- 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."|
|— A villager speaking of Hama.|
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 that 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 which she must attend. 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, as it is rude. 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, before freezing it and shooting it at a nearby tree, 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 are 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 believe the disappearances to be the work of an angry spirit, and 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. As she is dragged off, Hama begins to cackle and remarks that her work is done, as Katara has become a bloodbender. The young waterbender breaks down in tears, as Aang and Sokka attempt to comfort her.
- Written by:
- Directed by:
- Main article: Transcript:The Puppetmaster
- Main article: Avatar Extras for Book Three: Fire
- 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.
- 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.
- Katara referenced to the events from "The Desert" by 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 he tried stewed sea prunes and hated them.
- Toph's shoes have soles in several shots.
- 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, and Sokka's sword is silver in one scene, not black.
- When Toph mentions that she hears something in the forest, Momo switches from being in Katara's arms to being on Aang's shoulder.
- When Hama serves tea to the team, Aang is 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 she puts her glass down in the next frame as if she had been. 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 Hama smiles at Sokka after having said "Mysterious town for mysterious children", her missing tooth is colored in.
- 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.
- When Sokka opens the door with his sword, the keyhole is no longer there, and there is no mechanism for the door's lock.
- When Team Avatar enters the attic, the door was pushed inward. After the scene, the door is no longer there.
- Toph wears her meteorite bracelet on her left arm, though when Hama surprises the group right after Toph opened the chest in the attic, the bracelet is on her right arm. In the next shot, it is on her left again.
- In Hama's flashback, she and Kanna overlook the sea to see five incoming fireballs. In the next sequence, there are 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 Hama and Katara walked out of the village, they first exit through a crevice, but in the next scene, they were back inside.
- When Hama froze the water vapor on her fingers, the top of her kimono is missing.
- When Toph asks where Old Man Ding lives, Sokka's sword strap is green, not black.
- When the team 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 is 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 Aang, Sokka, and Toph discover the imprisoned villagers beneath the mountain, Toph has a single meteor bracelet on her left arm which she removes to metalbend a key. However, when she runs to them in the next shot, the bracelet reappears together with another on her previously bare right arm.
- When Katara waterbent from the grass beneath her to stop her friends from attacking her, there were no withered plants shown.
- When Hama bloodbent Katara, her positions did not match in between shots.
- Periodically, the white stripe of Hama's kimono changes back and forward.
- In the credits, Old Man Ding is credited as "Old Man Dig".
- 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.
- When Katara remarks that Hama reminded her of her grandmother, she is holding a cabbage shaped like Kanna's 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.
- 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.
- This is the second and final time that Toph is seen blushing.
- In Hama's flashback, one of the villagers surrounding Kanna is similar in appearance to Toph, while another young boy has a warrior's wolf tail hairstyle like Sokka's. Kanna herself is sporting hair loopies like Katara.
- This is the only episode in Book Three that references episodes from Book One in the "Previously on Avatar ..." section.
- 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".
- This episode was included in the digital compilation NickToons Spooky Halloween on iTunes from 2009.
- Aang does not bend any element in this episode.
- Acastus (October 24, 2007). UK Getting New Episodes Before USA. AvatarSpirit.net. Retrieved on January 30, 2019.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Puppetmaster Episode Trivia. TV.com. Retrieved on January 30, 2019.
- WGF Inmagic® Presto - View Title. Writers Guild Foundation. Retrieved on December 8, 2018.
- NickToons Spooky Halloween. Retrieved on August 3, 2020.