Ah yes, the first episode grand finale of the first season of an awesome show. As the title suggests, this episode will deal mostly with Zhao attacking, or besieging, of the north pole. But it is not the siege itself that is the true focus of this chapter, it's the many small things that happen outside the main battle.
Underneath the overriding story, it's the characters' outlooks, relationships, and actions that truly matter. Sokka and Hahn, Aang and the Spirit World, Sokka and Yue, Katara and Zuko, Zhao and the Water Tribe, Zuko and Iroh - all these are gears in a great clockwork, each one too small to decide the battle, but big enough to direct its outcome.
Individual characters get to shine here, something that means a lot when there's many people involved (ie., the two nations fighting). Aang takes out the Fire Navy ship's trebuchets with great efficiency and creativity (along with a modified Avatar theme playing in the background). Zuko gets his Blue Spirit theme while sneaking into the city, and his struggle and determination are clearly evident. Sokka ridicules the warriors of the northern Tribe with his knowledge of the Fire Nation, which only keeps pushing up with worth. The effect with the war drums in the background is also a nice touch. And Katara and Zuko duel in the Spirit Oasis.
In fact, that particular event is so full of symbols and contrasts that it deserves its own paragraph. There's the opposing elements of water and fire, and the loud battle in the most tranquil place of the north pole. The sun and the moon are also shown: When Katara performs her ice globe, the moon is visible in the sky, and when Zuko awakes and knocks out Katara, the sun is shining behind him. Next to that, the fight displays some excellent choreography and cinematography.
Despite, or because of, the dire theme of this episode, the part on the ship where Iroh says his farewells to Zuko is very touching. We learn that Iroh has lost his son and thusly reveals why he has stuck with Zuko for all this time. Not only does Mako give us some nice voice acting, but the scene overall is a very touching moment and has some great character revelation.
Just like many other episodes, it's the tidbits that bring things to life. One of these is Zhao actually listening to Iroh's advice and stopping his attacks at night. This shows that he does not let his arrogance get in the way of his skill in warcraft (the ability to lead battles, not the game), marking him as a powerful, albeit arrogant, leader.
Another of these is when the soot rains onto the Water Tribe city. Sokka immediately realizes what it is and explains the black rain, and during the panning shots over the city, only Katara recognizes the soot for what it is, since she and her brother have experienced it before.
We also get to learn more about the history of the waterbenders, and that they learned their art from the moon. With this, we now have the sun and the moon as the supporting forces of fire and water, respectively, opposing yet perfectly in balance.
The episode ends in a double cliffhanger: At daybreak, the Fire Nation finally manages to breach and storm the walls, and Katara wakes up to find Aang missing, taken away by Zuko. Even though these events differ greatly in magnitude, they are given an equivalent status, again accentuating the importance of these many little things that happen underneath the great battle in the city.
With such a cataclysmic event going on, this episode manages to focus heavily on drama and plot, rather than action. This is a good thing, because it enables the story to be built up now, and to end in an array of much fighting and action in the story's, and the first season's, conclusion. There is only one little thing that is a bit out of place: Katara's face seems somewhat distorted. But other than that, a great episode that leaves no doubt for a grand finale.
"Nice try pupil Sangok, a couple of more years and you might be ready to fight a sea-sponge"
These are the first words in what is undoubtedly an awe-inspiring chapter of the struggle against the Fire Nation. However, this will be no ordinary chapter, for it is a significant one, as in this very chapter the Northern Water Tribe is attacked by an enormous fleet led by Admiral Zhao. Their intent: "To destroy the last of the Water Tribe civilization."
Don't misunderstand, this may be Part 1 in an immense war between the Water Tribe and the Fire Nation, but it is by no means a silence before a storm or a means of building tension before a final climax. This chapter in itself is an exhilarating, adventurous and exciting plunge into a cold, brutal and epic war.
The excitement generated as huge, fiery boulders are hurled through the sky towards the Northern Water Tribe is unparalleled by any other cartoon. The elation as Aang sets his eyes on the beautiful oasis is heart-warming. It can't be denied: this is one of the best chapters in the Book of Water.
The way the war is shown is exciting and entertaining. There is sheer thrill when Aang flies to and boards Fire Navy ships, eliminates enemies with powerful gusts of air and cleverly manipulates the Fire Navy catapults so that they can be used against the Fire Navy. The way this is done is funny and adrenaline-pumping.
You have all grown to appreciate Avatar's glorious music, but The Siege of the North Part 1 has outstanding music! At certain points, change is made from the usual fanfare and a softer, higher pitched and more elegant instrument is used to portray the delicateness of particular scenes. Through music, fear is induced when the Fire Navy arrive, your heart softens when Aang enters the oasis and a melancholy tone is taken in parallel to the scenes involving the romance between Sokka and Princess Yue.
But excitement, music and romance isn't enough, a good chapter of Avatar isn't complete without colour. Changes from the brilliant white and blue of the Northern Water Tribe to the darker, more threatening red and black of the Fire Navy ships is ingenious, helps to create the correct atmosphere.
The creators of Avatar once again create an immersive parallel story in which Zuko infiltrates the Northern Water Tribe in order to capture the Avatar. It does however seem that part of the story was missed out when Zuko arrived at the oasis, how did he get from where he entered the Northern Water Tribe to the oasis without being caught? But this can be excused due to the lack of time each chapter has. This sub-story adds another dimension to the struggle and becomes very involving. Although, you will notice more emphasis is placed on Zuko's pain and suffering as he swims through icy waters, we continue to be in doubt of whether Zuko really is 'the bad guy'.
A dramatic fight takes place (as always) but it is not often between Zuko and Katara. As bolts of fire and waves of water are thrown in either direction, you may notice the irony that a ferocious battle is taking place in the most harmonious place in the entire North Pole. The fight comes with a dramatic twist and you will not be unsatisfied by this exciting duel.
The Chapter ends more tensely than conclusively; it is an enthralling build-up to a dramatic finale and no doubt one of the best Chapters in the first Book.