‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ (2024) Ending Explained & Live-Action Series Recap

In the rapidly evolving visual media business, there are very few compositions of modern fiction that can be classified as timeless in the true sense of the term. We are talking about stories that can evoke the pristine feeling of goodness using an apt blend of hope, heart, and humor, strike the perfect balance between spectacle and narrative treatment, all the while having a universal undertone complemented by strong themes. Michael Dante DiMartino and Brian Konietzko’s much-loved animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, is one such work of art. With a beautiful admixture of Southeast Asian cultural and mythological iconography serving as the backdrop of an enduring saga that parallels real-world socio-historical crises, Avatar was a pioneering success of western animation. 


Given how the series has managed to accumulate critical acclaim, a strong fanbase, and steady viewership over the years, it is hardly surprising that corporate studio giants have set their target on adapting it for a wider audience in live action. While fans of the original series might argue that such an important story needs not to be retold in half measure, that ship had already sailed with M. Night Shyamalan’s horrendous cinematic adaptation. While Netflix’s recent TV series adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender doesn’t fare that badly, thanks to faithful world recreation and inspired casting decisions, it quite expectedly doesn’t reach the high benchmark set by the original series. However, the chances of a decent reception by the audience have widened the scope of multi-season storytelling and further continuation through spin-off as well, promptly serving the primary purpose of such adaptation.

Spoilers Ahead


What Do We Learn About Aang And His Friends?

The world of Avatar is set against a high fantasy backdrop where certain individuals possess the power of manipulating one of the four elemental forces of nature—Earth, Fire, Water, and Air—and are accordingly known as ‘Benders’ of that particular element. Categorized by the dominant bender users, the world is separated into four major nations, and a predestined, chosen one with the ability to master all the bending disciplines, known as the Avatar, is destined to maintain peace among the nations. The role of Avatar passes on to different individuals through a cycle of reincarnation, and although the spirit of the cosmic protector remains the same, the person upholding the mantle does not. In the present time period of the series, Aang, a young twelve-year-old Airbender, is the Avatar, whose journey to shoulder the burden of the world becomes the focal point of the series. 

The ruthless leader of the Fire Nation, Fire Lord Sozin, decides to take over the world by conquering the other nations, and to do so, he initially seeks to kill the Avatar—the prime hurdle in his goal of global dominance. However, at this point in time, the identity of the new Avatar has not been revealed to the world, but according to the cosmic cycle, the person is destined to be one of the Air Nomads. Therefore, Sozin schemes to annihilate the entire Airbender clan at once, and the eve of the Comet festival, which sees the congregation of all the Airbenders of the world in the Southern Air temple, provides him with the perfect opportunity. Aang, on the other hand, learns about his divine responsibility as an Avatar from his mentor/friend Gyatso, and gets flabbergasted considering the monumental implications of such a role. He starts getting cold feet. Aang flies off with his pet sky bison, Appa, to relieve some of his anxiety, and, getting caught in turbulent weather, accidentally activates his Avatar state, which results in him and Appa being trapped inside a sphere of ice. In his absence, the Fire Nation, emboldened by the power of the Comet, raids the Southern Sky Temple to slaughter every last one of the Airbenders. 


A century has passed since the fateful incident, and the Fire Nation continues to grow stronger in the absence of the cosmic protector. In the polar region of the Southern Water Tribe, the current teenage tribe leader Sokka and his sister Katara, a Waterbender, rescue Aang from the ice sphere. The oldest and wisest member of the tribe, Sokka and Katara’s grandmother, recognizes Aang as the missing Avatar, and Aang gets the shock of a lifetime after learning about the genocide of the Airbenders. Almost at the same time, Aang’s Avatar state sends up a beacon-like signal, which is noticed by Zuko, the exiled son of current Fire Lord Ozai, who has spent three years in pursuit of the missing Avatar, to regain his lost honor and the right to return to his country. Taking his crew along, Zuko comes knocking at the gates of the water tribe to search for the Avatar, and even though Sokka initially considers giving up Aang to save the tribe further trouble, he eventually adheres to his sister’s request and tries to keep him from getting captured. A grateful Aang gives himself up as a sign of gratitude, but eventually, with the help of a released Appa, Sokka and Katara manage to rescue him from Zuko. While fleeing, Aang takes Zuko’s journal, which chronicles the past Avatars and their deeds in detail, which later helps Aang find his way through the mystical maze of the world of elements. 

Who Are The Pivotal Fire Nation Characters?

