- This article is about the episode. For the titular character, see Hama.
"She seems like a normal old woman, but she controls people, like some dark puppetmaster."
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The gang visits a creepy village where many mysterious disappearances have occurred. They befriend an old innkeeper named Hama, who reveals that she is a waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe. She becomes Katara's mentor and shares with her the tragic story of her life as a prisoner of the Fire Nation. Katara discovers Hama is kidnapping civilians with a dark ability, bloodbending, to enact her revenge. The resulting battle forces Katara to use the technique against Hama to save her friends. Hama, being taken away in cuffs, is pleased because she feels she has passed on her dark legacy to the new generation.
Camping out in the woods for the night, Team Avatar sits around a campfire, telling ghost stories. Sokka tells a horror story about a haunted sword which fails to scare the others. To darken the mood, Katara tells a frightening story about a little girl named Nini, a friend of her mother's who disappeared during a harsh winter storm in the Southern Water Tribe. She recalls that despite her vanishing, the villagers kept seeing smoke coming out of her chimney.
The story leaves the entire group jumpy. Toph suddenly claims that she can hear people screaming from under the mountain, frightening everyone. Out of the darkness, an old woman named Hama appears behind them and terrifies everyone, but she warmly offers them a safe place to stay for the night, which they gratefully accept. At her inn, they enjoy spiced tea. Hama warns them that people in the woods have recently been mysteriously disappearing during full moons. This concerns the group, but Hama reassures them calmly that they will be safe with her.
The next day they all go out shopping in the marketplace for food. Hama and Katara become fast friends with Hama commenting that they are "going to get along swimmingly". Meanwhile, Sokka overhears some of the locals talking about the strange disappearances of villagers during the full moon. The market clerk claims that he has lost at least one delivery boy in the past full moons. Believing the strange events to be the work of an angry spirit, he, Toph, and Aang agree to scope the village to see if they can discover what the villagers could have done to anger the spirits. Hama sends her guests back to the inn, saying she has some errands to attend to. Sokka, becoming increasingly suspicious, remarks to Hama how mysterious her town is, causing her to grin oddly and tell him, "Mysterious town for mysterious children."
With Hama absent from the inn at that time, Sokka decides to investigate the house for anything suspicious, much to the protests of Katara. His searches uncover a cupboard filled with wooden puppets in a hallway and a locked door in the attic. Peering through the keyhole, he sees a box lying in the room beyond it, and uses his sword to pick the lock. After breaking into the room, Toph earthbends her meteor bracelet into a key for the box. Just before they manage to open it, Hama walks in and catches them in the act. However, she opens the box for them and pulls out a whale tooth comb, revealing she is from the Southern Water Tribe.
Hama prepares a traditional Water Tribe dinner for them, explaining she knows they are from the Southern Water Tribe, too, as she heard them talking in the woods. Hama also reveals she is a waterbender by bending their soup into their bowls. This delights Katara and arouses curiosity among the rest as to how she ended up residing in the Fire Nation. She proceeds to tell them the story of how she was taken from the South Pole into the Fire Nation.
When Hama was young, the Fire Nation captured all of the waterbenders during raids of their tribe, over time whittling down their numbers until Hama was the last remaining. Eventually, she too was captured, and among those taken was the only one who managed to escape alive. Katara is deeply moved by her tragic story and expresses her delight at having found another Southern waterbender. Hama offers to teach Katara what she knows in order to carry on the tradition of the Southern waterbenders. Katara is overjoyed at this and happily consents, wishing to learn more about her tribe's cultural heritage.
The next day, Hama tutors Katara, explaining how water exists in all forms even in the air. She proceeds to draw water from the air to the fascination of Katara. She leads the younger waterbender to a field of fire lilies and demonstrates that water can also be drawn from anything that is alive as well. With a swift motion, Hama pulls water from the flowers, leaving them dried and dead. Katara is amazed, but becomes sad upon realizing the lilies were killed. Hama dismisses her concerns quickly, reminding her that they were simply flowers, and that she must do anything to survive in this hostile land. She tells Katara she has one more technique to teach: one that can only be used during the full moon when their bending abilities were at their absolute peak. When Katara expresses hesitance due to the rumors of disappearances, Hama reassures her, stating that two master waterbenders under a full moon should be able to handle anything.
Meanwhile, Aang, Sokka, and Toph, believing the disappearances to be the work of an angry spirit, carry out an investigation. After briefly exploring the area, Aang concludes that the town is surrounded by natural beauty and that the townsfolk have done nothing to disrupt the environment or anger the spirits. Questioning one of the locals leads the group to Old Man Ding, an elderly man who supposedly saw the spirit. That night, Ding tells the three that he never actually saw a spirit, but rather felt possessed and compelled to walk toward the mountain. Unable to control his own movements, Ding almost walked into a cave; however, the sun rose, and he regained control of his body. Upon hearing this account, Toph realizes that she really had heard screaming coming from under the mountain, and concludes that the captured villagers must be imprisoned there.
