Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book Three: Fire (SEASON REVIEW)

Without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the greatest American animated series ever. In fact, if you were to ask me which other American cartoons meant for children could top Avatar, I’d be at a total loss as to give you any form of answer. I don’t know of another more epic, more beautiful, and more satisfyingly conclusive American cartoon as Avatar was.

This season, at least for me, stopped being a kids show however. Yes, the entire series bordered closer to esotericism for children’s programming than most, but this season stepped it up that much more into a truly mature and brilliantly realized production, it’s anime influences (from Dragon balls Z, Naruto, and even Miyazaki) all clearly visible, but never merely duplicated. Avatar puts itself in a league of its own, ending the show on a high note, never pulling a single punch. (Some plot spoilers follow.)

The beginning of the season felt unfortunately buildup-ish, to the point where the story felt stagnant up until the day of the solar eclipse, but it quickly picked itself back onto its feet. After the disappointing ending to the last season, this was a mighty relief. We actually get somewhat of a midseason finale too, in the form of the team taking on the Fire Nation during said solar eclipse, which was extremely satisfying (although it ended in defeat). The brilliance of Sokka’s plan, his ideas to storm the city, along with the aid of past antagonists just felt so right. Forever the shadow of the group, Sokka comes into his own – not just as the funny guy, but as a fantastic general and leader.

Regardless, the heroes lose this battle, but regroup. This is the bit we’ve been waiting for for three seasons. Prince Zuko slaps himself in the face, realizes his wrongdoing, and aids the Avatar. No longer the story of the plight of the wrongdoer, Zuko knows his true place in the story – by Aang’s side. I was so happy this possibility was finally alluded to, that when he actually came up to them and he wasn’t allowed into their “group” I felt so betrayed by my cartoon friends! Ugh, I wanted to slap them silly! But alas, he joined the crew and taught Aang the basics to Firebending. At long last Aang could do it all.

But the true power Aang possessed was his unswerving wisdom and kindness. His moral code wouldn’t allow him to become a killer, even if the world needed him to be. He knew it was the only way, if the Fire Nation would ever truly to be defeated, that he’d have to kill Zuko’s father, the Fire Lord. Zuko told him so, his friends told him so, and even his past lives as the Avatar told him he must kill the Fire Lord. And still, that young boy found a way to go around the issue, do what was right, fix the four kingdoms, and spare his life. The beauty of the writing in the series finale had me nearly in tears.

If you haven’t seen Avatar: The Last Airbender lately, or ever… It’s truly an essential series. I don’t know how I missed this in my childhood. Perhaps it was the point in my life where I was growing out of cartoons. Perhaps it was during one of those periods where I watched Cartoon Network instead of a Nickelodeon… But this is one of the most satisfying series I have ever seen. Despite being the kind of show that could keep going on and on like your typical shōnen anime series, Avatar is brave enough to end the series where it needs to end. And what an ending it was. I cannot wait to continue my plunge into this world with The Legend of Korra, which takes place 70 years later, but my only fear is that it won’t live up to the original series.

Buy Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book Three: Fire on DVD at Amazon for $13.34.

15 thoughts on “Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book Three: Fire (SEASON REVIEW)

  1. Season 3 of Avatar is one of the best seasons of any cartoon to ever come out. The 4 part finale is nothing short of a masterpiece in my eyes and the episodes that came right before it were all amazing as well.

    I’m here watching Legend of Korra and there seems to be a mixed reaction to the series. Personally I love it. I love how it’s tied the past in with what is currently going on. For something that started out only as a miniseries, it has grown into something quite amazing. Legend of Korra has my 2 favorite episodes in the entire franchise. The “Beginnings” episodes were the highlight of season 2 and blew out all expectation.

    Overall the Avatar franchise has set a standard in American cartoon series that hasn’t been matched and likely will not be in a while.


  2. I found it late, about a year ago, and watched all the way through. Great characters, great storyline. Overall, I agree with your review. Korra now, I just couldn’t get into. Don’t know why… maybe when they are all done and on Netflix I will sit down to a marathon and will be happier with it?


  3. Book 3 of Avatar has some of the best storytelling I’ve ever seen. Korra had a lot to live up to after this awesome finale, especially after such a long wait by for the fans–the majority of which were disappointed by it. I wonder if you’ll have a different point of view since you’re only watching the series now.


  4. Book 3 of Avatar has some of the best storytelling I’ve ever seen. Korra had a lot to live up to after this awesome finale, especially after such a long wait by for the fans. I wonder if you’ll have a different point of view since you’re only watching the series now.


  5. This was by far my favorite season of The Last Airbender. The character development, the stories, the action, it all was a step up from the previous two seasons. The finale was extremely well executed and I have a hard time thinking of a better series finale, animated or otherwise, than “Sozin’s Comet.”


  6. The Legend of Korra is alright, but I think your opening paragraph pretty much sums up the comparison. This is pretty much the only anime that I’ve ever given a fair chance, and I never regretted it for an instant! I thought that the writing and development of this series was like nothing that I’d ever seen in a cartoon. So much so, that when I saw the film adaptation, I was so physically repulsed by how they massacred it, that I literally finished watching the movie with a splitting headache! You know, I think your reaction to Zuko’s initial rejection from the group is hilarious! I was the exact opposite! After everything that had happened, I loved that he had to work to gain acceptance. Katara’s refusal to bend (hehe, “bend”, get it?) was also beautiful, and her and Zuko’s journey together to find her mother’s murderer remains one of my favourite subplots… his expression when he saw her blood-bending was just priceless!


  7. I’m tempted to compare the two series, but honestly, it wouldn’t be fair. They do spring from the same idea, but their goals and the ideas they set out to explore are something entirely different. It would be like trying to fairly compare Harry Potter to The Stormlight Archive, lol.


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