September 23, 2014
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Well, as a lot of you know last week, I did a Top 11 list of the WORST "Avatar" episodes, with the understanding there's really no such thing as a BAD "Avatar" episode, just some that aren't as good as others. Well, this week, I'm going from the WORST of the best to the BEST of the best.
(Footage from "Avatar: The Last Airbender")
NC (vo): Avatar is one of the most amazing shows ever put on the air. Its stories intriguing, its characters lovable, its messages thought-provoking, its philosophy enlightening, and its animation incredible. So as you'd imagine, finding the absolute best of this series is no easy task. There are so many great episodes with so many great moments. But we're here to discriminate for the best, and that's exactly what we're going to do.
NC: So let's not waste any time and take a look at the top 11 best episodes! Why top 11? Because I like to go one step beyond. So, sit back and enjoy the top 11- (Suddenly a fireball hits him, blowing him out of his seat and his face goes into the wall) What the fuck?! (He then pulls his face out and turns around to see who threw the fireball at him)
Dante Basco is standing in the door to the room, dressed as Prince Zuko, the character he voices on the show.
NC: Dante Basco?
Dante: You have dishonored the franchise and so have dishonored me. The time has come to reclaim my honor you dishonorably dishonored by honorably honoring my honorable honor.
NC: Okay, I have no idea what you said just now.
Dante: Don't worry, you'll feel it.
(He throws another fireball as NC dodges and runs out of the room, locking Dante in)
Tamara: Critic, what is it?
NC: It's Dante fucking Basco! I think he drank the cactus juice or something!
(knocking on the door)
Dante (vo): Honor!
NC: (sigh) He thinks he's one of the characters from Avatar. Go dress in the appropriate attire. Maybe we can distract him.
Tamara & Malcolm: Right!
(Tamara & Malcolm leave as Dante opens the door)
NC: Look, it's okay. I'm doing a Top 11 BEST Avatar episodes.
Dante: You don't deserve the chance!
NC: Okay, look, maybe we'll come to a compromise: I can give you a really glowing review and take the lead.
(Dante continues throwing fireballs at NC, but NC escapes and flees for the front door)
(Dante continues shouting "honor" while shooting fireballs at NC, even through his dick)
Malcolm: (dressed as Sokka) Halt! It's time to fight fire with fire, and Sokka knows how to do it!
Tamara: (dressed as Peter Pan from Hook) Arrgh! And us Lost Boys have to stick together!
NC: Tamara, that's not Avatar, that's Hook. And why are you talking like a pirate? Why do pirates talk like pirates? Now you need to try harder. I want you to go home, do some research, gimme an update on your progress. Okay?
Tamara: (before leaving) Okay.
Malcolm: Alright, buddy! It's time to show you who's boss!
(Dante throws a fireball at Malcolm, which Malcolm ducks from)
Malcolm: Well, we'll show you who's boss. (to NC) Right?
(Wrong! NC just walks into another room and locks the door.)
Malcolm: (grabbing at the door knob) Critic! Critic!
NC: (sitting down) Sorry, Malcolm. The needs of me outweigh the needs of you.
Malcolm: He's gonna kill me!
NC: Well, that's show business for you. Just try to keep him entertained while I start the countdown.
(Malcolm nervously turns his head to Dante as the latter stars walking towards him)
(Dante starts beating up Malcolm off-screen)
NC: Well, while they're lolly-gagging out there, why don't we go ahead and start the Top 11 Best Avatar Episodes.
(Title for "The Top 11 Best Avatar Episodes" with NC beat-boxing to ending credits for the show and Chester A. Bum says, "SPOILERS")
(For each interlude on the Top 11, NC beat-boxes to the show's ending theme over white clouds--similar to the original show's closing credits--with the number zooming in.)
NC (vo): Number 11--"The Ember Island Players". [Book 3, Chapter 17] The irony is: I was almost one step away from putting this on the WORST Episodes List, because, in many respects, it has little to do with anything. Team Avatar sees the Fire Nation is putting on a play of their travels, and, even though it's phenomenally dangerous, they decide to check it out. What follows is a theatrical interpretation of their adventures, only it's done from an incredibly biased and exaggerated angle, pissing all of them off.