Katara and Hama arrive in the forest with the full moon in the night sky. Hama remarks sinisterly she has never felt so alive. Aang, Sokka, and Toph discover an underground prison in a cave. Toph metalbends the door open and crafts her bracelet into a key to free the villagers from their shackles. The villagers tell them it was not a spirit that captured them, but the innkeeper Hama. Sokka and Aang go stop Hama while Toph leads the villagers out.
Hama reveals to Katara the story of how she escaped. While imprisoned, she and the other waterbenders were completely separated from any and all water. The guards pumped dry air into the cells and made sure their arms and legs were tied before giving water to them. However, she eventually realized that water exists within all living things, and first began to manipulate water in the bodies of rats that crawled into her cage. This technique, bloodbending, could only be used with the influence of the full moon enhancing her abilities. After years of mastering the technique, Hama took control of one of the guards, forcing him to unlock her cage and allowing her to walk free after decades of imprisonment.
Horrified by the idea of controlling another person's body, Katara has doubts about learning bloodbending. Hama declares the choice is not hers, and that they must enact their vengeance on the Fire Nation for nearly wiping out their entire culture, saying Katara must avenge her mother's death. The outburst leads Katara to realize that Hama has been causing the villagers to disappear. Hama wickedly states the people of the Fire Nation deserve the same treatment they gave to the Southern waterbenders and that Katara would obey her wishes for her to learn the technique. Hearing this causes Katara to refuse to learn bloodbending and she commands Hama to stop further terrorizing the town. Enraged at being denied, Hama uses the technique to temporarily force Katara into submission.
Katara soon regains control of her body, reminding Hama that she too draws power from the moon, and is powerful enough to overcome Hama's technique. The two begin to battle, each drawing water from the grass and trees surrounding them, but it quickly becomes obvious that Katara is the superior combatant. When Katara appears on the cusp of victory, Aang and Sokka arrive to assist her—and succeed in doing little more than providing Hama with an advantage, as she uses bloodbending to control them like puppets to attack Katara.
Katara evades their attacks and manages to freeze both Aang and Sokka to two separate trees to stop them, but this proves to be only a temporary solution. Hama frees them both and resorts to sending them flying at each other, with Sokka's sword pointing straight at Aang. At the last second, Katara desperately uses bloodbending to subdue Hama and protect Aang. Toph arrives with the other villagers, who handcuff Hama and take her away, vowing to imprison her forever. Hama remarks that her work is done, as Katara has already willfully used bloodbending, and therefore learned the technique. She cackles as she is dragged off. Katara breaks down in tears, with Aang and Sokka's comfort.
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- Main article: Transcript:The Puppetmaster
- Hama's flashback reveals that the Fire Nation ship that Aang and Katara ventured onto in "The Boy in the Iceberg" was uprooted by the Southern waterbenders.
- The flashback also confirms, as was implied by Katara's reaction in "The Waterbending Master", that in contrast to the Northern Water Tribe, female waterbenders of the Southern Tribe fully participate in combat.
- This is the first time Toph uses her bracelet, made from the meteor rock Sokka gave her in "Sokka's Master".
- When Toph suggests that the Moon Spirit could be to blame for the disappearances, Sokka becomes rather upset and proclaims that the Moon Spirit is a "gentle, loving lady [who] rules the sky with compassion and ... lunar goodness!" This is a reference to Princess Yue, his former girlfriend who sacrificed herself to save and become the Moon Spirit.
- When Hama and Katara are in the field of fire lilies, Katara mentions meeting Huu from the Foggy Swamp Tribe when Hama talks of plantbending.
- This is the first time Katara used bloodbending on a person (Hama). The second time she used bloodbending was in "The Southern Raiders" on the ship's captain when she believed him to be the man who killed her mother, Kya.
- This is Katara's second duel against another waterbending master and her first victory. In her first duel, she lost to Master Pakku in "The Waterbending Master".
- This is the only episode in Book Three that references episodes from Book One in the "Previously on Avatar ..." section.
- This is the second time that Katara had to fight someone she really trusted; the first such person she fought was Jet.
- Katara referenced to "The Desert" in this episode, saying, "When we were stranded in the desert, I felt like there was almost nothing I could do."
- When discussing ways to control water wherever it exists, Katara tells Hama, "I've even used my own sweat for waterbending." This calls back to the previous episode, "The Runaway", where Katara uses her sweat to break Toph and herself out of jail.
- Aang is disgusted when Hama mentions stewed sea prunes. This is a reference to "Bato of the Water Tribe", in which Aang tried stewed sea prunes and hated them.
- When the Fire Nation soldiers take Hama away, she looks back at Kanna and she is seen shedding tears. A similar scene occurred in "The Boy in the Iceberg", when the Fire Nation soldiers take Aang away. He looks back at Katara who is also seen shedding tears.
- This is the fifth episode that does not appear in a "Previously on Avatar.." recap. The others are "The Great Divide", "The Fortuneteller", "The Northern Air Temple", and "The Painted Lady".
