‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Plot Recap And Things To Know Before Netflix’s Live-Action Series


The 90s kids will definitely remember the early evenings when we used to wait for our favorite cartoons, like Pokemon, Digimon, and Dragon Ball Z, to arrive on our old television box. No, we didn’t have the internet, and the daily episodes were our only escape from reality. The action animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, belongs to the same era. Each evening, we would go on a new adventure with Aang and his friends, Katara and Sokka, imagining how he would stop his ultimate nemesis, the savage Fire Lord. The creators of Netflix’s live-action series are most likely trying to bring back the old times, but not for us. Maybe the new generation needs to hear the story of The Last Airbender in a more live-action way, or maybe it’s just a capitalistic stunt. Whatever the case might be, the eight episodes in the first season of the Netflix series are indeed going to make us nostalgic and point our fingers toward hi-tech screens every time our favorite moment arrives. Yes, I can already see the Dicaprio meme flooding the internet after the release of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Spoiler Alert

Looking at the titles of the eight episodes, it makes me believe that Netflix’s series is going to follow the first season of the animated series. The narrative introduced us to its universe, key characters, and the underlying conflict. It revolved around a fictional Earth where there were four prominent tribes, each possessing a power of nature: Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind, respectively. They were living in peace and harmony until the great Fire Nation decided to conquer the world and become the supreme ruler. They waged war on the other three elements as the leaders of these nations looked upon the Avatar, who could only stop the Fire Lord and bring peace to the world. However, the current Avatar, Aang, being a child, got cold feet and decided to run away from his responsibilities, only to freeze himself in the middle of the ocean and disappear for 100 long years. In the meantime, the ambitious Fire Lord Sozin harnessed the power of a comet and used its power to win the battle against his enemies. In the long battle, they managed to kill all the Airbenders, making Aang the last surviving member of his clan. Jumping forward by 100 years, and the Fire King Ozai was still struggling to win the war against the Earth and Water Kingdoms while eagerly awaiting Sozin’s comet to return again. It was his only means to end the war and achieve what his ancestors had dreamed of. But to his surprise, somewhere on the south belt, two amateur teenagers, Sokka and Katara, accidentally break the ice dome, thereby waking up The Last Airbender and reminding him of his duties to save the world. From here on, the three underdogs embark on an adventure to hone their bending abilities (sorry, not Sokka; he just sharpens his boomerang) so that they can face Ozai and defeat him in his own game.

Massive spoilers for those who haven’t seen the sequel to the Nickelodeon series, but I want to discuss the two episodes from there that explained the origins of the Avatar and the Benders. Some ten thousand years ago, the spirits and humans inhabited the surface of the planet Earth and were in constant conflict with each other. In order to protect themselves from the wild spirits, the humans created their settlements on the large shells of the speaking lion turtles, who would grant temporary bending powers to the humans so that they could go out in the wilderness to hunt for food and other necessities. At those times, there lived a mischievous lad named Wan who tricked the magical turtle and used the gift for his greed. He was later banished from the settlement, but the turtle showed mercy on the young boy and granted him permanent fire-bending powers so that he could protect himself in exile. Wan’s exile helped him grow throughout these years and made him a better human being who started fighting for the rights of those who couldn’t defend themselves. It was at this juncture that Wan came across a scuffle between two opposing spirits, Vaatu and Raava (something like the Yin Yan, as one symbolizes darkness and the other symbolizes light).

Nevertheless, as Raava was trying to control Vaatu, the dark spirit tricked Wan and pleaded for help. Wan, being a changed man, couldn’t help himself and intervened in the clash, thereby freeing Vaatu and unleashing darkness upon the world. Later, he teamed up with Raava and requested that the magical turtle grant him the power of all the elements so that he could save the world. In the final battle, Raava and Wan became one in order to fight the darkness, and they used their combined forces to imprison the evil spirit forever. Wan also decided to close the bridge between the two worlds and, therefore, sent the spirits to a separate realm, making the physical world entirely safe for humans. In short, they didn’t need the turtle’s shell any longer and were free to roam and explore new avenues. But humans, being humans, use their bending powers to attack each other and steal their lands, thereby bringing death and bloodshed to the world. Wan, until his last breath, tried to maintain peace and order but failed to do so when Raava informed him that his duty wouldn’t come to an end with the death of his mortal body. He would be reincarnated each time so as to guide the world towards peace, and that was how every generation had its own Avatar. Well, that was how it was until the last one chickened out and disappeared.

The final trailer of the Netflix series introduced some key characters of the show, such as Sozin’s son, Zuko, who was banished by his own father for being weak and “stupid.” So for the entire three seasons, this lad suffered from daddy issues and was trying damn hard to impress his father. But the only way to get into his good books again was to catch the Avatar. So here he is, trying to capture the young Aang. The only comic relief in his journey is his uncle, Fire Lord’s older brother, Iroh, who is just there for some good tea. Once a conqueror himself, Iroh lost his son in the great battle against the Earth kingdom, and since then, he has given away all worldly desires and doesn’t share any “firey” ambition. He is just there to protect Zuko from the perils in his way and stop him from becoming like his father. The trailer also gives glimpses of his sister, Azula, who does a much better job of impressing her father and, therefore, becomes the Fire Lord’s favorite.

Other than these important characters, the final trailer also drops a word called “Avatar State,” which, in the simplest of terms, is Aang’s ultimate mode. It gives him immense power temporarily, but throughout season 1, he fails to master the technique. It is the only way he could compete against the Fire Lord, so you know why it is so important. However, there is a twist. If he gets killed in the Avatar State, then the cycle of rebirth would be broken forever. It means there would be no Avatars, and the world would turn into chaos, with humans killing each other like savages. I guess that would be more than enough to enjoy the show, and as the adventure begins, we are most likely to meet other favorite characters in Netflix’s live-action series.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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