"The Fortuneteller" (Book 1/ep14) is an unusual episode : it doesn't make advance the central plot(= to get the Fire Lord's royal butt whooped), it doesn't add something to the lore (like, let's see, "The Avatar and the Fire Lord" or "The Firebending masters") and it doesn't even have much of bending (save maybe at the end). That kind of episode, my friends, is called a filler.
However, may the spirits be blessed, this is a "Cave of Two Lovers"-type of filler, which means it DOES make advance one thing : the main sub-plot, a.k.a. the romantic tension between Aang and Katara. And it brings the Kataang relationship to new heights, while further exploring the mists of love.
A (really short) summary of the Plot
For a complete overview of the episode plot, go to the Wiki article : The Fortuneteller. You can skip the long summary and just read the notes in bold if you wish.
While Sokka is trying to catch an annoying and taunting fish to fill his empty stomach ("You are so gonna be dinner !"), Katara puts on a necklace woven by Aang. As she asks the young Airbender how she looks, Aang suddenly sees her in a beautiful light while a typical romantic music, with violins. It's official : what was a crush at first sight as early as in "The Boy in the Iceberg" has become love. And as all unfortunate love-struck dumbfounded guys, Aang make some stupid awkward remark : "Katara : How do I look ? (here come the violins) Aang : You mean, all of you or just your neck ? I mean, because both look great !" Of course, Sokka can't help but ruin the moment : "Smoochie, smoochie ! Someone's in loooooove !" (makes a kissy face at the fish he finally caught ; the fish slaps him in the face and escapes). At that moment, the obviously oblivious Katara says one of the most terrible things you can say to a man : "Stop teasing him, Sokka. Aang's just a good friend, a sweet little guy, just like Momo." (Note : if you're an Avatar fanatic and still don't know who Momo is, you're worrying me.).
So, at this moment, at a time where "Previously on Avatar" doesn't even exist (at least on my version), we have a pretty good view of the situation : Aang loves Katara, who on the other side compares him to the group's flying lemur. We can't say she has a very high opinion of him.
At that moment, they hear a beast's growl. They see a very calm man, not worried at all, being attacked by a giant Platypus Bear. The man dismisses all advice of the team who is trying to help him escape, telling them everything is fine. Eventually, the Platypus Bear is scared off by Appa. When asked about his strange behavior, the old calm man informs them that the local Fortuneteller, Aunt Wu, told him he will have a safe journey. When Sokka notes that he was almost killed, the old man replies that he wasn't. Before leaving, he hands Aang an umbrella, saying that Aunt Wu told him to give it to a traveller if he met one.
While Katara obviously wants to meet the Fortuneteller, Sokka dismisses the idea, saying it's just nonsense. It suddenly starts raining and Katara and Aang share the umbrella (something which is a classical romantic theme in Japan according to "The Fortuneteller" article), with Katara stating that this definitely proves the Fortuneteller's powers. However, her brother is still adamant about the fact that you can't really tell the future. He further argues against the idea of foreseeing, telling that "of course she predicted it was gonna rain, the sky's been gray all day." When attempting to predict the future of his own ("It' going to keep drizzling."), the sky clears up, much to his dismay.
We here see the emergence of the logical scientific side of Sokka (before he was just the meat and sarcasm guy), a side which will be further developped in "The Northern Air Temple ".The group eventually arrives to Aunt Wu's place. They are greeted by her assistant, Meng, who immediatly falls for Aang in the same way he did for Katara five minutes before, though much more humourously, as Aang is NO WAY as seducing as Katara ; he's actually looking bored and rubbing his nose when Meng is staring at him. Meng notes Aang has huge ears ; it is later revealed that Aunt Wu predicted that she will marry a man with big ears. As a female customer leaves (after explaining that she will meet her true love when he gives her a rare Panda Lily), Aunt Wu comes out and asks the trio who would like to go next, to which Sokka looks away, Aang looks to Katara, and the anxious Waterbender is more than glad to get her fortune.
Aang is obviously worried about what fortune Katara would get and consults Sokka for his opinion on what the two women would talk about. Sokka says: "Boring stuff, love, who she's gonna marry, how many babies she's gonna have." This only confirms Aang's worries. He makes an excuse that he has to go to the bathroom when he actually sneaks off to eavesdrop.
