Aug 19 2010 12:57pm

Avatar Rewatch: “The Swamp” (episode 204)

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.

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John Fitzingo
1. Xandar01
While I had rewatched this a while ago*, the biggest thing I remember was the water bending hint that you can bend the water in the things around you. Makes me wonder if they had thought of the "ultimate water bending" that Katara learns in season three.

(*Once I got the kids going they didn't want to stop)
David Holden
2. davidholden
Hello, his girlfriend turned into the moon!
That's rough, buddy.
Doug M.
3. Doug M.
Don't forget catgators and elbow leeches.

The Swamp tribe live like Cajuns, dress like hunter-gatherer tribes from the depths of the Amazon jungle, have Vietnamese names, and talk like they're from Mississippi. How can you not like them?

Also, IMS Tho and Due are loosely based on the boys from The Dukes of Hazzard.

Also-also, this is the Scooby Doo episode. The monster turns out to be a guy in a mask who was just trying to keep people away!

Not one of the great eps, but, come on.

Doug M.
M Linden
4. mlinden
@Doug M...The Scooby Doo episode?


Were there a mechanism in which to do so, I would give you bonus points for that observation.

One of the influences that's cited often for Avatar is Miyazaki's movies. I found the show's Miyazaki influence to be especially noticeable in this episode. Just an observation.
Doug M.
5. Jason Langlois
I got the impression that Aang's locating ability was only functional in the swamp, because the entire swamp was just one big tree. In other words, the entire swamp was connected literally, rather than just metaphorically.
Doug M.
6. a.v willis
Have to disagree with you on the zuko arc of this episode being filler. Him stealing from a jerk who probably deserved leads to him stealing from innocent folks who don't. This leads him to a rift between him and iroh and leads to them going their seperate ways. This in turn leads to his solo episode of awesomeness. it is the next stepping stone on a path that leads him up to the season 2 finale and beyond. So i suppose you could say that watching him act like a complete prick in these early episodes ultimately and somewhat ironically lead to him being one of my favorite characters on the show.
Jennifer B
7. JennB
The first thing I thought when I watched this episode is "If a waterbender can bend plants than shouldn't they be able to bend animals?" Glad that question gets addressed eventually.

re Zuko's arc
Zuko is definately one of my favorite characters. I started rooting for him to change sides early in the first season. Every time he did something bad, it was so sad. His journey throughout this series was one of the elements that made it so darn addictive.
Doug M.
8. a.v willis
Funny thing about the waterbenders moving plants, i came to the same conclusions about, but much earlier when we first saw it being used for healing. So when i saw this episode i got excited because i saw it as confirmation of my ideas. So excited that i started thinking up my own episode freakishly similar to said later episode, with a few major points being different. I kid you not this is the version i came up with in my moments of boredom before season 2 was half done

In my version aang and kataara would have figured out the dark side completely by accident as a result of training, but instead of using it wisely, they turn it on sokka using it as the ultimate way of messing with him. He sulks off and is befriended by an old woman who strokes his ego. He eventually finds out that not only she is a waterbender, she's been acting as a vampire of sorts, manipulating people and ultimately draining them dry, a process she's in the middle of with their father and the rest of the tribe...

The differences are pretty self explanatory, and looking back, the paralels are down right freaky. All i can say in my defense is that i got really bored walking my dog, and i like their version of events a lot better. Just as well the story was written by people who knew what they were doing.

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