Being a genre-TV lover in this day and age can be overwhelming, because there's some really good TV out there. Especially when you consider how many sources you have to choose from: TV, cable, premium services, streaming, Netflix, Hulu and whatever other formats exist that I'm forgetting right now.
Luckily, we here at SYFY WIRE Fangrrls have a new feature called Late to the Party in which one Fangrrl selects five episodes for another Fangrrl to watch. In this case, I got Rebecca Pahle to watch five episodes of Star Wars Rebels, and she, in turn, deemed me Late to the Party on Avatar: The Last Airbender.
I like love Rebecca and respect her opinion. That said, I've been sold on things before and the content didn't live up to the expectation, so I set my expectations aside, grabbed a snack and got started on my assigned episodes.
1) "The Storm": Season 1, Episode 12
A tortured hero with parental issues is a tricky proposition in any story. Go too far one direction, you get someone who's too unlikeable to root for. Go too far the other way and you have a hard time understanding why the kid hasn't broken free of said parent(s). In this case, Zuko's past informs us that he was a very different young man once upon a time, which makes his anger easier to understand. It doesn't mean you don't want to give him a hit upside the head, but you know where it's coming from.
Rebecca also described Aang as an adorable muffin and HE SO IS.
Aang's past is painful for any kid who's ever felt left out or alone. It hit me dead square in the heart and made me instantly like him and want him to succeed at everything he tries to do.
My impression: "The Storm" is definitely a good starter episode. Between the flashbacks and the action, it gives you a good feel for many of the characters in the show.
2) "The Blind Bandit": Season 2, Episode 6
Per Rebecca: Two words: pro wrestling. Two more words: THE BOULDER.
To be honest, Rebecca had me at pro wrestling. Throw in a character called The Boulder and it's a good guess I'm all in. However, it's also the episode that introduces The Blind Bandit, and I'd watch a show based on that character alone.
How can you not love Toph?
While wrestling isn't wrestling in the traditional sense (there's no actual physical contact), the showmanship is definitely up to WWE standards. If you're a wrestling fan, you'll love it.
My impression: The episode is a lot of fun and definitely one I'll watch again.
3) "Zuko Alone": Season 2, Episode 7
Rebecca mentioned Zuko feels, and they were definitely there, but she left out the part where we get flashbacks of his younger years and meet his sister Azula. I mentioned earlier that Zuko had parental issues (and boy, does he ever), but his parents aren't the only ones that have left scars on him. Where Zuko's childhood saw him with a much more open heart and mind, Azula's basically the Bad Seed. Talk about a kid who'd get one of her friends killed just to see what happened.
My impression: Zuko's Man With No Name-ing also serves a purpose beyond being a conduit for flashbacks, because it deals with very real consequences of his actions and the actions of his family. Zuko's legacy follows him wherever he goes, even when he tries to right wrongs. There's no quick fix, which is what makes all of this even more compelling.
4) "The Beach": Season 3, Episode 5
Rebecca described Azula as "the Boromir to Zuko's Faramir if Faramir were a broody teenage edgelord and Boromir were a psychopath." and, boy, is she right. There are many reasons to watch this episode, but it all comes down to Azula. She's so wonderfully psychotic, but she's tempered by an awkwardness that will make you laugh out loud. There's also Zuko's Emo girlfriend. Well, more like Goth Emo. I'll admit, for a while there I would have been fine with never seeing her again, but she gets really interesting for a bit and now I want to know more about her.
Extra points in this episode for anime frat boys, and I think Ty Lee is adorable. Not to mention, that's a brutal game of volleyball. Also, Lo and Li crack me the hell up.
My impression: Great character episode, because there's a lot of interaction and conversation. It's not an action-packed episode, but there's a lot going on.
5) "The Puppetmaster": Season 3, Episode 8
Even if you figure out what's going on early, you don't really know how or why, and it's THAT aspect that makes this episode undeniably creepy. One of the other things that makes this episode work so well is the disarming nature of what it seems to be vs. what's actually happening. For a good part of it, I had this Scooby-Doo feeling: old spooky house, mysterious happenings, earnest but hapless kids. But it slips into something far more frightening and ends up developing one of the main characters in a very important way.
My impression: Essential viewing.
Overall impression: Based on the five episodes I watched and the information Rebecca provided, I'd definitely say I had a good idea of what I was watching and how it all fit together. Having picked my own five for Rebecca, I can tell you that it's hard to narrow down the choices because you have to make sure you have a little bit of everything in order to give the viewer enough content to make an informed decision.
Decision: I'm sure you've guessed by now. You win, Rebecca. I'll watch Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Which, of course, means I win again. I like how this worked out.