Ah yes, the second part of the celebrated Day of Black Sun. It is a part of the same continuous event, and it packs just as much awesomeness as the first part does, albeit in a very different manner. The invasion is were armies clash and big fights happen. The eclipse is just as, or even much more, crucial, but during it, it's the deeds and actions of individuals that determine just how this whole thing will end. It zooms in all the way to look at just the gang again, and while the battle is still raging, they are the important ones, the ones that demand focus.
This episode naturally picks up right where the last one left off, and though it starts with the battle, it quickly shifts to the action underneath the royal city. And while there is still a great deal of wonderful action with phenomenal choreography, there is also a huge focus on drama. But above all that, there is one theme which is present throughout the entire episode: Change. Basically, this episode takes all that was built up in the show over the past two and a half seasons, twists it around, and throws it out with a new direction.
One of these changes is Zuko finally figuring himself out and confronting his father. In his most drastic character change yet, not only does he tell the truth about the Avatar and officially allies himself with his uncle, but gives us something to look forward to: his wanting to join the gang. Granted, it is something a part of the fans might have already seen coming, or have speculated that a choice like this just had to take place, but nothing beats actually hearing Zuko say the words.
Another change is the loss of hope. The invasion failed, the attackers are likely going to be imprisoned. Which means that those people who could have helped out are no longer available. To put it bluntly, the resource of an invasion force is gone. To be honest, the invasion failing, in itself, should not be surprising, because there is still half a season to go. But by taking away all the adults, the show manages to find a good reason to leave the gang at center stage, and to put yet another burden onto their shoulders. It's a big build-up for character development.
The final change, and the one I'm the least happy with, is adding all those minor characters to the gang. After setting up the core group and solidifying it through many hardships and trials, three more people just suddenly tag along. I'm not sure where it will go, but it's one of the lesser satisfying plot turns.
But this episode is about much more than just those few scenes. A lot of the action, literally, takes place in the bunker. The fight between Azula and Aang is very beautifully done. The choreography is spot on, the bending effects are stunning, and the high pace of everything kept me at the edge of my seat. I was surprised to see Azula waiting for Aang, but in hindsight, I guess the big face-off between Aang and Ozai should be kept for the finale.
The aspect at which this episode truly shines is how everything fits together nicely, both within the episode and from the show as a whole. Azula mentioning Suki, Ozai talking about Ursa, the war balloons (and not to mention the absolutely awesome battle-zeppelins). A lot of questions are raised and answered, but in the end we're given just enough information to whet our appetites and to have us longing for more.
And of course my favorite scene. The zeppelins move over the invaders and bomb the submarines. And then the best shot I've ever seen in 'Avatar': A pan over the whole group, an expression of shocked disbelief on everyone's face. And then the good byes. No matter how often I watch the scene, it makes me cry. Every time. Without fail.
All in all, 'The Eclipse' has done a mighty good job of bringing the whole Black Sun issue to a close. But rather than looking at it as ending one of the big story lines, I see it as a catalyst, driving the show onwards, bringing new upheavals to be dealt with, and adding that many more variables and figures that will all hopefully culminate in the finale. A wonderfully epic episode indeed.