Last Airbender’s Final Episode Finally Made Aang A True Avatar

After three seasons of waiting, The Last Airbender finally showed Aang having fully assumed his role as Avatar in the series’ final episode.

It took the events of the final episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender for Aang to fully assume his Avatar role. The popular Nickelodeon series has been oft-applauded for its sophisticated treatment of its  characters and the show’s titular airbender is no exception.

Although Aang was technically the host for the reincarnated Avatar spirit at his birth, it took him a significant stretch of time to learn what it fully meant to fully embody his destiny as the world’s peace-bringer. Even the titles of the series’ first and last episodes, “The Boy in the Iceberg” and “Avatar Aang,” respectively, help to signify the young heroes’ transformation from child to savior. Looking at and juxtaposing the contents of the episodes shines additional light on certain thematic material which helps to outline Aang’s drastic metamorphosis.

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Related: Aang Was Technically The Last Avatar Too

The season 1 premiere, which introduced the last surviving airbender, shows Aang not-so-subtly rejecting his Avatar identity in favor of maintaining his childhood innocence. After being awoken from his hundred-year sleep by the waterbending Katara, Aang’s first line of the series is, fittingly, “You wanna go penguin sledding?” Throughout that first episode, Aang goes on to demonstrate his impish and fun-loving nature – all the while shirking his Avatar duties. Aang’s desire to live life as a child is further highlighted by a later flashback of his pre-iceberg origins. In fact, it is revealed shortly thereafter that (after learning that he was to be the generation’s new Avatar) an uncertain Aang runs away from the Southern Air temple, which results in his and Appa’s confinement in the ice for the next century. The motivations for the airbender’s departure are indicative of a relatable twelve-year-old feeling isolated and overwhelmed by such an enormous responsibility.

By contrast, the Aang in the show’s final episode finds himself willingly embracing his responsibilities – and in a situation where the stakes couldn’t be higher. Scarred, weathered, and in the throes of his climactic face-off with Fire Lord Ozai, this transformed hero seems far less tethered to his youthful introduction. While season 1 Aang had only mastered air, the finale is quick to show him capably mastering all four elements, entering the Avatar State and swirling water, earth, fire, and air around his body. Further still, changes to Aang’s season 3 character design help to highlight the character’s apparent growth. While in battle, Aang’s expression is more hardened and he is drawn as slightly more muscular, effectively pointing to the character’s warrior-like nature and impending transition to adulthood.

Yet it is how Aang ends his fight with Ozai that best captures his ascension to the role of Avatar. Throughout the series, it had been firmly established that each of the Avatar’s former lives contributes their own unique perspective and knowledge. But despite urgings from Roku, Kyoshi, and his other previous selves that killing Ozai is the only way to defeat him, Aang discovers another way for himself: Energy Bending. Instructed by an ancient lion turtle in the episode prior, Aang uses the long-forgotten bending art to take away his foe’s prodigious firebending, leaving little doubt that the last airbender has left his own unique stamp on the Avatar Cycle. This is only emphasized in The Legend of Korra, which sees Aang’s successor taking the skill and newly unlocked wisdom even further in the next generation.

Despite being a show ostensibly targeted at younger audiences, Avatar: The Last Airbender is buoyed by its embrace of complex and nuanced themes surrounding war, spirituality, and matters of life and death. The show’s characters are thrust into many situations that bring about remarkable growth and maturation – perhaps Aang most of all. His journey from the boy in the iceberg to the wise and formidable Avatar is certainly a road worth tracking.

Related: Avatar: How Old Aang Was When He Died

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Updated: November 8, 2020 — 10:30 pm

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