Avatar: The Last Airbender episode 5 recap: Into the Spirit World

Avatar: The Last Airbender episode 5 recap: Into the Spirit World

This article contains spoilers for Avatar: The Last Airbender episode 5, "Spirited Away".  Avatar: The Last Airbender has been given the live-action treatment by Netflix

Just like the beloved Nickelodeon cartoon, this adaptation follows the titular last airbender, Aang, as the youngster sets off to master all four elements — Fire, Water, Earth and Air — so he can bring balance back to the world and stop the Fire Nation's war.

More Avatar: The Last Airbender recaps

In the fifth episode of the series, Aang and co. are waylaid on the journey to link up with the Northern Water Tribe. Spotting signs of a Fire Nation attack whilst flying on Appa, they find their way to a village in the forest, and end up crossing into the Spirit World in search of some missing villagers.. where they cross paths with a terrifying primal spirit. Here's a full recap of everything that happened in Avatar: The Last Airbender episode 5.

Fleeing the firebenders

The episode begins with Team Avatar being chased through the forest by a group of firebenders. After some impressive bending from Aang and Katara, the trio manages to escape by jumping off a cliff and landing on Appa mid-flight, just in the nick of time. They've been encountering more Fire Nation resistance since they're nearer to their borders. 

Up in the air, they spot smoke, and see part of the forest has been burned down. They land and explore the area, spotting signs that the Fire Nation must be responsible for the attack. While exploring, Sokka comes across a young girl trying to hide behind a tree. Katara startles the girl and drops her doll as she runs away. 

The trio chases after the girl (with her doll at hand) and arrives at a village, where her father is scolding her for running away. The man thanks them for their help and explains the village's plight. The Fire Nation cleared a path through the forest and since they burned it down, strange things have been happening: crops are dying, and a search party looking for fresh food (one which included the man's son) never returned from the forest. Aang senses the missing persons have slipped into the Spirit World, and promises to get them back. 

Elsewhere, Zuko gets wind of a new lead on Aang's whereabouts and plans to investigate himself. Meanwhile, Azula tries to talk up Commander Zhao to her father. While Fire Lord Ozai offers to send Zhao more resources to search for the Avatar, he warns Azula that her coy, quid-pro-quo approach is not one he wants to see in an heir, frustrating her. 

Meanwhile, Team Avatar heads into the woods and eventually finds themselves at a shrine to the spirits. En route, Aang explains they're at a place where the barrier between the real and Spirit Worlds is weak in places, and he plans to cross over to the other realm to bring the missing villagers back. 

After a day or so of meditating, Aang finally manages to separate his spirit and cross over... except he realizes he's accidentally brought Sokka and Katara with him. After some time they come across a Spirit of Knowledge (a tall, owl-headed figure). Sokka and Katara are incapable of hearing what the spirit says, but it tells Aang that there is someone down the path who may know where the missing people are. The spirit always warns that they must not stray from the path and that his human companions are in serious danger in the realm: the longer they stay, the worse it gets. 

Zuko and Iroh arrive in Firebender-controlled Earth Kingdom territory, following up on Aang's whereabouts. Zuko attempts to bribe an innkeeper for info about Aang. The proprietor hasn't seen him, but he and his patrons have heard about the Avatar. This worries Zuko, as he fears someone else will capture the Avatar, preventing him from returning home. 

Outside the inn, they're stopped by a man begging for help... who is promptly struck by a beast called a shirshu, ridden by a bounty hunter (June). Zuko doesn't like June, but later in the episode, Iroh talks him into hiring her to track Aang down. We also see a glimpse of Azula losing her cool during a training session, and nearly attacking her instructor: despite her top form, she fears she'll never be good enough for her father. 

The Face Stealer

Aang (Gordon Cormier) standing opposite Koh the Face Stealer spirit in Avatar: The Last Airbender episode 5.

Aang crosses paths with Koh the Face Stealer.  (Image credit: Netflix)

Team Avatar manage to stick to the path... for a bit. They cross paths with the Hei Bai spirit, which Aang recognizes as the spirit of the forest. Angered, it lashes out at the trio, and they're forced to flee into the forest. We link up with Sokka first, who finds himself greeted by a fox spirit that explains the spirit is not a monster, it is in pain; the fox further warns the fog in the woods is dangerous.

Next, we see Katara, who glimpses and hears a spirit that rushes up to her, causing Katara to fall down. When she stands back up, she finds herself back home and is thrilled to be reunited with her mother. Their strange reunion is short-lived, though, as she watches the Fire Nation attack Wolf Cove, and eventually sees her mother burnt alive by one of their soldiers, and another figure with the spirit's face ambushes her.

We're reunited with Sokka, who finds himself ankle-deep in snow. Bizarrely, he's been taken back to a monumental day from his past: the day he passed his ice-dodging trials. His father bestows the Mark of the Wise on him and tells Sokka to find his sister to celebrate. Outside the hut, though, Sokka hears his father and Bato discussing his lackluster performance in his boat, and he feels crushed. A voice tells him to give into that despair, and lurches at him, just as it did Katara.

The spirit tries its tricks on Aang next, but he's capable of recognizing the vision of the restored Air Temple as nothing but an illusion. The primal spirit manifests, curious that he is wise to its power. It recognizes him as the Avatar and explains that one of his past selves tried to fight it and stole something from it. Then, it moves to attack, as it wants to eat his friends. 

Aang runs away and stumbles into a stone cottage, where he's greeted by his old friend, Gyatso. Aang hesitates, but Gyatso tells him he's not a trick. He waited in the Spirit World as he knew Aang would need his help. He explains that the primal spirit, Koh the Face Stealer, who preys on fear and doubt, will have taken the villagers and his friends to its lair to rest until he is ready to feed on their souls.

Gyatso tells him Koh is a formidable spirit, and that there's no way to defeat him, but Aang's determined to try. Gyatso tells him there are rumors that Avatar Roku once bested Koh in the past. As Koh will be ready to feed again soon, Aang decides to set out for the Fire Nation so he can head to Avatar Roku's shrine and speak to the past master of the elements. 

Aang returns to the real world and tells Appa to watch over the bodies of his friends whilst their spirits are trapped. Then, the episode ends with glimpses of other characters, set to Gyatso's voiceover talking about letting go of pain and regret and remembering to fight for the people you love. Zuko's seen apart from the rest of his crew, Azula's tirelessly perfecting her bending arts, Commander Zhao receives word of his increased resources, and Aang flies over the Fire Nation using his airbending staff.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is now streaming on Netflix.