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Bryan Konietzko Hi, this is Bryan Konietzko, co-creator, co-executive producer, and art director of Avatar.
Michael Dante DiMartino Hi, this is Mike DiMartino, co-creator and co-executive producer, and uh, I also directed this episode, which was a rare occurrence for me. [Laughs.] As we have a, a team of awesome directors and uh...
Bryan [Interjects.] You know...
Mike ... just timing wise it worked out. Uh, Lauren MacMullan, one of our great directors, had uh, left the show, and-er, kind of in between um, seasons and stuff, and I had a little extra time, or some extra time.
Bryan Extra time [Mike laughs.] is kind of a, you don't really have extra time... [Laughs.]
Mike [Interjects.] No, I had less...
Bryan ... you just have some... less overtime.
Mike ... amounts of-yeah, [Bryan affirms.] 'cause, 'cause at that point the writing had wrapped up for season two and everything, so, I had to-more time to uh, devote to directing an episode, which was, you know, very exciting for me, 'cause I had directed on shows like King of the Hill and Family Guy and...
Bryan [Interjects.] Mission Hill.
Mike ... sort of-yeah, where I started out, and, and I kinda, you know, sometimes I miss it, miss uh, kinda getting-getting your teeth into an episode the same way.
Bryan 'Cause Mike and I, we're really involved in all the episodes through a lot of different stages, but we don't get to just stick with one story all day long, um, we have to sc-kind of scatter around different meetings, different stages of production. So, um, so yeah, Mike got to just mostly stay with this-this episode and uh, see it through.
Mike Yeah, it was a great script by uh, our head writer, Aaron Ehasz. Um, which makes it even more of a pleasure to uh, to bring to life. And this also coming off of uh, "The Guru" episode, which Bryan and I wrote, which was kind of the, the spiritual first half of uh, the season finale, and now we kind of end with a bit more action and... drama and craziness.
Bryan [Brief pause; refers to Azula's speech to the Dai Li.] So, this shows the uh... sort of the downfall of the Earth Kingdom is that corruption had seeped into its whole government and societal structure, and uh... when you rely on, you know, corruption to keep together a good society, the problem is those people can flip to the wrong side very easily, and they, everything's orchestrated so they have control over the country.
Mike [Gives an affirming murmur.] Also just shows how, how charismatic Azula is that... these-these guys can... I think the Dai Li just want to stay in power.
Bryan They want to stay alive, [Mike affirms.] and, uh, yeah, they definitely don't want to lose their power. Um, and it's sort of like they knew they were doing bad stuff all along, and-but they didn't have anyone to answer to, and all of a sudden with Long Feng in jail, they have-are right on the edge of being forced to confront their crimes, and uh... being phased out completely.
Mike [Brief pause.] So, what's harder too about s-writing and directing these kinda season finale s-episodes are, well we've only done two of them but, [Bryan chuckles.] there's so much that we-we kind of want to wrap up at the end of a season, or whatever, and-and we have a limited amount of time to do it. So, you know, def-definitely from a directing standpoint I wish there were moments that we could've like made a little longer, or kinda just stretched out the drama a little bit more with some moments, but um, you know...
Bryan [In the background.] It's-it's diffi...
Mike ... there's a lot of material to get through, [Laughs.] so.
Bryan ... it's difficult to on television, on a half-hour format show, um, when you're trying to do something, you know, cinematic and you-you often want to have those moments that breathe, but... we do our best. [Mike gives an affirming murmur; refers to Iroh attacking the Dai Li with his powerful breath of fire.] So, here-here we get another glimpse of this total uh... I don't know, kick butt side of Uncle we don't see too much, you know. He's not just this goofy tea-loving guy, but he was once a fierce general.
Mike [Refers to Iroh using his bending to blow a hole in the side of the building.] Yeah, like for example there was actually a-a kind of a little scene in the hallway before they bust out, which had some more action and you see Uncle like start to do lightning before he busts out, and, you know, just because of time and whatever, we had to cut it at the animatic, but...
Bryan [Refers to Azula refusing Zuko's Agni Kai challenge, instead letting the Dai Li capture him.] I like about Azula that she's, you know, one of the best fighters we've shown, but she's also perfectly happy to stand back and let servants fight for her.
Mike [Laughs.] Yeah.