Actor Sokka: My stomach is so empty that it's making me tearbend! (throws his arms up hopelessly before dropping to his knees, clutching on to Actress Aang's other leg, and crying)
Sokka: (leans forward in his seat; clearly annoyed) This is pathetic!
NC (vo): There are one or two moments of emotional exposition, but for the most part, it's just watching the play. As an episode, little happens, but as a series recap that actually works its way into the show itself, it's actually friggin' brilliant. It's explaining everything that's happened on the show except with a comedic edge, making fun of theatrical tropes, story tropes, and even their own character tropes. Katara, for example, is too inspiringly emotional.
Actress Katara: We cannot give up hope! (begins to cry)
Katara (with crossed arms, displeased): Well, that's just silly. I don't sound like that. (Sokka and Suki are laughing behind her)
NC (vo): Toph is a giant male neanderthal.
Actor Toph: I release a sonic wave from my mouth. (screams very loudly at the Team Avatar players)
NC (vo): And Zuko is always too much of an angsty sourpuss.
Actor Iroh (completely at ease): Let's forget about the Avatar and get massages.
Actor Zuko (turns toward his uncle, leaning forward menacingly; shouting): How could you say that?!
NC (vo): I think of all the other shows that do series recaps and they're usually just clip shows or something separate that just has a narrator telling you what happened, but they decide to take it in a different direction, actually incorporating it into the story. Truth be told, I can't think of any other show that has ever done that, at least in this clever a way. It incorporates the characters' reaction to the whole thing, not just their own adventures, but to the villains' interpretation of their adventures, and their satire of both Broadway and movie styles. In fact, could this be interpreted as the characters' reaction to the Last Airbender movie?
Zuko: That ... wasn't a good play.
Katara: No kidding.
Toph: You said it.
Sokka (walking with Suki): But the effects were decent.
NC (vo): This may not be the most important or dramatic of the episodes, but it is one of the most clever and funny. And on that level, it definitely deserves the number 11 spot.
Zuko: So far, this intermission is the best part of the play.
(Interlude to next entry)
NC (vo): Number 10--"The Chase" [Book 2, Chapter 8]. This one is very similar to "The Drill", where most of the episode is just one big action sequence. But the reason I put this one over "The Drill" is not only is the action sequence really intense and brilliantly planned out, but it also allows for character interactions you wouldn't normally see. Toph and Iroh, for example, share a touching talk throughout all the chaos, mostly because they have no idea who they are, or that they're on opposite sides.
Toph: So where is your nephew? Is he lost?
Iroh (Looks away; slightly sad): Yes; a little bit. I know he doesn't want me around right now, but if he needs me, I'll be there.
NC (vo): That's a really unique relaxing moment among super extreme intense panicking. Zuko fights Aang, Aang fights Azula, Azula fights Zuko; it's a Mexican stand-off of all the coolest combinations you can think of. You just feel so sorry for our heroes in this one. All they wanna do is get a good night's rest, but Azula's posse is constantly on their back, never letting up. This not only adds to the suspense, but also just what an all-around kick-ass villain Azula really is. She's a fucking machine of evil and she makes sure everybody knows it; nothing seems to slow her down. The intensity just keeps going and going and going and getting more and more insane and crazy; it's just a huge rush. By the time it's over, you feel like you need a nap, which is exactly how the episode ends. While certainly not devoid of story or character, sometimes the best way to sympathize with your hero is just to put them in the middle of what they're going through; to feel that racing heartbeat, to feel that running out of breath, and in this one, you feel every second of that panic. The fighting's great, the layout's great, the characters are great, it'll make sure you sleep damn well after watching it.
Aang: So what's our plan?
Toph (stumpled against the saddle, exhausted): Don't know ... too tired to think.
(Interlude to the next entry)
NC (vo): Number 9--"The Firebending Masters" [Book 3, Chapter 13]. After Zuko joins the team, he agrees to finish Aang's firebending training. The problem is: Zuko's bending has gone downhill, because he doesn't have the rage he used to. So they have to travel to the original source. The closest thing they have is a civilization thousands of years old known as the Sun Warriors. The ancient ruins, however, have a lot of tricky booby traps that indicate something is still kicking. Sure enough, not only are there still people living out there, but--
(The red and blue dragons appear)
NC (vo): Holy shit! Motherfucking dragons! Fuck Game of Thrones! This is the first one that dropped the dragon bomb!
