Aang pressing an index finger on the center of Fire Lord Ozai’s forehead and chest during Avatar the Last Airbender’s season finale took away the tyrant’s firebending abilities and thereby ended the 100 year war between the Fire Nation and the rest of the world.
After three seasons of preparing for this battle — of Zuko’s hunt for the Avatar eventually turning into teaming up with him to save the world, of Sokka and company breaking out of The Boiling Rock prison, of surviving deserts and blizzards, of travelling the world expecting battles — reaching the climax of the show also meant the end of its tenure.
Or so creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko thought at the time of the 2008 decision.
Netflixed announced a live-action version of the Nickelodeon series slated to premiere towards the end of 2021, assuming Covid-19 has not altered that timeline.
I recently finished rewatching the series (shoutout to Netflix for finally adding it) and am even more convinced there could have been a season four, if not more, instead of creating an unsatisfying spinoff in The Legend of Korra.
The live-action remake will have to suffice. There are numerous unfinished storylines that need answers and closure. Below are just a pressing few.
How did Team Avatar repair a world divided for 100 years?
Fire Lord Zuko and Avatar Aang addressed constituents during the series finale and committed to spreading peace and unity throughout the world now that the century-long war was finally over.
In theory, this is all well and dandy. But in practice, how do they even embark on such a task?
Distrust, manipulation and blatant disregard for humanity raised generations for decades. It’s unreasonable to expect all of that to simply disappear just because the war is officially over.
There are so many unofficial continuations — the rings of poverty in the Earth Kingdom that spiral into the upper, more privileged ring as you move closer to the center, the erasure of all but one of the Air Nomads, entire villages and towns burned to the grown, families irrevocably loss to war-related deaths, illnesses or injuries.
What do warriors who have only been trained to fight and kill do for a living?
Where is the support?
What programs did Team Avatar put in place? Logistically, how did Aang and company prioritize and execute some plans over others while still helping everyone, at least to some degree?
We need answers.
Where is Zuko’s mom?
During the day of Black Sun, Fire Lord Ozai hides out in a bunker underneath the Fire Nation to protect himself during the eight minutes of zero firebending the eclipse brought upon all firebenders. Zuko visits him there to share plans of leaving the palace to join the Avatar in the pursuit of destiny and balance.
Fire Lord Ozai expresses his anger by challenging Zuko to “stick around until the eclipse” is over. When Zuko starts to leave, unbothered, his father dangles a long sought after carrot in front of his face: “Don’t you want to know what happened to your mother,” Fire Lord Ozai antagonized.
Zuko stays to learn that she was banished for committing treason and is, in fact, still alive. But unfortunately, his father did not give up her location.
Fast forward to the series finale, newly crowned Fire Lord Zuko’s final scene is of a visit to his incarcerated father. Tensions are high since Zuko is party responsible for dethroning and imprisoning the former Fire Lord.
Zuko has power and means on his side.
After exchanging fiery pleasantries, Zuko asks one question: Where is my mother?
Then the scene ends.
WHERE IS SHE!??
Did she remarry and start another family? How come she didn’t take Zuko with her? How come in his extensive travels Zuko never came across her?
Viewers deserve to know. This is a huge, unsettling loose end.
Does Toph ever see her family again? Do they finally accept her as she is?
The inventor of metal bending left her over protective parents and ran away from home to teach Aang earth bending. She never saw them again.
Her parents hired unofficial bounty hunters to find and return her. In season two, one of their traps includes sending a letter to Toph while she was in Ba Sing Se stating that her mother was in town and wanted to see her.
Toph goes, unassumingly, only to be entrapped in a large metal box. As the bounty hunters led a captured Toph back home, she invented metal bending and escaped. But before leaving, she wrapped the metal around the bounty hunters, effectively taking them out the picture.
The only other time we hear about Toph’s parents is later on in season two when she asks Katara to write them a letter. We don’t know what the letter says, if it was delivered (the messenger hawk never returned) and there’s never any mention of a response.
So what happened? Will Toph ever see her parents again? What happened to her letter? Did they ever respond?
Give us something here?!
What happened to Azula?
By the end of the series, the Fire Nation Princess’ mental health has completely deteriorated and she has a mental breakdown during the series finale. She becomes distrustful of her closest advisors and warriors, famously cuts off random sections of her hair on a whim and imagines her mother is having a conversation with her.
On the day of her coronation as Fire Lord Azula, Zuko shows up to claim the throne and she challenges him to an agni kai. Katara accompanied Zuko to help, but he said it’s between him and his sister.
The battle, long story short, resulted in Zuko jumping in front of Katara to block the lightning Azula aimed at her. He was unable to compete after that. So Katara fought Azula herself and eventually won by chaining Azula’s hands to each other and to a manhole while submerging she and the Fire Princess completely under water.
The image of Azula hysterically trying to flip around and yelling her famous blue fire is the last we see of her.
But what happened next? Imprisonment? Did Aang also take away her firebending like he did her father’s?
As clever as Azula was, any imprisonment was just a time filler before she could escape and plot a new plan. She could have easily been the next antagonist during a much needed season four, without question, with some underground scheme to take the Fire Nation throne and continue Ozai’s plans. Her accomplices could have been her father’s (non-bending) skill set and General Jao’s channeled anger for Zuko and the Avatar into world domination.
If Aang also took her firebending away, then that sounds like a pretty strong reason for revenge to me. And for becoming some sort of expert with swords, knives, bombs… something.
The live-action must address this.
What happened to the cabbage guy?
Episode after episode, we see the poor guy lose his cabbages due to no fault of his own, but because of random fights or bended elements ruining his crop.
But does he end up with unbothered cabbages? Also, what’s his name?
Trivial, yet important.
What is Iroh’s love story?
We know the Dragon of the West’s father, Fire Lord Azulan, wanted to crown him the next Fire Lord. But throughout the series, Ozai is implicated in his father’s untimely death and suspicious wish to give him the throne.
We know he besieged Ba Sing Se for 600 days and lost his son on the front lines of battle during that time.
We know Uncle Iroh functions as Zuko’s moral compass and father figure.
We know he advised every character he encountered with wisdom on what to do in their personal, professional or aspirational lives.
But we do not know anything about his son’s mother or any other love interest.
Who makes Iroh’s tea boil a little hotter?
Where is she, why did they split up and does she come back into the picture?
Also, who originally taught him pai sho?
These are just a few of the main cliffhangers. But what ever happened to Jet, is he still alive?
Did Zuko and Katara, in fact, have feelings for each other and act on it in some deleted scene we must get access to?
Where are the rest of the Kyoshi warriors? Only Suki is accounted for at the end of the series.
There are countless other mini-storylines to flesh out, all of which culminate in having enough content for a season four and are great starting points for the live-action series.
And no, these questions cannot be teased out in The Legend of Korra, which should have never been made before resolving these important matters. I don’t want one rushed episode in the middle of the spinoff series.
I want a season four of Avatar the Last Airbender and to actually see the cast grow up as regular people, grappling with the above questions, who are not always preparing for a fight or running from an attack.
But I’ll settled for the already-in-the-books live-action.