There have been many nay saying retractors who have demoted "Avatar" to being a simple piece of pseudo-anime child fodder, and in many ways it is. But it is also one of the most interesting animated epics on television in years. With an industry looking to bring nothing but disposable cartoons and lame comedy, it’s rare that we’re able to sit and watch animated epics, anymore. "Avatar" has been engaging, beautiful, and often very emotional.
One of the many important aspects that "Avatar" strived in also was garnering some masterful voice work as well as the likes of the legendary Mako, the famed Asian actor who passed away during the making of the series. In the episode "Tales of Ba Sing Se," the gentleman is given one of the most heartbreaking send offs ever created for children’s television, verifying that the writers had so much more in mind for audiences than storylines that talk down to us.
Dismiss it all you want, but "Avatar" has been a fantastic episodic tale of young Ang, the reincarnation of thousands of years of spiritual elemental benders who has gradually grown from an immature child in to a stern young man slowly realizing that in order to finally defeat the menace of the wicked Fire Benders who rule the land, he’ll have to murder the rule of all fire benders: The fire lord. And possibly kill himself doing it.
After so many years, "Avatar" is coming to a close, and I’m pretty sad about it. As a writer it’s rare to find excellent storytelling in animation anymore beyond movies, and "Avatar" has proven me wrong in many instances. Its storytelling has been fluid and absolutely phenomenal and some of the best action sequences have been built around heavy allusions to violence without ever resorting to graphic content. There’s never any blood shed, but that matters none thanks to the grueling fights that take place between characters here.
The final episodes began on July 14th where Nickelodeon paid a final great farewell by airing all the newest episodes before the big movie “Sozin’s Comet.” The last time we saw the group there was a destined eclipse that would momentarily prevent the firebenders from using their powers while the sun was blocked out. But all was botched as the freedom fighters found themselves hopelessly outmatched and outgunned by the firebenders who were successfully able to stall while the eclipse stopped their powers. And of course playing her wretched mind games, ex-prince Zuko’s sister Azula was able to coerce hero Sokka in battling with her thus enabling the right window for the eclipse to end and allow her the fire bending abilities yet again.
The failure caused the youngest of the freedom fighters to flee on Appa, while the oldest volunteered to stay behind and survive in the Fire Lord’s prison. When we meet the group again, things are easily at their worst with most of the children and teenagers confused, tense, and sniping at one another. Zuko became an ally pleading for their forgiveness while training Aang to learn to firebend, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg, my friends.
These final episodes have not been a let down and have delivered on every single promise from an epic finisher to a mounting tension based around Aang’s fear of the Fire Lord and his final battle that ensured the possibility that lives would be lost. In spite of his constant betrayal, Prince Zuko has always had potential to be one of the best anti-heroes of the story, and he proved himself well by teaming with Aang to reclaim his powers after discovering his ability was being mysteriously stifled and weakened.
The final episodes (depicted as a two hour movie) revolve around Sozin’s Comet, and the surge of power given to the Fire Lords thanks to its passing, and it simply doesn’t disappoint the fans. Everyone waiting for that final fight between Aang and Ozai is one of the most beautiful exciting moments in animation with some of the best scores ever composed, while everyone else in Team Avatar experiences a coming of age. Zuko and Azula battle to the death, Earth Bender Toph and valiant leader Sokka held up the forefront for their father, and of course as Ozai sought to conquer the world, his brother Iroh finally made peace with his nephew Zuko and took back Ba Sing Se with a host of other veteran benders.
“Sozin’s Comet” is a brilliant finale for fans of the series who have been waiting on the edge of their seat wondering if Aang would come to grips with murdering Ozai and stopping his reign of terror, and the second half as excellent as it was, is a cop out. I considered that since the series was for children the writers were at a loss of ideas to work around the murder angle, and it’s a shame so many convenient plot twists set us up for a humongous dues ex machina that allows the Fire Lord to be thwarted without dying. Not to mention the allusion is made of a spin off with Zoku looking for his mother’s grave. So are we to believe this is just healthy ambiguity for off-screen adventures, or are there more movies on the way?
But the big pay off comes in the final moments of “Sozin’s Comet,” where I feared we’d only get a mere loving glance between Aang and Katara. Thankfully, the two embrace in a deep kiss that shows once and for all that the writers wanted to give the audience everything they’ve been asking for and it’s an awfully great romantic capper and happy ending to Aang’s journey. It’s about time.
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” was never supposed to be an ongoing series, especially with the networks’ limits on episode numbers, but for three seasons we witnessed a magnificent underrated epic story and I’m glad I was able to see it through. The Avatar’s journey has ended, and I hope we get to see another series like this again.