Zuko (cut to Zuko and Aang standing): These are the masters.
Aang (in a low voice): Still think we can take 'em?
Zuko: Sshh. I never said that.
NC (vo): However, just like in Game of Thrones, the reaction is exactly the same: you simply can't believe they exist in this world. You think you have a grasp of how it works because you identified with the characters so much and how they have a grasp on the world. So when they're surprised to see these things are still alive, you're just as shocked. On top of that, the episode does great at not only explaining how bending is an extension of one's self, but showing it. When inside the dragon's fire, they see various colors they didn't even know fire could make. It's the equivalent of going through the stargate in "2001"; it's beautiful and other-worldly.
Sun Warrior Chief: They judged you, and gave you visions of the meaning of firebending.
NC (vo): Few shows, especially family shows, can give that experience this large without having to explain it, but this one did. It just let the moment speak for itself. It was pretty damn memorable. It was a great episode for Zuko and Aang to work off each other, it was great for their explanation of what one's skills are capable of, and it was great for giving us one fiery hell of an incredible experience.
NC (vo): Number 8--"The Day of Black Sun" [Book 3, Chapters 10-11]. This 2-parter is probably the biggest battle the show has had, at least in the size of people and characters. Practically, everybody you've seen in the show comes together to try and take down the Fire Lord. It's the Day of the Eclipse where all the firebenders lose their power, and this day has been built up for several episodes; at least, half the season. So you can imagine what a heart-crippling stab in the balls it is to see every conceivable thing that can go wrong go wrong. The Fire Lord knows about the attack and is taken away, Azula is there to distract them and...goddammit; she's pretty damn good even without her bending. And just when you think they're going to leave her and find the Fire Lord...
Azula: My favorite prisoner used to mention you all the time.
NC (vo): Oh, no, Sokka! Don't listen!
Azula: She was convinced you were going to come rescue her.
NC (vo): Don't listen, Sokka! No, you got a Nation to save! Don't listen to her, Sokka! Don't listen--
(Sokka sheds a few tears before charging at Azula in blind rage.)
NC (vo): GODDAMMIT, AZULA! YOU'RE SUCH AN EVIL WHORE! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!! I HATE YOU!!! The episode ends with everyone getting captured, except for our few young heroes.
Katara (grabs Hakoda): We can't leave you behind!
Bato: The youngest of our group should go with you. The adults will stay behind and surrender.
NC (vo): And just when you think all hope is lost--it's just been one terrible moment after goddamn terrible moment--a huge twist happens: Zuko leaves his father to join the Avatar, leaving a glimpse of hope for their future.
Zuko: I'm going to join the Avatar and I'm going to help him defeat you. (puts his swords away) Goodbye.
NC (vo): Good God, man! Talk about an epic middle of the season! You end up hating the bad guys even more, but you get so invested in how the good guys are going to win the day. It's the perfect halfway point; "The Empire Strikes Back" of the final season, so much greatness destroyed, but so much potential to be born. That's one eclipse to remember.
Azula: It doesn't matter. They'll be back.
Interlude #1 Edit
Malcolm (behind the door): Critic, it's okay! I took care of Basco.
NC (getting up and walking out of the room): Oh, hey, great! I knew you could take him yourse--
(But he only notices Basco alive)
NC: But, wait! Where's Malcolm?
(Basco points upward to a charred Malcolm stuck on the ceiling)
NC: Dammit, Malcolm! I can't believe you broke under pressure!
Malcolm (weakly): Sorry! I was weak!
NC (frustratingly to Basco): You just can't get good he--
(Basco throws another fireball at NC, forcing him to flee)
NC (running out of the building): Your aiming sucks!
(NC flees into a Barnes & Noble and passes Jason Laws who is reading a book entitled "Taxi Pick Up Lines")
Jason (reading Chapter 1 entitled "Getting Bitches in Your Cab"): Huh, so that's how I can bag me some more ladies in my cab.
(Suddenly, one of Basco's fireballs hits the book)
Jason: No! My cab bitches!
