OK, it's late, but I need to get this out of my system so that I can sleep tonight. Zula! I *knew* she was going to come back into it! Great ending! Just enough resolution to not piss us off; just enough cliff to make us cackle in delight.
There were so many things I loved-- LOVED. And I have to say things because I see the episodes so much later than anyone else that I can't discuss them on the main threads, though I wish I could, and everything I want to say has probably been said, but I want to say it.
1)I love the spirit world! And the face-stealer! Shades of Phantom Tollbooth; shades of No-Face. Aang was very mature. Go Aang.
2)Speaking of no-face: the giant Fish-Moon Monster was fabulous-- and really, really reminiscent of the Forest Spirit in Mononoke Hime (blue glowy outline, check; ponderous, powerful movements, check; Do Not Want To Piss It Off, check; weird tribal-ish creepy design, check.) I'm calling a definite influence here, and a *definite* good call.
3) Yue-- I didn't like her; but now I like her. It turned out to be a wonderful fairy tale in the middle of the battle; glorious.
4)Speaking of things that were oozing mythological import: Zhao "I killed the moon!" craziness! That... that so ruled! I kept thinking, "What is this, Tenkaichi Budokai? Is he going to blow up the moon?" but then it was a cool fairytale spirit world thing and the bloodred moon, and Zhao cavorting over the domain of his created oblivion-- like Gollum on the brink of Mount Doom-- like Magg with the iron crown in Lloyd Alexander's "The High King": "Magg! Magg the Deathless! Magg the Magnificent!" ...and Iroh.
5)I love Iroh. I have always loved Iroh. Iroh taking on *Zhao*. This, of all, is the fight I had most wanted to see. They're the balance of the fire bending paths; the quiet mastery that is so confident that it has no need for pretense-- the seething, uncontrolled power that bears itself in pomposity and overcompensation. I *needed* to see Iroh showing Zhao his *place*. Though I can understand why the grudge match went to Zuko in the end-- I begrudge this a bit. Iroh kicks the bendery ass.
6)Speaking of kicking the bendery ass-- Oh my fucking GOD Katara PWNED Zuko. That I did NOT see coming. That was *beautiful*. When the three of them stand at the end of the episode-- Aang after his spirit world triumph, Katara with her new power, Sokka and the new emotional adulthood of his fling with Yue-- I couldn't help but be impressed at how much they have grown. Sokka proves his cleverness every episode; Katara has gained the ability to fight that she needed; Aang is learning to return to his responsibilities. It reminded me of the Naruto 3-man teams, actually; I have the feeling that, by the end, these three will be the Sennin. Equivalent. Anyway. They kick ass in a team-like fashion.
...And did I mention that Katara pwned *ZUKO*??? Now *that's* ground for 'shipping.
7)And speaking of character growth.
Did I not? Did I *not* fic Zuko capturing Aang and running along with him piggy-backed.
(Ok, the show did it a lot better than I did... ;D )
But this went exactly where I saw Zuko going: he's thinking. He's lying on the boat and Iroh's asking him why he's not pursuing the Avatar: and you can tell he's thinking. He's weighing his options. He's finding out how shaky his ground is. He's realizing that you can't just go and go; that only turns you into Zhao, next thing you know you're destroying the moon, the guy you thought you killed is kicking your ass, and a giant spirit hand drowns you in a polar icecap.
8)Which brings us back to Zula.
I love the women in this show.
This is something that Japanese shows, with the exception of Utena, NEVER GET RIGHT.