8 Worst Changes Netflix’s Avatar Makes To The Original ATLA (& Why They Don’t Work)
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8 Worst Changes Netflix’s Avatar Makes To The Original ATLA (& Why They Don’t Work)

Warning: This list contains spoilers for Neftlix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1.




  • Aang unintentionally leaving, Katara and Sokka entering the Spirit World, and Pakku’s missing connection to Gran Gran harm the storytelling of Netflix’s
    Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Netflix’s early introduction of Azula and the extra plot surrounding the Moon Spirit’s death detract from the original’s impact.
  • Ozai’s excessive screen time reduces his menacing presence, while Aang’s inner struggle with personal attachments is redundantly explored.

While Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender understandably makes changes to the plot of season 1, not all of them serve the story. Due to the shift in the number and length of episodes and the change in medium, some plot points had to be dropped. However, other beats and characters are seemingly introduced early only to make the show more marketable, while moments in Aang (Gordon Cormier), Katara (Kiawentiio), and Sokka’s (Ian Ousley) storylines are maligned.

Writing this show would have been a huge challenge since the season 1 storyline has already been shown in film and TV twice before. Some of the bad changes in Avatar season 1 stem from an attempt to make the story new, when most of the audience knows what is going to happen. Changes like this come across as completely unnecessary. Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender season 2 will not be as affected by this problem, but the writers still face the challenge of remaining true to the original characters.

8 Aang Just Going For A Ride With Appa

Aang doesn’t intentionally run away, which invalidates later conversations.

Aang hugging Appa in the new live action Avatar The Last Airbender trailer

Rather than Aang intentionally running away from being the Avatar, Netflix suggests that he is only going for a ride with Appa to clear his head. Unfortunately, this coincides with the Fire Nation attacking the Southern Air Temple and a huge storm preventing Aang and Appa from getting home. Characters throughout season 1 criticize Aang for abandoning them, which is already complicated because Aang’s duty to be the Avatar conflicts with his age. However, the fact that in this version he didn’t intentionally abandon them frames their anger and his guilt as extra drama.


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7 Katara & Sokka Coming To The Spirit World

Some of the Spirit World’s power is lost because it is too accessible.

Spirit Sokka smiling in Netflix's The Last Airbender

In the original show, Sokka is at one point taken by a vengeful spirit and must be rescued. None of what happened to him in the Spirit World is shown. In Netflix’s show, Aang inadvertently brings Katara and Sokka to the Spirit World with him through their mere proximity. The siblings are then forced to relive their worst memories while Aang figures out a way to rescue them and the village people. Katara and Sokka coming to the Spirit World so easily chips away at its narrative weight, and the special position the Avatar holds by being able to access it.

6 Pakku’s Connection To Katara

Pakku’s character lacks the emotional storyline of the original show.

Pakku looking smug in Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender

Katara still fights the Northern Water Tribe’s rule against women learning combative waterbending. This specifically brings her into conflict with Master Pakku (A Martinez), but Pakku’s connection to Katara’s family is removed. In the original show, Pakku discovers that Katara and Sokka’s grandmother is the woman he was engaged to in his youth.

“Gran Gran” (Casey Camp-Horinek) left the North Pole because of its limitations on women and had a family at the South Pole. This realization makes Pakku understand Katara’s perspective, and he agrees to train her. While Katara still changes Pakku’s way of thinking satisfyingly in the Netflix show, his character lacks an emotional component without this backstory element.

5 Completely Skipping Katara’s Training

Katara’s waterbending skills are too unlikely.

In Netflix’s show, Katara is declared a master based solely on her self-taught waterbending from one scroll, in the time of a few months at the most.

The original show admittedly also depicts Katara’s progression from an amateur to master waterbender as implausibly swift. However, it at least implies a small time jump where Katara and Aang are training with Pakku. In the intervening time, Katara becomes qualified to continue teaching Aang because waterbending comes more naturally to her, and she was Pakku’s more studious apprentice.

In Netflix’s show, Katara is declared a master based solely on her self-taught waterbending from one scroll, in the time of a few months at the most. The plot goes straight from her challenging Pakku to the Fire Nation’s attack to the “Gaang” leaving the North Pole, with Katara now responsible for training Aang. It stands out even more because Katara spends the season saying she needs additional instruction from a master. The time skip is a small part of the original; show, but it helps this plot point make more sense.

Netflix includes too much build-up to a scene people are already familiar with.

