airbending training plot…

      June 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    • I don’t like this video. There’s not enough actual analysis. The few interesting points he does make are vastly overshadowed by long stretches of just watching the episode play followed by an anti-climatic joke with no real insight. Some of the reaction clips from other shows and movies are cute, but not helpful. He should dig deeper if he wants his reviews to be worthwhile.

      All that said, the point about Korra’s difficult with Airbending–and why that’s odd–never once crossed my mind. Perhaps Korra’s hardship element should have been Firebending, but you know what? I’m perfectly OK with her strictly having trouble with Airbending. In fact, she was so damn good at Firebending (in a way, it was her default element rather than Water) that it probably just emphasizes how wild her personality is. I’d say it’s clever, but I doubt DiMartino and Konietzko were actually aware of the implications of this decision.

      June 25, 2013 at 11:22 pm

  3. JMR

    As much as I’ve enjoyed these vlogs, I do have to admit I was disappointed with them for the tail end of the first season. It felt like Doug wasn’t really paying attention on a number of occasions and so he glided over some very interesting moments and marked some things as plot holes or as being unexplained when they very clearly are explained.

    June 26, 2013 at 11:03 pm

  4. Rosemon

    Mike Dimartino was recently at a panel and this is what he had to say regarding Korra:From the “Power of Fandom” Panel Mike was a part of
    “Asami was originally intended to be evil, along with her father, but the more they developed her character the more they realized she’d be better as good.
    Amon using bloodbending to remove bending ability: (asked by an adorable five-year-old girl) He thought that Amon would be such a powerful bloodbender that he could bend the energy or chi in another person to block it. His words. And, he said, that’s why Korra could use her power to bring their bending back.
    He was genuinely surprised at how the fandom reacted to Mako’s character. (in terms of a negative reaction to the Asami/Korra stuff)
    Zuko’s mom, Mike brought that up along with Toph’s husband, he said something about needing at least one unanswered question, even if it’s not the one you expected.”

    June 27, 2013 at 9:03 am

    • I heard this panel was happening. Is the whole thing or even part of it posted online somewhere?

      Asami was originally intended to be evil, along with her father, but the more they developed her character the more they realized she’d be better as good.

      I’m glad they made her good, but the way they treat her in the show, you’d think she was being punished for not being evil.

      He thought that Amon would be such a powerful bloodbender that he could bend the energy or chi in another person to block it. His words. And, he said, that’s why Korra could use her power to bring their bending back.

      How the flying fuck does Bloodbending ascend to Energybending? Does this mean that any powerful Bender has the capability to Bend the energy of another person, not just the Avatar? I’m really confused. It’s bad enough that Bloodbending lost its mystique when they threw away the Moon Full Rule, but now it really is just an all-encompassing, all-purpose evil force, to the point that it’s outlawed worldwide.

      He was genuinely surprised at how the fandom reacted to Mako’s character.

      How exactly did he plead his case for Mako? I’d be interested to know his argument and intentions.

      Mike brought that up along with Toph’s husband, he said something about needing at least one unanswered question, even if it’s not the one you expected.

      I can respect that. I really can. Someone just needs to tell him and Konietzko to stop being assholes about it. (Well, maybe not Konietzko. He’d probably relish being called an asshole.)

      June 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm

  5. Rosemon

    The source was from some guy on I recall producer Bill Rinaldi tweeting about how the Mako hate was shocking because Mako was a “normal/confused teenage boy,” but not I have not seen much defense from Bryke themselves other than “oh, just scary/crazy fangirls angry about not getting their preferred couple, we’ll always upset SOME people,” or something like that. I can only imagine that Bryke expected everyone to like Mako since they named him after the voice actor for Uncle Iroh, Mako Iwamatsu…which would explain Mako’s gary-stuness: his ability to lightning-bend, resist blood-bending, getting complimented once by Amon (“It’s a shame I have to take away the powers of someone so talented”), being called “dreamy, cute, handsome” by the airbender girls, getting away with saying a lot of bad things (i.e. “I told you dating a teammate was a bad idea!” ep. 5 & “Your just jealous of Asami and I. If you don’t drop this investigation against Hiroshi, our friendship is over,” ep.7) the narrative saying that “stuff got messed up between Mako and Asami” rather than Mako apologizing properly in the active voice, etc. Like with Korra, the narrative refuses to call Mako out for any of this because he’s a protagonist. Only now, he’s supposed to be a tribute character.

    June 27, 2013 at 3:15 pm

  6. Rosemon

    Here’s the actual panel.

    June 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm

  7. Rosemon
    Okay, here’s a much more comprehensive and analytical review of Korra, particularly in comparison to other fantasy series. Interesting read.

    June 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm

  8. Rosemon

    And here’s the 2nd part of this wonderful essay:

    June 30, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    • Thank you so very much for these! It’s absolutely astonishing that the deeper you dig into this show, the worse it actually gets. (It’s even more astonishing that, at the time of these postings, the writer hadn’t even watched the finale yet!)

      July 12, 2013 at 11:54 pm

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