It has been twelve years since the first episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender aired, but I like to rewatch the series every once in a while. With lovable and charismatic characters and a great story, Avatar is well-worth your time to watch. Plus, it’s easy to binge watch with each episode only lasting about twenty minutes.
We begin with a short intro narrated by Katara, explaining that the world is currently trying to fight off the Fire Nation. They’re only hope is for the Avatar to show up and defeat the Fire Nation, but he’s been missing for 100 years, so that kind of puts a damper on things.
Leaving this intro, we’re introduced to two of our main characters, Katara and Sokka. Brother and sister, they spend the next couple of minutes bickering affectionately. Katara, we learn, is a waterbender without a teacher. Obvious from her subconscious display while yelling at her brother though is the fact that Katara is not a weak bender. She’s gifted and, if anyone should have a teacher, it’s her.
From this point, Katara and Sokka find a young boy trapped in an iceberg with a flying bison (Appa) and the three proceed to have a comical interaction. One of the reasons why I love this scene so much though is because it introduces the characters incredibly well.
Sokka, we find, is our skeptic and quite sarcastic. He often says what the audience is actually thinking. Who doesn’t love a character like that?
Katara is our curious optimist – a dangerous combination sometimes, but necessary to keep the other characters moving. She’s sensible and determined, but she likes to believe the best in people.
Then, of course, there’s Aang. He’s young and just wants to have fun. He’s not ready to be the Avatar. Moving beyond this scene, we find that while Aang would like to live a fun, easy life, he’s also struggling to accept his responsibility as the Avatar. He’s very non-confrontational during a time when he must confront a powerful nation.
Then there’s Zuko, arguably one of the characters who changes the most throughout the series. In these first two episodes though, it’s revealed that (for some reason) he is looking for his honor, which he somehow lost. In order to regain it, he must find the Avatar and bring him home. Zuko gets just about as much screen time as Sokka, Katara, and Aang so it’s set up perfectly to develop him from the typical bad guy, to a dynamic character.
In all honesty, I wasn’t that impressed with Zuko in the first episode the first time I watched the series. It took me some time to warm up to him (no pun intended). Looking back on it now though, the first episode preps him for the transformation to come. It gives just enough about his past to hint that there’s more to him than meets the eye. He’s not just another person searching for the Avatar.
Of course, before the end of the second episode we get to see some pretty cool air, water, and fire bending. Aang doesn’t just take over the screen though. There’s a great display of bending from a beginner (Katara), a moderate student (Zuko), and a master (Aang). With that said, Aang’s and Zuko’s bending is a great representation of each character’s personality. Zuko is a very angry and direct person and his fighting style reflects that. Aang likes to dodge and weave around, trying to stay out of a direct conflict as much as possible, preferring to just run from the fight. This isn’t to say that Aang’s a coward; but he’s young and prefers to settle things with words.
Before the end though, we get to see Aang go into the avatar state and that is pretty darn cool. It’s not a huge display of strength and skill, but it’s enough to show us that, despite Aang’s childlike personality, he’s the real deal.
All in all, the episodes’ do a really good job at setting the tone for the show. It’s light and fun, but it’s also capable of being serious when needed. It’s a great balance. Even some of the more serious scenes are given comedic relief in such a way that it keeps things light while not dispelling the danger.