Shows

A Fiery Finale to My Favorite Childhood Show

Airbender-CompleteBook3.jpg

Show Review:

Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 1 (Spoiler-Free)

Rating: 9.8 out of 10

Intro

Avatar: The Last Airbender is my favorite childhood show, and Season 3 has always been my favorite season. I recently re-watched this show with my roommate and she really enjoyed it as well.

It includes my favorite episode of the whole show, Chapter 17: The Ember Island Players, when Team Avatar gets to see a play based on their own adventure.

It also includes my least favorite episode, Chapter Eight: The Puppetmaster, which is super creepy for a kid’s show. Nonetheless, it was a well-made episode that helped set up a concept that would later be important for The Legend of Korra.

Read on to find out why this is the best season yet.

(Quick warning–there are no spoilers for Season 3, but there are some minor spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2.)

Background

Avatar: The Last Airbender was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The head writer was Aaron Ehasz. The genres it straddles include Fantasy, Action, Adventure, and Comedy. Season 3 was released in 2007.

The show won five Annie Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Genesis Award, a Peabody Award and a Kid’s Choice Award.

It is a unique blend of anime style with the style of American cartoons. It draws from Inuit, Japanese, Chinese, and Tibetan culture.

Summary

The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is made up of four nations which each are focused around a different element: water, earth, fire, and air. Each of these nations is made up of those who can “bend” (control) one of the elements.

Map from the series
The Four Nations from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The current Avatar, Aang, must master all four elements in order to stop a war that has been going on for a hundred years. The war was launched by the Fire Nation, which is bent on world domination.

Real-World Influences of Avatar Part 2: The Water Tribes - The More You  Know post - Imgur
Katara and Sokka

With the help of his friends Katara and Sokka, in Season 1 Aang seeks to master waterbending by traveling to the North Pole to find a waterbending teacher. Along the way, Katara is able to teach him basic waterbending and the team goes on various adventures.

Toph Beifong | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Toph Beifong

In Season 2, the earthbender Toph joins Team Avatar, the Fire Nation grows in power and influence, the heroes reach Ba Sing Se, and Zuko tries to establish his own identity.

Avatar: The Last Airbender | Netflix

Season 3 begins with Aang waking up in a Fire Nation ship confused–and with a full head of hair! The main point of Season 3 is Aang’s attempts to find a firebending teacher and master all four elements in order to defeat Fire Lord Ozai and end the war.

Pros

  • Powerful character depth and development
  • Creative system of elements
  • Developed fictional cultures based on authentic cultures
  • Diversity
  • Balance of humor and tension, comedy and tragedy
  • Smart musical choices to create humor and tension
  • Range of expressions of characters
  • Entertaining for child and adult audience
  • Explores themes rarely touched upon by children’s shows
  • Intro orients the viewer to the story and is accessible to new viewers
  • Wonderful animation
  • Pacing is better than first season
  • Intense fight scenes
  • Lingering consequences/lasting wounds from last season

Cons

  • Chapter Nine: Nightmares and Daydreams is bizarre and over-the-top
  • Never learned how Hawky worked, but used him anyway

Review

Characters

Zuko | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

Zuko has the biggest identity crisis of all the characters, so it is natural he gets the most development. At this point, his uncle is imprisoned, so he has to decide on his own path without Iroh’s help. He is at home with the life he has always wanted–will he finally be satisfied?

Iroh | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

It is like this season is a reminder of who Iroh really is–a capable, wise man who is more than just a mentor to Zuko.

Azula | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

Azula is a truly terrifying character. Her callousness toward her own family and her intense ambition makes her especially frightening. This season also develops her as a person almost to the same degree as Zuko. We see her insecurities and her paranoia, ripples in the pool of her calm demeanor.

System of Elements

Map from the series

The elements of water, earth, fire, and air are controlled by movements mimicking Chinese martial arts. Because they are modeled off of different forms of martial arts, the bending looks authentic. Waterbending is graceful, earthbending is formidable, firebending is fierce, and airbending is elusive.

The variety of techniques that can be used within a single element mean that battles are never boring. Benders like Aang, Katara, and Toph continually find new and creative ways to use their bending.

Toph is unique as a bender, as her bending is based off the Southern praying Mantis Style.

Season 3 is definitely Azula and Zuko’s time to shine with elaborate bending as well. Furthermore, fire as an element is reconsidered as representative of life, not just destruction.

Culture

This season of Avatar: The Last Airbender focuses on Fire Nation culture. This includes their mythology (The Painted Lady), their education system, their forms of entertainment, and their way of life more generally.

