What exactly is this episode about? It doesn't have much to do with the main plot, it doesn't have Zuko or Iroh, and it doesn't even deal with the Fire Nation at all. So, mostly, it's lots of Kataang goodness, coupled with jokes, action, and some nice character development. Ah yes, we definitely need that.
In all seriousness, besides pushing the plot forward, this show also lives from pushing the characters forward, so to speak. They grow and mature as the show continues and the plot thickens, transforming the cast from static figures in a story to living and evolving people, something that helps audiences connect to them and makes the show great.
This episode in particular, however, is going to be a real treat for one part of the fanbase and a mishap for the other part. I am, of course, talking about the prevalent Kataang that constantly permeates this chapter. Right from the start with Aang's necklace for Katara to the end of the climax where Katara realizes the possible indications of her love-life fortune, this ship is one of the two forces that drives this episode onwards. It even includes a scene of Aang confessing his feelings to Katara, even though his attempt fails miserably.
The other force, which is handled in a much more jokingly manner, is the battle of science and logic against mysticism and magic. Sokka repeatedly tries to convince the townsfolk not to rely too much on Aunt Wu's predictions, but is proven wrong himself in his attempts, much to the hilarity of the situation.
Katara's constant reading sessions seems slightly out of character, but not as extreme as in 'The Great Divide'. Apparently, she becomes obsessed with the idea of knowing her fortune, and believes in Aunt Wu as blindly as the rest of the town. She is probably supposed to the the counter-weight to Sokka's scientific approach for this episode.
The art of this chapter is very well done, and the erupting volcano is one of the most beautiful scenes of the show, despite its dire nature. Aang's airbending also reaches phenomenal powers, being able to cool down a huge wave of lava to igneous rock with a single mighty breath. And it reassures his position as a "powerful bender".
Just as a side note, Katara and Aang sharing the umbrella in the beginning is a nice touch. The sharing of an umbrella is a very romantic motif in Japanese culture, and while it may add blatantly to the Kataang vibe already present, it is still tastefully done.
All in all, this episode was more about the characters discovering themselves, as well as Aang getting in touch with his feelings for Katara, than any deep plot. After two very intense episodes, this light-hearted chapter is a good reprieve and an opportunity to balance out all the drama that took place with some good jokes and a nice focus on the gang.
Filler episodes are vital in keeping shows fresh so that they don't become stagnant and methodical, especially in shows that have a continuing storyline like Avatar. Be that as it may, filler episodes can be notorious for their lack of quality when compared to regular episodes. "The Fortuneteller", however, is a filler episode that holds true to the quality of the show, while at the same giving viewers a delightful little break from the main storyline.
Focusing on Aang's love interest with Katara, "The Fortuneteller" excellently entices viewers of the possible relationship between the two characters. I think this episode shows that the writers truly understand a significant portion of their fan base, as they throw the proverbial bone to viewers regarding the relationship between the could-be couple.
We are introduced to Aunt Wu and her assistant Meng (who happens to have a love interest in Aang) in this episode, both of whom add considerable comedic value to the story. Aunt Wu has to be one of the more interesting incidental characters of the series, as she has a sage-like demeanor about her while at the same time she doesn't give off a stuffy-like impression. Very Iroh-esque.
"The Fortuneteller" is more comedy-oriented than action-orientated, as we follow the hapless but rational Sokka as he tries to deal with the content but irrational citizens of Aunt Wu's village. We are also treated with the amusing brush-offs of Aang by Katara and Meng by Aang. Although comedy is prevalent throughout the episode, no one can claim that the writers laid it on too thick. "The Fortuneteller" promises to put a smile on the face of anyone who watches it.
One mustn't forget the fabulous background art in this episode either. I consider "The Fortuneteller" to have some of the best and most realistic background art of the entire series. The grays and browns of the ground and rocks, coupled with the excellent, rich and deep greens of the trees makes a forest background that looks both realistic and beautiful. Not to mention the detail of the buildings in the village. A big kudos goes out to the background artists on this episode.
I wasn't too thrilled however with the lack of character development within the episode. Filler episodes are perfect times to delve deeper into the main characters personalities. "The Fortuneteller" more or less elaborates on what was already known or inferred about the characters in previous episodes. I wasn't too happy about the complete absence of Zuko or Iroh either.
That doesn't take away too much from the entire episode, however. Despite being a filler episode, "The Fortuneteller" foreshadows the role of fate in the series and gives viewers the lesson that fate is what we ourselves make of it. The comedic situations, interesting characters, and fabulous artwork all give viewers a fine break from the more serious episodes. A resounding success on all fronts, "The Fortuneteller" serves its intended purpose effectively with both charm and humor.