Bryan [Brief pause; refers to the drums playing in the theme as Zuko is chained down.] So, this um, this particular score, uh, by Jeremy Zuckerman was really enhanced by um, some recordings that-that Jeremy and uh, Ben Wynn, the other half of the Track Team, uh, they did some exhaustive recordings of a live taiko band. Taiko is a type of Japanese traditional drumming, uh, very thunderous and-and powerful, and a friend of ours is in a band at one of these taiko groups, and um, so they went uh, I think down to Capital Records and got a sounds-soundstage and they set up all these drums and spent like six hours recording, um, making their own library of-of authentic taiko hits. And they used them in-in this-this score, and so uh, like the opening title card of thi-the episode, just this huge thunderous hit. Um...
Mike [Refers to the establishing shot of Team Avatar's house, the side that Toph blew apart now covered in scaffolding.] There's this-the scaffolding that we...
Bryan [In the background.] Oh, yeah.
Mike ... that we-with the earlier episode when Toph busted a hole in the wall. So, see, we track everything. [Bryan gives an affirming murmur.] Someone, [Bryan laughs.] someone gets hurt, something gets damaged.
Bryan I wouldn't say everything, [Laughs.] we miss a couple things.
Mike Only a couple.
Bryan Another danger of [Mike laughs.] working on a TV show. There's too much going on.
Mike [Refers to Iroh working with Team Avatar.] So, what I also love about this kind of finale episode too is like, the-the new character combinations where Uncle is now like talking to Aang and stuff, which is, you know, we haven't done, it's great, and-and... kind of paying off the fact that Toph had met Uncle in the woods earlier in season two.
Bryan [Brief pause; refers to Sokka.] But not everyone in the group is cool with the new combinations.
Mike No, of course not.
Bryan [Refers to Sokka judgmentally pointing at Aang, saying he got lost after Aang said they would help save Zuko.] Great line. Great animation by uh, Yu Jae Myung... and his team.
Mike Yeah, so, at this point Uncle really believes that, you know, Zuko's, and I think Zuko believes too that he's, he's on... kind of on the good side. I mean he's-he-he freed Appa, he kind of went through his feverish transformation, and-and... you know...
Bryan [Interjects.] Zuko's, he's giving it a try.
Mike ... begin-begins to see another way, [Bryan affirms.] there could be another way maybe.
Bryan He's giving it the old college try, but unfortunately, he's still unsettled [Mike affirms.] in his seek...
Mike [In the background.] He hasn't...
Bryan ... his search for approval.
Mike He hasn't dealt with all his issues yet.
Bryan Yep. Which is, you know, we-we like to do that on Avatar, we like to... we've said this before, but we try to treat the characters, um, in a pretty realistic way, and-and allow for human error, and uh, character arcs that, you know, um...
Mike I think...
Bryan ... [Interjects.] show a more realistic uh, thought process, [Mike affirms.] personalities and conflict, and...
Mike And I think for Zuko, like he's had this mentor, uh, in Uncle for-for a couple seasons, and, you know, it's definitely had an effect, but I think Zuko's got to come to some conclusions on his own, I think.
Bryan Plus he's also-you know, he's really been, uh, damaged, not just physically, but um, emotionally, and uh, by his father, um, his relationship with his father is really... kinda twisted him up inside, and um, a lot of the things he does are because of uh... this really complex, these complex emotions he has with his father. [Refers to Zuko and Katara talking about their mothers.] This is a, by the way, another great combination scene, we...
Mike [Interjects.] Oh, definitely.
Bryan ... this is a scene that actually does have time to breathe, and we-we get to pair these two characters that... they've had a dynamic relationship, but rarely had time to just talk, they're sort of forced to.
A brief pause in commentary until Sokka starts describing their plan to split up and save their friends, with Momo jumping onto Sokka's shoulder.
Bryan I like that Momo seems very involved in this debate.
Mike [Laughs.] I think he's, I don't know whose side he's on.
Bryan He's like, "hear, hear! All in favor of that motion!"  
A brief pause in commentary until Aang starts asking Iroh for his reputable advice.
Bryan I always think Aang's going to be like, [Imitates Aang.] I have this friend, who's the Avatar, [Mike laughs.] and he has this problem.
Mike [Laughs; imitates Iroh.] You're talking about yourself, [Bryan laughs.] aren't you?
Bryan [Imitates Aang.] No, no, no. [Mike laughs.] It's my other friend the Avatar. [Brief pause; refers to Iroh telling Aang he was right to choose his love for Katara over his desire to become all-powerful.] So, in Uncle's response we see sort of his attitude after he lost his son Lu Ten, uh, in the Siege of Ba Sing Se. You know, Uncle used to be a very powerful, very, um... ambitious kind of guy, but um, he sort of lost his uh, appetite for that kind of stuff. I mean we-you know, there was always probably a good, a good, gentle worldly man inside of Uncle, but, but you know when he was a younger man, he uh, he had a much more aggressive, uh, side. But he's getting older and uh, the loss of his son really, really aged him and-and changed his uh, attitude. That's why he kinda just puts most of his focus on Zuko.