Nature - Transcendentalism

Small towns and larger cities are visited throughout the season. This one is a village on a polluted river. Most people wouldn’t have thought a Fire Nation village would be situated on the water–that’s kind of like an earth bending city high in the sky. But the creation of the elemental system does not categorize and simplify people. The cultures in this show are complex, just like cultures in the real world.

The Headband | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

In the Fire Nation, education is propaganda, painting their own society as a heroic force of good in the world. The fierce patriotism of Fire Nation citizens is fueled by a powerful set of lies.

What’s also interesting is the difference between what Aang remembers of Fire Nation culture, and what it is like now. His outdated slang and long-forgotten Fire Nation dances are a source of humor and an indication of how society changes over time, for better or for worse.

Diversity

Avatar: The Last Airbender has cultures based on various real-life cultures. Unlike in some shows, it mimics these cultures while honoring them and without making caricatures of them.

Katara and Sokka have light brown skin, so there is some diversity in skin color as well.

In Season 2, the show introduced Toph, who is blind. She remains a critical character in Season 3.

Balance

The balance of humor in this show with mature themes (war, imperialism, colonialism, corruption, propaganda) makes this show appropriate for children yet entertaining for adults–the perfect balance.

Music adds to the humor at some times, and adds to the tension at others. It isn’t like the show has phenomenal musical scores – it doesn’t, not even in the intro. But it uses music that supports the story and does it well. Season 3 has more epic music for its fight scenes in the final episodes.

The range of expressions on the characters’ faces also adds to the comedy.

Avatar's The Beach Is The Breakfast Club with Bending

Sometimes they are realistic, but occasionally they are way over the top.

Avatar: The Last Airbender / Radar - TV Tropes

Intro

Who is the Earth silhouette in the intro to Avatar: The Last Airbender? -  Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange

The intro neatly explains the system of elements, explains about the war, and introduces the Avatar all in about thirty seconds. It is followed by a “Previously on Avatar” montage that concisely gives more background.

This is good for two reasons. Viewers who watch episodes with large spaces of time between get a reminder of what is going on and the stakes. And new viewers who may have missed the first few episodes get a sense for where the show has been and where it is going.

It’s a smart choice on the part of the directors.

Animation

The animation is beautiful and attractive. I can definitely see both the influence of anime and of American cartoons in the art style.

Pacing

The pacing, which I mentioned as a potential shortcoming in the first season, is not really a problem in the second season. Sure, there are filler episodes, but not as many.

Fight Scenes

Wow. Just wow. The fight scenes in this season blew me away. I can say literally nothing about them without spoiling something, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Consequences

History of Aang (Summer 100 AG) | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

The biggest consequence of Team Avatar’s failure in Season 2 is Aang’s lasting injury. I like that this is not something Aang just recovers from and everything is better. He has a permanent scar on his back and foot from the lightning strike.

Anyone know what the scar on aang's foot is? : TheLastAirbender

Bizarre Episode

Book 3, Chapter 9: "Nightmares and Daydreams" | Avatar airbender, Avatar  picture, Avatar images

Chapter Nine: Nightmares and Daydreams is basically about Aang trying to handle an immense amount of stress. It includes bizarre hallucinations and childish nightmares. It’s weird and unnecessary and doesn’t add much to the story.

The Last Airbender Book 3 Fire E09 Nightmares And Daydreams - video  Dailymotion

Hawky

Avatar Gave Sokka The Pet That Zuko Was Supposed To Have

None of the characters has any idea how to use Hawky, but by the end of the episode Hawky is sent to a deliver a message. There is no indication how it will get to its destination, it’s never shown how it’s done, and all they did was send it off. Sloppy, in my opinion, but it was most likely due to time constraint. Not a big deal, just disappointing.

Conclusion

This is my favorite season of my favorite show for a reason. This is not just some kid’s show. It’s worth watching if you are an adult. If you want to learn good storytelling, watching high-quality shows will teach you. This show can teach you something.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Shows

This Fairy Tale Retelling Shouldn’t Be Rated PG

Once Upon a Time Season 1.jpg

Show Review: Once Upon A Time Season 1 (Spoiler-Free)

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

I watched Once Upon A Time for the first time with my sisters, and it was so good I was happy to watch it a second time with my roommate and suitemate. Most fairy tale retellings don’t impress me, but Once Upon A Time, especially Season 1, was able to tell the stories in a way that celebrated the old and emphasized the new.

After watching several episodes, I was shocked that anyone would rate this show PG. It is not appropriate for children–read on to find out why.

Background

Season 1 of Once Upon A Time first aired in 2011 and concluded in 2012. It was created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and is an ABC television series now offered on Disney Plus.

