This is it, the final installment of season one that will bring the Water Book to its conclusion. After a whole season of an awesome show, this episode has the duty to bring the great story arc of Book One to a satisfying end, something that does the high standard of this show justice.
How does this episode go about accomplishing this goal? By showing off with greatness in story, animation, effects, music, and ending. Along with that, it turns up the maturity of the series up by several notches. It is the first time in the show where we get actual character death, and we get four instances of it.
It can be expected that what the first part of 'The Siege of the North' lacked in action, this one will lack in drama. That assumption cannot be more wrong. Avatar continues to shine with its high standard of writing, and this time, it hands us loads of nice effects to spice up the finale.
We get to see Aang in the Spirit World, a surreal place where he has to find one of the most dangerous spirits around. His meeting with Koh is one filled with edge-of-your-seat tension. Even though Aang couldn't possibly lose his face to Koh (that would make the rest of the show pretty strange), it's convenient to forget that and divulge in the suspension of disbelief. Koh himself is pretty well done, his caterpillar-like body entrapping Aang in his lair. His switching faces and great voice make him quite powerful as a character, even though his appearance might be counted as minor.
Princess Yue's story is much less interesting, considering the rest of the episode's events, but it is relevant, and finally explains what the heck is up with her name. Even though I speak Chinese, I didn't get that her name meant "moon" until she said it. Must be the weird anglicized "yoo-ay" pronunciation.
Jason Isaacs makes Zhao shine in these two episodes with his awesome voice-acting. As for Zhao himself, he falls so much in love with his own legend that he undertakes an act that will likely change the world of Avatar itself: he kills the moon spirit.
As for the effects, the art and visual effects are superb. We get to see some extreme waterbending, some big fight scenes, but most of all, the effects of the moon. When Zhao captures the moon spirit, the world bleeds into a powerful red. But even more effective, after the moon spirit is killed, the world instantly turns grayscale, inducing a state of despair and an eerie atmosphere.
Along with that, the music is what truly brings this episode to life. We get a relaxed Avatar theme in the Spirit World, and when Aang enters the Avatar State and bonds with the ocean spirit, the Avatar theme with its strings and choir add to the awe-inspiring power of Aang's new form.
Despite, or because of, the dire undertones of this episode, there are also a lot of emotionally charged scenes. Yue sacrifices herself to become the moon spirit, Iroh's fury right after Zhao killed the moon spirit, and of course the ending of the siege, where Yue's father points out his pride and sorrow for his daughter's fate.
After such turbulence, the ending of the story brings back calm and hope, with the gang once again gathered and looking out over the horizon, ready to move on.
Of course, if the episode were to end here, there would be nothing to look forward to, and as such, we get to see Fire Lord Ozai assigning his daughter a task. This small but effective teaser adds a whiff of upcoming and inevitable conflict, as well as the (probable) introduction of our main villain for the next season, now that Zhao is, presumably, dead.
Overall, a fantastic episode, and a grand finale to the first Book, just as it was supposed to be. The only crux that withholds the top grade for this episode is Yue's voice, which seems a bit too empty and uninvolved at times. It's no A+, but it's darn close.
We are at what is potentially the end of the Northern Water Tribe civilization. The Avatar has been captured; his spirit has just traveled to the mysterious Spirit World and Zhao's army advances into the great Northern Water Tribe. Victory is nigh for the Fire Navy and without the Avatar, all hope is lost...
How would one perfectly capture the spirit of such a climactic end to the thoroughly enjoyable Book of Water? Through expert story-telling, awe-inspiring war battles, mythical creatures, outstanding music and an epic climax in which a breathtakingly powerful being destroys the invasion force.
One of the main differences between The Siege of the North Part 2 from Part 1 is the involvement of spirits, divine beings and the much feared Avatar State in its most powerful form. At the paramount scene when Admiral Zhao has slain the moon, an astonishing series of events unfold in front of you where Avatar Aang combines with the Ocean Spirit to form a terrifying beast, capable of immense control over water and invulnerable to the Fire Navy's attacks. The beast is somewhat reminiscent of the Nightwalker from Princess Mononoke, a large lizard-like spirit composed of a partially glowing, see-through medium (in this case, water).
This scene was the pinnacle of the First Book of Water and will be written down in the history of Avatar... and all TV shows.
And what of the brilliant music in this Chapter? The creators have, without a doubt, implemented music which is perfectly fitting to the location and the events. Every single note is what you are seeing on screen translated into rhythms and beats. The usual high chanting compliments the Avatar State but this time they are exaggerated twofold, creating an explosion of emotions in the viewer's heart, making everyone stare in awe at the giant creature as it engages a whole fleet in a few blows.
A film noir approach is even taken when the moon is killed as the entire Northern Water Tribe turns black and white, and plunges into catastrophe without the moon to aid them. A second and last fight between Zuko and Zhao takes place (the previous one being the Agni Kai in Chapter 3) and although this fight isn't as masterfully produced as the Agni Kai, it has far more significance. Since this is the only hand-to-hand fight scene in the entire chapter (apart from the fight between Katara and Zuko), you could argue that the chapter is lacking in this respect. However, far more important events take place and you will not be left complaining about lack of combat!
I did feel that the voice actor for Princess Yue was somewhat lacking in expression, Johanna Braddy perhaps wasn't the perfect choice for Princess Yue. Despite this, Princess Yue was a very likeable character and I was sad to see her go near the end. But you may notice that when Yue decides that she is going to give her life to the moon spirit, the, "I have to do this" was rather monotonous.
The chapter is brought to an end with Aang, Katara, Sokka, Appa and Momo looking into the sky beyond the walls of the Northern Water Tribe, the moon clearly visible as a sign that Yue is still with them. When heroes gaze upon a vast expanse, it is indicative of an oncoming adventure...
Book One is closed, but not before an intriguing teaser is displayed in which Fire Lord Ozai appears to be briefing his daughter on an important mission, shrouded in mystery. Of course, with hindsight, we know that the mission was to capture Prince Zuko and bring him back to the Fire Nation where he can be locked up but nevertheless, the scene posed a lot of questions back then.
Chapter Twenty of the First Book was a huge success in terms of generating a climactic event to excite, amaze and astound the viewer to the extent that they are completely immersed into the Avatar universe, worthy of an A+.