I haven’t actually seen the LOK list, so I don’t know if we’re gonna have the same definition of “heartbending”. But for me it means scenes with a clear romantic undertone that really pull at the heartstrings. ATLA has plenty of worthy moments…
#5 — I Love Zuko More Than I Fear You
Apathetic, aloof and acerbic. Words easily ascribed to Mai and rather integral to her character. Yet if there was ever one thing certain about her, it was her devotion to Zuko. This scene is so powerful not only because it is the first time we ever see someone truly stand up to Azula and challenge her world view, but also because Mai is willing to die here. She knows she can’t beat Azula in a one on one fight. Yet Mai is willing to sacrifice herself so that Zuko can fight for his destiny. This moment is so powerful and integral to the series precisely because you have apathetic, aloof and acerbic Mai pulling off one the most selfless acts you’ll ever witness.
#4 — You Saved Me
It’s beyond undeniable that Katara and Aang love each other as much as two people can. The pure relief and ecstasy on her face when she manages to pull him back to the physical world is palpable. Aang was shot by lightning because he tried to give up his love for Katara and perhaps in some strange way this was the universe telling him that it was not the right choice. What makes this moment even more heartbending is in hindsight Katara’s had to watch Aang die twice. Once in the catacombs beneath Ba Sing Se, and again when he was 66. At least this time Katara was able to bring him back.
#3 — Without You All My Plans Are Suddenly Possible
Personally, this is the moment that pulls at my heart strings every single time. There is just something so utterly tragic that Roku was betrayed by his best friend and someone that he showed mercy to not moments before. Roku dies full of regret, the only person by his side is his dragon Fang who refuses to let his master pass alone. They are together in death as they will be for the rest of the Avatar’s lifetimes, but his wife Ta Min looks on in the boat escaping the island not yet realizing that her husband will never come back.
#2 — You’re A Freedom Fighter
Jet had one of the best character arcs in the entire show and it was fitting how it came to an end. He dealt with his personal demons of the guilt and fear that he felt watching his parents die by Fire Nation soldiers. But in his moment of true bravery he’s fatally struck down by Long Feng. Jet makes peace with Katara and gives the Gaang his blessing to escape the catacombs. In his final moments Longshot and Smellerbee are there to comfort him. The family that he helped put together and fight for were with him right to the very end.
#1 — The Moon Spirit Gave Me Life, Maybe I Can Give It Back
Every season finale always needs a moment of pure emotional poignance that affects all events around it. Yue’s sacrifice in the S1 finale meets all those goals and goes far beyond. She shows remarkable composure and dignity in fulfilling her destiny. Her sacrifice saves not only her people but the balance of the entire world. But she is there every night for Sokka as a reminder of the love that he wasn’t able to save. Unlike Yue who had to let go to fulfill her path in life, Sokka would never have been able to truly move on. He makes sure her bravery is never forgotten though — Yue Bay in Republic City a perfect token of the world she helped make possible.
just some very minimal thoughts about the search pt. 3
it has been brought to my attention that in the first part of the search katara is wearing an…interesting necklace.
i’m sure it’s just an error on the part of one of the artists. but i do love that someone has sat down and drawn an water tribe engagement necklace with an air insignia.
that or aang proposed to katara while no one was watching.
I drew Kataang hah. kind of attempt number two to impress Katara with airbending. I love zutara, but I love Aang too.
a happy family
i definitely want to spend a bit of time just looking at the cloudbaby plotline this season. i totally recognise that this is not the end of the arc (or at least i hope so, as there is a ridiculous amount of unresolved emotional baggage) but the three episodes we’ve had addressing the family conflict did come to a mini conclusion in civil wars part 2.
i’ll start with the bad. while i absolutely loved the family picture and it was heartwarming to see thousands of people in the fandom also appreciate it, for me it solved absolutely nothing. and what’s worse upon reflexion i actually found it pretty ironic. the picture was shown right at the end of the episode and was arguably intended to highlight that at the end of the day, the avatar family was ultimately a happy one.
brilliant. apart from the fact that was never what kya and bumi brought up. their issues were that they did not have a “happy go lucky childhood” because aang systematically left them out, an issue that they carried around for 40 years without feeling they were able to talk about it with him. the picture narratively doesn’t actually go anyway to adjusting the important claims they made. kya and bumi just admitted they were projecting their legit annoyances with aang onto tenzin.
the picture was ironic for me because it seemed to symbolise everything that kya found frustrating. a frozen moment of idealized happiness being used to paper over the cracks of issues that kya and bumi have carried around for decades. i completely understand that this plotline is all about nuance, and i totally recognise that kya, bumi and tenzin could have had a “happy” childhood while having issues with their dad. but for me that picture does nothing to address the disheartening claims kya & bumi introduced in 2x03. i really hope they will be addressed in later episodes.
i consider myself a realistic optimist (that is a thing right?), but to be completely honest i can’t think a situation in which this cloudbaby plotline has a satisfying resolution. either kya and bumi realize that perhaps they were a bit too harsh on aang and that actually he was a pretty good (but not great) parent. in which case we’ve spent multiple episodes on a plot line that basically boils down to people having inaccurate internalized representations of their parents. or the other option i’ve seen lots of people talking about is that aang appears at some point and there is touchy feely stuff and kya + bumi leave feeling better about themselves. i really don’t think this will happen and if it magically did it would be pretty ironic. aang’s parenting issues were caused by him being the avatar, for him to then be able to connect with his children post-death because of him being the avatar ranks pretty highly on the irony scale.