After a brief talk over Katara's smooth skin and cosmetics (to which Aang is obviously disgusted … er, not of the smooth skin ; of the girl conversation), Katara asks Aunt Wu if she sees anything interesting in her love life, to which the Fortuneteller replies that she will marry a very powerful bender. This answer rejoices Aang, for obvious reasons (you can't see it ? He's the Avatar ; the most powerful bender in existence). He happily returns to the waiting room
When Sokka stands up for his fortune to be read, Aunt Wu says : "Your future is full of struggle and anguish. Most of it self-inflicted.". When Sokka, utterly outraged, tells that she didn't even read his palms, she notes that she didn't need to ; it was written all over his face.
Aunt Wu prepares to tell Aang's fortune by reading a burning bone cracks. However, the bone shatters and the flame grows to a tremendous size. This greatly worries Aunt Wu who, in a very dramatic way, tells the young Avatar that he will be involved "in a great battle, an awesome conflict between the forces of good and evil, a battle whose outcome will determine the fate of the whole world !!", something Aang of course already knew. He's however disappointed when Aunt Wu says she can't see anything about his love life, a thing that saddens him enough to prompt Aunt Wu to (still dramatically, and falsely) notice a bone which (presumably) says : "Trust your heart and you will be with the one you love."
As they're living, Sokka, not believing the predictions, assures that his life will be happy and joyful, but accidently proves his fortune right by hitting himself with a pebble he previously kicked.
At that point, I was pretty bored of typing, so most of the following text comes directly from "The Fortuneteller" article, all rights reserved Avatar Wiki (I deny any ownership of the afore-mentionned article).The whole town blindly believes in Aunt Wu's predictions, so they all have no doubts about her prediction that the nearby volcano will not destroy the town this year.
Meanwhile, Katara is drinking in every word of Aunt Wu's predictions (repeatedly), while Sokka remains very skeptical, as he doesn't believe in fortunetelling. Aang, discouraged that Katara seems to have no special feelings for him, asks Sokka for some advice. He tells him that the best way to get a girl is by acting aloof, thinking that the girl in question is Meng.
Plot criticism n°1 : Why does Sokka assume Aang is in love with Meng, when he noticed Aang's crush at the beginning of the episode and after Aang asked if he was okay with that ? (all right, Meng was giggling and waving nearby, but still)
So when Katara comes by, Aang acts like he doesn't notice her, but Katara remains oblivious to his feelings. He then notices the woman who was before him at Aunt Wu's place/home/forecasting shop being indeed offered a rare Panda Lily by a young man. Aang decides to get Katara a Panda Lily on the rim of the volcano with Sokka, but when they reach the top of the mountain, they discover that the volcano is in fact going to erupt.
Plot criticism n°2 : Why are Panda Lilies so rare when you just have to climb the nearby "dormant" volcano ?
and, the most important plot criticism in this entire review,
Plot criticism n°3 : How could the young man fetch his flower without noticing the volcano was about to erupt ?
They rush back down to the town to inform everyone of what they saw, but of course, no one believes them because they have complete confidence in Aunt Wu's predictions.
Knowing that the only person the villagers will listen to is Aunt Wu, Aang decides to steal her cloud reading book. Meng comes up from behind him and admits that she has been stalking him the whole time, but knows that he doesn't like her; Aang did, however, respond to her clearly let-down feeling by saying that she would easily find a great man. Using the book, Katara and Aang manipulate the clouds with a combination of Waterbending and Airbending, then convince Aunt Wu to make a second reading, which of course, now tells her that the volcano is going to erupt. Aang and Sokka quickly organize the village's Earthbenders, as well as anyone capable of digging, to make a giant trench around the village to redirect the lava. Just as the lava surges over the trench, Aang unleashes a massive gust of wind to cool the lava, solidifying it into a giant wall. Sokka mentions offhand that he sometimes forgets how powerful a bender Aang really is, and Katara is struck with realization about the love fortune Aunt Wu gave her.
From this moment on, Katara will never more consider Aang like Momo. She finally acknowledges him as a person, and not only as the Avatar or a goofy friend (in some way, it is egoistic to do so only after considering him as a potential husband because of an old woman's prediction, but this probably wasn't the purpose). This is one of the most important scene of the series as this is the base to the romantic climax we all know at the very end of "Sozin's Comet".