A brief pause in commentary until the Dai Li launch their simultaneous arrests of the four other Council of Five generals.
Mike This is a... great little sequence here storyboarded by Chris Graham, the uh, capture of all the generals. [Refers to General Sung.] That was General Sung, who appeared in "The Drill" episode, if you recall.
Bryan [Refers to the two generals in the war room; in a mock serious tone.] And that's uh, General Frank and [Mike laughs.] General Steve, who uh... we've never seen before.
Mike Yeah. [Refers to Ty Lee and Mai in their Kyoshi Warrior disguises.] So, I think uh, Ty Lee and Mai look cute in the Kyoshi outfits.
Bryan Ah, I love the, [Mike laughs.] the Kyoshi... makeup, worked really well.
A brief pause in commentary until the long take of Sokka twisting his body to evade Ty Lee's chi blocking jabs.
Bryan This is a fun little sequence. Believe uh, Sifu Kisu and I did a little [Mike laughs.] tango together for the reference. [Refers to Momo getting caught inside a Dai Li rock glove.] This is always depressing.
Mike [Laughs.] Momo, caught by the rock gloves.
Bryan [Refers to Momo's surprised yelp at being captured.] I like...
Mike [Interjects.] That was, I think...
Bryan ... I like Dee's little, [Imitates Momo's yelp; simultaneously with Mike.] that was...
Mike ... [Simultaneously with Bryan.] I think that was, yeah, one of those moments where like, oh we forgot about Momo too. Oh, he's got to get captured too.
Bryan The Dai Li forgot [Mike gives affirming murmurs intermittently.] about him too until the last moment.
Mike [Brief pause; refers to Azula forcing Long Feng to submit to her through her right-to-rule philosophy.] Uh, this is-is great, great scene written by Aaron. I remember him, his idea for it was-was, you know, the fact that Azula is s-so confident, so powerful in her s-self-assurance that she could break this man just by, you know, just by talking to him, basically. She doesn't even need to lift a finger basically...
Bryan [Interjects.] Unfort-yeah, unfortunately in real history there are people like Azula [Mike laughs.] who are just so charismatic, but sort of soulless that they're-and, you know, that they're able to climb to positions of influence. Same with uh, people like Long Feng, unfortunately throughout history was people who are willing to sell out their own, own countrymen just for their own, uh, security, [Mike affirms intermittently; laughs.] their own job security, and power.
Mike [Refers to the glowing green crystals in Zuko and Katara's prison.] I really love how the look of the crystals came out in this episode and... stuff...
Bryan [Interjects.] Yeah, you were-you were really adamant about, about the uh, design of this. You, I remember you helped us out a lot with art direction on that.
Mike Yeah, just I think uh, I had seen some-some pictures from some anime of just like, there was a lot of great contrast in the crystals and stuff, [Bryan affirms.] but sometimes what happens is they'll be, you know, you want glowing crystals, but they'll get washed out, you might not, you lose a lot of detail, but...
Bryan That's the weird thing about, uh, color theory and uh, and-sometimes to make something brighter you have to make it darker. [Mike gives affirming murmurs intermittently.] It's uh, a weird, weird thing. Sometimes if you have fire come on screen, you s-you have to darken everything so that it seems brighter. So yeah, it worked well, I-I agree that the crystals we had done in previous episodes, they just get blown out, you can't even really tell they're crystals sometimes. [Refers to Aang hugging Katara, only to glare at Zuko over her shoulder; laughs.] This is a great little...
Bryan makes growling noises, imitating Aang and Zuko disdain at seeing each other again.
Bryan You know, they're just staring each other down.
Mike So... [Refers to Katara offering to use her spirit water on Zuko's scar.] let's not ignore the fact that Katara almost used her spirit water there. [Bryan chuckles.] Almost.
Bryan I think, to continue your discussion, [Mike laughs.] she was too distraught with Jet to think about it, she forgot about it.
Mike Yeah, I mean I...
Bryan [In the background.] Sh...
Mike ... I forgot about it [Laughs.] 'til this episode. But you know what, that's...
Bryan [Interjects; refers to the shot/reverse shot of Katara looking at Zuko as she leaves with Aang, and Zuko looking away.] So, that's a nice moment there, good st-good storyboarding [Mike affirms.] and animation. These lingering thoughts. [Mike affirms.] Katara-'cause Katara is the kind of person who, she wants to think the best of someone, of anybody, and, and that gets her into trouble.
