How do you spell 'The Awakening'? E-P-I-C. The depth of the story has reached a phenomenal degree, the whole series has become one thorough and excellently told tale. Being the first installment of the long-awaited Book Three, it really comes down to this: Did it deliver? Was the wait worth it? Will this episode blow us away?
Being fortunate enough to only come into contact with the show a mere month before this episode's airing, I would say that I wasn't bogged down by excessive anticipation. However, the depth of plot and character, as well as the cliffhanger ending of 'The Crossroads of Destiny' did make me hope that this episode will be good. Or, rather, much better than good.
I can say that Avatar has lost pretty much nothing of its flair, the emotional attachment is still there, and the excellence of writing is ever-present. Scenes of great drama exchanged screen time with action, plot exposition and some great character interaction. In fact, there was so much stuffed into these short twenty-some minutes that the episode felt slightly rushed.
Granted, 'The Awakening' had a very tough job. It had to lead the viewers from Book Two into Book Three. It had to tie up loose threads and start spinning new ones immediately. There had to be a recount of what happened, and there has to be foreshadowing of what is to come. Calm our confusion and whet our appetites for more.
In that respect, this episode is absolutely brilliant. There are a lot of strong points that drive the story on and give us plenty to think about. There's new mixed with old. The characters begin to shine, and they start to take on an epic feel. They are woven into a complex story, but it is their thoughts, emotions, and actions that will shape this story itself.
In terms of narration, the show keeps the tried-and-true techniques that it has perfected over the course of the series. Most of all, it's the good old pair of parallelism and juxtaposition. The scenes cut into each other and keep exchanging, but they form one ongoing continuum without any breaks in the feel.
The last location of the crescent isle is very symbolic, a place of fortitude for Aang. His reunion with his friends not only displays their importance to each other, but is also a strong, dramatic moment. This coupled with Aang destroying his glider, one of the only things linking him to his people and his past, is a turning point for him. His childishness is gone, and has made way for true determination.
As a side note, even though there were a lot of recurring characters along with the gang, their familiarity with each other almost had me choke up. It's these bonds of true friendship that last, and that will (hopefully) bring an end to Ozai's rule.
All in all, this episode is very good, and does it's job pretty well. Then why does it not have an A grade? One word: Art. There are differences in the art, and many of the characters look slightly different from what we are used to, but the thing that was screaming out to me the entire time was Katara's deformed face. Where did her beauty go?
Where the art lacks, the music really gets to boast. It truly enhances every scene it is in, and most of all, we get the grand Avatar theme in different variations again. It's these things that create a strong sense of familiarity, even though we are venturing into a whole new story with a whole new tone and mood.
In retrospect, 'The Awakening' is a powerful episode and a good start into Book Three. There are so many more things that can be mentioned, but there's one promise, that's that the show will go epic. After such an episode, one has to calm down and wonder: Did it deliver?
I would certainly like to think so.