Okay I've already commented on this, but. The tent scene. THE TENT SCENE. HOW DID THAT GET PAST CENSORS OH MY GOD. Even if I didn't ship Sokka and Suki like burning (protip: I DO), that scene would still have been incredible.
And the flashbacks to tiny Water Tribe Siblings aidvbaidbsihb THEY JUST MADE MINE AND tobu_ishi'S STUFF CANON. I LOVE THIS SHOW SO MUCH.
Kya is so awesome and all protecting her daughter and sjsjvbs best flashback ever. I'm glad we got to actually see her and expand on her death. I'd have been satisfied if we never got details on that, but I'm glad we did.
Some of the dialogue pacing felt a little off near the beginning! This is like my only complaint against the episode. But when Zuko and Katara were all TAKING THE BISON, SEEYA, people seemed a little too...verbose? Trying to fit too many words into too little space. I can't really describe it, things just seemed a bit off.
The bloodbending was nasty. And it wasn't even the episode's climax. The sight of hundreds of ice shards in the air, poised for a killing blow...chilling.
I liked how the guy was completely pathetic. Old, twitchy, living with his decrepit hag of a mother...I suspect he had a touch of PTSD, too. I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into it, but the paranoia, the incredibly strong startle reaction...and if he was in the military for long enough to retire, it's not all that unlikely.
In other news, Azula? Becoming unhinged. You could hear the manic edge in her voice. Where once she would have been calm and controlling, she was all over the place. Great scene.
And finally, I liked how Katara didn't forgive the old guy. I know I probably couldn't. It would have been a real cop-out if she'd just gone 'Oh, I forgive you, lol' after what he did to her.
The Ember Island Players
I lol'd forever. OK, I know I say this every single episode, but seriously. I think this episode might even have been more hilarious than Nightmares and Daydreams. Poking fun both at themselves (I am so in love with them for riffing on The Great Divide in canon) and the fandom (which is, admittedly, like shooting fish in a barrel). I just. I lol'd almost continually throughout. Particularly at every single thing to do with Jet.
Toph was just brilliant this episode. I was totally expecting her to get annoyed when she found out who was playing her, but I love the fact that she couldn't have been happier. And that scene with her and Zuko? Gold.
In other news, this episode was filled to the brim with Sokka and Suki interaction, and I think if someone asks me why I ship them like burning, I'll point to...well, OK, I'll point to the Boiling Rock, but I'll advise them to add this on as a coda. Their interactions were both hilarious, adorable, and almost sickeningly sweet. From her grumping at him when he pulled his arm away to whisper at Aang again, to sneaking him backstage, to just...everything. They mesh together almost perfectly, and you can almost hear Suki thinking...'You are such a dweeb, and I love you for it.'
Many people may be surprised to hear this, considering my status as an ardent Aang/Katara shipper, but I loved the fail!kiss scene. It just felt really, really real. Katara's a big old ball of confused feelings, not sure what to think about just about anything (particularly not this kid who suddenly seems very interested in kissing her), and she's trying to express this to him, but he fails at romance and kisses her, and she gets annoyed because he's NOT LISTENING TO HER and not respecting her wishes and leaves. And then Aang headdesks forever, because he knows he just done fucked up.
It would be irritatingly simplistic for them to just have Katara go 'OK I LOVE YOU NOW DERF DERF :3'. I'd have taken it, but grudgingly. But this is exactly why the kiss from DobS has gone unmentioned since: Katara's not sure how she should respond, not sure what she feels...and above all, I think that she's afraid of losing Aang. They're in the middle of a war, a war that's already cost her her mother, nearly cost her her father, and did cost her Aang at one point. He got better, but that's not happening again: No more spirit water. Even assuming she does have feelings for Aang (which, admitting my biases, I'm certain that she does), can anyone blame her for being hesitant to start a relationship with someone who is dead in the Fire Lord's sights?
And then Aang, not really getting all of this, because not only is he twelve years old, he was raised as a monk, stupidly goes for another kiss. And of course she reacts negatively. She just told him to give her some space, and WHAT does he do? Bumbles along like an idiot and disrespects her wishes. And when she storms off, annoyed with him, his reaction is so incredibly human: he starts smacking himself and bemoaning his own idiocy. It's a perfect reaction for someone just realizing they committed a massive blunder like that.
So yeah, I loved that scene. And you know what, as much as I loved Southern Raiders (and I loved Southern Raiders a lot), I think I loved this one even more. Based on the Comic-Con footage and description, I was braced for a half-hour of lulzy filler. And yeah, that's what most of it was, but it was also more. We got real character development with Toph and Zuko, we had them address one of the many issues hanging over the show's conclusion - not definitively, of course, but acknowledging that it existed and moving that subplot forward. One that's very important to myself and a large potion of the fanbase.
Also, I love it when creators make fun of their audience, provided their audience deserves it, they aren't mean-spirited about it, and they're actually funny. All three conditions have been met. Especially that first one. Jesus.