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#atla spoilers

Okay so I finished atla and it was cool and all yada yada but. BUT.


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So I just finished rewatching Avatar: the Last Airbender. If you haven’t seen it before, WATCH IT. It is very good (it’s on Netflix right now). Even if you have watched it before, watch it again, especially if it’s been a while, because I apparently only remembered like half of it (I mean, I last watched it in 2012, so), and it is very very good.

Except for one thing that is really bugging me.

Spoilers heads up, for those who care.

So, during the third season, Aang supposedly can’t access the Avatar state because of what happened at the end of season two. But the thing is, this is literally never brought up until right before the battle, only mentioned literally that one time, and then he miraculously (no really, miraculously, by random chance) gets it unlocked in the middle of battle. So I have to ask, what was the point?

From a writing perspective, I can understand wanting to take away his “super powers” in order to raise the stakes for the final battle. Making it more difficult for him makes it more dramatic. However, the fact that this problem is never brought up beforehand, and then resolved literally through random chance just feels super sloppy to me, especially since whether or not he has access to the Avatar state doesn’t impact the internal struggle he is having over whether or not to kill the Fire Lord. It really is just a useless plot device that doesn’t really impact the story.

I honestly don’t think the final fight would have been any less dramatic if he had been able to use it from the beginning. In fact, I think it would have been more dramatic, and helped to visually emphasize his internal struggle more, if he had been able to use it from the beginning, but chose not to because he was worried about losing control (I know we supposedly resolved this problem in season 2, but like, we also never actually addressed it? He went into the Avatar state and then immediately got struck by lightning, and then we literally NEVER MENTIONED IT AGAIN until Aang says right before the battle that he can’t use the Avatar state). His not being able to use the Avatar state, or maybe choosing not to, would have had a much bigger impact if they had touched on it more earlier in the season. Or y’know, given him his powers back through something he did rather than through random chance. That’s just writing 101. Characters being active is always more interesting than having things happen to them.

Maybe I’m being nitpicky about this, but as a writer, Dues ex Machinas really really really bug me, and it is just so frustrating to see one thrown into the ending of an otherwise flawless show.

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I can’t decide which concept is funnier:

Zuko knowing Sokka would try to take Appa to the Boiling Rock, and waiting up all night in Appa’s saddle

or Zuko knowing Sokka would try to take Appa to the Boiling Rock, falling asleep in Appa’s saddle, waking up when Appa briefly woke as Sokka started climbing up, realizing “oh shit it’s time” and immediately shifting into Scare Sokka mode. 

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So did we all just collectively forget that Aang killed Admiral Zhao in the first season of Avatar?? He was fine with killing Zhao in his avatar state but not the fire lord who objectively did more damage overall

(While yeah the moon spirit, v important, that problem was solved, Ozai was the ruler of a nation trying and for the most part succeeding at world domination)

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My ATLA experience was a little strange. I didn’t actually sit down and willfully watch the whole thing episode by sequential episode until the first time it was out on Netflix; I hadn’t had cable growing up, so any time I saw the show, it was snatches of whatever was airing at the time I happened to be visiting my cable-having grandparents. 

Episodes I remember seeing bits of, back when I had no context for this show’s characters or world or story, include:

  • the end of The Boy in the Iceberg (starting when the flare goes off)
  • The Avatar Returns
  • the middle of The Blue Spirit (beginning right about where Zhao is talking to Aang and ending when Aang is helicoptering while Zuko deflects spears)
  • The Runaway 
  • The Avatar and the Fire Lord  (the part where Roku and his dragon die, and Aang is born)
  • Crossroads of Destiny, parts one and two (specifically, most of the Guru Patik scenes, most of the scenes with the disguised fire nation gals, and the scenes with Katara and Zuko trapped in the catacombs)
  • The Invasion, part 2 (everything after Sokka, Toph, and Aang begin to venture underground)

A rather motley collection; a lot of character advancement and motivation changes happened between these little bits I got to see. Also, since these little bits were the only exposure the the worldbuilding that I got, I may have misunderstood some things. 

See, during that scene in Crossroads part 2, when Zuko says he used to think his scar marked him as cursed to chase the avatar forever, I didn’t know about his history with his dad, so I thought it was a literal curse and Zuko was just the latest reincarnation of the Avatar’s spiritual nemesis, and that each incarnation was born with that scar. 

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