and this is ultimately my issue with cloudbaby plotline, the notion that they’ve opened a can of emotional worms that i’m not sure can be put back together again. i want to be proven wrong, and i’d be very interested if you guys can see a satisfying way of wrapping it up (assuming bryke even want an optimistic resolution…?). because for me the idea that aang can overcome his personal demons of not being there when his people died, finding a way of ending a 100 year world on his own terms and ultimately starting a new family — but that two of his own kids 18 years after his death still hold onto significant resentment and frustration towards him is more than disheartening.
i realize this has probably been slightly incoherent, so i’ll attempt to try and sum up my what i’ve been trying to get at. for me the kataang family picture, regardless of how attractive they all look, doesn’t actually solve any of the issues kya and bumi brought up in the previous episode. and what makes me trepidatious is that i can’t see a way of resolving this plot line without it either being completely ironic or ultimately a lesson in unreliable witness testimony.
The crucial thing about Katara’s romantic arc is that it’s culmative, in the sense that there’s no one clear epiphany but rather a build up of moments.
The first defining moment is in The Fortuneteller where Aang goes from goofy best friend to potential husband material. The way the camera does a slow arching pan underlines how much of a shift this is in Katara’s perception. It’s no coincidence that the episode right after this is when she kisses Aang on the cheek for the first time.
Aang’s death and fortunate revival is the narrative and emotional nadir of the series. The lowest point from which they all must recover. Katara loses Aang, but she’s also the one to bring him back — a connection that they are both completely aware of the significance of. Aang’s death is a brutal reminder of his fallibility, a harsh truth that even though Katara has been dreaming of the Avatar’s return all her life, that does not give them a destined right to succeed. It’s this reminder of Aang’s mortality that cements Katara’s romantic feelings for Aang. Not in the sense that his death makes Katara love him, but rather she is much more open and forthcoming with her romantic inclinations. Again it’s no coincidence that they have some of their most romantic moments right after Aang has recovered (slide tackle hugging, headbance dance, painted lady escapades).
"Everything is going to be different after today, isn’t it?" While on a literal level a reference to the impending attack against the Fire Nation, the real significance of this line of course refers to the permanent change in their relationship. Aang had already faced death once without having expressed his feelings, he wasn’t going to make that mistake again. The fact Katara kisses him back shows on some level she knew this was coming too. While they of course faced their problems after this moment ("I thought we were going to be together,") the importance of Katara reciprocating the kiss should not be understated. For a split moment she forgets about the war and all their burdens, and it’s not till Aang pulls away that her demeanour changes. Interesting to note that in the original storyboard for this scene Katara was smiling when Aang pulled back, but that was later changed (most likely to keep the romantic ~suspense~ going). Either way, this is still a definitive moment in Katara’s romantic arc, the point at which they can never really go back to being incredibly over affectionate friends.
And this of course is where we come full circle. If the arching camera pan in 1x14 signified the realization of the potential of Aang as her forever guy, this visual parallel marks the solidification of that epiphany. This moment is not showing her falling in love with Aang, that happened a long time ago, rather that she knows without a doubt that’s he is her powerful bender. The war is over, they can finally be together, and Katara wants directions to the nearest balcony.
So hopefully this addresses your question - it’s not a single on screen moment for Katara, but rather a culmination of interlinking events. Her romantic arc is more subtle than Aang’s, but it’s no less prominent. And with that amount of build up it’s no surprise that they french into the credits.
I’m gonna alter this question slightly because and I’m a terrible human being and I’m 99% certain I’ve already answered it. Instead I’ll give you what I feel is the most underrated moment.
So many people forget this moment exists. It’s so quick, so understated and yet so completely essential to understanding the pairing. It gets overshadowed because of what happens 3 minutes later, but almost equals it in significance. The reason for its importance is the small matter that it quite literally signifies the moment Katara realizes she wants to be in a relationship with Aang.
The music in the scene is not a dramatic crescendo signifying the unveiling of hidden passions, it’s just a small and subtle bell of realization. It underscores the fact the issue was never whether she had romantic feelings for Aang, but instead whether she was ready to enter the sort of commitment those feelings entailed. The way the camera spins, despite just being nice animation and cinematography, is also possibly a reference to the scene in 1x14 where Katara recognises the potential romantic aspect of her relationship with Aang. In contrast to her shock and intrigue in 1x14, there’s now just a small smile and a look of complete contentment.
People sometimes complain we didn’t get an ‘I love you’ moment (we did actually, 2x01, 2x12, 2x19) but that’s because the main focus wasn’t whether Katara loved him, it was whether she wanted to be in a relationship with him. This is the exact moment she decides, yes she does, and that makes it pretty awesome.
More interested in his future sex life than the fate of the world.
Dance moves to rival Beyonce.
Has the ability to kill people with his pinkie finger.
Saves the world beyond the grave and has cheek bones that should come with a health and safety warning.
credit @ bryankonietzko
The Promise Part 3 — A.K.A, Aang and Katara hold each other a lot.
I think you can interpret it two ways:
1) Katara accepted that if Aang carried out the Harmony Restoration momevent they would have to split up (???). And thus who doesn’t start a break up by making out?
2) Katara accepted that she and Aang were going to have to be apart for at least ten minutes. Cue tears and making out.
Personally I much prefer the second explanation cause it’s way more fun.
I adore how sarcastic/snarky Katara is here. Her face in the second panel just epitomizes ‘you wish bitches.’