Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: “The Southern Raiders”

The second-to-last episode before ATLA‘s season finale starts out with a heaping bowlful of “OMGWTFAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH.” Azula, captaining a fleet of flying Fire Nation ships, attacks the Western Air Temple. Zuko saves an unappreciative Katara’s life and then volunteers to hold Azula off so the rest of the gaang can escape through a tunnel that Haru and Toph created. Appa doesn’t want to go, because he hates being underground but also (I am convinced) because of his deep, abiding friendship with the Zukes. In the end, Aang, Katara, and Sokka fly away on Appa, while the hangers-on (who’ll get something to do eventually, right?) escape underground and Zuko and his martyr complex stay behind to fight Azula.

OH, AZULA. The first time we saw her, she was a calm, cool, perfectionist, never a hair out of place, never letting emotions overwhelm her control. Now, as she gleefully yells “I’m about to celebrate becoming an only child!” while sending blue fire at Zuko, she is losing her shit. But in a fun, murderous way.


Azula and Zuko, the latter armed with his new firebending knowledge, are pretty evenly matched, and the fight ends in a stalemate when they both fall off the flying ships and plummet towards the ground below. The gaang catches Zuko, and Azula uses a fire blast to stop her fall.

That might be it for her in this episode, but






That night, everyone’s chuckling at Zuko’s lame jokes around the campfire (“Hey remember that time I tried to kill you all? LOLOL”), except Katara, who as Sokka’s sister at least knows how to fake being amused by corny one-liners. But not if they’re coming from Zuko. She is still unimpressed with his general existence and entirely unwilling to trust him.

After confronting her, Zuko figures that the reason she still hates him is tied to how her mom died, so he goes to ask Sokka about it. Context-less screencap:


Sokka: “I can’t wait for some Suki sexytim–”

And then a flashback: Katara and Sokka were wee cuties when their village was attacked by the Fire Nation. Hakoda and his troops were able to fight the invaders off, but not before Katara and Sokka’s mother, Kya (WE FINALLY GET TO SEE THEIR MOM, GUYS!), was murdered.

The sigil of the group that attacked the Southern Water Tribe identifies them as the Southern Raiders. In the interest of closure and stopping Katara from harshing his buzz all the damn time–and because Zuko went on a field trip with Sokka last episode, so it’s only fair–Zuko offers to go with Katara to hunt them down. Aang goes all zen, urging Katara to forgive the man who killed her mother. But Katara’s like


…NAH NO THANKS, revenge is kind of my speed right now and I’m going to stick with that. She heads off with Zuko to the Fire Nation communication tower, where they quickly discover the location of the Southern Raiders. Katara brings a WAVE OF RIGHTEOUS FURY UPON THEM, getting to the leader and taking a dark turn when she bloodbends him.

katara no

Turns out they have the wrong guy–the man who killed Katara’s mother retired four years ago and is now livinng the life of the henpecked with his domineering mother. It starts raining–like God saying “Here you go, Katara, you’ve got this”–and Katara and Zuko attack. Now, via flashback, we discover that the Southern Raiders’ leader, Yan Ra, was looking for the last waterbender, and Kya died to protect their identity. That waterbender was, of course, Katara. Katara does some fancy waterbending moves, turning rain into icicles, and Yan Ra offers to let Katara kill his mom if she’s still so bent out of shape about something that happened years ago, geez. “Wait,” Katatra realizes, “this guy’s just a weaselly little shit who is worth approximately none of my time.” While she’s unable to forgive him, she can’t make herself kill him, either.

The gaang reunites, Aang and Sokka pleased that Katara hasn’t turned into a stone-cold murderer. Juuuuust in time for the finale, Katara tells Zuko that she forgives him for his past *ahem* indiscretions and gives him a hug.


To cap off the episode, Zuko asks Aang about his cupcake babymonk hippie non-violence stance. “Yeah, it’s great!,” says Aang. “Violence is never the answer!” “OKOKOK,” responds Zuko. “Just out of curiosity then, what are you planning to do when you go up against my father?”

les mis marius


8 thoughts on “Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: “The Southern Raiders”

  1. HiHoSilver says:

    Did you notice that Sokka was tying flowers into a lei the next morning? 😉 So, one might say he got “lei’d”.


  2. bleuryder says:

    I remember when I first saw this episode at the end when Zuko says that Aang, I went:

    “YEah, what ARE you gonna do, Aang? Sing kumbayah and hope he goes away?”


  3. Stephen Wilhelm says:

    I’ve always been amazed that this episode got a Y7 rating.

    And this makes three straight episodes (one a two parter) where someone got to go on a field trip with Zuko. When is it Toph’s turn?

    Can’t wait for the next episode, which is my favorite of all time. Avatar State, yip yip!


  4. Dan says:

    This is the where I can finally say much of what I wanted to for The Puppetmaster. Katara saw herself in Hama and knew she had a point in her hatred of the Fire Nation. Katara is simultaneously the most moral and arguably the most petty of the group. She’s willing to help anyone (The Painted Lady) and the first of the group to trust someone but she is the *last* of the group to offer a 2nd chance if she feel hurt. (Seeing Jet again Ba Sing Se even after Toph cleared what he was saying). And she can hold a grudge because of that hurt even if she knows it’s not entirely justified. (Seeing Hakoda again at the start of Book 3).

    She calls Sokka on his more juvenile behavior but always resists admitting her own. “Stealing is wrong…unless it’s from pirates!” Pulling one last gambling scheme with Toph. Had she not had her brother and friends with her and been alone like Hama she very well have become exactly like her.

    Also for a family show watched by little kids it’s very rare perhaps even brave for the show not to have her forgive her mother’s killer. It doesn’t say whether that lack of forgiveness is right or wrong, it’s just how Katara feels and you understand it. And they subtly built up Kata’s anguish without lampshading it until they were ready. Losing the necklace in early Book 1, crying over her mother in The Swamp, the talk with Zuko at the end of S2, hearing Toph and Sokka in The Runaway.

    Fun fact: In the original Pilot made to pitch the show Kya was the original name of Katara’s character.

    One last comedic romp before Shit. Goes. Down. And then on to Korra and perhaps (?) reviews of the canon Aang comics?


    • maegahan says:

      I see your point about the parallel of her extremes, but I’m not sure I’d go to ‘petty’ as the word to describe her. She puts a lot of faith and trust in those around her — ONCE. It doesn’t seem petty to me that the price of betraying that trust is higher than your average, run of the mill failing. She gives more emotional leeway but mess it up and you’ve fallen much further than you might have under normal circumstances.



  5. debbie says:

    And in Korra, isn’t Katara and (spoiler) daughter named Kya? How sweet.

    I love Ember Island as well. Probably my favorite episode. Enjoy.

    Kind of tough to come to the end of this series, isn’t it Rebecca. I hope you do watch Korra, whether you recap it or not. Tho I think ATLA is a better show, Korra continues the great world building, and has the some of the best female characters of all ages I think I have ever seen.


  6. Aeryl says:

    All I could remember was that my daughter’s kid show implied that teenagers have sex, and THAT WAS OKAY.

    The whole thing noted above about “lei’d” and “deflowering” is so ON POINT for exactly the kind of visual games Bryke played to get mature content past the Nick censors. It continues well in LOK.


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