Season 1 stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Raphael Sbarge, Jamie Dornan, Robert Carlyle, and Eion Bailey.

Summary

On her 28th birthday, Emma Swan is unexpectedly reunited with the 10-year-old son she had given up for adoption. After driving him back to his adoptive mother in Storybrooke, Maine, Emma’s concern for him makes her hesitant to leave.

Her son, Henry Mills, believes that the stories in his book of fairy tales are real. He thinks that the people of Storybrooke are fairy tale characters trapped by a curse and have lost their memories of their past lives.

Henry tells Emma that she is their only hope for breaking the curse, but Emma does not believe him.

Season 1 tells the stories of various characters, alternating between their pasts in a fairy tale world and their current lives in Storybrooke. It also follows the struggles of Emma and Henry against Regina, Henry’s manipulative adoptive mother.

Pros

  • Clever foreshadowing
  • Consistent, well-crafted structure
  • Great acting
  • Subverting viewer expectations
  • Clever ways of connecting various fairy tales
  • Likeable, realistic characters
  • Impressive character development
  • In-depth backstories
  • Character names in Storybrooke chosen for meaning
  • Costume design reflects character personality

Cons

  • Occasionally overdramatic
  • The graphics in Wonderland were shoddy

Review

Foreshadowing

The title sequences always has a different shadowy sneak peak of what the episode is going to be about. Look for dark woods in the title screen to see the foreshadowing.

Structure

The structure of each episode includes flashbacks to a character’s past in the fairy tale world as well as glimpses of the character’s present-day life in Storybrooke.

The story that has happened in the past is usually linked strongly to what is happening in the present in any given episode.

Viewer Expectations

Viewers have certain expectations based on their knowledge of the fairy tales. However, the creators of Once Upon A Time use this to their advantage by making stories seem familiar before repeatedly subverting viewer expectations.

These are not the bedtime stories kids everywhere grew up with. These are new, refurbished, refined and stunning.

The way that fairy tales intertwine is particularly clever, especially the way the Beauty and the Beast tale works.

Characters

Red Riding Hood | Once Upon a Time Wiki | Fandom

Almost every single character has an in-depth back story, and many begin in Season 1. The story of Snow White and Prince Charming take center stage, but my personal favorite is the story of Red Riding Hood.

The characters develop both in the past and in the present. The most development is seen in Emma Swan, Mary Margaret Blanchard, and David Nolan.

The characters act realistically considering their personalities, and even though it is dramatic, the reactions of the characters are often reasonable considering their circumstances.

Once Upon a Time Favorite Character Moments: Snow White/Mary Margaret  Blanchard | The Girly Nerd

Character names in present-day Maine were chosen carefully for their meaning. For example, the name Mary Margaret Blanchard was chosen for Snow White because Blanchard is a French name meaning “white” and Mary and Margaret were names Snow used in her fairy tale past to conceal her identity.

Costume Design

7 Easy Halloween Costumes from Once Upon a Time | Once Upon A Time

The costume design fits the characters’ personalities perfectly. For example, Regina’s hair styles and costumes particularly reflect her flamboyant style and dark personality.

Drama

The drama is reasonable and understandable most of the time, but sometimes it is over-the-top. For example, when something terrible happens, the camera will often switch rapidly from shocked expression to expression in a way that seems overly contrived. People can be shocked, but not every character needs a close-up.

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed Season 1 of Once Upon A Time. I would recommend this series for teens and adults.

Despite its PG rating, I would not recommend Once Upon A Time for children due to violence, suggestive content, and dark themes. Seriously. Hearts get ripped out and crushed, there is an affair, people get turned into animals and stepped on, a person is mauled and eaten, etc.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Anime, Shows

Anime Review: RWBY Volume 1 Trailers (Spoiler-Free)

RWBY all Trailers! 😆👍🔥 - YouTube

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 stars

Intro

Let me start by saying that RWBY is one of my favorite anime. However, even I have to admit that the quality of the trailers and the first couple of volumes is lower than the quality of later volumes.

Basically,

Low Budget + Slow Start = Lackluster Beginning

That being said, if you delve into RWBY, you shouldn’t skip the trailers or any of the episodes.

Why? Because unlike most trailers, the RWBY Volume 1 trailers are actually part of the story and provide character development and backstory. Sure, they offer a window into what Volume 1 will be like, but they are so much more than that.

Background

RWBY is an American anime. Some people say anime has to come from Japan to be legit–I disagree. I share the opinion of many others that say anime is a style and not limited to the products of any one country.

The creator is Monty Oum, who developed the plot for the company Rooster Teeth.

