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#the puppetmaster

So let us talk about Hama for a second.

Puppet master is set in between a streak of incredible amazing episodes but in its scary way it’s still outstanding.

Hama herself is a tragic character, as she was a young and powerful water bender in the middle of cultural genocide, literally fighting until all of her cultural is being deported, including her.

They are put into a inhuman prison - which doesn’t really make any sense. From the fire nation point of view… what is the reason behind it? War is expensive so now you are just going to take lots of people, put them in a prison just so that you have to feed them? And guard them? You can’t even let them work for you, as they are too skilled. Seemes not like the brightest idea to me.

But she is put in a inhuman prison and rots away until she becomes dehuminazed. So she does a thing that is (apparently) extremely removed from anything a sane and good person would do: she bloodbends.

I know in the show it’s portrayed as some what understandable but still bad, we see it in Kataras reaction. But I don’t think it is. It’s under stable, valid and it saved Hamas life.

In extreme situations you will do things, that you thought weren’t possible or outside of your moral values.

Hamas bloodbending seemes to be just as bad as the fire nation deporting her - which it isn’t. I guess we can assume that Hama would never had done such a thing, if the fire nation didn’t put her in such a life or death situation. They just got a inhuman reaction from someone they treated less then human.

And I do not unterstand what Hamas reasoning is for taking village people as prisoners. Yes yes I know, she is blinded by hate and whatever. But why would she take them prisoner? Why not kill them and dunk them into a river? Prisoners are expensive and a lot of work. And the way she kept them was still so much better then the treatment she got! Yes, these people were put in captivity and chained to a wall - but at least they were not alone. There was not cultural genocide.

Was is nice? No. Did the captured people do anything bad? Nothing we know about. But was it SOMEWHERE near what the fire nation did? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

And what about the end? This lady has been tortured and broken by the fire nation just gets put back in a prison. And we can’t assume that she is put in a better prison. Because she is still too dangerous for normal captivity. So the only way to keep her is the same inhuman way - expect it isn’t. She could still blood bend at full moon nights, assuming that it doesn’t matter if she sees the moon or not. The full moon is a monthly recurring event, that even I can feel each month - and I’m far from a bender. So we would need a even worse way to capture Hama.

So… let’s summarize, my friends. We have Hama - a victim of cultural genocide - tortured in a prison until she breaks and becomes inhuman herself. After freeing herself she tries to work through her trauma by acting in the way the fire nation had her learn in order to survive. And ends up in a equally or worse prison by her tormentors again.

She is not a “good” person. But she treatment she got in the end does not sit right with me.

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People just starting to watch A:TLA for the first time: The bending is really cool, but couldn’t the waterbenders technically just bend the water inside of people? Like their blood? I’m pretty sure technically they could. Well I guess it’s a kids show so they probably won’t go into it haha.

People who have seen the show already and know what happens:

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i’m writing an atla bitterblue!au, called bitterburn. this chapter is “awful work.”
basic premise: ba sing se never falls, ozai is semi-banished and drags his family out to sea, the southern water tribe flees north to escape genocide and katara gets kidnapped along the way, so sokka goes after her. this part is set a little after sokka frees her, after they’ve escaped and found shelter in hama’s home for some time.

CW: death, funeral

Sokka wakes up with a start. He always does, these days. The first thing he does is check for Katara. She’s there in the other bed, her back turned. She’s there, and his boomerang is in his hand, and they are safe in Hama’s home.

He breathes out.

Sunlight streams through the window––he gawks. It’s almost noon.

“Hey Katara, wake up.” He nudges her. “It’s almost midday.”

She rolls over slowly and opens her eyes. “Midday? That’s awfully late.”

“Yeah, I’m surprised Hama didn’t come wake us up. Think she decided to give us a break or something?” He doubts it, but the corner of his mouth quirks anyway.

Katara sits up, movements sluggish. “I hope she’s alright,” she says. But she doesn’t move more than that, despite how she looks at the door. Her eyes aren’t right.

Alarm bell, is that you?

“You’re awfully tired,” he remarks, in an offhand kind of way. His eyes are probing. Bags under her eyes, weird bruise on her arm––was that there before? Dong, dong, dong. Warning. Sister in danger. Dong, dong, dong.

“Full moon last night,” she says. “I didn’t sleep well, that’s all.”

