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Avatar: The Legend of Korra, Book 4: Change may be the last animated entry into one of the best television shows of the past decade. In honor of this milestone, Channel Surfer is providing a retrospective on each Avatar season, from the original series to the now. This is meant to be an overview for Avatar veterans, and hopefully an introduction for anyone interested in the show. This week we start with The Last Airbender, Book 1: Water.
Original Run: 2005
No. of Episodes: 20
Premise: Avatar takes place in a world where humans can bend fire, water, earth, and air. Once, the four nations lived in harmony, until the fire nation attacked. Only the “Avatar,” master of all four elements could stop them, but when the world needed him most, he vanished. A century later, the new Avatar is found, and must reestablish balance to the world.
Book 1: Water
In the remote Southern Water Tribe, two siblings, Katara and Sokka, discover a boy in an ice berg. The boy, Aang, turns out to be the “Avatar,” master of all four elements and bridge between the physical and spiritual world. 100 years earlier, Aang had accidentally frozen himself. It is revealed that Aang is the last Airbender in existence, as the Fire Nation exterminated the Air Nation in an effort to find and capture him. Determined to stop the Fire Nation, Aang, Katara, and Sokka travel to the Northern Water Tribe to begin Aang’s waterbending training. At the same time, however, they are chased relentlessly by Zuko, the exiled prince of the Fire Nation, who must capture the Avatar to return home.
Watching the Show
The first season of Avatar is basically an introductory season. It obviously had a lot to do, since it had to set up the entire Avatar world and history. Out of all the seasons of Last Airbender, this one takes the most to gather steam. It’s not until around episode 7 that the show adopts the high paced action and engrossing storytelling that defined the series. Like most first seasons, the show was still trying to find its footing. Was it a kid’s show, an action-adventure show, or both? It’s definitely the weakest overall season. But by the last episode, you can really tell that the show runners decided to fully embrace the East Asian influences that served as the foundation of the Avatar, introducing choreographed fight scenes and philosophical elements that have made the show one of best on TV.
The Southern Air Temple (S. 1, Ep.3)
The third episode of Avatar was weird in that it introduced the darker elements in the series when it was till ostensibly in its “kid’s show” phase. The animation wasn’t quite there yet and all the character still looked and sounded very young. The episode goes into the backstory of both Aang and Zuko, established their fears and motivations for the rest of the show. It also introduces the concept of “The Avatar State,” which would play a huge role later on.
The Deserter (S. 1, Ep. 16)
Look, there are a lot of great episodes of Avatar. That’s why the show is amazing. Almost every episode stands alone in terms of quality and entertainment. So while there are probably better shows I could put here, I stand by “The Deserter” as a highlight of the first season because it showed why the Avatar has to learn each element in a specific order, and that not everyone in the Fire Nation was jazzed about the war. Plus, it made Aang scared of firebending, a trait which would be brought up multiple times.
The Siege of the North (S.1, Ep. 19-20)
I’m specifically leaning more towards episode 20 than 19. “The Siege of the North” serves as the first season’s finale and Team Avatar’s first real battle against the Fire Nation. With the fate of the Northern Water Tribe as stake, Aang and his friends must stop a naval invasion from the Fire Nation. Things get crazy when the invasion’s glory hungry general threatens to destroy the moon spirit that resides within the tribe, thus endangering the entire world. High stakes, high action, and consequently the first Avatar episode I watched, this one is a must see.
Next week we tackle the unconquerable city in Book 2: Earth. See ya’ then!
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