Let's Watch that Again: AtLA 1x7 - "The Spirit World (Winter Solstice Pt. 1)"

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing the relationship between Iroh and Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender. I found it very touching in Legend of Korra when Korra told Zuko that she’d spoken with Iroh on a number of occasions, and Zuko was clearly thrilled to hear this. This episode of AtLA is no exception, as it sets into motion the fact that in the end, Zuko will always choose Iroh over anything else, even capturing the Avatar.

LOL poor Zuko

LOL poor Zuko

“The Winter Solstice Pt. 1: The Spirit World” begins with a village coming to Aang and asking for his aid in combatting a spirit that is regularly kidnapping the villagers on a nightly basis. As Aang is the Avatar, they feel it’s his spiritual duty to help them, though he has absolutely no idea how to placate or even communicate with spirits. Sokka tries to help Aang, but only succeeds in getting himself captured by the spirit as well. At least he tried, I suppose. Aang returns, discovering that he has no physical voice or form. He is trapped in the Spirit World, with no idea how to get out of it.

Meanwhile, Iroh is attempting to enjoy a short nap in the hot springs, only to be rudely interrupted by Earth Kingdom soldiers. They’re really excited that they captured the Dragon of the West, which is our first indicator so far in this series that Iroh is a lot more badass than his looks lead you to believe. Iroh escapes them with little difficulty, leaving Zuko some clues to help him reunite with his nephew. Zuko finds the clues with little effort, though he’s faced with the decision to capture Aang vs. saving his uncle Iroh.

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Meanwhile, Aang attempts to figure out how to get back to the real world with little success. As he ponders his issue, he’s visited by a spirit dragon which once belonged to Avatar Roku. The dragon takes him to a temple with a statue of Roku in it, with Aang having visions of a comet that he can’t quite put his finger on. With no idea what the visions mean, Aang doesn’t try to decipher them at the moment.

The Earth Kingdom soldiers have decided in the lull that Iroh is too dangerous to take back with his bending intact, and prepare to crush his hands so that he can never bend again. Fortunately, Zuko shows up at the last minute to save his uncle. The resulting scene is wonderful, giving us something to hope for throughout the series as Zuko will hurt Iroh more than a few times over, ultimately leading him to beg forgiveness as the series comes to an end, as we know–to find Iroh had already forgiven him without being asked.

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Aang finally figures out how to return to the physical world, speaking to Hei Bai again. It dawns on Aang that the spirit is angry that the forest is being destroyed by the Fire Nation. Aang calms Hei Bai by showing him the same acron that Katara did him, impressing upon the spirit that the forest will regrow and prosper. Hei Bai returns the people that it had kidnapped, one of them being Sokka. Aang then informs them of his encounter with Roku’s dragon, impressing upon them that they need to get to the Fire Nation’s own temple before the Winter Solstice, which just so happens to be the following day. The Gaang is under the gun as they realize the enormity of the task ahead of them as the episode closes.

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