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"Some people believe that the Avatar was never reincarnated into the Air Nomads, and that the cycle is broken. But I still haven't lost hope."
'The Boy In The Iceberg' is the very first episode of Nickelodeon's animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. It introduces the viewers to the world of Avatar, the concept of bending, and the main characters of the first season.
The series begins to opening narration; it is explained that in this world, there are are four elements, and with them, four corresponding nations: The Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes, Fire Nation and Air Nomads. Our narrator tells us that she's often been told of stories of the 'old days', when the world was at peace, kept in balance by the Avatar- the one person in every generation who controls all four elements. However, one day he simply....vanished. The Fire Nation took advantage of his disappearance, wiping out the Air Nomads and opening war on the entire world.
Since then, one-hundred years have passed, and the war continues to rage. Our narrator is revealed to be Katara, a young girl living in the Southern Water Tribe with her brother Sokka. Three years ago the able bodied men of the tribe, including the chief (their father), left to help fight in the resistance. It doesn't seem likely that they'll win, however- the Fire Nation is gaining ground in the war effort. Nonetheless, Katara is still hopeful that somehow the war can be ended.
And so the show proper begins, revealing a beautiful seascape of ice and water. We come across a fishing boat where Sokka is hunting for fish- not that Katara doesn't want to, however. While her brother fishes with the traditional spear, she takes off the glove and attempts to capture of fish in a globe of water, pulling it delicately into the air. She succeeds too, and in her excitment, she and Sokka crash into each other; losing the fish and getting the latter soaked.
An argument ensues, with Sokka complaining that every time she "plays with magic spirit water, I'm the one who gets wet." Unfortunately, as they quarrel, they forget to watch the boat, and the canoe gets swept away into an ice floe. They desperately try to escape, but the boat gets smashed between the ice, the siblings just barely saving their skins. Angry, frightened, and their tempers a little short from being trapped out in an ice field with no transportation, the two are quick to blame each other. Sokka sarcastically taunts "why didn't you just water bend us out of the ice?"
That's too much for Katara. She snaps, accusing Sokka of being sexist- ever since their mother died, he'd relied on her for everything, pretending to be a fighter to escape chores while she had to do all the real work! How dare he! But as she rants, Sokka looks more and more frightened- not at his sister, but at the waves of water her flailing is creating, which splits in two an iceberg behind her. It breaks apart, sending a wave of water towards them. Brother and sister cling to the ice, buffeted by the wave created by Katara's water bending. When the figurative dust settles, Katara stares awestruck at the ice. "I did that?"
And then, from under the water, comes an eerie blue glow.
Something comes floating to the surface; a near perfect sphere of ice, glowing palely from within. And inside you can just make out the silhouette of a figure, trapped inside. Katara immediately steals her brother's club, racing towards the iceberg to crack it open. She whacks it heavily, Sokka shouting his protests- she doesn't know what's in there, anything could happen-
Suddenly a bright light shoots straight into the sky.
The two stare at the pearly beacon, and the shape of a man comes climbing out of the rim of the iceberg; and then the body of a small boy falls down, Katara barely catching him. He opens his eyes drowsily, something important on his lips, that he simply must tell Katara: "Will you go penguin sledding with me?"
This is Aang, a young boy who accidentally got frozen into a block of ice, not that he seems to mind much. He's cheerful, optimistic and incredibly playful, so Sokka immediately suspects him of being a Fire Nation spy. After all, he sent the glowing beacon into the air- clearly a signal to send in more troops. Its patently ridiculous, as Katara points out- this kid doesn't have a bad bone in his body.
But remember- he may not have sent the signal, but that doesn't mean it wasn't seen. Because one single fire nation ship did spot the beam. "Did you see that?" a young man asks. He's nearly bald, dressed in pure red and black, with a horrific burn across one of his golden eyes. Prince Zuko. "It could be the Avatar."
But his uncle Iroh is doubtful, pointing out that the Avatar has been missing for a whole century, and although all the previous Fire Lords have attempted to find them, they always failed. After so many false leads, he is hesitant to get his royal charge's hopes up. But Zuko will not be swayed, and orders the boat to set course for the light.
