Avatar: The Last Airbender Series Review

Netflix has just released one of its most anticipated series, ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’, an
adaptation of the popular animated show which first aired on Nickelodeon back in 2005.


Set in a fantasy world where people have the ability to manipulate the four elements of earth,
air, fire, and water, the series follows Aang, a twelve year old boy who is the Avatar, the only
one who has the power to manipulate all four elements. As the Avatar, it’s his responsibility to
ensure the balance is kept between the natural and spirit worlds, while also keeping the peace
between all nations.

Except for a couple of episodes I watched for reference, I’m not familiar with the animated show,
so can only judge this series on its own merit, rather than on whether or not it’s a faithful
adaptation, and looking at it on that basis, it’s actually a pretty good watch.

It keeps to a fairly simple style, and it’s clear that this was based on a kids’ show, even though
the translation to live-action has added a bit more weight to the story. Everything flows along
well, and the characters, action, and setting feel natural, without too much time being devoted to
setting any of them up in great detail. In some ways it feels like a show that might have been
made forty years ago, if the effects didn’t immediately reveal its age. It’s just so easy to watch,
without the heavier tone and twisting storylines that many modern shows adopt. It’s first and
foremost out to entertain you, and there’s something refreshing about that simplicity.

It has a heart though, and there are some good character moments, but it’s not a show that
dwells on any one thing for too long. Luckily, it doesn’t suffer from this, largely thanks to a solid
cast who immediately embody their characters, easily bringing them to life on screen. They’re
not exactly what you would call complex characters, Prince Zuko aside, but the actors make you
warm to them right from the start.

The performances are complemented by a unique look to the show that seems to be taking its
inspiration directly from the animation. It’s visually appealing and sets up the different cultures
and locations with their own individual design styles, looking almost hyper-real at times. While
it’s not the most comprehensively built world, it has enough confidence in itself to make you
believe it could all be real.

It does have a couple of problems with pacing. The first half of the show zips along at a brisk
pace, flicking from one new environment to another, and introducing more character as it goes.
This is good for keeping it entertaining, but it can feel like big scenes are being brushed aside
too quickly, with important decisions being made quicker than they should and characters
changing their mind without much persuasion. The second half of the show flips the coin
entirely, taking its time and traveling at a slower pace. This isn’t a bad thing in its own right, but
it feels out of place with the swiftness of the early episodes. It could really have been cut down

by an episode or two, or else had the first few spread out a bit more to even the pace. No doubt
some of these issues come from adapting the animated show, which had twenty episodes in its
first season, rather than the eight in this adaptation.

These things aside, it’s a hugely enjoyable show to watch. It’s not going to set any new
standards for storytelling or character development, but it’s still entertaining from start to finish,
leaving an open ending with plenty of potential for another season at least.

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