(Basco chases NC up the escalator, while NC begins digging through some books)
NC: There's gotta be something connected to firebending around here!
(Basco continues searing for NC)
NC (looking at the "How to Earth Bend" book): Uh, no! (looking at the "Learning to Metal Bend" book) No! (looking at the "Fire Bending for Dummies" book) Ah-ha! (getting up) Here we go!
(Another fireball is thrown at NC, forcing him to run. Basco throws more fireballs at NC, while also shouting "Honor!", until the last one knocks the book out of NC's hands.)
Tamara: Hold it!
(She appears in front of the camera, this time dressed like The Huntsgirl from American Dragon: Jake Long.)
Tamara: All right, Dante! I think you've met your match!
NC: No. No, no. Tamara, that's--that's the wrong costume again.
Tamara: No, but, I'm a ninja.
NC: No, no, no, it doesn't matter. We have a THEME going, and we need to stick to the THEME, understand.
Dante: I kinda like it.
NC: Hey, this doesn't concern you. (to Tamara) Now look, I want you to go home, do some research, and call me when you finally wiki something, okay?
Dante: It's a good try.
Tamara (before leaving): Thank you.
NC: Hey, don't encourage him.
(Basco gets into a fighting position, while NC uses the Fire and Ice book as a shield, but Basco firebends it out of his hands, so NC then uses The Ice Storm DVD, but Basco firebends it out of his hands as well, so NC uses the Cool as Ice soundtrack, but Basco once again firebends it out of his hands, so NC uses the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel entitled The Search, making it more complicated for Basco.)
NC (throwing the book to Basco): Here, think fast!
(NC quickly takes the firebending book and flees, while Basco begin reading the graphic novel.)
Dante: So, that's what happened to our mom.
NC (sitting down in the Self Improvement aisle and preparing to read the book): All right, I'm gonna have to multi-task here a little bit. I'm gonna have to learn how to firebend while also continuing the countdown. So, with that said...Lesson 1--Number 7.
NC (vo): "Zuko Alone" [Book 2, Chapter 7]. Leaving his uncle Iroh, Zuko travels to the middle of nowhere on his own to discover his true path. Isolated from everyone who knows him, he befriends a small family who he constantly saves from a group of psychotic bullies. While doing this, we get flashbacks to a time when Zuko actually had a family, a happy one even. He tries to remember what it's like to belong with someone who loves you...
(Zuko is shown bonding with the family's young son)
Zuko: These are dual swords. Don't think of them as separate, because they're not.
Lee: I think you'd really like my brother Sensu. He used to show me stuff like this all the time.
NC (vo): ...only to find the past will never fully let him go, especially when people discover who you are.
(Zuko tries to return a sword to the family)
Sela: Not a step closer.
Zuko: It's yours. You should have it.
Lee: No! I hate you!
NC (vo): Look at that! He saves this kid's ass trying to start over and be good again, but as soon as it's revealed he's the Fire Prince, he's an outcast once more. Fucking A, man! This whole episode is like a movie Clint Eastwood would direct. You know, the ones where you see someone get shit on and in the end you just say "Life sucks," but I mean that in a good way. The classic, sort of Greek tragedy way. It's soaked in the poignancy and the sadness of the character. It's like something out of Frankenstein or a Gothic novel. The journey of one who's truly lost and society may deem should never be found, showing once again how the redeemable are not so easily redeemed, if even at all. You just feel so sorry for this kid. You know he's the villain, but you just want life to cut him a break for once. Well...a break that doesn't emotionally kick his ass in the end. Of course, we know things would eventually come full circle for him. But in this episode, only the lost walk alone.
NC (vo): Number 6. "The Puppetmaster" [Book 3, Chapter 8]. I'm sure for years, fans have asked the question why waterbenders can't bend the human body seeing how it's mostly made out of water. Well, the writers decided to give an episode right out of a Halloween story. Our gang comes across an old lady in the woods. She seems friendly and kind and even seems to help Katara learn elements of waterbending she never thought possible. It then turns out they were elements she wished she never knew were possible. For when the moon is full, she possesses the art of bloodbending-- oh, doesn't that term sound so creepy?-- the art of bending a person to your every whim. She uses it to torture civilians and force them to rot away in a cave. And it's up to Katara to decide whether or not she should use this unnatural power to save her friends, or to deny something so evil in its design.
