“Avatar: The Last Airbender” has reached its summit, the third and final Book, widely and rightly believed by its many fans to be its best. The Fire Nation’s conquest of the Four Nations will reach its zenith and fans are in for a series finale that is simply incredible!
The entire cast from Books One and Two return to their respective roles, and the final season of the show simply wouldn’t be complete without them. How could Book Three possibly end “Avatar” without Zach Tyler Eisen returning to voice Aang, Mae Whitman and Jack DeSena reprising the roles of Katara and Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe, or Jessie Flower as the tomboyish Earthbender Toph? Prince Zuko’s character arch comes full circle in Book Three, and Dante Basco is back to finish it, and though Greg Baldwin has big shoes to fill taking over the role of Uncle Iroh for the late Mako, he continues to make a worthy successor. The terrible trio of Princess Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee are back, with Grey DeLisle, Cricket Leigh, and Olivia Hack reprising their roles, with even Sokka’s old flame Suki coming back into the center of the action, with Jennie Kwan returning. Best of all, Book Three marks the point where the arch-villain of the series, Fire Lord Ozai, gains the greatest prominence, with Mark Hamill returning to truly give “Avatar” the stellar villain it deserves!
Ba Sing Se has fallen to the Fire Nation, Team Avatar’s plan to aid in their defeat has fallen apart, and a new plan is underway. Zuko is welcomed back to the Fire Nation after erroneously taking credit for the death of the Avatar, but the cost is the imprisonment of his beloved Uncle Iroh. As with Books One and Two, a lot is happening at all times with Book Three, but the most important factor is what essentially unites Aang’s quest for a Firebending teacher and Zuko’s realization of what his honor has cost him. This ultimately leads to one of the most satisfying moments in a series that’s built on satisfying moments!
Zuko leaves the Fire Nation to join forces with Team Avatar. It wouldn’t be enough, however, for “Avatar” simply let Zuko come to the realization of the suffering the Fire Nation has caused the Four Nations and leave. No, he looks his father right in the eye to inform him of his new plans before running away, and it just happens that Book Three is the first time Fire Lord Ozai is seen on screen in the entire series. When the Fire Lord finally shows his face to the audience, it’s chilling and powerful to be sure, but Hamill’s voicing of the series’ arch-villain enlivens Book Three like no one else could.
As for Zuko’s quest to join Team Avatar, they accept him about as well as you’d expect, until Zuko proves that he truly has changed after saving Aang’s life from a Fire Nation assassin. With the addition of Zuko to Team Avatar, comes Aang’s final quest to master Firebending, which gives way to arguably the best bending training and bending action the show has ever produced.
Zuko’s efforts to mentor Aang in the ways of Firebending are hampered when he finds his own Firebending skills are dampened, which leads to another highpoint for the series, “The Firebending Masters”. Here, Aang and Zuko attempt to learn Firebending right from the original source, the dragons worshipped by the Sun Warriors. Here, the exceptional writing of the show and its ability to correlate martial arts to life truly comes into play when Aang and Zuko learn that the true essence of Firebending is not the rage-fueled approach (espoused by Ozai and the imperialists of the Fire Nation) but an understanding of and respect for life itself. When Aang holds a tiny flame in the palms of his hands, he says, “It’s like a little heartbeat”, which is one of the best lines of the show. It shows the thinking that goes into each episode and its ability to truly marry the essence of martial arts to the essence of each element.
Zuko’s uniting with Team Avatar provides the center of Book Three up until the finale, but how does the rest of the season fare? As with Books One and Two, the show continues its practice of setting viewer’s expectations as high as it possibly can and then meeting them almost effortlessly.
Katara and Sokka each have their own new skill set they take on over the course of the season. As the only member of Team Avatar not born with the ability to bend, Sokka grows tired of feeling like his jokes and planning are the only skills he brings, and takes up sword training in the episode “Sokka’s Master”. It’s one of the season’s highlight episodes, which earns extra points for having Robert Patrick (“Terminator 2”) a well-known expert at killing people with sharp, pointy things, voicing Sokka’s mentor.
Another of the season’s greats takes a much darker tone in “The Puppetmaster”, in which Katara comes under the tutelage of a witch from the Southern Water Tribe who has devised the most devious bending art of all – bloodbending, leaving any subject she unleashes it upon at her mercy. Katara’s horror at knowing such an art even exists leads her to vow never to use it. Her vow is put to the test, however, in “The Southern Raiders” where she and Zuko manage to track down the Fire Nation soldier who killed her mother years before. Katara’s kind heart leads her to spare him and ultimately learns to trust Zuko. Book Three also throws in a little more levity than is usual, even for a show with the kind of sense of humor that “Avatar” has in “The Ember Island Players”. Here, Team Avatar reunites with Suki and attends a Fire Nation play that totally distorts their personalities and the narrative of the entire show. The sheer number of episodes that could be considered the best of Book Three, whether focused on Zuko’s alliance with Aang, Katara’s blooming romance with Aang, or anyone else’s story arch, truly solidifies the consensus among fans that Book Three is the best season of the show.
With that, we arrive at last at the four-part series finale, “Sozin’s Comet”.
Each installment originally aired right after the other on the 19th of July, 2008 and you can clearly see why. With the Fire Nation at its most powerful, with the passing of Sozin’s Comet -its all come down to this and the viewer is treated to a massive and truly satisfying finale. Uncle Iroh is back in the game and reconciled with Zuko, and Team Avatar sets about in their last ditch effort to thwart the Fire Nation’s quest to wipe out the Earth Kingdom and consolidate their grasp on the Four Nations. Meanwhile, it’s up to Aang to put a stop to Fire Lord Ozai himself, but can the peaceful young monk of the Southern Air Temple go against everything he was brought to hold sacred and destroy the Fire Lord?
Well, you won’t find that out here: the finale of “Avatar” shall receive no spoilers for the uninitiated on Kung Fu Kingdom – it is far, FAR too great a show, and too spectacular a finale to spoil! You can rest assured, however, that as action-packed finales go, “Avatar” is immense and its the one you definitely want to see!
Film Rating: 10/10
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is truly a saga for the ages. There are many great animated shows out there, but seldom have any been half as good as this and, for what many would term a kid’s show, it’s the very definition of age-neutral. For any artists who hope to do a martial arts-centric show in animated form, “Avatar” is the template to follow. For such a phenomenal finale, some might erroneously assume that this is the final adventure to be had in the world of the Four Nations -not by a long shot! The story of “Avatar” would continue long after the show’s end in an ongoing manga graphic novel series that continues its run to this day. Then, of course, there’s the sequel series “The Legend of Korra”, which follows the adventures of Aang’s next life, the Waterbender Korra. Fear not, readers – we’ll be diving headfirst into it next time, do join us!
- One of Aang’s oldest friends is the Earthbending King of Omashu, Bumi, whose name means “Earth” in Malay, Indonesian, and several Indian languages.
- The firebenders’ duel, which is where Zuko originally acquired the burn on his face, is called the “Agni-kai”. “Agni” is a Sanskrit word for “fire”, and is also the name of a Hindu fire deity. “Kai” is Japanese for “meeting” or “together”. Agni-kai thus translates to “fire meeting”.
- Each episode of “Avatar”, from the beginning of scripting to the time it was finished and ready to air, took about nine months to complete.