Just like in the first season of the original animated series, one of the major highlights of Netflix’s adaptation was the relationship dynamics between the royal family members of the Fire Nation. The short-tempered, rough demeanor of Zuko acts like a shell to hide his compassionate, kind self, which was the reason why Ozai, the heartless patriarch of the Royal family, gave him a disciplinary lesson in the form of a grotesque scar and exiled his son in the first place. Zuko’s younger sister, Azula, the favorite child of their father, has been turned into a crude, malicious person from a young age, learning greatly from her father’s oppressive means to assert dominance. Ozai’s elder brother, Iroh, a benevolent, humble, gentle individual, seems to be the most out of place in this context, as his current pacifist modus operandi totally contrasts that of his nation’s and family’s. However, Iroh used to be a fierce warrior, until the death of his beloved son, Lu Ten, snuffed out the flame of violence in him. In Iroh’s most emotionally vulnerable situation, Zuko was there to assist his uncle; therefore, Iroh made it his responsibility to help his nephew by aiding him through his worldly wisdom and joined him in his exile. The endearing bond that Zuko and Iroh share is extremely heartwarming, to say the least, and is a brilliant testament to the original series’ impeccable characterization. 


Aside from the royal family members, there is General Zhao, an ambitious, cunning, and sleazy general of the Fire Nation armada, who eventually joins in a cat-and-mouse game with Zuko and Iroh to capture the Airbender. Eventually, it is revealed that Azula was pulling the strings to strengthen Zhao’s hand and keep Zuko out of Ozai’s good books. 

What Are The Adventures Aang Partake In?

A remorseful Aang blames himself for not being there when his people needed him the most, and after a heartbreaking spectacle of his home, the dilapidated Southern Air Temple, he gets emotionally distraught and enraged, which leads to the activation of his Avatar State yet again. To get a better understanding of the Avatar State, Aang decides to go to Kyoshi Island to learn about the eponymous mighty Avatar, who had mastered this ability with great proficiency. Sokka expresses his unwillingness to continue with Aang’s journey, as he has his tribe to protect in the absence of their father, and is deeply protective of his sister, Katara. However, Katara, who has gained newfound confidence and a better hold on Waterbending since Aang’s arrival, argues otherwise and believes in the higher purpose of assisting the Avatar. Eventually, Sokka begrudgingly agrees, and as the trio begin their journey towards Kyoshi Island riding Appa, they are assisted by a winged lemur, Momo. 


On the secluded, cloistered Kyoshi island, Aang forms a connection with the former Avatar by visiting her shrine and learns that he can connect with former Avatars to seek counsel by visiting their shrines. On the island, we also meet a Kyoshi warrior, Suki, who longs to venture into the outside world, but her responsibility as a protector of the island keeps her from doing so. Zuko and Zhao attack Kyoshi Island, which prompts Kyoshi to channel herself through Aang and vanquish the opposition. Aang also learns about an impending catastrophe that is about to befall the Northern Water tribe, which he needs to stop by fulfilling his responsibilities as the Avatar. 

On their way to the Northern Water tribe, the trio visits a number of places as the legend of the returned Avatar continues to grow, and Aang starts to take on the burden of his role by helping anyone and everyone who needs assistance. The group visits the Earth Nation stronghold, Omashu, where Aang reunites with his old friend, Bumi, who has become a king at this point, though the responsibility of kingship in a turbulent time like this has made him senile. Aang helps his friend by emphasizing the value of friendship and restoring him to his former self.


Outside the perception of mortals in the physical realm, the world of Avatar is also inhabited by a number of mystical elemental spirits, who were responsible for humankind getting the power of bending in the first place. It is the duty of an Avatar to maintain the balance between both worlds, which are separated by a barrier, but in Aang’s absence, Fire Nation’s oppression had an impact on nature as well, resulting in a breach of the barrier. Aang and co. visit the world of spirits on one occasion, leading Sokka and Katara to relive their worst fear—the truth they had tried to avoid all their lives. We learn Katara was unwittingly responsible for the death of her mother, and Sokka has always struggled to live up to the standard and become the warrior and protector his father wanted him to be. Inside the spirit world, the brother-sister duo get caught by Faceless Koh, a malevolent primal spirit, and Aang gets a vision of Gyatso, leading to a much-deserving reunion. Gyatso reveals to Aang about former Avatar Roku, who had tricked Koh once, and to seek his advice, Aang ventures into his shrine at the Fire Nation. Using the totem of Mother of Faces, which Aang gains from Roku, he is able to save his friends. Throughout their adventures, the trio gets constantly and alternatively chased by Zuko and General Zhao, with neither being able to fulfill their mission of taking the Avatar to Ozai. Aang connects with Iroh and Zuko and becomes sympathetic after learning that the Fire Nation prince is burdened by destiny, with not much consideration for what he wants for himself, much like what Aang has been forced to as well.