Hama: Once you perfect this technique, you can control anything... or anyone.
NC (vo): That's Tress MacNeille, the voice of Dot, giving one HELL of a creepy performance, understanding clearly why she's become this way but also realizing she's transforming into something truly disturbed. The idea of controlling another's body doesn't seem that scary compared to other things in life, but the way they animate and describe it, it's almost like being possessed by a demon. Hell, you could almost argue that's what it is. It's just so unsettling.
Hama: I've never felt more alive!
NC (vo): The shadows are heavy, the angles twisted, and the atmosphere dark. It's a perfect episode to watch when you want to get your blood tingling.
NC (vo): Number 5. "The Guru" [Book 2, Chapter 19]. This is the episode just before the season finale of season 2. And it does a great job balancing out calm and meditated spirituality with brooding trouble floating on the horizon. Aang's team appears to be safe in Ba Sing Se. Hell, even Zuko seems happy, having opened a tea shop with his uncle. So he travels to a wise guru to open up his chakras to better understand and control the Avatar State. The only problem is, Azula and her gang are posing as Kyoshi warriors and are taking the palace over from the inside out. On top of that, Toph has been captured to bring her back home. This episode is intriguing in how one minute, you can be in such wisdomly bliss, and then the next, you can be in such an uncomfortable place. Everything builds on top of one another. As one group is getting closer to peace, another is getting closer to tragedy. Again, the episode has such a strong resemblance to "The Empire Strikes Back". In fact, the similarities are almost downright eerie, right down to the main hero leaving his training from his wise master to go save his friends.
Aang: Katara's in danger! I have to go!
Pathik: If you leave now, you won't be able to go into the Avatar State at all!
NC (vo): But like most great stories, it doesn't feel like a ripoff, more like an understanding of when and where to put the most perilous moments. And the best thing is that the person who achieves victory at the end of this isn't one of the people we focused in on through most of the story. It's not Aang, Azula, or even Iroh and Zuko. It's Toph, who has spent all her time locked in a metal box learning how to freaking metalbend, something that's never been done before.
Toph: I am the greatest earthbender in the world! Don't you two dunderheads ever forget it!
NC (vo): So, even though the whole episode is just building to the next one, it still has an amazing resolution for one of our characters, still giving us a self-contained, uplifting ending, while also delivering a creepy cliffhanger. Again, keeping in the bizarre mix of the episode's tone. Whether mindful enlightenment or dreaded anticipation, this episode knew how to get us excited for what was coming next.
Sokka: This can't be good news.
Interlude #2 Edit
(We cut back to the Critic, who has finished reading his book)
NC: A-HA! I think I've got it!
(He gets up and runs back to Basco, who has finally finished reading the comic, putting it back on the bookshelf)
Dante: What an engaging read.
(NC and Basco face off)
NC: All right, you Filipino Benjamin Button, face the power of MY firebending!!!
(To his surprise, NC summons a classic Mario-style 8 bit fireball. The attacks hits Basco with very minimal effect. He tries a couple more fireballs, with even less success. Basco looks annoyed)
NC: You know, I loved you in Slumdog Millionaire. Wait...no, that wasn't you. I'm sorry. I always confuse you with... ooh!
(Editor's note: He's referring to Dev Patel, who played Zuko in the horrible movie)
(Now completely enraged, Basco leaps up and completely punches NC out of the video! The Critic crashes through the YouTube comment section before landing on his back.)
NC (deadpan): Ow.
(NC starts to get up)
Dante: Your fourth wall jokes won't save you!
(Basco attacks again. The Critic dodges, then starts to grab some of the YouTube comments as he stands up)
NC: Time to put these comments to some good use.
(NC dodges another attack)
NC: FLAME WAR!!!
(NC launches the comments back. They land a few hits on Basco)
NC: Uh-oh, I'm out of ammo. JOSS WHEDON IS OVERRATED!
(Negative comments from Whedon fans start to appear. NC launches them at Basco. Enraged again, Basco grabs one of the thrown comments and prepares to launch it back at the Critic.)
