In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
After Zuko officially joined Team Avatar earlier in season three, I was curious about how the show would convincingly assimilate him with his new teammates whom he spent most of the show fighting against. Fortunately, the writers have wasted no time in making Zuko an active and valuable member of the team with the two-part installment “The Boiling Rock.” In this key episode, the exiled Fire Nation prince endears himself to the group by using his inside knowledge of their common enemy in order to help Sokka rescue his father Hakoda and girlfriend Suki from the clutches of the Fire Nation. The results of this dangerous mission cause some big changes for the show as a whole and is sure to make the upcoming finale even more interesting.
The first part of “The Boiling Rock” begins with Sokka asking Zuko if he knows where the Fire Nation would be holding his father, who was taken prisoner at the end of the botched invasion on the Day of Black Sun. Zuko tells him that his father is most likely being held at a large, heavily fortified prison called The Boiling Rock that sits atop a volcano in the middle of the ocean. Later that night, Sokka tries to sneak away on Appa to mount a rescue attempt and is caught by Zuko, who tells him that he wouldn’t stand a chance against the prison’s high walls and formidable defenses. Sokka tells Zuko that he planned the failed invasion that forced his father to surrender to the Fire Nation and that he must try to get him out. Zuko says he understands and offers to help him. They leave the camp on Zuko’s war balloon, leaving a note that says they’ve gone on a fishing trip and telling Aang to continue his firebending practice.
After engaging in some awkward “getting-to-know-you” banter, they spot the Boiling Rock and attempt to land. The hot volcanic steam from the ocean causes the war balloon to deflate and crash onto the shore. After pushing the remains of their vehicle into the boiling ocean, the duo manages to sneak into the prison and steal two guards’ uniforms. While impersonating guards, they witness an unruly prisoner named Chit Sang being forced by a guard to firebend, which is against the rules of the prison and is punishable by a visit to a refrigerated cell nicknamed “The Cooler.” They ask their fellow guards if any waterbenders are held at the prison and are told that they are not, which disappoints Sokka until he spots his beloved Suki in the prison courtyard. He later visits Suki’s cell and reveals his true identity to her. He tells Suki that Zuko is on their side now and that they are working on a plan to rescue her. Zuko prevents another guard from intruding on their reunion by revealing himself as an imposter, and Sokka is forced to arrest him in order to not blow his cover. Zuko is then brought before the Boiling Rock’s warden, who is revealed to be the uncle of his ex-girlfriend Mai. The warden tells the prince that he will take great pleasure in turning him in to his father for a sizable reward.
Later, the still-disguised Sokka sneaks away with Zuko and Suki, and they hatch an escape plan that involves Zuko being sent to the cooler, which he will then detach from the rest of the prison and the three of them will use the compartment as a boat to sail away from the prison. Their plan is overheard by Chit Sang, who tells him that he wants in on the escape as well. Zuko and Chit Sang instigate a staged fight in the middle of the prison in which Zuko firebends, earning him a stay in the cooler, where he successfully is able to unscrew the cell from the wall of the prison. While going over their final escape plan, Zuko and Sokka overhear from two other guards that a group of political prisoners will arrive in the morning, which makes Sokka think that his father may be one of them. The three of them meet on the shore with Chit Sang and two of his accomplishments with the detached cooler cell, but Sokka decides to stay in order to see if his father arrives, and Zuko and Suki agree to stay and help him. Chit Sang and his accomplices leave on the cell but are soon detected and apprehended by the guards. After returning to the prison, Sokka and company spy on the new prisoners being transported to the prison and discover that Hakoda is indeed one of them.
Part 2 of “The Boiling Rock” begins with Hakoda and his fellow prisoners being welcomed by the warden, who brags that no one has successfully escaped from his prison. Sokka visits Hakoda’s cell and is reunited with his father. He tells Hakoda that they are working on a plan to bust him out, a plan that is immediately threatened when the warden interrogates the newly-recaptured Chit Sang to find out whose idea the escape attempt was. Another cog in their plan occurs when Zuko is transported to another cell and finds himself face to face with Mai, who berates him for betraying his people and joining the Avatar. Chit Sang later succumbs to the warden’s torture and reveals that the escape plan was hatched by someone posing as a guard. He lies and tells the warden that the guard who bullied him earlier was the mastermind behind it but soon admits he was lying when confronted with Princess Azula, who is also visiting the prison along with Mai and Ty Lee.
Sokka and Suki hatch a plan to escape by taking the warden hostage and leaving the prison via one of the lifts that brought Hakoda to the Boiling Rock. Having tricked another guard into letting all the prisoners out into the courtyard, Sokka convinces Chit Sang to start a riot in order to provide enough chaos to enable Suki to apprehend the warden. Zuko uses the confusion caused during the riot to escape from his cell and lock Mai in so she won’t follow him. Suki is able to find and subdue the warden by using the quickness and agility she learned as a Kyoshi warrior, and the group makes their way to one of the transport gondolas with their hostage. While attempting to escape on the gondola, they are ambushed by Azula and Ty Lee, who use their acrobatic and firebending skills to arrive on the gondola, where they battle Sokka, Zuko, and Suki. The warden then breaks free of his restraints and shouts at the prison guards to cut the wire that keeps the gondola in the air. Before the guards are able to heed this order, they are disabled by Mai, who stresses that even though she’s angry at Zuko for abandoning her, she’s not willing to see him die. When the group reaches the exit, they leave the warden in the gondola and fly off on Azula’s airship. Mai is then brought before the furious Azula and tells her that she loves Zuko more than she fears her. Azula prepares to administer a fatal firebending blow to her former friend before she is incapacitated by Ty Lee, who strikes her down with her uncanny pressure point blows. They both attempt to escape but are captured by the Fire Nation guards, and Azula orders that her former friends be imprisoned for their treachery. The episode ends with the group returning to the Western Air Temple, where the Team welcomes Hakoda and Suki and are introduced to Chit Sang.
Some would think I’d be tired of writing the same positive review over and over, but frankly, when a show is as consistently great as Avatar: The Last Airbender, it’s a small price to pay. “The Boiling Rock” continues the show’s perfect mix of thrilling action, smart and funny dialogue, and expert storytelling. Zuko continues to prove himself as a valuable member of the team by not only helping Aang fulfill his destiny but also helping reunite Sokka and Katara with their father, and we are also treated to a long overdue character swerve on the part of Mai and Ty Lee when they finally turn on the ruthless Azula. With only a handful of episodes left in Avatar ‘s final season, it’s good to know that the show is still able to provide some genuine surprises while still remaining true to its overall spirit. Both episodes of “The Boiling Rock” earn 4.5 out of 5 Botched Tea Jokes.