Was Aang Able To Shoulder His Responsibilities?

At long last, the trio reach Agna Qel’a, the capital city of the Northern Water tribe—a fortress that has stood tall against time but is not tested by fierce adversaries like the Fire Nation’s armada. By now, Aang has reached a better understanding of the sacrifice, selflessness, and steadfast, unwavering commitment he needs to have for the mantle of the Avatar, and similarly, Katara has gotten much stronger by practicing her waterbending abilities. Katara gets into an argument with Pakku, who is unwilling to break their tribe’s age-old tradition of keeping women outside the spheres of combat, and eventually proves herself to be worthy by holding her own for quite a while against the Waterbending master. Sokka gets acquainted with the tribe leader’s daughter, Princess Yue, with whom he had a chance encounter in the spirit world. As Yue’s life was saved by the essence of the Moon Spirit during her childhood, she frequently traverses across the realms. 


Aang seeks the guidance of Avatar Kuruk of the Water tribe as he wants to learn about possible ways to stop the impending catastrophe that is set to befall the tribe, but with a fatalistic attitude, Kuruk states Aang cannot prevent the inevitable; he can only change the outcome. Eventually, led by General Zhao, a massive fFire Nation fleet appears in the sea surrounding the tribe’s fortress and starts bombarding. Katara manages to convince Pakku into letting her and other women of the tribe join the battle. As the fight breaks out, Momo gets severely injured, prompting Yue to take him to the sacred place of Agna Qel’a, where the two spirits of Moon and Ocean descend on that particular night. Momo gets healed, and Sokka witnesses Zhao arriving at the place, unbeknownst to the rest of the tribe’s defenders, and the nefarious plan of the general gets revealed. In a misguided attempt to put himself in the ultimate position of power, Zhao is trying to attempt something that even Ozai would never do, as he wants to kill the spirit of the moon, which will exterminate Waterbending forever. Aang and Iroh confront Zhao and try to appeal to his senses, but to no avail.

Zhao kills the mortal form of the spirit of the moon, wreaking havoc on the tribe in the process, and Aang prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice to undo the heinous act. Aang surrenders himself to the spirit of the ocean, which takes the form of a colossal spirit beast, and floods the Fire Nation’s entire fleet in a terrible act of vengeance. However, this also means that the Avatar will be trapped forever in the form of a vengeful spirit, and in the absence of a major bending discipline, the world will be thrown into utter chaos. In order to resurrect the Moon spirit, Princess Yue decides to sacrifice her life (as she was a part of the spirit), which restores normalcy around the world once again, and the Ocean spirit returns Aang to his former self. The Northern Water tribe has suffered substantial losses by the end of the battle, but with a promise of a brighter future, provided by the hopeful presence of the Avatar himself, they are determined to rebuild and start anew. Aang, Sokka, and Katara take their leave, as they need to get stronger and help more people before they are able to take the battle to the frontiers of the Fire Nation.


On the other hand, after being constantly outmatched and framed by Zhao, a furious Zuko starts battling him, and in the face of defeat, Zhao reveals that Zuko was merely used as a pawn by his father Ozai to act as a motivation to his favorite child, Azula. In the end, it is indicated that Zhao met his end by falling into the ocean, but we don’t know that for certain, as the original series misdirected the audience with the same situation. After the revelation, Zuko seems disillusioned for the first time, but he takes comfort knowing Uncle Iroh is standing by his side. 

The news of the failure reaches Ozai, who is not surprised given how fortified the Northern Water tribe’s fortress was. However, just like how Sozin misdirected the world by leaking the Earth Nation attack plan and decimating the Airbenders instead, Ozai has managed to beguile everyone with his attack on the Water tribe while secretively demolishing the defense of Omashu, and leading the charge is none other than Princess Azula, who will certainly prove herself to be as diabolical as her father, if not more, in days to come. As the first season ends, the Fire Mage of Roku’s Shrine reveals to Ozai that Sozin’s comet is returning after the 100-year gap, which means once again the Fire Nation will be at their strongest, indomitable self, positing an even greater threat for Aang, his friends, and the rest of the world. 


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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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