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Sorry I'm late with this one, but I was too tired to type last night when we had just watched the episode. Plus, I needed time to mull over my thoughts on it to make a good article.
If the previous episode was much like a soap opera in it's pacing and content, this episode balances that out with it's superb action scenes. Perhaps that's why the DVD lists The Serpent's Pass and the Drill as a two-parter of sorts, both being 'The Journey to Ba Sing Se'. In any case, this episode feels much longer than it actually is because so much goes on, and ironically so little too. Like Doug Walker said, you could sum up what happens in this episode in about 2 minutes. That being said, as semi-pointless as this episode is, it was still a fantastic episode.
The viewing was also very good, at least in certain parts. Pretty much every thing with the Gaang was good, very entertaining, and had the best pacing. However, a lot of Zuko and Iroh's subplot felt a bit rushed and was just kind of boring, at least compared to the action of the Drill plot. There's one very good reason for this lag in the episode; Jet. I'm sorry, but Jet is just a boring character. He could have been done better than he was, but for now he just feels tacked on as a conflict to the group. Heck, everyone is much more concerned with Appa than him. I think maybe had the episode 'Jet' been seen maybe early I Season 2, it probably would have been easier for people to remember Jet and what he and his Freedom Fighters tried to do.
And with that said, I want to make one thing clear. I do limit his episode. As far as action goes, its among the best of the whole series. The ending feels a bit off but more on that later. Unlike so many times in the past (see the Great Divide), the arguing between Sokka and Katara felt natural at that moment. Mai and Ty-Lee got some good screen time, Azula got some excellent moments. It was a good episode for everybody, really.
On t the ending, I'm surprised that they didn't show what happened to the Fire Nation crew and Azula once the drill was stopped. They escaped, of course, but I found it odd that there wasn't even an attempt to capture them by Team Avatar or any of Ba Sing Se's military. Why was the Gaang up on the wall congratulating themselves instead of capturing Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee? With Toph there, it'd be easy as heck to encase them in earth, and bring them into the city in huge slabs of rock. I dunno, it just feels weird how we don't see them escape or get captured, nor are they seen again until they sneak into the city as Kyoshi Warriors. What the heck is the audience supposed to think?
Sorry if that was a touch rant-ish, but I don't think anyone's ever touched on any of those points yet, And now we enter into the City of Walls and Secrets. This is getting good. : )
Hoping we'll see another episode tonight.