Netflix’s ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ episode 1 review: Somewhat faithful, but writing needs work

Dex Conche

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Netflix’s ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ episode 1 review: Somewhat faithful, but writing needs work


The show's first episode fails to live up to the gigantic expectations of the original series but proves to be a better live action adaptation of the 2010 M. Night Shyamalan movie

Spoilers ahead.

For fans of the Avatar franchise, the Netflix adaptation can only have two outcomes: it can be as good as the original series or as bad or even worse than the 2010 movie. By watching the first episode, I can honestly say that they successfully landed themselves in the middle of that spectrum.

The first episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender is both a somewhat faithful adaptation of the original show and a reasonable live action take on the series. The effects are stunning, the bending choreography is more fluid than ever, and the production and sets have stayed faithful to, and captured the essence of, the diverse world of Avatar. My only complaint about the latter is the lighting and color grading in some of the night and indoor scenes: they’re just too dark and reminded me of THAT episode of Game of Thrones.

The writing aspect of this first episode left me a bit disappointed. As an avid viewer of the original show, I feel like there are some important plot points the Netflix series neglected to include, especially with Aang’s character. It failed to showcase the complexity of Aang, a 12-year-old fun-loving boy who also has the weight of the world on his shoulders. There were a lot of scenes that could’ve been used from the source material to show Aang’s initial resentment of his powers and responsibilities.

Must Read

Live-action ‘The Last Airbender’ series adds elements of its own

Live-action ‘The Last Airbender’ series adds elements of its own

In the original show, Aang resented the role of Avatar as it ostracized him from everything he knew, and the responsibilities that came with the title was about to rob him of a childhood. This is why he ran away and got himself trapped in an iceberg. On the other hand, Netflix Aang was scared of his powers and responsibility but leaned towards acceptance. In the scene depicting his departure from the Southern Air Temple, Netflix Aang seems to have accepted his fate as the Avatar after talking to Appa, but needed to take a breather and decided to take a night stroll in the skies, getting himself caught in a storm.

The standout characters in the Netflix adaptation were Zuko and Sokka. Dallas Liu’s performance as Zuko felt like it was ripped straight out of Nickelodeon. Liu was able to capture the angst, anxiety, and obsession that Zuko had, perfectly displayed in the scene where he frantically drew a sketch of Aang immediately after the latter escaped.

Meanwhile, this current take on Sokka is a more modern version of a character whose traits had always been a bit outdated. People online were upset that Sokka’s sexism was going to be toned down in this adaptation, as if that was a bad thing. Netflix Sokka is still a bit sexist towards his sister, but it’s more of an effect of the responsibility that was on his shoulders as chief and head protector of his village. Netflix Sokka manages to be modern while carrying the same whimsy and depth that Cartoon Sokka possessed.

The letdowns were Katara and Uncle Iroh. These are two characters whose bonds to Zuko and Aang were vital to the story, but they failed to show that in the first episode. In the original show, you could clearly tell that Aang and Katara had a connection, but it seems that the connection between Sokka and Aang was established better in the Netflix version. So when Aang activated his Avatar State and was calmed down by Katara, it felt so flat because they didn’t have enough scenes to establish their budding friendship.

Uncle Iroh, meanwhile, was the wise uncle he was supposed to be, but he lacked the relaxed nature of the cartoon version, which was a perfect foil to the moody Zuko. It seems like the writers noticed this and tried to sprinkle some Iroh-ness over him by spamming jasmine tea references towards the end of the episode.

All in all, the writing seems like it was trying to fit as many plot points as it could in the entire one hour and three minutes of run time, and did a subpar job at that. It felt like all the events that transpired happened in just 24 hours. They tried to lay down the foundations of all the world-building within the first episode and neglected to fully develop the characters that would inhabit this world, which is a bit of a weird decision considering how they already had access to the source material.

Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender is still worthy of your viewership, but I advise going into it with low expectations and an open mind. It’s best not to compare it to the original show or the 2010 movie, but if you had to, it is the perfect middle ground between the two. –

Avatar: The Last Airbender is now streaming on Netflix.

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!