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It has begun: journey with me into my first foray with Avatar: The Last Airbender!
As I first started watching Im reminded how much of the initial obstacle for non-anime people has to do with the film language changes and different signifiers and what I’ll call “this face”
You don't realize how much this specific anime style is just different from what I grew up with in cartoons. It made so many of my attempts to get into it just "not work." But like everything, those stylistic barriers weren't the fault of the art, they were the fault of my own.
It's really no different than when you see people say "I just can't emotionally invest in animated stories," which is something I find reductive, even if it's true for them. But this is the same exact dynamic. And it's not someone I wanted to be.
So I started throwing myself into it. You learn how little naturalism matter and these expansive animations have their own timing and humor and expression. In other words, you learn to see the humanity and the emotion of the animation.
And when I was comfortable enough, I realized I was ready for Avatar. Lo and behold, duh, the pilot is freaking fantastic. Not just for the fun of great moments like this...
But it's so much of everything I talk about ad nauseam: clear conflicts, clear psychological characterization, wants and needs, problems getting solved through catharsis and conflict-based impasse, not "just cause." It's all therefore / buts, etc.

In other words, I'm excited.
TBH I really do like most art that is good at the fundamentals. There's a lot of art out there that finds the fundamentals boring, but I'm pretty sure it is that those artists are just scared because the fundamentals are really, really, really hard and there is no winging it.
Episode 2: Wow the action in this show is really fun and inventive and grounded in story, huh?
Ok this show is REALLY good.
Fun side note: These are now the only blu rays I own along with Fury Road (I purposely do not collect them).
Episode 3: I keep meaning to take more screenshots but Im too busy just being INTO the show. Anyway, this show is really pretty
Episode 3: I tend to hate "refusal of the call" storylines because the writers oft make them so over-simplified and a-psychological. But this episode understands the complexities completely. For it's not that Aang simply "doesn't want to" or is "scared," but instead
Explores those same feelings through beautiful wants and needs, searching for alternative solutions, bargaining, delusions, finding roots and parent figures and safety, all before coming to that moment of letting go, which is really what growing up is... all in 22 minutes
This is a good tv show
Now there was just an homage to A Hard Day's Night.
4 episodes done! The first two combine for a perfect pilot in setting up the characters, work, stakes, and mission. But there's the old saying with ensuing eps "now show me how you're a show." And already it understands how to execute episodic storytelling within a serialized arc
God, I miss this. Almost every single other TV show (especially most stuff that gets thrown up for whole season streaming) should take notes.
So let me get this straight... there are people who DONT think this show is great?
I feel seen.
1. That was a remarkable episode of TV

2. There's a lot of you who really need to cut it out with the spoilers or even vague allusions. I've never had a thread be filled with so much "wait til that character does x in y" and even worse. Seriously, what gives?
Well that was great, time to get to work and oh noooooooo the sixth episode is starting somehow oh noooooooooo. stop. don't.
Earnest inquiry: do UK people just snicker when they watch the show and mentions bender / bending? Also I have no idea what the state of that term is these days or if it's a slur, so please consider this a serious question.
Also i made a good BLT and this is important to avatar for some reason
Episode 7: So far Uncle is an amazing character, but it's not just because he's funny and lazy, it's because there's all these wonderful little bits of understanding his psychology and thought process sprinkled throughout it, all hinting at deeper wounds and history. I love it.
Disc 1 complete! Necessary stake setting, but Solstice eps proving my ongoing belief that lore-and fate-heavy story focus makes for the most dramatically inert version of storytelling.
I literally burst out laughing the second I saw him.
Episode 9: the pirates are all fun as hell, but I feel like the messaging was a little off and weird? I mean understanding the false heart of jealousy is very important and all, but getting into the notion of "talent" is tricky because I really don't believe in it so much.
Episode 10: they keep throwing young handsomes at Kitara and I am here for it
That ep was a better peter pan than peter pan
I've been weirdly productive today too because I'm setting goals in between eps. But really I should stop and go oh no another episode is playing again for some reason
Internet: “zomg what kind of bender would you be????”
Me: “Im pretty sure Im just Appa”
The thing I like about Aang so far is the same thing I like about Peter Parker. Yeah, he's gotta do hero stuff. Yeah it takes noble sacrifice. But he's not going to put away his desire for a normal life and having fun to do so. He's always fighting for that part of his life.
The Great Divide: the problem with anytime you're doing a "waring peoples trapped in endless cycle of violence" is that it A) inherently becomes a metaphor for real life examples where B) the solutions of "you're both being idiots!" simply can't be dragged out of entrenched cost
and this matters because often C) it is a solution that is never afforded or understood to the main thrust of the other war plotlines in these same shows. The fire and earth kingdoms aren't going to be hit with a "you're both being idiots!" solution, cause that's not what it is.
Anyway, that's the reason those episodes tend to suck in tv shows. It's false, reductive, and oft patronizing moralization for something that usually driven by more complex human behavior (that these same shows are often down to explore in other ways).
At least the episode had Wilford Brimley in it.
The Storm: "things will never return to normal." Oof. Aang and Zuko's mutual backstory episode is so beautifully done. You have the inkling as to these events, but when the details are made clear it is far more haunting and empathy-invoking than you can imagine.
For all the imagery and allusions to storms / cycles / repetitions, really it's about quelling the storms that rage within, letting ourselves evolve from the moments where we once froze, to moments we can now glide on air... All with killer funny lines and delivery along the way.
Onto Day 3!