- When the kids are telling ghost stories, Sokka puts his sword on the ground; it is shown back on his belt in the next couple of scenes.
- In the shot where Aang says he liked "the man with the sword for a hand better", Toph's shoes are seen with soles even though she ripped them out in "The Headband". This also happens when Katara is telling her story.
- When Katara starts telling her story, her eyes are gray instead of their normal blue.
- When Katara tells her story, Sokka's sword is silver in one scene, not black.
- When Hama first appears, she sneaks up on the group, something Toph should have been able to detect.
- When Hama serves tea to the kids, Aang is first holding his teacup with his left hand. In the next scene, it is in his right hand. In the following scene, it is back in his left hand again.
- When Sokka asks Hama about the disappearances, Hama is not drinking her tea, but in the next frame she puts her glass down as if she just was. In the next shot, when she asks if anyone wants more tea, her cup is missing altogether.
- When Hama and Katara are talking in the marketplace, there is a woman and a child walking the other way behind them. The woman and child pass Hama, but not Katara; they simply disappear.
- When Sokka sets down the grocery basket on the counter, it has a red band around it, but in the next shot, the band disappears. In the next shot where Sokka walks out the room, the basket is missing.
- When Sokka looks through the keyhole in Hama's attic, the chest is facing toward him, but when he opens the door, it is facing away from him.
- In Hama's flashback, she and Kanna overlook the sea to see five incoming fireballs. In the next sequence, there were only four.
- In the shot where Hama and eight other waterbenders are bending the ice beneath the Fire Nation ship, there is a female waterbender standing on the right-hand side behind her, although that waterbender was seen captured in the previous scene.
- When the aforementioned group of waterbenders are encasing the ship in ice, nine benders, including Hama, are shown. In the next and following shots, only eight benders are seen.
- When Toph asks where Old Man Ding lives, Sokka's sword strap is green, not black.
- When the gang approaches Old Man Ding, he has two boards on his window. However, in the next frame, both boards are on the ground. When Sokka begins to nail a board on the window, there was already another board on it.
- When Sokka is hammering the board on Old Man Ding's window, he is nailing it into the window, not the wood frame around the window.
- When Katara waterbent from the grass beneath her to stop her friends from attacking her, there were no withered plants shown.
- In the credits, Old Man Ding is credited as "Old Man Dig".
- Periodically, the white stripe of Hama's kimono changes back and forward.
- When Hama and Katara walked out of the village, they first exit through a crevice, but in the next scene they were back inside.
- This episode was conceptualized with the name "The Dark Side of the Moon", a fact that was accidentally referenced in Sozin's Comet: The Final Battle on page 59; the book was written before the series was finished production and went on sale months before the finale aired, the name flub betraying the approximate time of the novel's production.
- After Katara returns from shopping with Hama, she starts to unpack. She is holding a cabbage when she remarks that Hama reminded her of her grandmother. Oddly enough, the cabbage she is holding looks like Kanna and even has clear lines to show her face.
- This is considered to be one of the darkest episodes in the series, as this was a Halloween special released in October 2007. It has many of the conventional elements of a horror film.
- Hama's style of waterbending is decidedly more aggressive than all other portrayals in the series. While other waterbenders use their art to manipulate water, Hama uses it to gain control over others. Where others such as Yugoda use waterbending to heal and give life, Hama has no qualms about destroying plants and killing small animals.
- This episode called into question whether the Avatar receives a boost to his/her power from the full moon like 'normal' waterbenders, and by extension firebenders with the comet, as Aang could not break free from Hama's bloodbending while Katara could.
- Although Katara uses bloodbending in a later episode, this is the only time the technique is actually mentioned in the series.
- While out shopping, Toph is seen carrying a basket on her head.
- This is the second and final time that Toph is seen blushing.
- In Hama's flashback, where a young Kanna surrounded by other villagers can be seen, one of them looks surprisingly like Toph. Another is a young boy with a warrior's wolf tail hairstyle like Sokka's. Kanna herself is sporting hair loopies like Katara.
- Aang's comment about "the man with a sword for a hand" may be a reference to the urban legend involving a murderer who has a hook for a hand, which has been around since the 1950s.
- In Hama's story, as she was being led away in chains by the Fire Nation, she looks back to see Kanna in tears. This mirrors when Aang was taken away from the Southern Water Tribe in "The Avatar Returns".
- This episode further establishes Katara's worth as a bender.
- Despite not knowing any of the mechanics of bloodbending, Katara was able to both break Hama's hold on her and ultimately employ the skill herself.
- During her duel with Hama, she stops a massive water attack using blunt force. This is uncharacteristic of waterbending, an art that is based on directing and redirecting forces and energies. This also explains the crone's look of horror and disbelief when she witnesses it.
- By her own confession, it took Hama years to learn bloodbending, yet Katara was able to use the skill effectively—practically as an act of improvisation.
- Aang does not bend any element in this episode.