NC: Wait. Don't do it! YOU'RE GOING TO HIT THE COMMERCIAL TAB BUTTON!!!
(Too late. Basco throws the comment down onto the YouTube video timeline bar, and we cut to commercial.)
(After the commercial break, Basco looks to see that NC is now gone. He jumps down into the comment section to look for him. Meanwhile, the Critic has run right in front of the suggested videos bar and one of the suggested videos is his own review for The Last Airbender. NC jumps into the video's preview image and mimics his own picture to hide from Basco, who passes right in front of him without noticing a thing)
NC: Okay. Number fucking 4!
NC (vo): "The Southern Raiders" [Book 3, Chapter 16]. After joining the Avatar, Zuko has yet to find comfortable ground with Katara, who still feels betrayed by his actions in a previous episode. So, he gives her the one thing she's been seeking most: revenge for her mother's death. He manages to locate where the soldier who murdered her mother most likely would be, and they set out to find him and deliver the justice he deserves. Upon locating him, she finds he's nothing more than a sad, pathetic waste who was willing to throw his own mother under the tracks to save his own life.
Yon Rha: I did a bad thing. I know I did. And you deserve revenge. So why don't you take my mother? That would be fair.
Katara: There's just nothing inside you. Nothing at all. You're pathetic and sad and empty.
Yon Rha: Please spare me.
NC (vo): In the end, she finds killing him would solve nothing. But in an interesting twist, especially for a family show, she doesn't forgive him.
Aang: Forgiveness is the first step you have to take to begin healing.
Katara: But I didn't forgive him. I'll never forgive him.
NC (vo): Usually, this would be a big no-no for arguably the most ethical person on the show not to forgive someone. But in this case, they make it very relatable. It doesn't say whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing, it's just how she feels. And feeling that way is totally understandable. It's a clever as well as powerful compromise. Mae Whitman, the voice of Katara, gives a great chilling performance in this, and the animation and visuals support her struggle beautifully. You understand everything she's going through, yet are still surprised at some of her actions. Especially when--
(Katara bloodbends(!) a Southern Raider commander)
NC (vo): Oh, my God, she's bloodbending. She's fucking bloodbending! HOLY SHIT! WE HAD A WHOLE EPISODE ABOUT THIS! YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT! OH, MY GOD, THIS SHIT IS GETTING REAL! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! (normal tone) This is also a great moment as we see Katara and Zuko finally come together. (Katara/Zuko shipping fan art) And NOT in that way. What's wrong with you people? He's got the emo goth chick. They'll be happily miserable together.
Zuko: I'm never happy.
NC (vo): It's powerful, it's emotional, it's the perfect way to follow through on years of bad blood.
(We see the bloodbending scene again. NC shudders)
NC (vo): Number 3. "The Crossroads of Destiny" [Book 2, Chapter 20]. This is what "The Guru" was building up to and it didn't disappoint. While the first season finale was open-ended, it did still seem to wrap up a lot of things for the most part. The season 2 finale, however, leaves everything in shambles, with big surprises popping up, hardcore action scenes, and pretty much the destruction of everything our heroes were supposed to protect. Azula puts her plan into motion to seize the city of Ba Sing Se, by manipulating the leader of the guards, leading to possibly my favorite Azula line of all time.
Long Feng: You've beaten me at my own game.
Azula: Don't flatter yourself. You were never even a player.
NC (vo): Oh, GOD! What a bitch! She's so fucking awesome! She also captured Aang's friends as well as Zuko and Iroh, giving Zuko the option to come back home if he agrees to destroy the Avatar with her. Well, Zuko seems so happy with his tea shop and his uncle, surely he won't... (insert heartbreaking betrayal scene) Oh, no, Zuko! NO, ZUKO! YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT! YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT, ZUKO! COME ON, YOU WERE HAPPY! YOU SMILED! FUCK, LOOK, YOU SMILED! THAT NEVER HAPPENS! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?! ZUKO, NOOO!!! You're giving up Jasmine Tea for this! JASMINE TEA!!! (normal tone) It's not even that Zuko made the switch, it's that he betrayed his uncle, his damn uncle, who was with him through thick and thin! The guy who never gave up on him, even though he took him for granted so many times. What the backstabbing hell? And just when you think things couldn't possibly get any worse, Aang is told that if he's killed in the Avatar State, the Avatars will never be reborn again. And what ends up happening?