A brief pause in commentary until Iroh gets trapped by the glowing crystals, bent by two of Azula's Dai Li agents.
Bryan Cool little detail that the, these Dai Li can earthbend these crystals as well.
Mike [Brief pause; refers to the profile shots of Zuko's scarred and unscarred face.] Yeah, there were a lot of shots I-I put in, just like this kind of Zuko's dual nature of like this, you know, the good side, the bad side, and just not-kind of keeping it ambiguous like what he was going to choose until... that moment, 'cause to me like this whole episode hinged on like the success of that moment when he, when you realize he's choosing Azula's side.
Bryan She's really good at manipulating people and you-you get the idea she really enjoys it, and um... so, its, she's really good at playing to people's weaknesses and she-she senses Zuko's conflict and [Mike affirms.] knows how much he wants to be accepted back in the Fire Nation. [Refers to the shots of Zuko's faces.] Here's that duality, [Mike affirms; imitates taiko drum beat.] with the cool...
Mike [Interjects.] And then taiko hits.
Bryan ... yeah, there's that-that great taiko.
Mike [Refers to the sequence of Katara and Aang fighting Azula.] Um, this begins kind of the big fight sequence that uh, Dean Kelly storyboarded. Did a great job with all the action.
Bryan [Refers to Azula bending a massive amount of fire, vaporizing the wave of water Katara sent at her.] So, Azula turns it all to steam.
Mike [In a mock dramatic tone.] And vanishes.
Bryan [Refers to the underground chamber the three are fighting in, which has an subterranean waterfall, stone houses, stalactites and glowing crystals.] This was a cool location, I think Dean also helped uh, helped you out with the concept design on the [Mike affirms.] background. Elsa Garagarza and... the team of background designers did a great job too.
Mike I remember this fight too, this was another one where, you know, we had to once again kinda up our-up ourselves, and we're like we gotta see Katara do stuff we've never seen her do before, you know, we gotta show that they're becoming...
Bryan [Refers to Zuko choosing to attack Aang rather than Azula; in an excited tone.] Here's the moment.
Mike ... masters. And here's the moment. [Bryan affirms; refers to the closeup shot of Aang recoiling just as the scene cuts back to Zuko attacking him.] And I like seeing that Aang realizes it a second before [Bryan affirms.] you see Zuko shoot.
Bryan And, you know, this just shows that when you're not a balanced person, it's hard to make good decisions, and Zuko is, he's a conflicted guy and he's not right within his own head.
Mike Yeah. I feel like at this point in Zuko's life, that was the only choice he could've made.
Bryan You know, all that frustration and anger and... unfortunately came out in the bad way, [Refers to Zuko sending a concentrated stream of whirling fire at Aang.] that's a great, Zuko is using all of his anger. Sifu Kisu came up with a cool move where he, he's kind of charging his energy with his fists pointed at his head. Says a lot to me.
Mike [Laughs; refers to the fire whips that Zuko bends from his hands.] Yeah, I really like how these uh, the fire whips turned out.
Bryan [Refers to Katara forcing Azula to evade her waterbending.] So, I really like seeing Katara just... [Laughs.] controlling Azula in this-in this fight.
Mike [Interjects.] Yeah, I mean you realize like Katara is-is...
Bryan [Interjects.] She's getting better and better.
Mike ... not to be messed with.
Bryan [Refers to Aang riding on top of a broken stalactite as he slams it into the ground.] And Aang bites off a little more than he can chew, [Mike chuckles.] he's-he's just about as dazed as Zuko is after that maneuver. [Refers to the long shot where Katara bends a stream of water at Azula, knocking her to the ground.] That's great animation. Tiny animation, [Mike chuckles.] that-that's good, [Mike affirms.] that that, that is that good is just so delightful.
Mike Yeah, this stuff turned out great, just love that... [Refers to Katara using her water arms to bind Azula's arm and leg.] grabbing Azula.
Bryan Yeah, yeah. [Brief pause; refers to Azula smiling after Zuko frees her.] So, that little smile, you know, you can tell Azula's enjoying that she... talked Zuko into helping her out, [Mike affirms.] she-she loves it. [Brief pause; refers to Azula and Aang charging at each other.] Good showdown here.
Mike [Refers to Azula bending her fire behind her, propelling her forward, with the faint sound of a jet engine playing in the background.] So, this kind of a like Azula with a jet engine propelling her.
Bryan [Laughs; refers to Aang encasing himself in the glowing crystals, like armor.] And Aang taking Toph's uh, earth suit idea from 209 and uh, bending some crystals around...
