Thursday, April 26, 2012

Television Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 3 (Fire)

In the final season of The Last Airbender Aang completes his training by learning to master the element of Fire.[1] This presents challenges for him for several reasons. First, he intends to use his powers to topple the tyrannical Fire Empire, so finding a master to teach him is difficult. Second, he is leery of the seductive nature of fire—the last time he tried to learn firebending he lost control and hurt Katara. Finally, he is anxious about how to stop the Fire Lord. Aang tries to be as nonviolent as possible—even to the point of being a vegetarian. But everyone he consults—even past incarnations of the Avatar—expect him to kill the Fire Lord.

My verdict: The character arch for Aang was ultimately disappointing. He was confronted with two battles: a physical one and a moral one. The action scenes in the physical battle were stupendous and fitting of a final battle between a renegade Fire Lord and the Avatar. But the resolution of the moral battle was very disappointing. Rather than force Aang to make a choice, the show's creators provide him with an easy way out in the form of a deus ex leo-testudo.[2] He essentially got to have his cake (stop the Fire Lord from killing thousands or millions of people) and eat it, too (not have to kill the Fire Lord to stop him). So we're left with the question unresolved: if your only choices are 1. allow someone to kill untold numbers of other people or 2. the only way to stop them is to kill them—what is the right thing to do?

The character arch for Prince Zuko was the most satisfying of all the characters. This time his conversion felt right. I was disappointed, though, that we saw so little of Uncle Iroh. And the membership of the Order of the White Lotus seemed a little sparse considering their task of liberating Ba Sing Se. The wrap-up for all the characters was satisfying without being cheesy, with one exception: I don't know why they put in the scene of Zuko demanding the location of his missing mother from his imprisoned father only to omit the outcome of that conversation.

Easter Egg: Watch for a lettuce that has a face in it.


[1] See my reviews of Book: Water and Book: Earth.

[2] He's given his way out by a giant (island-sized) creature called a lion-turtle.

Image attributions:

Volano Erupting is by Adrien Cretin, available at 


  1. In Legend of Korra, the sequel to this series, the writers reference what happened to Zuko's mother without revealing anything. In essence they poke fun at the fact that nothing was resolved for the viewer, but was for the characters.