Book 3: Fire, Vol. 1Avatar the Last Airbender: Book 3, Volume 1 is a slightly unusual suite of episodes in the Avatar canon, as the majority of programs are even more comical than usual. Not that the five shows included on this disc lack seriousness: the long-running series now finds young Aang (the once and future avatar destined to reunite the world’s four estranged nations) and his traveling companions behind enemy lines in the Fire Nation, disguised as colonists. In "Awakening," Aang arises--with a surprising headful of dark hair--from several weeks of unconsciousness (due to the injuries he sustained during a battle for Ba Sing Se) aboard a captured Fire Nation warship. Though he finds old friends Sokka, Toph, and Katara nearby, all urging him not to take matters in his own hands, Aang ultimately feels compelled to go head-to-head with the Fire Lord before he is ready. The result forces Aang and the others to remain incognito, setting up subsequent episodes in which the heroes are forced to lay low and find something else to do with their time besides fight adversaries. In "The Headband," Aang enrolls in a Fire Nation school, where his eyes are opened to such ordinary experiences as dealing with a campus bully and getting a hard time from strict teachers. In "The Painted Lady," Aang, Sokka, Katara, and Toph visit an impoverished fishing village and have to repress their typical instinct to help lest they be recognized as outsiders. (An alternative is found.) "Sokka’s Master," in some ways the most enjoyable episode here, finds Sokka feeling useless because he doesn’t possess powers similar to his mates. His solution: talk a master swordsman into taking him on as an apprentice. Finally, the most unexpected story in this collection is "The Beach," in which Prince Zuko, Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee--all of whom are back in the Fire Nation, too--take an awkward holiday but end up learning a lot about one another.
Meanwhile, Zuko--following his extended banishment from the Fire Nation--discovers that his father welcoming again, but only because his manipulative sister, Princess Azula, has falsely told everyone that Zuko killed Aang. Fearing that his father will disown him again, Zuko chooses not to tell the truth and works on having Aang quietly assassinated. Where Zuko had been more of a complete human being during his exile, he’s back to being a monster again, going so far as to keep his dutiful uncle, Iroh, in a dark, dank prison. --Tom Keogh
Book 3: Fire, Vol. 2Avatar the Last Airbender: Book 3--Fire, Volume 2 finds the series closing in on a long-awaited day of reckoning with the fire nation. The five episodes on this disc continue those chapters on Volume 1 in which Aang--the young avatar--and his companions Katara, Toph, and Sokka live undercover in the fire nation, awaiting the moment when an alliance of warriors from the air, water, and earth nations converge to overtake the conquering firebenders once and for all. On Volume 2, the path to the day of battle, in typical Avatar fashion, is full of misadventures and intrigue, but also sundry revelations that make the pending series climax that much more interesting. "The Avatar and the Firelord" is the backstory of how the fire nation leader came to be a brutal tyrant in the world. Turns out he was the best friend of none other than the previous avatar; the souring of their relationship led to the troubles young Aang is trying to resolve. (While Aang is finding all this out, the fire nation’s Prince Zuko discovers his ancestry is more complicated than he’d imagined, and that he has more of a role to play in ending the war waged by his people.) "The Runaway" is a comedy about mischievous Toph getting into trouble for using her earthbending powers to win bets and make a lot of money. "The Puppetmaster" is a scary story featuring a waterbending old woman who initially enchants Katara, but then later is revealed to be a vengeful monster with terrifying abilities to control people’s bodies. "Nightmares and Daydreams" concerns an anxious Aang unable to sleep and stop hallucinating prior to the coming battle, while part one of "The Day of Black Sun" sees the beginning of the allies’ invasion of the fire nation. Lots of surprises in this last episode, with a cliffhanger ending that makes the next volume of Avatar most desirable. --Tom Keogh
Book 3: Fire, Vol. 3 At the beginning of Avatar the Last Airbender: Book 3 Fire, Vol. 3, things don''t go quite the way one would have hoped at the end of Vol. 2. Aang--the young avatar--and his companions Katara, Toph, and Sokka were part of a major assault on the tyrannical fire nation, and hopes of victory were high. In "The Day of Black Sun, Part 2: The Eclipse," however, circumstances reverse the heroes'' fortunes, forcing Aang, his friends and the very youngest warriors to flee the battle. As they regroup at the Western Air Temple, mourning the expected imprisonment of the adults left behind, Aang comes face to face with an unexpected, would-be ally: Zuko, prince of the fire nation. Sokka and Katara refuse to accept Zuko''s guarantee that he is truly on their side (they''ve been through this before), but Toph and Aang are a little more receptive to the idea. Good thing. In "The Firebending Masters," Aang accepts that Zuko could be the firebending mentor he needs to show him how to conquer the most elusive of the four elements. But it isn''t easy: Zuko loses his power and must retreat to a fire nation temple, where he can learn the origins of his native gift. The set of five stories on this disc concludes with the two-part "The Boiling Rock," in which Sokka and Zuko infiltrate a fire nation maximum security prison in hopes of freeing Sokka''s father. Trying hard to stay clandestine, Zuko''s identity is revealed anyway, jeopardizing not only the mission but Zuko and Sokka''s very freedom. The excitement is endless in the long-running Avatar series, and developments (especially Zuko''s acceptance by Aang and the others) are as heartening as they are surprising. --Tom Keogh
Book 3: Fire, Vol. 4 The long-running series Avatar the Last Airbender comes to a dazzling conclusion in Book 3 Fire, Volume 4. Poised for quite a number of episodes (seen in previous volumes) to go to war against the tyrannical Fire Nation, Aang the young Avatar and his cohorts must now bring down the Fire Lord and his army, or watch them ramp up their destructive powers during an imminent solar eclipse. But there''s a lingering question only Aang can answer: can the Avatar, who has never killed anyone, bring himself to take the Fire Lord''s life? That is what he must do, according to Zuko, the Fire Prince who has thrown in his lot with Aang and the latter''s friends.
While Aang is sorting that out--receiving various wisdoms from past Avatars and advice from a giant turtle-lion creature--Zuko and Katara take another leg of the battle by confronting Zuko''s crazed sister. Meanwhile, Sokka re-asserts his latent talent for commanding dangerous missions as he and earth-bender Toph attempt to sabotage Fire Nation airships. The final episodes on this disc are thrilling, in no small part because they have been so long in arriving. Before those, however, there are a couple of interesting chapters to get through, including "The Southern Raiders," in which Katara attempts to exact revenge for the disappearance of her mother. As always, there''s some comic relief, in this case "The Ember Island Players," in which our heroes experience the ignominy of watching some of their previous adventures become a ridiculous, staged play. --Tom Keogh
Studio: Paramount Home Video Release Date: 09/16/2008
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