The trailers were released in 2013 can be found on Crunchyroll and Youtube.

Summary

RWBY is about four young women who seek to become huntresses and defend the world of Remnant from shadowy creatures called Grimm.

The Red Trailer features the main character Ruby, who is visiting her mother’s grave. On her way back home, she is attacked by Grimm.

The White Trailer features Weiss, who is performing for a large crowd by singing the song “Mirror, Mirror.” The scene fades and is replaced by a fight scene between her and a mysterious knight.

The Black Trailer features Blake alongside Adam. They conduct a two-person raid on a train and fight through numerous robotic enemies.

The Yellow Trailer features Yang, who enters a club to interrogate a man named Junior. The situation escalates quickly and ends in a fight.

Pros

  • Functions as part of the storyline instead of just a sneak peak
  • Insight into characters
  • Creative weapons
  • Elaborate fight scenes
  • Original music

Cons

  • Poor animation
  • Off-putting, inappropriate attack (Yellow Trailer)
  • Awkward dialogue (Yellow Trailer)

Review

Function

These trailers are unique because they function as actual story components. Most of the time, trailers just show glimpses of what is to come, while these trailers provide backstory and context.

I have never seen a trailer that functioned in this way before–it is really quite creative.

Character Development

The trailers begin the character development that will continue into future volumes.

Ruby Rose is established as a character with a deep care for family, revealed in the way that she visiting her mother’s grave despite the great danger. The area is infested with Grimm.

She is also shown to be a highly skilled fighter, and even seems to enjoy the battle at times.

Weiss Schnee, from the song of her trailer, is shown to be an extremely lonely, potentially famous person.

She is a talented singer, and the only one who is shown to actually sing one of the songs of the series.

The way that she battles is calm and collected.

Blake Belladonna is introduced as a rebel engaging in an attack on a train in perhaps the most revealing trailer.

This is because the trailer associates her with Adam Taurus, shows her empathy compared to his idealism, and establishes her as a skilled fighter.

Yang Xiao Long is established as a prideful, powerful young woman who has no qualms about using violence to solve her problems.

She’s the sort who gets things done and works hard to get what she wants.

Fight Scenes and Weapons

Beowolf | RWBY Wiki | Fandom
Beowolf

The fight scenes in the RWBY trailers are phenomenal. Even though movements seem awkward during other parts of the trailers, the fight scenes are graceful, true works of art.

In the Red Trailer, Ruby uses her weapon Crescent Rose to eliminate dozens of Beowolves, which are a type of Grimm. Crescent Rose is a scythe that doubles as a gun.

Crescent Rose | Heroism Wiki | Fandom
Crescent Rose

In the White Trailer, Weiss uses Myrtenaster, a Multi Action Dust Rapier, to fight a mysterious knight. Dust allows one to add elemental power to an attack.

Myrtenaster
RWBY: The Creatures of Grimm / Characters - TV Tropes
Knight from White Trailer

In the Black Trailer, Blake fights through various droids using her weapon, Gambol Shroud, which has two different sword forms and a gun form. Even the sheath is used as a weapon.

Gambol Shroud | RWBY Wiki | Fandom
Atlesian Knight-130 | RWBY Wiki | Fandom

In the Yellow Trailer, Yang uses Ember Celica, her Dual Ranged Shot Gauntlets. She is a powerful melee and long range fighter. One of her attacks on Junior is likely to make people uncomfortable, but it does fit her character, so it’s not exactly out of place.

Ember Celica

Animation

The 3D animation used in RWBY certainly improves over time, but in the trailers it is very rough and looks amateurish. The colors are bold to the point of looking completely unrealistic, and the simplistic animation on top of that makes it look badly made.

Movements outside of battle are awkward as well.

Music

Unlike with many anime, the music in RWBY was created exclusively for RWBY, with foreshadowing built into the songs and songs that seem linked to specific characters.

The music was composed by Jeff Williams, and his daughter Casey Lee Williams does a lot of the vocals. According to Fandom, Jeff Williams does not regard the songs as canon and asserts that they should not be taken literally.

To me, that just seems like he is covering for himself and Rooster Teeth in case the story ends up veering too far from the lyrics, but I know that so far the songs fit the theme and story very well.

Dialogue

There is no dialogue in the Red Trailer or the White Trailer (unless you include singing).

The Black Trailer includes sparse dialogue that nonetheless provides some character development.

The Yellow Trailer has pretty natural dialogue at the start, which is very fitting for Yang’s character. Yang’s interaction with Ruby is awkward and unrealistic, however. The voice acting comes off as fake and the words themselves seem unnatural.