(Azula used Thunderbolt! It's super effective!)
NC (vo): *ahem* If I could borrow from my Chris Tucker folder here... (Chris Tucker-mode engaged) Aw, HELL no! That did not just happen. THAT DID NOT JUST HAPPEN! NO! Wake up, Aang! WAKE UP, AANG! NO! This is bullshit! YOU WERE THE LAST AIRBENDER! YOU WERE THE LAST AVATAR! NO, WAKE UP! WAKE THE FUCK UP, AANG! THIS AIN'T HAPPENING! THIS AIN'T HAPPENING!! DRINK SOME JASMINE TEA, AANG! JASMINE TEA!!! (normal tone) Now, of course, Katara saves him by bringing him back to life, but, dude, for a second, we though the Avatar cycle was dead! That was a pretty damn scary moment there! So, we leave on a note where not only are the heroes beaten and torn, but the villains have taken over even more land, the possible ally has turned back into a villain, and they are hunted more now than they have ever been throughout the entire series. DAMN! That is HARSH! This show knows how to do a good cliffhanger. You had to wait a whole year until you figured out where this was going next. It was cruel. It was sick. It was friggin' awesome! Yeah, it had us by the balls, but we were just too damn curious to see where the hell they were gonna take it.
Kuei: The Earth Kingdom... has fallen.
NC (vo): Number 2. "The Storm" [Book 1, Chapter 12]. While the first season up to this point was mostly action and fun, this was the episode that made fans realize there was something more to it. Something rich, something deep, something that took a lot of thought and could be executed brilliantly. The Storm dives into the backstories of both our hero and our villain. Both are told around the fireplace during a thunderous rampage outside, the perfect setting for talk of epic tragedies. Aang reveals how he was told he was going to be the Avatar, and how he ran away, knowing he would have the weight of the world on his shoulders most likely during a time of war and death. Iroh tells us Zuko's backstory, about how he was a well-meaning young man who called out the motives of a general which resulted in a duel, a duel, he didn't know at the time, that was against his father. Ashamed and afraid, he refused to fight, resulting in the fire lord burning his face and banishing him. Within one episode, everything falls into place with these two characters. Everything that could practically be understood about them is suddenly understood. They may be enemies, but they're very similar. They're ruled by the bad choices they made in the past, and their guilt decides their actions. While one hides behind fun and games, the other hides behind ruthlessness and discipline. Two different, but similar outcomes from two different, but similar starting points. The episode ends with them exchanging a look. It's only for a second, but the connection is definitely there, whether they realize it or not. Confused, naive innocence staring down confused, emotional anger. It's a chilling moment, and one of the show's best. This was the point for many when they realize that this wasn't just a smart cartoon show. This was something that could leave an impact. Something that had a plan, something we were feeling more and more was in outstanding, downright genius hands. We became confident in where it was going, and we couldn't wait to see where it was going. It was exciting, it was new, it was a totally different turn that the show hadn't taken before. And it only got us more excited to see what was coming next.
Interlude #3 Edit
(Interlude to #1)
NC (vo): And the number one greatest Avatar episode i....
(A punch cuts the Critic short. He flies across the interlude screen and lands on the wall in his regular review room. Basco enters right behind him.)
Dante: Prepare to meet the great Melon Lord in the sky.
(NC gets up, a bit dizzy from his unexpected flight)
NC (dazed): Ugh, how the hell could my body take so much abuse? (to Basco) Wait a minute, Dante. I only have one episode left. The greatest Avatar episode of all time! Wouldn't it be more honorable if you and I talk about why its so wonderful?
Dante: But then you wouldn't be punished.
NC: The only one you're punishing is yourself, man. I mean, look at you! You look like the Karate Kid with pink eye! (As NC continues, soft piano music plays while Basco takes in the speech to heart) You're trying so hard to show off the best of Zuko to the fans, when really, we should be thankful there even was a Zuko to begin with! You don't need to do that. You're already fucking beautiful, Dante Basco! You're awesome! You don't need to put on this show for us. So what do you say, Dante? Stop with the Zuko and get with the you-yo!
