Avatar: The Last Airbender
"The Day of Black Sun"
By Kellen Scrivens
04 May 2012 — As the last dozen episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender approached in 2007, there were still plenty of unanswered questions. Since the point of the solar eclipse and The Day of Black Sun was made 16 months prior, I assumed it would have served as a series finale, but I was quite surprised to see the episode listed only halfway through the final season. (Hindsight being 20 / 20, who really wants to see the hero beat up an opponent who's at a disadvantage?)
Regardless of its placement in the season, the fact that this episode had 16 months of hype behind it — including the previous episode "Nightmares and Daydreams" being solely about Aang mentally preparing for the big event — made it almost a foregone conclusion that this one would rank among the series' best.
The Aang Gang is joined at the rendezvous point by their ragtag invasion fleet and begin their invasion of the Fire Nation's palace city. While the main fleet is led by Hakoda, and later Sokka, Aang flies directly to the palace to confront Fire Lord Ozai — only to be met by an empty throne room upon arrival. Aang then rejoins the rest of the invasion fleet and informs them that the Fire Lord is gone. Sokka realizes he must be hiding close by, and the two are joined by Toph in an attempt to find his bunker. The group finds a chamber where Azula is waiting for them, and are led on a wild goose chase as the clock on the eclipse runs out. Meanwhile, Zuko confronts his father and states his intention to join the Avatar. Iroh makes his jailbreak. Aang, Sokka, and Toph return to their fleet, and, with the eclipse gone, the children of the group are whisked away on Appa while the adults are taken prisoner by the Fire Nation.
What Was Good
It was nice to see a curtain call for some of the one-off characters that comprised the invasion fleet. The Swampbenders, Haru and Tyro, Bato, The Hippo and The Boulder, The Mechanist, Teo, Pipsqueak, and The Duke all reappear.
One of Sokka's speeches was him doing a very fast reciting of an episode-by-episode synopsis of the show.
The whole story with Iroh and the guard, while not much, is a great little slice of Iroh's character and reinforces the idea that not everyone in the Fire Nation is evil.
The moment Aang dons his traditional Airbender attire and shaves his head is handled very well.
The war machines created by the invasion fleet are quite cool. From the waterbending-powered submarines to the caterpillar tanks, it was fun to see them in action, and, given the universe, felt like a natural progression of what these people would do.
Aang kisses Katarra. After the tease in the previous episode I thought they would not even come close to this moment until the end, but Aang just planting one on her out of nowhere is a moment I love as much now as I did when it first aired.
Hakoda, Sokka, and Katarra working as a team to take out the sniper towers was an odd but nice moment of family bonding.
By successfully leading the invasion fleet after having his confidence shaken — then going one step further when he led the special forces — was a great way to progress Sokka's redemption.
Toph guiding the crew through a volcano — wow!
Azula is such a perfect foil. From being in the room that Ozai was suspected of being in to being able to hang against the group without any bending, to mentally breaking Sokka with the mere description of Suki to telling them exactly where Ozai was hiding — everything she did made me hate her more.
The back and forth between Ozai and Zuko was handled very well. Zuko calls out Ozai for his war crimes, then Ozai calls Zuko a coward for confronting him while he couldn't bend, and then Zuko actually channels lightning before escaping.
The way those two scenes were woven together made them even better than the sum of their parts.
It's heartbreaking when Aang realizes he's failed, and, as a direct result, nearly all of his supporters are going to be sent to a Fire Nation prison camp.
The animation in this episode is superb. The battle sequences involving the tanks are fun to watch, and the bending fights, particularly Zuko channeling lightning, were all sights to behold.
What Was Not Good
While this show is beloved for its ability to mix comedy and action, I felt there was a bit too much comedy during some scenes (the first to come to mind is Sokka's "I am so glad we added you to the group" as Toph busts down a metal door). This is supposed to be one of the most serious events in the series, yet Sokka is still cracking jokes.
I cannot hear Kevin Michael Richardson's voice without conjuring up images of him as Principal Lewis on American Dad!
Just take a look at the tallies there. This episode definitely lived up to the hype. There was a lot of great action and character moments, the end left you wanting more, Aang had new motivation, and the very end with Zuko following the (now much larger) Aang Gang to the Western Air Temple was a great tease for what was to follow. The negatives were few and far between, and even then they could have been far worse; I rip on Sokka for not being serious enough for the duration of the episode, but "Where. Is. Suki?!" may be one of the best moments of the series.
Score: 10 out of 10.
Join me next month when I will review "The Western Air Temple" and "The Firebending Masters."