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Avatar the Last Airbender Season 1 Review

by Pennsylvania Digital News

If you are looking for a word for word retelling of the animated version of Avatar the Last Airbender in this live action adaptation from Netflix then this show is not for you. This version works because it focuses heavily on the emotional relationships between the characters and helps expand on what the animated show touched on. While the show is not perfect, it is definitely better than other versions we have seen – looking at you M. Night Shyamalan. 

As with the animated version, this story is centered on the Avatar – Aang (Gordon Cormier) not Ong- who as a boy was frozen in ice for 100 years while the Airbenders were wiped out by the Fire Nation during the comet. Learning that you are the hope for the world, to keep it in balance is a lot for any person, never mind a 12 year old boy; so we can forgive him for running away. 

Gordon Cormier as Avatar Aang, 

Netflix ©2024 All Rights Reserved

This pressure as well as feeling that he was the reason his people were wiped out – not being there to help them – weighs on Aang throughout the entire season. This baggage leads to some great emotional scenes from Gordon who must relate to his character as being such a young lead of a very popular series. Even with all this baggage, Aang is all heart and cares for every living creature with the gentleness and curiousness of a child who is technically a hundred year old man. Even with some goofiness only a child can bring, the tone of the show is much more mature than the animated series. A lot of that matureness comes from the rest of the ensemble. 

If Aang is the moral compass of the show then Prince Zuko (Dallas Liu) and Uncle Iroh (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) relationship is the heart of the series. Having been charged with finding the Avatar and bringing him back to the Fire Lord (Daniel Dae Kim) these two embark on a journey together that pulls at your heart strings. Uncle Iroh is constantly trying to teach the tortured Prince life lessons. Zuko’s struggle of his good heart battling with his need to be loved by his evil father is very eloquently displayed. Dallas Liu knows how to go from tender to rage and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee gives a masterclass. 

Dallas Liu as Prince Zuko, 

Netflix ©2024 All Rights Reserved

Back at the Fire Nation, Daniel Dae Kim as the Fire Lord and Elizabeth Yu’s psychotic Azula play well off each other. The change of bringing these two characters in a lot sooner than in the animated series made sense within this adaptation. There was no need to have the shadow of these characters hanging over the heroes; let’s just get to the villains and show us why we should be scared of them. We were shown just that in what was arguably the most intense scene of the series when Fire Lord Ozai burns Zuko and gives him his iconic scar. This makes Zuko and Iroh’s father/son relationship so deep and layered. 

Team Avatar (Ian Ousley as Sokka and Kiawentiio as Katara), who was the heart of the animated show, played well off each other. The actors had great chemistry and embodied their characters very well. They all look exactly like their cartoon counterparts- kudos to the casting department. Sokka brings the comedy to the show and Katara unfortunately can go either way in some scenes. While her bending scenes are great, her emotional scenes could use some work. 

Kiawentiio as Katara, 

Netflix ©2024 All Rights Reserved

However, another standout performance was that of Ken Leung as Commander Zhao. His ruthlessness and ambition was his downfall and Ken Leung played it just so that you truly could not stand his character. He was charming and annoying at the same time. He gave the character a little humanity which is hard to do with a villain. His final moments when we got to see his character do some fire bending was satisfying. 

Speaking of bending, the set design, costumes and special effects should not go unmentioned – top notch. While the show had many highs, not everything was great. The pacing felt a bit rushed at times due to the low episode count and some popular characters did not work. Bumi and Roku are the two characters that need some changes going into the next seasons. Aang not practicing the other bending disciplines was a weird choice. Changes to the story such as Aang having to be in a previous Avatar’s temple to speak to them was a change that so far did not impact the integrity of the story. 

Overall the series is well done; we get the cabbages man, a great looking Apa and the emotion that is needed in this story. With a change of showrunners for the next two seasons the future of this series is uncertain. There is a chance the new showrunners will take into account fan feedback but whether that will work or not remains to be seen. One thing that is certain is that fans will be watching. 

What did you think of Avatar the Last Airbender? What changes do you want to see for the next season? Leave a comment and let’s chat on Twitter, @lovesprina!

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