In episode 2.04, “The Swamp,” The Aang gang finds itself in a swamp that may or may not have something supernatural going on. Also, Zuko appears for two minutes.
The episode opens with Zuko, Iroh, and the crazy horse/bird Zuko stole from that nice Earth Kingdom girl sitting in the street begging for money. Zuko may have chopped off his hair, but he is not adjusting well to the life of a non-royal. Iroh, on the other hand, is living it up and willing to sing for his supper. As nice as this scene is for the Iroh bits, it exists simply to set up Zuko’s attack on the broadswordsman at the end up the episode, which exists purely to remind us that Zuko is the Blue Spirit. All in all, Zuko and Iroh were filler this episode.
On to the swamp. I like to think of this episode as the Dagobah episode. Young warriors wander around a creepy swamp and have crazy visions…and a crazy Swamp Thing is running around.
I am not a huge fan of the “Swamp Benders,” so this episode was tedious for me. However, it is a great example of the worldbuilding of the series. The swamp benders seem to think that they are the only water benders in the world and they seem to live on a diet of giant bugs and possum-chicken. I always enjoy hearing about the different animal hybrids that appear in the series. Also, this episode is very eco-friendly. It really hammers home the point that everything in the world is connected. Aang’s realization of that comes in handy in his search for Appa. I can’t help but wonder why he doesn’t use that skill going forward. Seems like he wouldn’t lose things/people as often if he could simply touch the earth and find them.
Another thing about this episode that shows how each season truly is an arc is the continuity of objects. I know that Matt touched on this a bit during the Season 1 rewatch, but there were moments in this episode when it really stood out to me. In the chase sequence of Appa and Momo by the swamp benders, Momo throws blankets and shirts at the benders in an attempt to stop the chase. I promise you, we will not see those items again. Also, one thing to always be aware of when watching an episode is the length of Appa’s bangs. They are starting to get a bit long. It is details like that that remind me why this show is so fantastic.
My dislike of the swamp benders aside, this episode is fascinating on rewatch. Following King Bumi’s description of the kind of master Aang needs to find, this episode starts setting up a lot of what is to come. The most obvious example is Aang’s attempt to listen to the Earth more. The swamp was calling him and after a tornado brought him and the gang down, he listened. He listened to the earth to find Appa. All of these are steps along the way to mastering Earth bending.
I always enjoy watching Sokka write off the crazy stuff that happens to him by describing it as “Avatar stuff.” As if that somehow makes it okay for him to stay oblivious. Hello, his girlfriend turned into the moon! I don’t think that is normal.
I’m not sure how to discuss the girl in Aang’s vision without getting into spoiler territory, but it is obvious that he will one day meet that girl. And I can’t wait.
One final note: The voice of Huu (the swamp monster) sounded really familiar to me as a girl who spent her formative years in Texas. By the time I finished this episode I desperately wanted a burger from Whataburger. William Bassett is one of the many rumored voices of “The Whataburger Guy.”
Jordan Hamessley is an assistant editor at Grosset & Dunlap/PSS at Penguin Books for Young Readers where she edits the Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Dinosaur Train publishing programs, as well as developing original series. She is also an assistant editor for Lightspeed Magazine. She can be found on Twitter as @thejordache.