Conclusion

If you decide to watch the trailers and they don’t peak your interest in RWBY, still give the first few seasons a chance. Most of the people I’ve talked to are more distracted by the animation than anything else. Once you get used to that, you can appreciate the rich storytelling and worldbuilding of RWBY.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Shows

Show Review: Sherlock Season 3 (Spoiler-Free)

Sherlock' and Its Woman - The Atlantic

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

Season 1 and 2 were phenomenal, so watching Season 3 was a no-brainer.

As this is a spoiler-free review, I will limit how much I reveal of the plot.

This review contains no spoilers for Season 3, but it does contain spoilers for Season 1 and 2.

Background

Sherlock Season 3 aired in 2014 and was produced by BBC and Hartswood films. It is based off of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, but instead of being placed in Victorian England, the show is set in modern-day London.

The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss, Louise Brealey, Andrew Scott, and Amanda Abbington.

In addition to being nominated for various awards, Sherlock won in three categories in the Primetime Emmy Awards.

Summary

Last season, the villain Moriarty and Sherlock went head to head, which ended with Sherlock’s apparent suicide to save his friends. The final episode of Season 2 offered a glimpse of Sherlock alive–and fans had to wait until Season 3 for an explanation.

Season 3 basically establishes a plausible way Sherlock could have survived and inserts him back into Watson’s life. That doesn’t go as Sherlock planned, and he discovers there is someone new in Watson’s life–the witty Mary Morstan.

Pros

  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting highly relevant to a modern-day audience
  • Strong character development
  • Benefit of a familiar character with a new spin
  • Benefit of a new and intriguing characters
  • Realistic emotional reactions to Sherlock showing up again
  • Dynamic of Sherlock, Watson, and Mary
  • Villain who is easy to hate
  • Intelligent, occasionally comical, script
  • Engaging plot
  • Catchy theme song and music
  • Development of the concept of a mind palace
  • Satisfying answer to how Sherlock survived

Cons

  • Nothing that I could think of.

Review

Acting

The acting, especially by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, was incredible. They both played their parts well.

All of the fantastic and obnoxious qualities of Sherlock were brought out and emphasized. 

This season brings the talents of Amanda Abbington to the screen as Mary Morstan. The way that the actors for Sherlock, Watson and Mary interact shows great chemistry and skill.

Character Development

This season, we see Sherlock become increasingly more human as he spends more time with Watson and Mary. He shows actual affection for Watson in particular, but also Mary as he gets to know her. So much for “high-functioning sociopath.”

He is still his usual thoughtless self, however, which is shown in the way he springs the news of his survival to Watson like a joke. Like, haha, you grieved me and then moved on for two years, but I was alive the whole time! Hilarious, right?

I could have slapped him. That is a mark of a good story though–caring enough about the characters to be disappointed in them when they do wrong. Watson’s reaction was entirely realistic and understandable.

Watson develops as a person through his relationship with Mary. Unlike with his previous relationships, this one does not pull him away from Sherlock. Mary instead takes an active part in their lives and adds to their duo.

New Characters

Mary Watson (BBC series) | Heroes and Villains Wiki | Fandom

Mary Morstan is an incredible character with a lot of depth to her. She is the one person who can see through Sherlock’s lies.

Rather than being a hindrance to the team of Sherlock and Watson, she is an asset with a skill set of her own. Sherlock and Watson both appreciate her skills.

Charles Augustus Magnussen | Villains Wiki | Fandom

Magnussen is a new villain in Season 3. Even though Moriarty has his own issues with licking things, Magnussen is worse because he licked a person. Nonetheless, he is very intelligent. He is called “the Napoleon of blackmail.”

Script

The script is frequently witty and well-written. One of my favorite quotes in this season is said by Sherlock after Watson says he has moved on with his life:

What life? I’ve been away.”

Sherlock

This emphasizes Sherlock’s thoughtlessness while adding to the humor of the episode.

When it is suggested that Sherlock does not understand human nature, he replies:

Nature? No….

Human? No.”

Sherlock

Another quote I enjoy is by Mrs. Hudson. She is complaining about the small role that she has in Watson’s stories.

I’m your landlady, not a plot device.”

Mrs. Hudson

Sherlock Season 3 is chock-full of quotable material, demonstrating how witty and worthwhile the show is.

Music

The theme song of Sherlock is catchy enough to get stuck in my head. The show also uses music at critical moments to increase humor. One instance of that is when Watson tackles Sherlock, the musical sequence playing in the background is energetic and funny.

Conclusion

If you liked Season 1 and 2, Season 3 will not disappoint. If anything, the addition of Mary makes the story even more interesting and humorous.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links