- This article is about the episode. For the titular character, see Pakku.
|"In our tribe, it is forbidden for women to learn waterbending."|
|— Pakku to Katara.|
The group finally arrives at the Northern Water Tribe, where they are warmly welcomed. The chief of the tribe throws a huge party in celebration of the Avatar's arrival at the North Pole. Sokka meets Princess Yue, with whom he falls in love. Aang and Katara seek to learn waterbending from a master named Pakku, but he refuses to teach Katara due to sexist customs. Aang tries to teach Katara in secret, but is caught and removed as Pakku's student. Determined to gain respect, Katara challenges Pakku. Though she loses, Katara proves to be the granddaughter of the woman Pakku was in love with, so the latter decides to teach her, as well as take Aang back as his student. Meanwhile, Admiral Zhao hires pirates to assassinate Zuko. Zuko survives and sneaks aboard Zhao's lead ship as Zhao readies for an attack on the North Pole.
As Appa flies slowly over the ocean with Team Avatar on his back, Sokka complains that Appa is flying too slowly; irritated, Aang replies that they should all climb on Sokka's back and he can fly them to the North Pole. Katara tries to diffuse the tension by remarking that they are all tired and cranky, owing to the fact that have been flying for two straight days. As Sokka continues voicing his doubts about finding the Northern Water Tribe, a group of waterbenders appear out of the emptiness, attacking and immobilizing Appa. Katara declares excitedly that they have found them.
At a Fire Nation Navy base, Admiral Zhao tells a lower-ranking captain, Li, that the Avatar is traveling north, and surmises that he must be traveling to the Northern Water Tribe in search of a waterbending master. Li remarks eagerly that they should pursue the Avatar, but Zhao calmly rejects the suggestion, stating that the Northern Water Tribe is a powerful nation, well-protected by the location of their settlement and the inhospitable cold of the tundra. Zhao tells Li that, to undertake such a daunting endeavor, he will need a massive invasion force.
The tribesmen escort Appa and his passengers into the tribe itself, a city protected on all sides by towering walls of ice; waterbenders have to melt a portion of the wall which faces the ocean in order to allow them to enter before reforming it behind them. As they are transported through the canals of Agna Qel'a, people wave at them; Sokka's attentions, however, are captured by the passage of a young woman on a boat, and he goes as far as to jump out onto Appa's tail to get another glimpse of her. As Katara remarks about the beauty of the surrounding city, Sokka murmurs, "Yeah... she is..."
That night, the great palace of the Northern Water Tribe hosts a feast in honor of the arrival of Sokka and Katara, who are celebrated as family from the Southern Water Tribe; also honored at the feast are Aang, being the Avatar, and Chief Arnook's daughter Yue, who has turned sixteen and is now of marrying age. She thanks her father and says a small prayer. At the feast, Pakku, a waterbending master, and his students perform elaborate waterbending moves for the entertainment of those assembled, which delights Aang and Katara. Sokka, meanwhile, is far more interested in the food at the banquet and Yue, whom he recognizes as the girl on the boat with whom he was so enamored. She is sitting next to him; their mutual introduction is followed by a long and awkward silence, which is broken by Sokka claiming to be a prince of sorts in the Southern Tribe. Overhearing this, an amused Katara asks him of what exactly he is the prince, to which he replies, embarrassed, that he is the prince of "a lot of things". He tries to shoo Katara away for interrupting the conversation, to which she replies sarcastically, "My apologies, Prince Sokka." Stuttering and casting around for phrases, he tells Yue that he will be in town for a while and awkwardly asks if she would like to "do an activity" with him. When she laughs at the line, he abandons the conversation and stuffs his mouth full of food.
After the performance, Arnook introduces Aang to Master Pakku. Master Pakku tells Aang that he will receive no special treatment just because he is destined to save the world, Aang expresses that he is looking forward to himself and Katara, whom he identifies only as "my friend", learning waterbending, but that he wants to rest for a few days before beginning their training. Pakku replies bluntly that Aang should go to a tropical island if he wishes to relax; otherwise, he will be ready at sunrise the next day.
Interrupting music night on Zuko's ship, Zhao arrives and takes command of Zuko's soldiers, inviting Iroh to join him as general. While taunting Zuko over his imminent capture of the Avatar and Iroh restrains Zuko, Zhao notices the two broadswords on Zuko's wall and immediately recognizes them as the swords used by the Blue Spirit to save the Avatar at Pohuai Stronghold. When asked about them, Zuko tells Zhao that he is not skilled with broadswords and they are antiques, merely for decorative purposes. Zhao then addresses Iroh, asking him whether he has heard of the Blue Spirit. Iroh replies that he has heard rumors, but nothing more, and does not believe in his existence. Zhao assures Iroh that the Blue Spirit is real, and that he is a criminal and enemy of the Fire Nation. Expressing the feeling that the Blue Spirit will be brought to justice soon, he reiterates his offer to Iroh.