(The music fades out)
Dante: You had me until that last line.
NC: Yeah, that really fucking killed it.
Dante: The rest was pretty good, though.
NC: Thank you! (The music cuts back in) So what do you say, man? Can we do this?
Dante: Why the hell not?
(The two shake hands. Then Dante fire-punches NC out of the room)
Dante: The number one Avatar episode is...
(Interlude leading up to the number one entry...)
NC (vo): "Sozin's Comet" [Book 3, Chapters 18-21]. Not just one, but the final four parts of season three that clearly flow as one perfectly told episode.
Dante (vo): The turmoil of all the main characters are addressed. No one is overlooked. And everybody is given a strong and satisfactory conclusion.
NC (vo): From Zuko reuniting with his uncle, to Toph, Sokka, and Suki performing their biggest mission, to Azula slowly descending into madness.
Dante (vo): And, of course, Aang's dilemma in whether or not he should kill the Fire Lord.
NC (vo): So much is built up and all of it is relatable and suspenseful. We don't know what's going to happen or how it's going to happen, so we're right there with the main characters fearing what could be lost.
Dante (vo): It's everything an epic conclusion could ask for. It's exciting, romantic, funny, suspenseful, and showcasing the best animation the series has ever offered. It pulled no punches.
NC (vo): With that said, there were some people that had some issues with the climax. For example, some people didn't like how it was Katara and Azula who finish the final battle as opposed to Zuko and Azula.
Dante (vo): But remember, that Azula cheated in trying to harm Katara, which is very fitting of her character and her deteriorating mental state. Zuko still fought honorably, making his sacrifice, allowing Katara to give Azula what she deserved.
NC (vo): Some also take issue that Aang's defeat of the Fire Lord is a bit of a deus ex machina and didn't teach any practical lessons.
Dante (vo): But the show is not just about teaching morals, it's about spiritual understanding. Reinforcing a philosophy that as bad as things get, even over a long period of time, balance will eventually take shape again.
NC (vo): Aang's choice does almost consume him. And in the end, he had to find another route that nobody thought possible. He crossed over and created an alternative that wasn't even on the table, as if the world was so out of balance that this was inevitable. Yet, it was still Aang's choice and risking of his life that made the transition possible. Only one question was unanswered.
Zuko: Where is my mother?
(The cover for the comic "Avatar: The Search" pops on screen)
NC (vo): Now available wherever good books are sold!
Dante (vo): It's an engaging read. But aside from that, everybody gets the ending most wanted to see for their favorite characters. Nobody is left out, everyone is given the most fitting ending that the show could give.
NC (vo): You felt like you've watched something not only massive, but important. And in a medium where TV shows so often either go too long (picture of "The Simpsons") or end on a bad note (picture of "Lost"), Avatar stayed just as long as it needed and ended on the absolute perfect note possible.
Dante (vo): The size, weight, and passion are all there. Everything the show was building up to felt perfectly delivered.
NC (vo): This episode, more than any other, made us realize this wasn't just a show. It was an experience, an experience none of those who watched and loved it will ever forget.
(The show's final scene is shown, before we are once again shown the title "Avatar: The Last Airbender")
NC: There. Now wasn't that fun to do, Dante-- (NC looks to his left and is stunned to see Mr. Basco is no longer there) Dante?
Dante: (From behind the door) You know, I admit, I was spending too much time focusing on being Zuko, instead of focusing on what's really important.
NC: There, now, you see? Isn't it so much better just to be yourself?
Dante: I guess. Or.... HA!
(Dante jumps into the room dressed as...)
Dante: The American Dragon, Jake Long! (The Critic is both confused and horrified) What up? What's the dealio? Don't be all mean beans, boyyeee!!!
(Suddenly, Tamara rushes into the room, this time dressed as Toph)
Tamara: I've got it! I've finally got the right costum--
(Tamara trails off as she notices that Basco has gone all Disney Channel on her)
Tamara: Oh, FUCK YOU, DANTE BASCO!!!
(The credits roll followed by the Channel Awesome logo)
Dante: You man! You stupid, stupid man!