Note 1: if you ain't interested in Avatar, please feel free to mute the thread if you haven't already!

Note: 2: Gonna keep this up because a lot of you havin fun, but good granola please do not talk about future episodes. This should be clear!
The one thing no one told me is how freaking funny this show is
(Also don't worry the glare on my screen isn't bad, it just happens when i get close at the angle when I record with my phone).
The Blue Spirit: Holy Crud. Just impeccable, loaded with meaning, and all the little internal movements that character development that feel like legions of change before characters are ever ready to admit it. Just beautiful.
The other thing I can't get over is how much this show taps into all the motifs and influences I loved as a kid (elemental magic a la final fantasy, kingdom maps, geography, culture creation, etc) but it never feels like those things are the point. It's drama over lore. I love it
“Someones being attacked by a platypus bear!” Cut to:
So many shows do the "Friendzone: Let's Back Up This Notion!" and the "The Fortuneteller" thankfully doesn't but there are so many little moments that come close and it's always like this big dramatic meta-game I have watching this stuff.
Bato of the Water Tribe: Love that it understands you can have your characters make bad choices, you just have to properly motivate them. I love how the lessons are starting to stack and help the characters evolve too. Really good Sokka episode.
The Deserter: Love the efficiency of the parables. Warnings, actions, consequences, and lessons move so fast in this show, but it's all grounded in earned character dynamics. It's exactly what makes it feel so urgent. Plus the moment where katara switches the masks is so good.
The Northern Air Temple: "Stink! Never underestimate the power of stink! I really have to say again and again that the action in this show is so dang good. The siege here isn't just well-coordinated with clear geography, it's so smart and storytelling-driven, too.
This arrival sequence was genuinely enthralling...
"I carved it myself" (halp i'm dying)
The Siege of the North: It's a true, genuine epic. At once a catharsis of a season and it's own beautiful story within the story. There's so much I can say, but I'm really just sitting with it.
The Avatar State: I tend to hate when characters can go into "god mode" because it so rarely makes that metaphor about anything. It's always like "believe in yourself real good!" or some nonsense, which is exactly why I love this episode.
Not just in the way it creates logic and stakes and rules, but because it so squarely hits the metaphors of power and being out of your body and lacking control and the terrifying reality of that. This is a show so grounded in consequence.
You know how I talk about storytelling being therefore / but transitions and economy? BOOP:
The Cave of Two Lovers: The moment of Zuko taking the birdhorse thing... I love when shows understand that these intimate, small forms of pain and cruelty are so much more devastating than all the battles and "big" life / death put together.
Return to Omashu: I love how much the show understands that it can't keep playing the same cards. Changes come in the form of lovely new conflicts and developments.
And for the last time (really, I'll stop the thread no problem), stop discussing future events and or how characters are going to change. Even if you think you are being vague or general, trust me, you are awful at it.
The Swamp: Sort of something I like out of "minor" episodes - playful, brings you into headspace, plays with assumptions... maybe a little too fast and loose and slight in this one but the show just continues to be so terrifically entertaining at every moment.
The prophet hath returned
Avatar Day: such a funny lovely little story and a truly great sokka episode. I love how hes fleshing out. I also love any story that features vulnerable and emotionally attuned prisoners.
Behold, the forever look of unruly, bullying teenz
The Blind Bandit: So they made an amazing meta wrestling episode and and introduced my new favoritest character??? WIN WIN
Zuko Alone: God they're so good at fleshing out psychology on this show. It's never just "plot" - it's all understanding and enriching motivations and changes and inner conflicts (PS prospective writers, that's the main subject to study if you want to be good at writing)
The Chase - Whoa. A "no man is an island" infighting microcosm for society all under a genuine pressure cooker reminiscent of "33" from Battlestar??? First episode that *really* turns the screws on genuine tension before hitting a massive character-driven climax? Favorite so far.
... I was going to stop there but i need to watch more for catharsis.
Bitter Work: Training montages always feel great because they make the audience feel like they're accomplishing something, but rarely are they given so much emotional space and full arcs... This is show is just gonna keep getting better isn't it? (This is rhetorical don't answer)
The last scenes are so important because they show both blocks from and blocks from the inability to release trauma in perfect juxtaposition... also theres a sabertooth moose lion.
*blocks from fear and*
I love the details of the animation. Toph’s feet being dirty is so good
The Library: it's so weird how that little montage time thing doesn't work when there's so many ways you can cut through simpler, BUT THAT ENDING 😭
Oh also the episode was tremendously funny i dont know why i concentrated on that little not important detail im sorry im very tired and my brain is mush, but something tells me this fact is going to make for an interesting approach to the thread.
The Desert: Angry Aang! Actually blind Toph! LSD Sokka! I love motivated all these choices are. Nothing feels like affectation. Aang's Appa connection runs so deep that it's one of those things you never thing about until it's removed. And then the true terror of vulnerability.
As it develops, Aang continues to be one of my favorite protagonists. It's not just that he's jovial, kid-like, and fun. It's always in terms of how they approach his "un-aang-like" moments and how they speak to his fears and ultimately, what they use to teach him to grow.
Me: "man the pacing of this episode feels really off, I wonder if- OH WHAT THIS EP IS 46 MINUTES?!?!?!?!" .... *thinks* ..... *makes pasta*
Ok i made pasta
"I thought I was trying to be strong, but really I was just running away from my feelings."

