In this episode...
A gang of rough and tumble orphans led by the straw-chewing Jet rescue Aang and his friends from a troop of Fire Nation soldiers. Jet invites them back to his hideout, taking a special liking to Katara. Sokka doesn’t trust Jet. Jet tries to win Sokka over, but fails. Later, Jet tricks Aang and Katara into destroying an Earth Kingdom town, but Sokka is able to rescue the townspeople and expose Jet.
Welcome, Jet! Unlike like Haru, Jet was a character that stuck with me long after I have passed his episode in the series. That might have something to do with the fact that he is a crazy hybrid of Rufio from Hook and Spike from Cowboy BeBop. Oh yeah, and he’s a total heartbreaker.
Short anecdote: The first time I saw this episode, I kept commenting to Matt about how much Jet felt like Rufio to me. For any of you fine people out there who has not seen Hook, Rufio is pretty much the badass version of Peter Pan, leading his group of Lost Boys while they skateboard on trees and eat amazingly colorful feasts. The actor who played Rufio in the movie? Dante Basco. Oh yeah, he’s the voice of Prince Zuko. So I probably already had Rufio on the brain when I started making my Rufio/Jet comparisons.
The Spike/Jet comparison is mainly just a visual thing. Substitute Jet’s ever-present piece of wheat and WHAMMO! It’s Spike!
I think the reason that Jet stood out to me more than Haru is that in addition to a memorable visual characteristic (that piece of wheat), we meet him when he is in action. The scene where his gang shows up and defeats the Fire Nation soldiers is pretty fantastic and much more interesting than Haru throwing some rocks around. All right, that’s enough with the Haru hate.
Jet’s story is an interesting parallel to Sokka and Katara’s. All of them lost part of their family to the Fire Nation, but Jet is willing to go to extreme lengths to defeat the Fire Nation. Potentially causing the same devastation to another young kid’s family. (How adorable was that little Earth Nation girl?) Jet clearly is a strong leader and cares about the kids who join him. His followers seem to really believe in what he stands for. Part of me wonders if Jet was just pushed to the brink by the Fire Nation shortly before Aang and the gang arrived. I can’t imagine him playing any of his followers the way he did Katara. He used the loss of her mother to bring her into his plan. Aang fell for him simply because Jet managed to take out a whole Fire Nation group... unlike Sokka. Sokka, on the other hand, wasn’t buying it at all.
Sokka obviously felt insecure around Jet, but also never really fell for his act. In an episode all about Sokka’s instincts, his opinion about Jet was spot-on. In fact, I would say that for all the crap he was given, Sokka’s instincts in this episode were good. Poor kid, just can’t catch a break.
I will close by saying that Smellerbee is awesome. (Glad to see that even Smellerbee gets some cosplay action.)
This episode is so good, the writers were tired when they finished and made “The Great Divide” next. Is “Jet” perfect? No. But it’s worth writing a dissertation about it, so I’d say it’s pretty close to perfect.
There are many stories about a band of freedom fighters who live in trees... Robin Hood, Peter Pan... Young Jet and his squad are the Avatar world version of that trope. The moral of this episode is that if Katara wasn’t a little boy-crazy tart, the Aang gang would stay out of a lot of the trouble they get themselves into.
But seriously, there are two points I want to make about this episode. First, Jet is the first of a collection of characters that start off claiming to be on the Avatar’s side, only to be revealed to have either less than noble intentions, or less than noble ways of getting what they want. I’ll cite some spoilerific examples in the comments. I’ve always liked this aspect of the series. Heroes are not always what they seem, and neither are villains. Watching the show, one has to suspect that if any character has misgivings about someone new that they meet, that person will most likely turn out to be bad. Sokka is the one with the sharp “instincts” in this episode, but the main characters each get a turn to be the one who sees through the ruses of the people they meet.
Jet is one crafty rebel, isn’t he? His technique for luring Aang and Katara into his band of merry men is identical to what I’ve read about the ways groups of ill repute recruit new members, from neo nazis to L.A. gangs to al-Qaeda. The best targets are people displaced from their homes, who have no families, and have nothing to live for. Next, make them feel like they’re important. That their contribution matters. Aang and Katara are benders, and even though their contribution in the opening battle with the Fire Nation soldiers is minimal, Jet makes them feel important. Jet doesn’t NEED Sokka, so he treats him with less respect. When Sokka tries to leave, only then does Jet offer him the same phony attention he gives to Katara and Aang, because it serves Jet’s purposes. Next, the gang leader entices recruits with promises of romance. In this case, Jet seduces Katara with his own charisma. Finally, the gang leader lies about the extent to which sacrifices will have to be made to accomplish the group’s objectives.
Does anyone else have thoughts on this?
I think this marks the debut of Katara’s waterbending flask, right? The thing that enables her to do some bending wherever she goes, even if they’re far away from water. In the episode where Aang dives off of Appa’s back into the clouds and comes back pointing out “Turns out clouds are made of water”—I thought that maybe that would be a source of water for a waterbender, but no one ever seems to consider that. It’s possible clouds are generally too far away, but what if it’s humid? Shouldn’t a waterbender be able to manipulate the water in the air? Doesn’t Katara seem to be able to get A LOT of use out of that small amount of water in the canteen? Does this bother anyone else?
Next time Aang and the gang are outnumbered 2 to 1 by Fire Nation soldiers, I have a suggestion: If someone shows up out of the blue to help you out by launching a sneak attack, don’t shout “Look!” and point out where he is. I’m no Sun Tzu or anything, but I think maybe, just maybe, having surprise on your side when you’re outnumbered might just increase the chances of you getting out of the battle alive. In this case, it works out in the end, but come on!
Really nice setup of the denouement of this episode. You keep thinking all along that they’re going to stop them from blowing up the dam, but when they don’t, it’s a legit surprise when Sokka comes back and reveals he was able to warn the villagers. Nice touch about how they thought he was a spy but then trusted him when the old man Jet mugged vouched for him.
Attention First-Time Avatar Watchers: Our posts will continue to be spoiler-free (except for the episode we’re discussing), but be aware that spoilers for future episodes will abound in the comment thread below. We wanted to keep the comment threads future-spoiler-free as well, but it will likely prove impossible and it would impede our ability to analyze the series in retrospect.
Up next: The Great Divide!
Matt London is an author and filmmaker who lives in New York City. He is a graduate of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop, and a columnist for Tor.com. His fiction is forthcoming in the anthology The Living Dead 2. He holds a BFA in Film Production from New York University.
Jordan Hamessley is a children’s book editor at Penguin Books for Young Readers where she edits the Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Chaotic 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.
John Joseph Adams (www.johnjosephadams.com) is an anthologist, a writer, and a geek. He is the editor of the anthologies By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), Seeds of Change, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. He is also currently the fiction editor of Lightspeed Magazine, which launches in June 2010, and the co-host of Tor.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.