Mike I remember this, the first storyboard I think it was just the regular earth suit, and I was like, [In an excited tone.] wait, no wait, there's all those crystals, we gotta have them, [Bryan affirms.] you know, in the spirit of upping the ante. Like a new suit!
Bryan That...
Mike [Interjects.] Made of crystals! [Laughs.]
Bryan ... that design took me so long, and we see it in like three shots. [Laughs.]
Mike [Laughs.] It was a very cool design.
A brief pause in commentary until Katara gets knocked down from Azula and Zuko's attacks, her ponytail breaking apart and her hair falling down.
Mike And anytime you can have Katara's hair come down is, you know, we like to do that. [Bryan laughs.] She looks pretty cool, when her hair comes down.
Bryan [Brief pause; refers to the theme playing as the Dai Li arrive.] Some cool creepy music from Jeremy Zuckerman there. [Mike affirms.] Everything's sort of going from bad to worse. [Refers to Katara bending multiple tendrils of water around herself.] And there we see sort of the idea of uh, the octopus form that Katara was teaching Aang in the beginning of the season.
Mike [Brief pause; refers to Aang assuming a meditation pose, turning away from his opponents and Katara as he opens his final chakra.] So, Aang literally turns his back on Katara, but with the idea that he can hopefully master the Avatar State and save the day. Which he probably would've done had it not been for...
Bryan Well, the thing he did not master about the Avatar State is that, as we've seen with the previous Avatars it just flashes for a second, [Mike affirms.] they're only vulnerable for a moment. But Aang, since he's-he's kind of unskilled as-in being the Avatar, he leaves himself open here. [Mike affirms.] He's the Avatar-in the Avatar State for too long... [Refers to Azula bending a bolt of lightning at Aang.] and Azula capitalizes on that weakness, which she is so good at doing.
Mike [Brief pause.] And as, me as a, you know, viewer and stuff like, I just love the dark stuff too. Like I, you know, I feel like in the-in the middle of the story you kind of have to end a-a little bit darker, a little bit more serious.
Bryan [Refers to Aang's exposed left foot having a burn scar on its sole.] I don't know if you noticed, but Aang had the exit wound, uh, on the bottom of his foot, [Mike affirms.] that's why his shoe blew off. Uh, when lightning goes into your body it has to leave, and there's usually an exit wound, as I understand it. [Mike gives an affirming murmur.] I've never been struck by lightning, but um. [Refers to the rock gloves the Dai Li send at Iroh, which break apart off of him.] So, you see Uncle has just got this iron body, he's taking rock glove hits to the body [Mike affirms.] unfazed. [Refers to Iroh.] But he submits.
Mike Yeah. I mean I think his, yeah, his goal was just to-to get [Bryan affirms.] the Avatar out of there, he had already... once Zuko made his choice, he had kind of...
Bryan [Interjects; refers to Iroh turning his head away from Zuko in disappointment.] And he's just ashamed.
Mike ... lost, lost a little something.
Bryan [Brief pause; refers to the shot/reverse shot of Aang opening his eyes after being resurrected, and Katara looking down at him, relieved.] So, this is designed to be like the... scene in uh, the first episode, "Boy in the Iceberg", when [Mike gives an affirming murmur.] Aang first wakes up and sees Katara, the-the shots were very similar, and... [Refers to Zuko agonizing over going against Iroh's wishes.] so, alright, you know, we see Zuko is, his two halves are still at, at war within him.
Mike Yeah, it's a great ending, I mean he-he... got essentially what he wanted, but...
Bryan [In the background.] What does it mean? What does it mean?
Mike ... but he's got a lot of doubts, [Laughs.] you know, he doesn't know what's going to happen when he goes home.
Bryan [Refers to the taiko drum beat as the scene cuts back to Team Avatar and the Earth King.] There's that great taiko hits.
Mike Yeah.
Bryan [Brief pause; refers to Aang lying unconscious by Katara.] So, Aang kind of slips out of consciousness there.
Mike Yeah, we wanted to show that he had ob-he was obviousl-you know, he was saved, Katara saved him, but he's not... not just magically recovered yet, so.
Bryan So, thank you to everybody for an amazing season two, we're really proud of it, very happy how it came out.
Mike Yeah, and we're looking forward to a amazing season three.
Bryan We've seen some...
Mike [Laughs.] We have, we know a few things, and uh... from the director...
Bryan ... we've seen some animation come back, and we're really excited, uh, so, thanks again to all the fans who've uh, supported the show and helped it to grow and find a, a bigger broader audience. We really appreciate all of your enthusiasm. And thanks to you, Mike.
Mike Thank you, Bryan.


See also