Aang sheepishly hands back the guide for cloud-reading and instead of being reprimanded by the woman, she praises him. But Aang tells her of his suspicions that Aunt Wu had never foretold love in his future. To this, Aunt Wu tells him that like how he reshaped those clouds, he could shape his own destiny.
Sokka happily tells the villagers that Aunt Wu was wrong, but the man they encountered at the start of the episode says that the village wasn't destroyed, as Aunt Wu predicted (she never claimed the volcano wouldn't erupt, only that it wouldn't destroy the village). Sokka retorts with an aggravated "I hate you." and Katara drags him away. With that, the trio leave the village to continue their northern journey. Meng and Katara wish each other goodbye, and Meng ends the episode with a VERY rude word we will not repeat here (floozie).
Aang is portrayed accurately : he is just this normal kid with enormous problems and an even bigger duty, which is well shown in his (funny) fortune-reading. He was also seen to be quite disdainful and oblivious to others' feelings, entirely focused on his attempt to impress Katara (which was the episode main focus, in case you hadn't understood), as shown here : "Meng : Hey, Aang, don't you think that cloud looks like a flower ? - Aang : Sure, I guess. (violently pushes her aside) Hey, Katara, don't you think that cloud looks like a flower ? " However, he comes back to his usual sensitive and caring behavior when he realizes Meng was in love with him all the time, and feels genuinely sorry for having unknowingly hurt her. All the attempts he does to make Katara like him (crafting a necklace, looking aloof, offering a "rare" flower) are much more serious than in, let's say, "The Warriors of Kyoshi", with the infamous air marbles. Ironically, it is while he is performing his normal and usual duty (and thanks to Sokka's remark) that he finally and unintentionally draws Katara's attention on him.
Katara was quite passive in this episode, which didn't show the best of her : she is shown as a little naive, even weak-minded (when she buys a papaya even if she hates it, simply because Aunt Wu told her so) ; she doesn't raise a finger to fight the volcano when we know there's a river nearby, letting Aang fight by himself in a very "manly" way, and she's not extremely perceptive, still not noticing Aang's crush on her despite all clues or at least his strange behavior ; it took a volcano to realize Aang's prowess and "acknowledge him as a person" (I know, I'm quoting myself, it's pathetic, isn't it ?). All of this made didn't get along with her speech, making it sound a little lame "If you won't listen to him, maybe you'll listen to me : I want to believe Aunt Wu and her predictions as much as you do, but my brother and Aang saw the lava with their own eyes !". It painfully reminds me a bit of her actress in "The Ember Island Players" or worse … M. Night Shyamalan. So yeah, I was a little disappointed.
Sokka is … Sokka. That skeptical guy, victim of karma's evil intentions, which translate as slapstick. As usual, he provides most of the fun, being slapped by a fish, soaked, mocked, hit by a pebble, attacked by a turkey-duck … I will draw closer the similarity between this episode and "The Cave of Two Lovers" by adding that, in both episodes, Sokka is annoyed by good-natured people who have beliefs that are the polar opposite of his, which are, of course, that logic and science prevail over superstition, singing nomad stupidity and pretty much everything else.
Plot : 8/10
- It went on well, despite a few inconsistencies. The central plot was nice, but a little too stereotypical : Meng-is-in-love-with-Aang-who-ignores-her-because-he's-in-love-with-Katara-but-she-doesn't-notice-it-and-Sokka-(Katara's-brother)-thinks-Aang-is-in-love-with-Meng.' That's what I call cheesy teen romance ; it was a good setting for the pinnacle, the climax, whatever. So the grade is higher than 5 for making the romance advance but lower than 9 for not making advance the main story.
Humor : 10/10
- Sokka made it all.
Bending : 3/10
- And I'm generous. We just had cloudbending (the highlight), some Earthbending 101 but still some pretty cool Airbending at the very end. But way too short.
Characters : 7/10
- See "Characters". Sokka and Aang were great, but Katara was a little flawed I think. However, that episode was the beginning for some character development : Sokka's scientific side and of course KATAANG !
Overall : 7/10
- A very good filler episode indeed.
You can help my bad knowledge of English grammar and orthograph by putting your remarks in the comments section, or just give me your advice (e.g. : French Froglegs, that's pure shit). That's my first review so be indulgents.
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