Rolling out of bed, he gets to his feet. “We should go check on Hama,” says Sokka. He doesn’t bother watching her this time. No point, as long as she’s lying to his face.

“Yeah, okay,” says Katara, quiet.

<!– more –>

-

At Hama’s door, Katara stills. Nothing seems wrong, but Sokka finds himself reaching for his boomerang anyway. 

“Katara, what’s wrong?” he asks, trying to be patient.

“Nothing.” He waits.

She doesn’t say anything else.

Nothing, huh?

Teeth gritted, he opens the door. Hama’s in bed, eyes closed in peaceful slumber. 

No, he realizes. Her chest is not rising. His steps stutter to a halt.

“She must’ve died in her sleep,” Katara says. Her voice shakes.

Shock courses through him, stiffening his muscles. “Did- did you know? Is that why you-?”

His sister stumbles back for a moment, eyes wide. “I didn’t- I-” Something in her eyes changes, and she lowers her arms, face downturned. “I knew she had died. I just… didn’t know what to do.”

He swipes at his eyes, furiously. Hama wasn’t Gran-Gran, but she was close. Sokka bites his lip, feeling another swell of hopelessness, another wave of sorrow-fury crash through him. Another guardian down.

But Katara needs him, and Hama needs to be buried. He sucks in a deep breath.

“Okay. Well. We need to…” What do they need to do?

How are they going to live? They can’t depend on Hama, they can’t depend on the inn anymore. He turns away from the body, looks at Katara.

First things first.

“I’m going to dig a hole. Can you-” He wishes he did not have ask this of her. They’ve buried enough family. “Can you prepare her body?”

Mute, she nods.

They get to work.

-

Digging is lonely work. It’s hot work. It’s awful work.

Sokka throws himself into the rhythm of it. The shovel cuts the dirt. Chht. He heaves it away. Thump.

He needs to figure out what they’re going to do next. Chht. What they’re going to do afterward. Thump.

Maybe they can sell the inn, get some coin. Chht. And then where? Thump.

They had planned to go up North, before. Chht. He had hoped Hama would be able to help. Thump.

But it’s not the first time they’ve made the journey by themselves. Chht. They can do it again. Thump.

Someone wanders into his line of sight. Old Man Ding peers at him curiously. Chht. This is sure to be good. Thump.

“Noticed you weren’t here on Market Day. Things alright up in the inn?”

Sokka pauses, wiping his brow. “Our great aunt passed away last night.”

Ding’s brow furrows. “Ah, but she was so young! Oh, last night was the full moon––she didn’t wander off, did she?”

One of Sokka’s brain gears does a funny little creeeeak.

The full moon…

“No, sir,” he says, looking at the shallow hole he has so far.

“Ah,” says Ding, scratching his head awkwardly. “Should’ve known, that’s what all the digging was for.” His face droops into solemnity as he addresses Sokka again. “I’m sorry, young man. Please carry my condolences to your sister. Do you have incense?”

Ah, shoot. “No,” says Sokka, wary. “Or at least, I’m not sure where Hama keeps- kept it. She usually got it out.” He hopes that passes.

“Ah, then you’ll be needing some for the funeral. I’ll see if I can secure any for you, get it back here tonight. Have you no white clothes?”

“No,” says Sokka again. White is for mourning, he knows that much… “We didn’t expect to- We didn’t expect to stay so long, or for her to-”

The old man nods. “Well, that’s just bad luck. Shouldn’t be wearing red, anyhow. Don’t forget to hang some white on your door, let people know. Don’t want any customers coming in while you’ve a body in the house still.”

He fumbles, an artless “Oh right, I forgot- that. Thank you.” Old Man Ding walks away.

In his haste to make sure Hama received the proper rites, he’d forgotten where they were. Would the funeral be suspicious? Would their departure be reported? What does a Fire Nation funeral even look like, anyway?

He gets back to work. Chht. Thump.

They need to bury Hama. And then sell the inn, and then leave. As quick as possible. It’ll be a real shame if they can’t get a good price for the inn, but Sokka feels a large sense of urgency in their departure. 

Chht. Thump.

A whisper of cloth. He looks up.

“I’m done,” says Katara. She looks wrung out.

He casts a glance down at the hole. “I’m almost there.” He feels the hours piled on him in dirt and sweat and longs for a bath. “Listen, Old Man Ding came by. He’s going to bring incense later tonight. I don’t know… I don’t know if he’s going to stay to watch, so whatever you want to do before then, Water Tribe stuff… probably- try and do it before.”