As Katara and Aang approach the palace the next morning, Katara expresses her joy at being able to learn from a real master, saying she has anticipated this day her whole life. They walk in on Pakku as he is concentrating on a waterbending move and Aang introduces Katara as the friend of which he spoke previously. They are both shocked to learn from Master Pakku that he misunderstood Aang, assuming that his friend was a boy: the Northern Water Tribe prohibits the teaching women waterbending. When Katara protests, saying that there must be other women in the tribe who can waterbend, Pakku informs them that the women learn to heal with their abilities and advises her to go to the healing huts and learn from Yagoda. When Pakku repeatedly refuses to relent, Aang refuses to learn from the master, but Katara urges him to return, deciding that Aang should not risk his training for her. Aang reluctantly begins to learn from Master Pakku. Sokka, in the meantime, catches up with Yue in the city, and makes plans to meet her on a bridge above the canal that night.
Reluctantly, Katara goes to healing classes, filled with girls much younger than herself and taught by an old woman named Yagoda, while Aang learns waterbending from Master Pakku. He becomes frustrated when Pakku criticizes his technique and mockingly says that this move may be too advanced, suggesting that Aang should try an easier one. After her healing class, Katara thanks Yagoda for her time, and the teacher, noticing Katara's betrothal necklace, asks her who she is marrying. Katara tells her she is not ready for marriage, and the necklace is rather a family heirloom passed from her grandmother to her mother and eventually to her. Yagoda states she recognizes the carving and tells Katara she is the spitting image of Kanna, Katara's grandmother, revealing that Kanna was her old friend. Much to the surprise of Katara, Yagoda also states that Kanna was born in the Northern Water Tribe, going on to tell her that Kanna had an arranged marriage with a young waterbender who carved the necklace for her, but mysteriously left the Northern Water Tribe without saying goodbye.
Zhao, meanwhile, has contacted a group of pirates who previously encountered Zuko and the Avatar. He offers to pay the pirates a large amount of gold, but fails to mention the act for which he wants to pay them. When they inquire as to what he wants, Zhao simply replies, "I believe you're acquainted with Prince Zuko." When Iroh informs Zuko that the crew wished him a safe journey, Zuko bitterly reveals his disappointment that they left, saying, "Good riddance to those traitors." Iroh invites him for a nightly stroll to clear his head, but Zuko remains sulking in his room. While Iroh is out walking, the assassination plan is put into action by the pirates, who plant explosives in Zuko's ship. Zuko, becoming alert after hearing a noise outside his room, goes to investigate, looking out the window to see the pirates' iguana parrot watching him, and he recognizes it just as the lit fuse reaches the explosives. In the split second that the flames rush at Zuko, he puts up a fire shield that barely saves his life. Iroh, hearing the explosion and seeing the flames, rushes back to the docks to see the smoldering remains of his nephew's ship.
Sokka meets with Princess Yue on the bridge, presenting her with a carved fish, which she mistakes for a bear. Suddenly, Yue tells Sokka that she made a mistake inviting him there and runs away, leaving Sokka looking devastated as he throws his carving into the water. Later, when the gang meets in their living quarters, they are all unhappy with their situations. Sokka is confused and upset by Yue's mixed messages, and Aang and Katara are unhappy that Katara is not allowed to learn waterbending. Sokka suggests that Aang teach Katara everything he has learned in the day to Katara at night, and this makes Katara excited, as the plan allows her to learn waterbending while providing Aang a companion to practice with. She subsequently states that Sokka's idea would make everyone happy, to which he remarks that he is still displeased. Katara dismisses this by saying that Sokka's never happy and rushes outside with Aang to begin practicing.
Aang teaches Katara what he had learned, showing her a move that is all about "sinking and floating". Katara manages to learn the move with much ease, but suddenly the water she had been bending begins to writhe around her in a complex stream. Aang exclaims how amazing it is, but Katara is equally as surprised, saying it is not her manipulating the water. They look up to the bridge above them to see Master Pakku, angered by Aang's disrespect of his orders, his teachings, and his entire culture. Aang hastily apologizes, but Master Pakku declares that he will not teach Aang anymore, stating that he is no longer welcome as his student before swiftly walking away.
The next day at the palace, Katara pleads with Chief Arnook to make Master Pakku take Aang back as his student. Arnook suggests that if Katara swallows her pride and apologizes, Pakku might continue to train Aang. Try as she might, Katara, angered by his pomposity and condescending attitude, instead challenges the waterbending master to a fight. She gestures emphatically as she does so, causing her to unintentionally waterbend huge cracks in the ice floor and smash two pots, stating that she will not apologize to "a sour old man" like Pakku.
