How to review such an episode? How to capture its magnificence in mere words? How to view this episode without the second part? So many questions, so many thoughts, swirling around in my head.
First things first. Everyone, the fans as well as the characters, have been looking forward to this event for a good 20 episodes now. And even though many things might be expected, or have been implicated, it still generated a great deal of hype, and it fully lived up to and even exceeded it. With 'The Day of Black Sun', the 'Avatar' staff outdid themselves.
Things start out pretty slow on the morning of the invasion, with the gang just getting up and getting ready. But the big event is already looming on the horizon, and things start rolling pretty quickly from there.
It's the action. It's the story. It's the culmination of the overarching plot. It's the character interactions. But mostly, it's just plain Epic, with a capital "E". The show becomes big. It's one big battle about a very serious and crucial event in the plot. There's variety in the action, there's drama thrown in, and lots of twists and surprises.
The gang has changed their wardrobe yet again, signaling the end of hiding in the Fire Nation, and being ready for the invasion. There are reappearances of so many different minor characters. Not only is it nice to see familiar faces again, but it shows just how many lives the gang has touched and affected. Tying together the issues of "big" and "surprise", Appa gets a chance to show off in his sweet looking armor, and the new war machinery is also a very nice touch. I couldn't hope to believe that Hakoda and Sokka were talking about submarines until I actually saw them. And the caterpillar tanks just add yet another layer of responses to an already long list.
Then there's all the little things that the individual characters go through. Sokka's wounded self-esteem when me mucks up his speech. Zuko's resolve to set things right. Iroh's warning to Ming. And of course, Aang and Katara's relationship. As an avid Kataanger, I have to admit that I've watched the kiss scene quite a few times, and while its focus might be the development of Kataang, what is also accomplishes is adding yet more seriousness with a helping of bittersweet romance.
On a somewhat similar note, I also liked all the family interaction between Katara, Sokka, and Hakoda. When the three of them go off to take out the battlements, and when Hakoda gets hurt, it really strikes you that they are a family. Along with that, next to their father, Katara and Sokka, who have been so mature throughout the entire show, are able to look the kids their age they are supposed to be.
More than any other episode, and more than anything else, this episode lives off its music. Due to the relatively low amount of dialog, and the difficult pacing (which was pulled off brilliantly) the music feeds into this episode. It's not only small things like the individual character themes when the minor characters appear, the music also keeps shifting and moving, flowing from scene to scene and moment to moment, creating smooth transitions in the atmosphere and the emotions. My second favorite scene is Hakoda's speech, and the preparations right after it, just because of the majestic and powerful music.
What all this does is draw you in. There's so much suspension of disbelief, you don't want this episode to end. I have to admit, when I first watched it, I just perceived the stuff happening on the screen, and I didn't actually think much. I was honestly shocked, along with Aang, to find the Fire Lord's throne room empty. My mind had too much to deal with already just having watched this episode.
Of course, this is just the first episode of a two-parter, and to get the full effect, both really have to be tied together. Still, it manages to do a tremendous job of wowing audiences and setting the ground for the conclusion of the Day of Black Sun. And with the first part as wonderful as this, one can only hope that the second part will prevail as well.
The reason for the low score is because this episode didn't surprise me. I knew the invasion was going to fail, and I knew they would probably head off to the Western Air Temple. It's just a bunch of cliches disguised as an episode of Avatar.
And that's just one of the problems here. Did we really have to see some characters that I doubt anyone cares about? Like take Haru for example, he doesn't really do anything in the episode, he just does what every other character is doing, fighting. Remember how everyone made a difference some of the earlier episodes, like Yue, she wasn't really a main character, but she made a huge difference at the end of the episode. All the other side characters here don't add anything to the plot, they're just there to be there.
And the Gang gets beat by, dare I say, the lamest possible reason. All Ozai had to do was switch rooms, that's it? That seemed too easy, maybe he should've made a dramatic escape in one of those neat balloons or blown a hole in the wall and got on a boat. That would've been more exciting. But the way it played out seemed like an excuse to extend the season for a few more episodes.
And Sokka, oh dear Sokka. Why did you stand in front of Azula asking where Suki was, when she was obviously not going to tell you anything, and right after everyone clearly stated that she was just distracting you? It's these kinds of silly mistakes and decisions that make this episode almost laughable. Aang, you really want to try and find the Fire Lord and fight him after the eclipse when he's fully powered? And wouldn't it have been neat if Zuko and Ozai had actually fought instead of talking for fifteen minutes?
And really, why bring back characters like The Boulder? He was an extremely minor character, and bringing him back was probably because they needed more people to help with the invasion. To bring back a character that you don't plan on developing doesn't really make sense, it's more of a way to bring in viewers. I hope we don't see them again, but it looks like we might when the Gang plans on defeating the Fire Lord again, and we get a better paced and more exciting episode.
So, all in all, the thrill was completely absent from this episode. Nothing surprised me, the Aang and Katara kiss was bound to happen sometime, and the eclipse failing was one of the most used plots in fan fiction and one of the most popular theories in the speculation threads. For an episode that had been planned out for about an entire season, it leaves on a flat note.