Friday, October 8, 2010

'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Season Two (2006)

Starring Zach Eisen, Mae Whitman and Jack DeSena
Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko

Season Two picks up just where Season One left off.  The Avatar, Aang (Zach Eisen) and his friends Katara (Mae Whitman) and Sokka (Jack DeSena) have defeated Admiral Zhao (Jason Isaacs).  The group sets off toward the Earth Nation to find an Earth Bending teacher for Aang.  They soon meet Toph (Jessie Flower), a blind girl who may be the world's greatest Earth Bender.  She agrees to teach Aang, and joins the group on their journey.  Eventually, they discover that a coming eclipse will render the Firebenders of the world powerless, giving Aang his best chance at defeating Fire Lord Ozai (Mark Hamill).

Hoping to enlist the help of the Earth Nation armies, the group journies to Ba Sing Se, the Earth Nation Capital to meet with the King.  Unfortunately, they discover a massive conspiracy by Long Feng (Clancy Brown), leader of the King's personal guard, the Dai Li.  But "Team Avatar" is not alone in Ba Sing Se: banished Prince Zuko (Dante Basco) and his uncle Iroh (Mako) are also in town.  Now fugitives from the Fire Nation, they have settled as refugees and begin working in a tea shop.  At the same time, Zuko's sister, Azula (Grey DeLisle) has been tasked by Ozai to find Zuko and the Avatar.  Unlike Zuko, who is troubled, Azula is vicious and utterly without mercy. 

Season Two expands the cast of the show a great deal, as well as the scope of the story.  While Season One was mostly episodic in nature, Season Two, subtitled "Earth," is based around lengthier storylines.  When the group makes it to Ba Sing Se, the whole rest of the season grounds itself there.  This almost leads to a feeling of stagnation, which is a problem the show sometimes struggles to overcome.  While Season One always had new locations, staying put feels strange for Season Two.  But the expansion of the characters is what helps keep things from feeling stale. 

The show's humor is still in fine form.  Coupled with the finely animated action sequences, "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is tons of fun.  Thankfully, the show is more than just silliness and action, because it has things to say.  It treats its characters and storylines seriously, even if there's a lot of comic relief to go around.  The writers truly care to develop their characters, which puts "Avatar" several steps above most kids' shows these days.  They're also capable of developing worthy plotting, as well, with several twists and turns to take the show in surprising and fun new directions.

Season Two is a blast.  Though the setting stays a bit more stable than Season One, the emotional investment of the characters is deepened, new characters are added and the story takes on new dimensions.  Bravo.