Probably one of the episodes most noted by the fanbase, this second installment of season two follows the gang's journey to the city of Omashu. What is the purpose of this episode? To show a great deal of history of the world of Avatar, to explore the character relationships, to show how Zuko and Iroh deal with their lives as fugitives, and to have a rather relaxed and drama focused episode after a great deal of action. What is the effect of this episode? It makes Kataang fans go 'Yay!' and Zutara fans go 'No!'. And as the title suggests, the 'Two Lovers' is probably not only referring to Oma and Shu, but also to Aang's love for Katara, something that may very well play a large role in the upcoming season.
While living as fugitives, Zuko gets to see (probably for the first time) the effects the war has on the 'enemy', something he was relatively sheltered from during his time chasing the Avatar. Whether or not this expansion of his horizon will have any affect on his character, however, can't be said as of yet. But his stealing of Song's ostrich horse is quite a questionable act that doesn't really seem to fit his character.
When Aang and Katara stumble upon the tomb in the cave, we get to learn a great deal of the history of earthbending. Along with fire and water, that makes three disciplines for which we now the background of, and incidentally, it's also the three that Aang has yet to master. While this passage does contain a lot of background info, it also gives us an idea of what earthbending is actually like, in order to better understand what Aang now faces with this new element.
This review would not be complete without mentioning the kiss. When Katara first suggests this, Aang - understandably - gets so excited that he completely messes up. The scene is built up nicely, though, with Aang, probably unconsciously, refusing to understand Katara's plan until she had explained it fully.
In the part where they do decide to go with kissing each other, the episode executes it perfectly. While they lean closer, the torch darkens and eventually goes out, leaving the end result in darkness. After a short time of blackness, phosphorous crystals light up in the tunnels. And it is this small frame of time that was chosen extremely well. It is both long and short enough for both possible outcomes (kiss or no kiss) to be likely. So it's up to the fans to go with what they wish.
This is also where the reason of the insertion of the nomads becomes clear. This whole episodes is one long journey, and it is what happens during this journey that's important, not the destination. In fact, the destination is not what it's supposed to be.
The very end of the episode is another big shocker. After the ordeal of the caves, which had nothing to do at all with the war, the gang (and their hopes) is now smashed by what has happened in their absence. Omashu, formerly a save haven and home to Aang's friend, has now fallen to the Fire Nation.
'The Cave of Two Lovers', among other things, starts exploring the relationship of Aang and Katara, something that was left pretty much untouched in Book One. However, this also means that the level of maturity of the show was turned up a bit yet again, if only in the dramatic part, not (yet) in the action part. It is a nice episode, which really depends on your view on ships.
One of the most infamous shipping episodes to date, The Cave of Two Lovers not only offers up the chance of romance but also gives us a little background into the origin of the earthbenders. We start off with the scantly clad avatar gang wading in a river. Katara's waterbending lessons to Aang are interrupted by a group Hippies. At this point my head drops. Hippies in the Avatar world. The two groups have an awkward meeting and quickly establish a slight friendship on the fact that both the hippies and Aang are nomads.
Also in this episode you find that Zuko begins discovering how far this war actually reaches. When Iroh tries to drink a poisonous plant. And yes he likes tea that much. They of course must find a place for Iroh to receive medical assistance. This is where they meet Song. A young girl who's father had been taken away by the war. I was happy to see Zuko's immediate look of shock when Song showed him her scar. It solidified Zuko's naivety and general concern for other people like the story Iroh told in "The Storm."
The gang is actually what lead me to lower my grade a bit. I had to side with Sokka on the hippie annoyance factor. Chong's constant singing was a bit over the top and was slowly chipping away the episode's continuity. Later when the cave begins to collapse the gang splits leaving Sokka with the Appa, Aang and Katara together and Sokka with the nomad/hippies, much to his chagrin.
I'm always compelled when I see the story between Oma and Shu. It was a nicely original tale and facilitated the naming of Omashu. After the story when Katara began brainstorming a way to get them out I saw why Sokka was separated from them. If he had been there he would have figured out the riddle no problem. Now for the lights out part. Great way to create a romantic enigma. No-one really knows what happened in the dark. The fact that they kissed or not has nothing to do with the pace of the rest of the episode. In fact it is completely dismissed through the rest of the season.
The end of this episode had to be the most telling. After seeing the pain Song and her mother went through Zuko, with a less than convincing thank you, steals their ostrich horse. That move was amazingly disappointing, but even though Zuko is more caring and considerate then many of his family members he still finds himself more important than anyone else, a trait synonymous with royalty.
Later the gang finally finds their way out of the cave. Sokka and the nomads on the backs of vicious beast and Katara, Aang and Appa through, yep you guessed it, love. I liked the character reconciliation at the end between Chong and Sokka. The red mark on Sokka's forehead signified the pain he went through to exit the cave. One thing that tickled me was quick witted analysis of Aang's position as the Avatar. Viewers are then thrust into a scene of the Fire Nation's conquest of Omashu. A saddening picture in itself, but given the implications you find yourself as sad as the rest of the gang.
All in all this was an acceptable episode. There were no memorable fight scene's and the episode was filled with tactless humor. The most character development would have to be Zuko's. The hippies weren't necessarily a welcome addition, but they were a change of pace. The kiss, or lack there of, is simply of no consequence. We already know that Aang is madly in love with Katara. However Katara's blushing at the end may call for a bit more from her side. So far we don't know what happened and maybe never will. Is that such a bad thing?