Yue reviving the Moon Spirit in The Last Airbender's Netflix finale

In the new show, Momo almost dies when he prevents debris from hitting a child and must be resuscitated by Yue (Amber Midthunder). This strange event is used as a device to get Sokka and Yue to the Ocean and Moon Spirits and is the first example of the extra, unnecessary plot in this sequence. Following this, Iroh (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) does nothing to prevent Commander Zhao (Ken Leung) from killing the Moon Spirit until the last minute. The episode also wastes time with Zhao almost failing.

The other characters are lamenting Aang being consumed by the angry Ocean Spirit when Sokka, for no plausible reason, says that there must be “some way to bring the Moon back to life.” Yue then steps up to sacrifice herself to save the Moon Spirit, which everyone knew was going to happen anyway. Yue’s fate is one of Avatar’s saddest moments; creating a third version of it was undoubtedly a challenge for Netflix. They obviously thought that adding to the plot would make it more interesting, but it comes across as pandering.

3 Azula Is Introduced Too Early

The Fire Nation princess loses some of her flair with a season 1 subplot.

In the original show, Azula is only briefly seen and referenced once before her dramatic introduction in the last moments of season 1. Netflix introduces Azula (Elizabeth Yu) early and follows a parallel subplot of her trying to prove herself to Ozai (Daniel Dae Kim). The change robs Azula of her brilliantly terrifying introduction and is essentially fan service — the writers just wanted to have her, as well as Mai (Thalian Tran) and Ty Lee (Momona Tamada), appear in season 1.

The show also unnecessarily makes Azula the mastermind behind Zhao’s plot. Iroh sums it up when he tells Zuko (Dallas Liu) that Zhao is “a small man who’s going to meet a small end” — he doesn’t need to be a part of the larger plot. Zhao is meant to drive the conflict until Azula is ready to make her terrifying entrance. Azula’s dysfunctional relationship with her father can still be shown through later storylines, while including this subplot in season 1 pads the runtime.


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2 Aang Speaking To Three Avatars

Aang speaking to the three Avatars who came before him works in some ways, but not in others.

The question of how personal attachments affect the Avatar’s duties is a valid one. However, the show doesn’t depict Aang coming to any meaningful reconciliation between these opposing values.

Netflix establishes a clear motif of Aang speaking to the three Avatars who came before him through visions, so at least one Avatar originating with each nation appears in season 1. As individual beats, these conversations work well. Kyoshi (Yvonne Chapman) manifesting herself through Aang to fight the Fire Nation is appropriately epic, while Roku (C.S. Lee) is a delightful contrast with Kyoshi and hints at future plotlines.

However, Kyoshi, Roku, and Kuruk (Meegwun Fairbrother) each offer Aang advice that varies in wording but is ultimately the same: That friends are a burden to the Avatar, who must put others’ needs above their own. The storyline of Aang wondering whether he should be allowed to have friends is somewhat redundant. The question of how personal attachments affect the Avatar’s duties is a valid one. However, the show doesn’t depict Aang coming to any meaningful reconciliation between these opposing values — Katara just asserts that they are going to stick together, and so they do.

1 Ozai Has Too Much Screen Time

Ozai does not have the same dramatic entrance as in the original show.

Ozai staring at Zuko before their Agni Kai in Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender

Ozai suffers from a similar narrative problem as Azula. In the original show, Ozai looms in the background as the eventual final threat. The fact that he is barely seen only makes him scarier. However, Netflix’s additional scenes, which were probably intended to flesh out Zuko’s character arc, diminish Ozai’s impact. This includes an extended sequence of Ozai and Zuko’s Agni Kai duel,as well as the conversation when Ozai banishes Zuko until he finds the Avatar.

Ozai being a shadowy figure during the Agni Kai and the audience learning of how Zuko received his mission secondhand contribute to Ozai’s cruel characterization. While the changes to Ozai’s relationships with his children are interesting, they still could have been included in later seasons without changing his initial appearance. Ultimately, Ozai and a few other characters and moments lost some of their impact in Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.

All episodes of the animated and live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender are available to stream via Netflix.

Avatar the Last Airbender Netflix Poster

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Live-Action)

Based on the acclaimed animated Nickelodeon television series, Avatar: The Last Airbender is an action-adventure fantasy series developed by Albert Kim. The series follows Aang, a young man training to harness the four elements to live up to the title of Avatar – the one who will restore balance to the world.

Release Date
February 22, 2024

Gordon Cormier , Dallas Liu , Kiawentiio , Ian Ousley , Daniel Dae Kim , Paul Sun-Hyung Lee


Albert Kim , michael dante dimartino , bryan konietzko

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