At the Fire Nation camp over a cup of tea, Iroh tells Zhao of the attack on Zuko. Zhao is "devastated" by the news and smiles slyly when he hears that no trace of the attack was linked back to him. Iroh takes Admiral Zhao's offer of serving under him as general of the fleet.
Katara goes to wait outside for Master Pakku, who simply strolls past her, further angering her with patronizing comments. Katara, her temper pushed to the breaking point, forms a water whip and slaps Master Pakku on the back of the head. He turns around and agrees to the fight, telling her if she wants to learn so badly, she should study closely. The fight begins, and Katara proves to be much more skilled in waterbending than previously known. She demonstrates powerful techniques and advanced forms, despite lacking any formal training. The two are able to manipulate the water and snow around it with ease, using basic and advanced waterbending moves. Master Pakku grins and smirks as he attacks, but starts to realize Katara's talent after barely dodging an ice disc launched by her. After a few moments of violent waterbending, Katara gains the upper-hand as she topples ice-obelisks over Master Pakku, who disappears in a cloud of mist. Commending her skill but confirming that he still will not teach her, Master Pakku eventually launches water from a pool into the air above Katara and rains down icicles into a cage that restricts her arms, rendering her helpless. Her grandmother's necklace, which fell off during the fight, is picked up by Pakku after he started walking away, and he recognizes it as the one he made for Kanna sixty years earlier.
On one of Zhao's ships, General Iroh walks past a Fire Nation soldier, stopping to say quietly that their plan is working perfectly and that Zhao does not suspect a thing. The soldier takes off his face plate to reveal that he is an injured Prince Zuko. Zuko thanks his uncle for his help, and returns his faceplate. Iroh tells him to stay hidden until they reach the North Pole, as there he will have a chance of capturing the Avatar before Zhao does. Wishing his nephew luck, they continue on.
Master Pakku tells Katara that her grandmother was arranged to marry him sixty years prior, but left for the South Pole before they could. Katara understands that Pakku, a traditionalist, loved Kanna, but she did not feel the same way. Katara explains that even now, her grandmother refused to let the Northern tribe's sexist customs rule her life, and that is why Pakku ultimately lost her. This revelation makes Princess Yue, who is standing nearby, burst into tears and run away. Sokka follows her and finds her on the bridge where they had met earlier. Yue weeps softly while Sokka tells her he wants nothing but to tell her that she is beautiful and that he never would have thought she would even notice a guy like him. Yue expresses that he does not understand, but Sokka believes he does: she is a princess and he is just a Southern Water Tribe peasant. He turns to leave, but Yue kisses him, making Sokka happy but extremely confused. Yue explains that she has fallen for Sokka, but they cannot be together, and not for the reason Sokka thinks. She sadly pulls down the furs about her neck to reveal a betrothal necklace, confessing that she is engaged. She apologizes and leaves Sokka alone on the bridge. The next morning, Aang practices a form with the waterbending master, and the latter sarcastically remarks about Aang's ability. Katara subsequently shows up, and Pakku encourages her to come train, accepting her as a student. Meanwhile, Admiral Zhao's enormous invasion fleet has mobilized and set a course for the Northern Water Tribe.
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- Additional voices:
- Main article: Transcript:The Waterbending Master
- Main article: Transcript:The Waterbending Master (commentary)
- Main article: Avatar Extras for Book One: Water
- When Team Avatar first enters the Northern Water Tribe, there are two boats waiting to greet them in the river behind the giant wall of ice, but in the next scene, the two boats turn into one single boat.
- The man ferrying Yue is first seen with brown hair, but appears with gray hair in the following frames.
- Katara's gloves disappear after she addresses Chief Arnook.
- When the broadswords are first seen on Zuko's ship, from a long shot there is a sheath hanging under them. After Zhao picks one up, the sheath is gone.
- When Sokka asks Yue on a date and falls into the canal, his legs are a few inches above water when he stands back up. However, when the frame switches to above his head, the water is up to his heels.
- When Sokka and Yue meet on the bridge, a crescent moon can be seen in the background. However, only a few days later, a full moon gives advantage to waterbenders during the Siege of the North.
- After Katara is told by Chief Arnook to apologize to Pakku, she accidentally waterbends huge cracks in the floor and shatters two vases. However, when she walks out of the palace, there are no cracks and the two vases are restored again.
- Zuko removes his faceplate to speak with Iroh aboard Zhao's ship. In the next scene, however, both of his hands are empty.
- The song played by Iroh is titled "Four Seasons". Its melody is used many times in this episode as well as the two-part season finale.
- According to the DVD commentary for this episode, Master Pakku's waterbending trick of trapping Katara in a cage of icicles was inspired from a scene in House of Flying Daggers.
- Toward the end of the battle with Katara, Pakku bends water up in the air and converts it into a stream of icicles, trapping Katara and thus preventing her from waterbending. Later, Katara uses a similar technique against Combustion Man in "The Western Air Temple".