Can't tell you how long it takes to learn this. Even kind or sympathetic people can be so afraid to be weak or vulnerable, often because they never learned how.

I love this show.
i made the pasta so i could keep watching my stories but the pasta made me sleepy so now im in bed this is a very good thread send tweet
Went back for part 2, THE DRILL: which turns out is a giant set-piece that is literally "fury road good." I'm constantly delighted by how smart the action is too when it comes to the ingenuity of using the elemental magic and how they can all work together.
“You dont know what I had to do to get seats this near the bear!” This is a good show.
City of Walls and Secrets: Yeah, yeah, yeah it's mostly set-up but YIKES. Also, the aforementioned just a bear.
Tales of Ba Sing Se: No doubt, a love letter to each character and I feel we could speak in depth about each, from hurtful make-up politics to secret memorials to animal cruelty to haiku battle rap an angry boy's vulnerability to a homeward bound journey pointing forward...
But throughout all, the simplest message: For a show about epic battles and grand gestures and destinies long since written, in truth, we show who we really are in how behave towards those we barely know.
Appa's Lost Days: Earlier in this thread people would ask "what kind of bender are you?" and I would joke "I'm pretty sure I'm just Appa" so JESUS FUCKING CHRIST AVATAR I'M TRYING TO SPEND TWENTY TWO MINUTES *NOT* CRYING MY EYES OUT THESE DAYS 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭
And just like that “Old Sweepy” becomes my favorite character.
Lake Laogai: 1. Seeing Uncle Iroh passionately yell for introspection was, well I don't what to say unexpectedly powerful, because it both took me by surprise and yet makes all the sense the world 2. 😭
The Earth King: yeah yeah lots of putting pieces in position, but now crazy super excited for finale...
Part 1 - The Guru: A cynical, simplified comparison would be to call it "Luke's Dagobah choice," but because this show is so freaking grounded in psychology and meaningful story choices it just plays so beautifully - and with genuine insight into Aang's mind and journey.
Part 2 - The Crossroads of Destiny: I have seen many stories and shows attempt to nail this kind of difficult crux in the story, to hit those difficult notes, to make those difficult choices... but I have never seen it executed as well is this.