“Oh,” she says, but it’s like there’s not enough air in the word. He doesn’t need to look up to know there are tears in her eyes again. Yeah.

He wishes they were allowed to keep just one thing.

Katara has hung the white by the time Ding comes back, and he hands them the incense. Sokka looks at it blankly for a moment, trying to fathom how this is supposed to go, and doesn’t even grab it. In the end it’s Katara that moves, bowing with the flame in her hands and thanking him hoarsely. 

Luck, ironically, is on their side for once. Ding bows back, and leaves them to the burial.

They wrapped her in a sheet, the closest thing they had to the skins and furs she would have been wrapped in at the Pole. Together, they lower her into the shallow hole at the base of the tree.

There are words meant to fill the space, here. But Sokka is too young to have learned all the chief’s duties. All the funerals he’s attended were for kin.

“She was… the last of the Southern Waterbenders,” says Katara.

“May her next life be peaceful,” he prays. 

Sokka casts the first mound of dirt, then Katara.

It’s silent work, filling the grave again. Easier than before, and harder. When it’s done there’s nothing left to show but a dark, uneven patch of earth.

Katara lays Hama’s comb at the head of the grave. “I know we can’t leave it, but…”

Sokka nods. Earlier he had amassed a pile of stones, so they take each one and lay them down over and around the come. A tiny cairn for a silent burial.

They’re not sure exactly what to do about the incense. They settle for lighting the incense and letting it smoke from a small pot in front of the cairn, like what they’ve seen in passing at shrines. The smoke has a heavy smell to it.

On the short walk back to the inn, Sokka puts his arm around his sister. She shudders, sniffles, and breaks away to make them dinner. He gives her her space.

The night is long. 

He listens to his sister weep, wide awake. He listens to the house creak, the wind whistling.

Moonlight brushes their window screen. It’s waning. Does she feel it? Had Hama felt it as strongly as his sister seemed to?

Last night was the full moon––she didn’t wander off, did she?

Full moon last night. I didn’t sleep well.

She must’ve died in her sleep.

He wonders.

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Okay. We got introduced to bloodbending in this episode. And OH MY GOD that is so fucked up!! I got creepy vibes from Hama from the beginning but I did NOT expect it to go there. She just controls people. Like puppets. There should definitely be some laws against that or something man, like that is insane.

I always thought waterbending was OP but this is a whole new level. Taking water from the air is one thing, but we’re really out here controlling people’s bodies using their blood. It makes sense that they would be able to, but that DOES NOT mean it’s a good idea!! Katara seemed really upset after she did it, so I assume she’s gonna try to not do it from now on. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of bloodbending.

Also this is a new kind of sub-category of bending, like metal for earth or lightning for fire. I wonder if there’s one for air and what that would be. 

Honestly that’s all I really have to talk about, I already said stuff about the fire nation capturing waterbenders and how awful this war is but everyone already knows that. I still want to learn more abut Katara and sokka’s mom so hopefully we get some backstory on her soon. I was waiting like the whole episode for that story Katara told to have some significance, but I guess it was just random.

Idk when I’ll post again, seeing as tomorrow I have an AP exam AND she ra season 5 is coming out so that will take up most of my attention for a while. But also Avatar will be on Netflix so I’ll be able to watch the next episodes there! So expect like better quality or something idk. See ya then!

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That’s true though… katara did learn bloodbending whether she likes it or not. I wonder if she’ll use this later, I think she’ll probably try to avoid doing it but at some point it’ll become necessary. 

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But DAMN that episode was.. really something. And this ending is so dark!! I’ll see y’all in the review things are about to get crazy

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So she didn’t free any of the other waterbenders in there?

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They weren’t the ones who imprisoned you! She was controlling random innocent fire nation citizens and trapping them underneath a mountain I’m pretty sure Hama is the one to blame here. This was the same sort of problem we had with jet, there are plenty of good people in the fire nation who are not responsible for the terrible things the government/ military has done. 

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That’s the ship from the first episode! wild

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Could that be gran gran? I’m pretty sure it is. Anyway this is really sad, now we know the reason why there were almost no waterbenders in the southern tribe was because they were all captured. The fire nation was also capturing earthbenders in that episode in season one, and they just straight up killed off the airbenders so they very clearly wanted no one to fight them. 

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