Well the time has finally arrived for the new season to start up. Book III: Fire picks up a few weeks after the last chapter in season 2. What has become of Aang and his crew? And did the show live up to the high expectations it has created for itself? Hit the jump to find out.
BEWARE: SPOILERS ABOUND
I'm not gonna give you a play by play of the whole episode because if you're reading this, you've already seen the show. I don't wanna patronize you.
Oh, and I grabbed these screen shots from AvatarSpirit.net, in case you couldn't tell by the water mark. So credit for them and stuff.
When Aang wakes up aboard the Fire Nation ship, it's not terribly distressing to the audience because we know he got away at the end of Book II. It's pretty obvious up front that it's going to be a cover, but that's not a bad thing.
The art of the characters is well done as always, with changing physical characteristics as the show goes on. Aang doesn't just have hair now, he actually looks a bit older. Of course, anyone would look a bit more life-weathered if they constantly carried the weight of the world on their shoulders and had been recently nearly killed by a bolt of lightening. In fact, it's not quite clear if he was actually killed and Katara's spirit water brought him back from the dead, or just healed a critical wound. In the "previously on" part of the final episode of Book II, they seemed to make a pretty big point of reminding us that the reincarnation cycle will be broken if Aang is killed while in the Avatar State, which he was when Azula hit him with the bolt.
Speaking of Katara, she seems pretty heavy burdened as well. While Aang feels like he has to take care of the world by himself, it's like she feels she's totally responsible for making Aang feel better. The scene where Aang leaving finally causes her to realize that she was also mad at her dad seemed a tiny bit contrived, but only because we're used to such amazing quality of writing on the show. However, the way in which it came about doesn't lessen the emotional impact of the scene. The dialog was delivered fantastically by Mae Whitman.
The show does do a bit of recapping of it's own, through way of Aang's flashbacks during the healing session, and Zuko and Azula's homecoming. Zuko is mostly happy to finally be allowed back into the Fire Lord's good graces, but you can still tell he's not 100% committed to the cause. Some indications are overt, and some are more subtle, such as allowing himself to be open to Mai's affections for him. It seems like he's using it as a distraction from the rest of his life rather than actually reciprocating her feelings.
And of course, Azula is as sinister as ever. Zuko may not be the brightest flame in the fire, but he at least is finally starting to recognize that he can't trust his sister. Usually he figures it out a bit too late, and doesn't always comprehend the reasoning behind it, but he starting to pick up the clues a bit. He immediately knows something is wrong when he finds out she gave him the credit for killing the Avatar, but doesn't know why. Azula is more than happy to explain it to him, talking down to him as she usually does, just to make him feel even less of himself.
There is a good transition at one point from a scene with Aang to a scene with Zuko where Aang talks about restoring his own honor, showing us that their personalities are getting even closer to each other.
Over all, not a whole lot happened other than to bring us back up to speed with the world of Avatar, but it was enough to whet our appetites for what's to come. They're setting everything up pretty nicely. As usually, some stuff is clearly being set up, while some isn't even mentioned. But fans of the show know the continuity is handled well and see other things to come.
You can tell there's just so much waiting in the wings to burst out and be awesome. Will we see the Earth King again? What's going on with Zuko? And where is Iroh? To go even further back, what about King Bumi?
We just have to be patient and find out. So many things that have been hinted at will finally be paid off.