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#avatar: the last airbender spoilers

I know we all like to laugh and joke about Bitter Work, (and who wouldn’t, it was hilarious), but I think we all love to skip over the fact that Zuko literally tried to indirectly commit s*icide out of pain and confliction, by walking out into the storm, putting himself in danger, and literally begging for lightning strike him down.

Due to the fact, A:TLA was a kid’s show, it was probably smoothed over by letting the viewer assume he did it so he could try and redirect the lightning, similar to how they only implied Jet’s death. But, the look of anguish on his face after nothing happened really emphasises the point that he wanted more to happen.

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Things to keep in mind about Jet since his tag is probably going to become more active with the show being on Netflix again:

  • Jet was orphaned at age 8 when the Rough Rhinos (Fire Nation) burned the village he lived in, killing his entire family.
  • Jet is an indigenous boy whose land is under violent occupation and colonization by the Fire Nation.
  • Jet has unresolved PTSD.
  • Jet lacked the support and guiding influences that everyone in the Gaang had. Even Zuko had his Uncle Iroh. 
  • Jet learned to lie and steal to survive.
  • Jet’s entire world was the forest after his village burned. He doesn’t have a worldly perspective, hence why he thinks he has a bigger impact on the Fire Nation than he actually does.
  • Jet’s unresolved anger runs so deep that he’s unable to differentiate between Fire Nation military and civilians. He craves revenge (like Katara eventually does), but his targets are wrong. He’s afraid of what happened to his village happening all over again. 
  • He was not able to fully heal from his past on his own. He could have, if he lived long enough to reconcile with Zuko.  
  • A 16 year old is not a grown man. 
  • He died trying to do the right thing.
  • Jet is clever.
  • Jet is brave.
  • Jet is generous.
  • Jet is charismatic.
  • Jet was not crazy.
  • Jet was not inherently bad.
  • Jet deserved a much better ending than the writers were willing to give him.
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People just starting to watch A:TLA for the first time: The bending is really cool, but couldn’t the waterbenders technically just bend the water inside of people? Like their blood? I’m pretty sure technically they could. Well I guess it’s a kids show so they probably won’t go into it haha.

People who have seen the show already and know what happens:

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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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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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Yknow I just realised Katara had pretty boi potential love interests from all elements AND a non-bender except for water bc Katara was too badass a water bender to have any other be worthy of her… (unless I’m wrong ofc then please correct me XD)

We have pretty boi Haru - earth bender, grows a beard at the end, chill boi… I mean it was never confirmed but we all knew she was crushing and then she accidentally got him arrested sooo… would’ve loved if he was featured more but ya know…

We have non-bender Jet - playboy, jerk, tried to kill a wholeass village bc of his prejudice against firebends, wished he’d had more opportunity to redeem himself instead of dying but his one-mindedness ultimately led to his downfall (god he was a fascinating character)

We have our resident hotman and flamey boi Zuko - wants to regain his honour, collapsed the first time he made one (1) right decision, awkward at communication yet somehow manages to lead a country… I am a huge Zutara stan… bc I love me a well done redeemed antagonist…

and I love me a really organic enemies to reluctant allies to enemies to one-sided allies to redeemed friends (and here it deviates into my head canon) to close companions to shy mutual pining to awkward first relationship to comfortable love

And ofc our last Airbender Aang - technically the Avatar so more than just an airbender but yknow his first discipline was air bending… soft boi, sweet boi, mildly jealous boi… I also love me some Kataang because their relationship was so organic and developed so well throughout the show… except for that final kiss… that seemed a bit off pace but I’ll forgive it…

And ofc if you count Aang as a water bender too, well… Katara taught him sooo he’s the only one who square up against her badassery…

And he managed to capture her heart! I’m not saying being the Avatar helped be these facts line up pretty neatly…

But otherwise yeah… our girl is the true unifying element because she brings all the boys to her yard…

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