Today’s post has been in the back of my mind for about a month now. Heck, I can pinpoint the moment I knew it was coming. As I was writing the most recent plug city post, it featured a number of articles from Geeks Under Grace about Avatar – and as soon as I started reading those, I was like “I need to watch this show again”. I was about to…but then the fire nation attacked. Ok, not really, other stuff came up. But about a week and some change ago Netflix (Canada) brought back Avatar (so far only Book 1), and I streamed that sucker in a couple days. I don’t know how people watched this show originally, cause it is binge material. Let’s dive in, shall we? (Some spoilers ahead)
What makes this show SO GOOD is hard to pinpoint; because it’s not one or two things – it’s the whole show. I can count on one hand the number of things I don’t care for in this series. The world created is fascinating/engrossing and not something really seen before, the writing is great, the characters constantly grow and change, there is an escalation of threat over the series, it pulls on you emotionally (I full on teared up when Aang and Appa were reunited after a number of episodes), it has stakes, it has humor – it knows how to poke fun at itself, it has an amazing voice cast, amazing music, depth, interesting themes, great fights, phenomenal animation, and on and on I could go (that’s the short version of this post, here comes the longer).
The show was aimed at kids (it was on Nickelodeon after all), but it was accessible to adults. It dealt with themes of; destiny, choosing one’s own path, loss of a loved one, parental abuse and neglect, knowing right from wrong, the loss of one’s culture, isolation, war, serving others, expectation, trust, betrayal, family, sense of self, doubt, fear, consequence of actions, running away, and more. These weren’t one and done issues either – theses were ongoing, ever-present characteristics of multiple characters (looking at you especially though, Zuko). People died in this show, characters deeply cared about each other, they grew, they reacted in believable ways when they were hurt. I cannot stress enough how great the writing for this show was – far better than it’s sequel series, The Legend of Korra, and many other shows – even adult ones.
Every main character had an arc and experienced growth:
Aang (the Avatar) started as a character who while loyal and fun loving would at times shake responsibility (he was 12 after all) who didn’t really want to be the Avatar, felt the guilt for running from his people (and the genocide they experienced) and the first 100years of the war that happened in his absence. He could be selfish when he was worried he’d lose his friends, fearful of learning firebending after hurting Katara, and would sometimes avoid confrontation. Over the course of the series though, these traits were lessened (not that they were large traits to begin with) as Aang grew and began to embrace his role as the Avatar, was able to let go of his fears/doubts/guilt, and grow more and more confident.
Katara was very motherly, nurturing, and at times the voice of reason. She would caution against rash action and responding in anger often – which as the series continued were traits that she struggled with herself. If you got on Katara’s bad side – broke her trust, or she placed her anger on you (looking at you, Zuko) though – she would be rash, guard up, almost unforgiving, and may or may not threaten your life. She also grew from a novice to master waterbender, and had many precious moments with Aang.
Sokka began as the comic relief character with a closed mind and fairly typical early teenage boy attitude of ‘girls can’t fight, men are warriors’. And while he stayed as a jokey character, he grew exponentially. He was challanged constantly which made him able to see things from a different point of view, he saw amazing female warriors (his sister Katara, Suki/the Kioshi Warriors, Toph, even Azula/Ty Lee/Mai) which changed his perspective on what girls can and can’t do, and became the teams go-to for plans and strategies.
Toph: Toph grew the least, but still grew. She was there for comedy, and to teach Aang earthbending. She started off being a bit of an outsider in the group due to her over-protected upbringing and hidden double life. She could also be very stubborn and set in her ways. But she developed into an integral member of the team who would also call out the team when they’re being incredibly rash.
Zuko: Zuko was a development machine. He started as the teams nemesis who was out to regain his honor, to a confused foe on the run, to an integral member and master Aang needed to complete his training. While Zuko was always stiff and easy to anger, he changed – not only in personality, but also in power and ability. Over the course of the three seasons you see him go from someone who could put up a moderate fight to someone who could stand on equal footing with his sister Azula – a prodigy.
Other great characters include Azula, Avatar Roku, Mai & Ty Lee, and especially Zuko’s Uncle Iroh.
Finally, one of the best things about this show is that it knows how to make fun of itself (greatly exemplified in the season 3 episode The Ember Island Players) and it knows how to use its filler episodes to develop characters even further (again, greatly exemplified in the season 2 episode The Tales of Ba Sing Se).
So if you’re looking for an excellent show that you can get absorbed in with amazing characters, deep themes, wonderful moments, and laugh out loud funny moments – watch or revisit Avatar: The Last Air Bender. You won’t regret it.
Hope you all enjoyed todays post! What was your favourite episode? Who was your favourite character? Let me know in the comments below!
Hope you all have a wondeful day, and God bless my friends!