Back at the iceberg, Katara and Sokka learn more about the strange boy. In addition to being overly cheerful and having a six-legged-bison-thing as a pet, it turns out he's also an air bender. Y'know, one of the those nomads that haven't been seen in one-hundred years? Of course, that's crazy- Aang saw air benders just the other day! Definitely not extinct.
He offers the siblings a ride on his flying bison Appa, something which Sokka is hesitant about because the boy seems insane, and bison can't fly. But it turns out that they...er, can't. Nope, Appa's attempts to soar fail miserably. He can, however, swim, and so the three travel back to Sokka and Katara's village.
Cut to the next day, where Aang is waking up from a sepia-toned nightmare about a storm and drowning. Katara ushers him out into the village, where everyone is excited to meet their visitor, especially since they've never seen an air bender before. Aang shows off his flying tricks, but soon everyone has to go off for chores; Katara's grandmother urges her not to put too much faith into the boy. He's just a child, after-all.
But Katara has a plan- you see, being a water bender, she hopes Aang can teach her bending. As soon as the chores are gone, she stops Aang from interrupting Sokka's warrior session with the tribe's toddlers. They try to explain things to him- Katara about training, Sokka about how you can't act this way with a war going on- but before either she or Sokka can get a word in, the boy flees, chasing off after a penguin he wishes to ride. Eventually catching up with him, Katara manages to ask whether he'll help teach her. Aang loves the idea, only there's one problem; he bends air, while she bends water, which requires completely different techniques. Katara says she wishes there were someone else in her tribe to teach her, but she's the last water bender in the whole South Pole- which prompts an idea from Aang. Why doesn't she travel to the North Pole? It would be a long journey, but he'd be happy to come with her- as long as she helps him ride a penguin.
She does, gladly, and the two have great fun sliding down ice slopes on the backs of the birds- only to be deposited in front of a looming shape. Its a Fire Nation ship half encased in ice, a remenant of an early battle in the war. Aang is confused- what's this war everyone keeps talking about? Katara simply says that the ship has been there since before she was born, and is a very bad memory for their people. Aang, of course, thinks that means it would be the perfect thing to explore. Katara is hesitant, but at Aang's urging, the two climb up to the ship to investigate. Inside is an old shell of rusted metal, and just as creepy as one would expect. Aang is completely entranced- he never heard about this type of fighting between the Water Tribe and Fire Nation.
Suspicion grows in Katara's head. He doesn't know about the war. At all. "Aang, how long were you in that iceberg?"
"I don't know, a couple days, maybe?"
"I think..," she begins, and then pauses. "I think it was more like a hundred years."
But before either of them can really digest this information, Aang accidentally trips, springing a booby-trap. Flares are released into the air, and they are forced to make an escape, Aang using his bending to quickly carry themselves down from the boat.
Through a telescope, Zuko watches the air bending display, his eyes narrowing. He sees the village on the horizon. Finally, after one hundred years, they've found the Avatar's hiding place.
Sokka: In the Water Tribe, we fight to the last man standing! For without courage, how can we call ourselves men?
(The camera shifts positions to reveal that Sokka was talking to six uninterested boys.)
Village boy: (waving his hand) I gotta pee!
- Flash Back: The dream sequence; the pictures we see in Katara's narration may also count.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Zuko's seems to quite clearly be an evil one. At least for now.
- Human Popsicle: How Aang manages to stay unaged and trapped for a century.
- Mood Whiplash: Aang's proclamation after being found in the ice.
- Older Than He Looks: As Aang says, "Do I look like a one-hundred-and-twelve year old man to you?"
- Recap Episode
- Sealed Good in a Can: Aang, the Avatar, The Master of All Four Elements, the only one who can restore balance to the world.
- Tempting Fate: Aang insisting on checking out the Fire Nation ship. The first of MANY for the Gaang.
- Toilet Humor: After Aang walks out of the igloo bathroom.
"Wow! Everything freezes in there!"
- Tongue on the Flagpole: Done with Aang's glider staff.