“Aw man, this looks like another filler epis–WHAT THE FU–.”
[Warning: This recap contains a big spoiler for Snowpiercer, if you haven’t seen it yet.]
“The waterbenders could technically bend someone’s blood” is the sort of thing I thought the fandom would come up with, but the show would never actually do, because this is Nickelodeon. To wit:
@PaulFerence Bend someone’s BLOOOOOOD! Though air and metalbenders should be able to do that too, right? Poor Fire Nation being left out. 😦
— Rebecca Pahle (@RebeccaPahle) January 12, 2015
Avatar, I am sorry for underestimating just how fucked up you are willing to get. Clearly I forgot how you brainwashed and then killed Jet. Fuck, you might have Aang go all Chris Evans in Snowpiercer. I don’t know. This show gets dark as shit.
So, yes. Bloodbending! But first: setup. The gaang sits around a fire telling ghost stories. Katara’s is pretty creepy–about a friend of her mom who froze to death, and then her ghost kept hanging around saying “I’m cold” like that episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?–but Sokka’s not so much. Toph says she feels/hears people screaming under the mountain, which is creepy, but it really needs some narrative structure, Toph. Two and a half stars. Then, bam! CREEPY LADY:
The Creepy Lady is Hama, and she invites these strange children roaming around the countryside to stay in her inn free of charge. Once there, she tells the gaang that people have been disappearing when the moon is full. Given the whole thing about the full moon increasing waterbenders’ powers being in the “previously on” segment, I’m guessing they’re related.
Aang immediately suspects that the disappearances are a result of local environmental shenanigans pissing off some spirit, and that is NOT ON. You don’t mess with the environment on Aang’s watch!
Sokka is suspicious of Hama, which Katara doesn’t like, because she and Hama are BFFs who bonded over using flirtation to manipulate men. In poking around Hama’s inn, Sokka finds a cupboard full of puppets.
(I love that Hama is a metaphorical puppetmaster–as we’ll find out later in the episode, she uses bloodbending to control people–but the showrunners also throw in an aside with her LITERALLY OWNING PUPPETS, because she wasn’t quite creepy enough already. It’s like Hama’s thinking “You know what this evil thing I do needs? Memorabilia.” She is very possibly my favorite ATLA villain based on this fact alone.)
Hama comes along, finds them snooping, and goes into backstory mode: She grew up in the Southern Water Tribe, like Katara and Sokka, and was the last waterbender to be taken captive by the Fire Nation when they first started their raids 60 or so years before. They were all taken from their homes and locked up, and she was the only one who was able to escape… somehow. She doesn’t want to talk about it.
IS SHE A WEREWOLF?
OK, I know that the full moon thing is related to waterbending, and there are no werewolves in the ATLAverse (probably–don’t tell me if there aren’t, I want to keep the dream alive), but still.
Hama proceeds to play Katara–whom she knew from the start to be a waterbender–like a fiddle, offering to take her out in the woods and teach her about their shared heritage. Meanwhile, Aang, Toph, and Sokka head off to meet the one person who survived a full moon attack. He tells them he was possessed and made to walk towards a cave in the mountain, but then the sun came up and he was able to regain control over his body. Toph realizes that he screaming she thought she heard under the mountain earlier in the episode actually was people screaming under the mountain–OK, freaky–so they head off to rescue the missing villagers.
Meanwhile, Hama is quickly entering full-on horror movie villain mode, explaining to Katara that there’s water in all living things, and there’s even a super-cool form of bending one can do during the full moon, when one’s powers are at their highest.
Katara: “Uh…. but doesn’t an evil monster roam about during the full moon, or… ?”
So. Yeah. MOTHER. FUCKING. BLOODBENDING. After decades of being imprisoned, Hama eventually figured out how to control the guard and escape. The flashback sequence is thoroughly disturbing. Katara is rightfully a little 0_0, but it’s only when Hama starts talking about how it’s their responsibility as the last two Southern Water Tribe waterbenders to to defeat the Fire Nation when and how they can–ie using it to kidnap and imprison random Fire Nation villagers–that Katara firmly enters the “Oh, fuck no” zone.
Hama bloodbends Katara, but all that does is piss her off. She cries tears of PURE, UNADULTERATED RAGE and uses the water to fight back. “You’re not the only one who draws power from the moon,” she says. “My bending is more powerful than yours, Hama. Your technique is useless on me!”
Then Sokka and Aang–who found the prisoners, figured out what was up with Hama, and went to find Katara–show up and promptly get puppetmastered by Hama into trying to kill Katara. She had the situation on lockdown before you showed up to be all rescue-y, dudes. Geez. Katara takes care of them by freezing them to trees
…but then Hama makes them fight each other, leaving Katara with no other choice but to bloodbend Hama to make her stop.
Toph, who had been using her metalbending powers to release the prisoners from their shackles, shows up, and Hama gets taken away in chains. She has one more Evil Villain moment to go before the episode ends: congratulating Katara on her newfound status as a bloodbender, MWAHAHAHAHAHA.
OK, but… I completely understand Katara being upset, but she only did it once, because she had to. She’s not going to have to keep doing it. Being a bloodbender isn’t going to have any lasting effects… right?
I demand that the next episode be something fun, like 25 minutes of Zuko at the DMV.