The Awakening: Largely a quick re-set, but works because it so rightly gets to Aang's feelings of failure. More just excited for what's next.
The Headband: Now THAT's what I'm talking about. Organic world building, small stakes story, a dance party (!!!) and HILARIOUS- "you must be one of those popular kids I'm always hearing about!" / "And this one I made out of noodles!" / "Sapphire Fire!" / Toph's Nelson laugh.
The Painted Lady: A little more clunk than normal, but the final stand-off seals the functionality of the build-up. I wish other shows understood apotheosis like this one. Every detail builds. "Now you look just like a little hill with horns!"
Do i bed or one more
By the way I love when shows redesign their standard models and the new fire outfits are 🔥🔥🔥
Sokka's Master: A lovely episode that shows how much of our value lies in the way we're missed, and all the ways Sokka brings such strength, creativity, and versatility to all those around him. It's honestly best version of the "xander" archetype I've seen. Plus...
1. A brief moment to talk about Toph's incredible comic timing and characteriztion, "you see nothin once you've seen it 1000 times." / "I learned from badger moles!" and 2. Iroh's training sequence!.
Wait til I finish it cause I'm only five mins in, but holy shit there is basically a HORNY TEENZ HANG OUT ON THE BEACH episode!??!?!
The Beach: HORNY BEACH TEENZ. 1. Zuko and Mai's disaffected goth romance is everything to me. 2. Azula as a sociopath trying to be social vs. Ty Lee's inherent likability... This is everything I didn't know I needed.
The Avatar and The Firelord: Once again, it's all about quality writing. So much fantasy gets lost in the nonsense of history and lore, but Avatar takes those details and paints lovely brush strokes of how our family's history can effect our psychology in the here and now.
The Runaway: Ah the "3 days earlier" trope, how I hate thee. At least the ep understands that it can ONLY work as misdirection, but again I hold fast and true to there is nothing you can with it that you can't do better in straightforward story. Also the scamming montage is aces.
The Puppetmaster: 1. There show literally has a HELLRAISER HOMAGE. 2. I'll be honest, an unexpectedly poignant ending. Sometimes the worst thing we can pass on is the powers we should never possess, and the will to do whatever it takes :(
So is this supposed to be making fun of goku because I dont know what a goku is i just know it has spikey hair like cloud
Daydreams and Nightmares: oh hey cool, it's my sleepless night and terrifying anxiety spirals coupled with the new paranoid effects that drugs have on me , all dramatized with devastating consequences cool cool. yup. cool. got it. THANKS AVATAR
Day of the Black Sun: MY GOD. Where to start? Let's go chronologically 1. Look there's a certain cathartic power to "getting the team together" with everyone you met along the way, but it's even better when that's A DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE
2. Sokka having no idea how to give a power point / speak publicly is perfect, soooo much subconscious emotional vomiting 3. The amazing preparation montage with appa's armor etc. but ending it with little sheep is exactly what makes this show so damn humane. No tough guy B.S.
4. The speech about moments of truth 5. Again, the action in this show is so freaking inventive, creative, thoughtful while being grounded in the basics of clarity, objectives, stakes, I'm in awe. What an attack. 5. "yes... he has." 6. Holy shit the lightning reversal callback
The Western Air Temple 1. Zuko rehearsing his job interview! HE IS MY NEW NEW FAVORITE NOW (the show is so good at employing empathy in the right times / ways) 2. The ethos of "why am I so bad at being good?" so understands the muscle memory of anger / trauma. 3. The portrait 😭
The Firebending Masters: 1 "jerkbending... still got it" 2. RAIDERS VIBES 3. "He had a complicated past... family tradition I guess" 4. the way it reshapes our understanding of fire (a little heartbeat) is another reason I adore this show and it's philosophical underpinnings.
The Boiling Rock: The first time I'm not sure it had to be a two-parter? But a bunch of moments I loved. Like Zuko thinking he can just say the punchline of a joke and be funny (but right after it shows how much growth he's had when people make fun of him back and he smiles) ...
But the real coup is the way it elevates into the Zuko / Mei stuff and then dominoes into ty lee along with it - perfectly motivated stuff I loved it. And lastly, "My first girlfriend turned into the moon"
The Southern Raiders: MY GOD THE SOKKA TENT GAG. / "why don't you take my mother?!" - But there's a bigger story about Zuko here (in chasing his own validation) is exacerbating and feeding the rest of the group's darker impulses... to a point, of course.
The Ember Island Players: "This is the kind of whacky time wasting nonsense I've been missing!" The mission statement for this tremendously funny, but also thoughtful episode. There's so much in the layers in which we see ourselves and our own stereotypical behavior. And so many
great gags like Zuko's long hair, toph as a tuff dude, the peter panning of Aang. But really the episode is about reflection "it takes all the mistakes in my life and shoves them back in my face" and serves to remind us yet again of just how impossibly young Aang is...
It's sitting with the journey that got them here, all before before going into the deep trench of the the grim future that awaits...
Tomorrow I do the finale... finale thoughts then!
Zosin's Comet: There's much I could say about the finale. From the little delights of the Melon Lord, to Azula's angry haircut, to "I can't believe the captain remembered my birthday!" to the deeper callbacks and pay-offs and holy crap Katara's ingenious bending move.
But the biggest delights come in the moments of genuine catharsis. There's a reason I cried at the "... when we build it together" line and it's not just the mere affectation of the moment itself, it's the history of "almost tragedy" that led to it.
Which brings me to Iroh's hug. A moment that not only makes me think of the joy and loss of Mako (the role is no doubt his greatest work), but also makes me think about their entire journey of what has come before.
Such catharsis is often critical in finales, but here it is so necessary because what we are really talking about is the *completion* of stories that have long been heading toward these very moments (without ever "teasing" in withholding fashion)
Which all makes for a very different kind of finale, not one where we say goodbye, but one where it is as if we are finally, truly saying hello. But it's just one of the many reasons the finale feels transcendent.
I know we throw around the word epic a lot, but that's often a failure to understand what that word really means. Because it's about lot more than dangerous battles and literal physical journeys through strange and distant lands.
Genuine Epics understand the biggest journey is often from who you were to who you are... Along with all the ways we can stay true to our most moral and aching hearts. And embracing all the forms of power that are so much more intimate and emotional than the political.
Avatar: The Last Airbender understands all this with wit, humility, humor, non-toxicity, and open heart that few shows ever manage to display. It is at once a glowing beacon of youth as it is a sobering lesson for adulthood (especially our own blocked chakras, etc)
And for me, I don't forget that I began this journey at your recommendation. As the thread grew and grew, I remember someone commenting that the ravenous reaction to the thread was largely about "much needed validation" and it's a strange thing to think about.
Because whatever I think no more or less valid than what anyone else says and I know this is a beloved show, but I also understand critical discourse (sadly) exists in a space of actual cache. One where most of the best work goes unrecognized in award seasons or by older critics.
And I imagine superlatives are harder to come by in a world that might have assumed this or that about a nickelodeon show or just missed the boat on the shining star of your youth.

