Ahead of 2010’s blockbuster-to-be, The Last Airbender, we’re revisiting the Peabody-winning cartoon serial from which it got its name, Avatar.
Episode five gave us another good/bad battle concerning the slowly growing resistance against the all-powerful Fire Nation, but focused more on Katara’s idealism and her efforts to pass it onto others around her. We’ve seen her in this situation before in The Avatar Returns, but what makes this different is her realisation that losing hope doesn’t just happen to powerless villages, but also to old warriors.
While looking for food in the forest, the gang come across a mysterious young man, Haru, while he Earthbends. When Katara approaches him, he decides to run, leading our heroes to his village (and food!), where it turns out that the Fire Nation have set up shop for the time being.
Earthbending is illegal. The village’s coal mines are being exploited. Bribing the Fire Nation is the only way to get by. It feels like old Western territory, similar to parts of the The Kiyoshi Warriors, but the story soon goes another way. When coerced by Katara into using Earthbending to save an elderly man trapped in a mine, Haru is taken to an offshore prison (think the prison in Face/Off, but less ridiculous).
Katara, ever the idealist, decides to fake-Earthbend to get thrown into prison so she can hatch an escape plan. It doesn’t start well. She meets Haru and his long-imprisoned father Tyro, and their fighting spirits have dampened, broken down by the prison’s warden (George Takei!) and the absence of any rock or stone aboard the ship to fight with.
Soon enough, Katara’s youthful idealism clashes against the despondence of the prisoners, exposed in when she attempts a rousing speech that goes nowhere. It’s actually quite crushing.
So, it’s a real thrill to see her rescue efforts pull through in the final act. With the help of Aang and Sokka, the ship’s coal (read: earth!) is brought to the Earthbending prisoners and used as a weapon, bringing on a pretty great battle that culminates in the inmates running the asylum (so to speak).
Here, we can see the Earth Kingdom’s resistance slowly picking up pace, and Katara is invited along to help the efforts. She declines, telling Haru (and reminding us) that her mission is to get Aang to the North Pole. When Haru offers to repay Katara for reuniting him with his father, she suddenly realises that her necklace – the only link left to her late mother – is gone.
Cut to Zuko picking up the necklace, a plan possibly cooking in his head. C-c-c-c-cliffhanger!
…And with good timing, too, as next week we look at the first part of a two-parter entitled The Winter Solstice. In the meantime, Imprisoned allowed us more of an insight into Katara’s optimism and hope. It can’t be broken, even in the worst circumstances. And the worst circumstance possible could be where the final seconds of the episode leave us…
Tardy recap. Sorry about that!
The Warden’s hatred for the Earthbenders comes close to a type of racism – left me wondering about the different Fire Nation justifications for attacking pretty much the rest of the world
Less tomfoolery in this episode when compared to last week’s, but the exceptionally fake fight between Katara and Sokka was an example of how good the voice acting can be on this show
Line of the week: Tyro’s “I heard cowards float.”
Lots of chat about food this week. The characters are always hungry in some way. Sure, they got a good meal in Omashu, but they were also imprisoned. Can’t these guys get a break when it comes to eating?
Katara’s speech seemed a bit too on-the-nose but wow, that hurt a little when nobody responded
Read our recap and review of episode 5 here.