Oct 7, 2011
Avatar: The Last Airbender “Avatar Day” (part 2 of 3)
Now we meet the village’s mayor, voiced by James Hong, in what has to be one of his most embarrassing roles. We’re actually hearing an Asian American doing a bad Chinese accent every time he talks, and it’s just as cringe-inducing as you’d imagine.
Here, the mayor reveals that the village believes its former leader Chin was murdered by the former Avatar Kyoshi, while a random old guy offers himself as proof of how much the village has gone downhill since then. And now that they’re actually trying for an unsettling image, they can’t pull it off. Go figure.
Aang agrees to be put on trial to clear Kyoshi’s name, but the mayor points out this means following all the village’s customs, including paying bail. That’s our cue for a “comedy” edit to Aang sitting in prison, because the town doesn’t accept Water Tribe money. And so, the real plot has finally arrived, and already I’m itching to get back to Zuko.
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Sokka tries to convince Aang to bust out of jail, giving him a full Looney Tunes demonstration of how he could do it. It’s a lame joke, though at least it lets Katara call him “Master Swish”, so I guess we do get some sort of laugh out of it.
Unfortunately, next up is an incredibly long and unfunny bit where Sokka builds himself up as a master detective, which I’m going to completely skip over and just say it ends with him putting on a steampunk Sherlock Holmes hat. You’re welcome.
Next, Zuko steals money from a guy in a carriage. Not much more to that, so moving on.
The mayor shows Sokka and Katara the temple where the murder occurred, complete with Kyoshi’s footprint, which is mentioned in such a way that you just know it’ll be important later. I don’t actually have a problem with this; they only have 22 minutes to work with here, so this isn’t exactly going to be a James Ellroy-level mystery.
(They also discover the temple was built from the same stones as a statue of Chin that was built after his death, but at least the script is smart enough to acknowledge that this hole in the story still doesn’t help Aang very much.)
No, my problem here is that Sokka’s behavior is played entirely for laughs, with his goofy magnifying monocle, and childish insistence that he wants to figure things out without Katara’s help. Sokka is the source of most of the show’s humor (at least, before Toph shows up), but it’s usually a tad more sophisticated than this, and he’s generally given quieter, serious moments to balance things out. Here, he’s just a big moron from beginning to end, even as he shows the smarts needed to solve the mystery.
Oh, and he blows on a dragon-shaped bubble pipe, apropos of nothing, just in case they weren’t wrecking the character enough.
In prison, one of Aang’s fellow inmates comments, “Bald head, nice tattoos. You’re going to fit in real well around here.” I know I’ve been saying I’m glad this show doesn’t sugarcoat things for kids, but I think we can all agree that’s taking things a bit far.
Sokka and Katara land at Kyoshi Island, where they’re greeted by all the background characters from the earlier episode where they met the Kyoshi Warriors. Unfortunately, this includes a guy who’s typically known as “Foamy”, because he gets excited until he foams at the mouth and faints. I never cared for him, seeing as he’s a prime example of a character who shouldn’t even be in a show like this. Thankfully, this is his last appearance.
Sokka and Katara are shown the local shrine to Kyoshi, and along the way they’re told where the Kyoshi Warriors are, the first of exactly two useful things this whole episode will give us, as it nicely sets up events later in the season. Following more lame jokes where both siblings have to be reminded not to touch anything, Katara finds a gigantic pair of boots. But it’s not just for the sight gag: the footprint at the crime scene was much smaller, meaning there’s no evidence that Kyoshi was even there.
Alas, we have to suffer through another round of Sokka insisting on being the one to spell this out. And just when the story was starting to get good, too.
Then, wonder of wonders, we get a (relatively) successful comedy scene. Back in jail, Aang has befriended all his cellmates, and now they’re all chatting like women over coffee, encouraging him in regards to his crush on Katara that’s been building for the whole series. It’s also revealed that Aang can easily free himself from the stocks he’s been put in. Both jokes work because they’re kept subtle, something in pretty short supply here.
Back on the island, Sokka and Katara find another clue. They learn Kyoshi was present when Kyoshi Island was founded, which happens to be the same day that Chin was killed. The shadows on a painting show the event happened at sunset, but given it’s a painting and not a photograph, this isn’t what I would call conclusive evidence. And yet, we get more of the lame fighting over who gets to spell this out. This time, it includes Sokka shoving Katara to the side and her whacking him with the pipe, which is a bit more disturbing than what they were probably going for.
Sokka and Katara bring their findings to the mayor, but it turns out trials here simply consist of the mayor making his argument, the defendant making a rebuttal, and then the mayor just announces his decision. “That’s why we call it justice, because it’s just us!” Then he walks away with an evil laugh, in case there are still some kids out there wondering who to root against.