So I'll say this...
When talking about "The Best Show" of all time I always have a simple answer and total cop out. Because I answer "The Sopranos, The Wire and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" all at once. Why? Well, in looking at the merits of each...
The Sopranos had its scorching psychological insight and morbid coen-esque hilarity, all from a showrunner hell-bent on thumbing his nose at the "bad fans" en route to the ecstatic truth of the sublime.
Meanwhile The Wire was marked by its aching empathy for everyone on screen, oft as they got the screws turned on them by the fates of our modern institutions. And in doing so they crafted one of the most "note-perfect" bits of plotting from start to finish.
And finally Buffy, for the endlessly surprising and thematically-driven teen monsters adventures that doubled for the trials and tribulations of growing up. And it was a show that often dared to fail in order to hit unimaginable heights along the way.
It's no accident that all three were perhaps the most thematically-driven shows of our time, yet none sacrificed any bit of entertainment in that pursuit. They showed us the joys of what is possible. So there's no way I could make an argument for one over the other...
And now, I happily include Avatar: The Last Airbender in their company. Because it is among the best televisions shows I've ever seen. But it doesn't need me to say that...

It validates itself.
Fo Avatar: The Last Airbender is the best interpretation I've seen of the epic tradition that I've seen on television. It nails journeys both small and large, internal and external, from moment to moment and to the grand distances of our beautiful arcs.
And so, all I can really offer of substance is my deepest thanks to you for sharing it with me. And I just hope you know how endlessly lucky you were to have had it in your lives.

Because I now feel that way too.

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