By Grace Gardener
I often like to quote an obscure group of people called “they.” So, here we go: “they” say that good things come in threes. Well, I don’t know whether “they” could cite any sources proving this (that’s very important these days), but I feel like I have found a very good example of the rule. Avatar: The Last Airbender has three amazing seasons. I took a break after reviewing Season 2 because I was very busy, but this month I’m back talking about this awesome show.
The Last Airbender Season 3 has 21 episodes, 2 major climaxes and about 6 different plots. Surprisingly, they are balanced very well. The most important ones are given most time, but every one is given enough time to be worked out satisfyingly. I really like how the characters’ storylines didn’t suffer under the main storyline of, you know, the whole war with the Fire Nation thing. The bigger cause was important but characters and their moral problems were not neglected. Also, when Aang’s moral compass seems to make it impossible for him to overthrow the Firelord, this is not swept aside as “less important” but is actually dealt with. The finale was absolutely amazing, although I did think the final fight between Ozai and Aang dragged on a bit. Once you knew for sure who was gonna win, it still went on for a few minutes. I understand the intended effect of showcasing Aang’s power – we haven’t seem him this mighty before – and I also get that it’s logical for the Firelord not to just give up immediately, but it did get a bit tedious.
Almost all characters have their own storyline. Katara deals with her anger at the man who killed her mother and her personality clashes with a lot of those of the other members of the Gaang. Toph and Katara’s personalities clash often enough, so that makes for some interesting fights. Sokka has a hard time being the only nonbender and being a leader at the same time. We see him learning that he really is an important part of the Gaang and finding his self-worth. Aang suffers from having the responsibility of saving the entire world. At the same time, he is the equivalent of a Tibetan Buddhist monk and has been taught his whole life that killing any living creature is wrong. Obviously, the Firelord is so powerful that it seems as if the only way to make him stop is to kill him.
Zuko starts the season back in the Fire Nation. He has everything he wanted and still he’s not happy. Throughout the season, we see him slowly learning that he does not, in fact, have his honour back, whatever his father may tell him. He struggles with the fact that his nation has hurt thousands of people and that his father is not a good man. Most of all, he wants to find his destiny, which is the Eastern version of what God wants you to do with your life. Looking at Season 3 Zuko, it’s very impressive to see how much he’s changed: he went from a hurt boy with a ponytail to a strong, peaceful teenager with floppy hair.
One of the things I really appreciated was that each character reacted in a way you’d expect. In a lot of shows, the writers seem to always add in this one character that reacts stubborn when faced with a choice. This character often seems to be chosen randomly and is just annoying. In Avatar: The Last Airbender, however, the characters react like you’d expect them to and with reasons that seem fair. It gives them more individuality and still makes for enough “drama.”
One reason older people can enjoy this show is because of the morals and deeper themes. The most impressive one this season was Zuko’s character arc. This season, it comes to a close. Zuko deals with the fact that his father was abusive. On the other side of the coin, his sister Azula admits that she never felt loved by her mother. Both of them end up very differently. Most of this can be directly linked to the fact that Zuko had Uncle Iroh to guide him whereas Azula only had her father to influence her. Instead of treating their rivalry as another cool fight scene, it is treated as a tragedy. The music during their final fight is sad, not exciting. The show portrays their stories very well and emphasizes how important kindness and love is.
As I said earlier, Aang is a monk who believes that killing any living being is dreadfully wrong. This seems to be in conflict with the fact that everyone expects him to defeat the Firelord. After all, the Firelord is incredibly powerful and can create fire whenever he wants. Locking him up just isn’t going to do the trick. The show actually solves this in a very creative way instead of tromping all over Aang’s morals by portraying them as quaint fancies, so that was cool.
Spoiler warning for the next paragraph! Katara’s mother was killed before the show started by a Fire Nation soldier and she has been the one keeping the family together. When the chance seems to come along to finally take revenge on the man who killed her mother, she jumps to take it. In the end, she doesn’t take revenge. She also refuses to forgive her mother’s killer, even when Aang urges her to forgive. In this case, the show seemed less to be telling us what to think of what is happening and rather seems to just be showing how two different people react to a difficult moral dilemma. I was obviously not very pleased with Katara’s decision, although I do understand it.
Well, that was that. For a series, this show isn’t very long, but it really manages to stay with you. It isn’t surprising that even after almost 13 years, there are still hard-core fans out there. The intended audience is children, but the story, characters and messages are still very entertaining and fulfilling when you’re older. And the best part: the episodes are only 20 minutes long, so you can watch them whenever you want. So next time you’re trying to find something fun to watch that your entire family can actually enjoy, Avatar: The Last Airbender has got you covered.
UPDATE: After thinking things over, and learning some more about worldviews, I have changed my opinion on this series and no longer recommend it. I still think it is very well made, but it shouldn’t be watched by those who are still young in their belief: what you watch influences you, even if you don’t notice it. The worldview in Avatar: The Last Airbender has a lot of Christian themes, but is essentially anti-Christian. –July 2021