Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender Will Finally Show Its Most Brutal Unseen Battle
The remake is growing with its audience.
Whether you’re a megafan of Avatar: The Last Airbender or you’ve absorbed the series purely through osmosis, its iconic opening monologue is pretty inescapable. The first moments of the series introduce a catastrophic world conquest with two simple statements: “Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.”
From there, Avatar launches us into the later years of this global conflict. We don’t get to see how the Fire Nation kick-started the attack or how its biggest threats were silenced. We only see the aftermath, and how it affects our title heroes. In some ways, it’s not entirely necessary: the series is mainly focused on how the Avatar, Aang, will find the strength to face off against Fire Lord Ozai and restore peace to the four nations. But Aang, an air nomad, is also the last of his kind, and that’s massively important to his development in Season 1.
Aang has notably been missing for over a century when Avatar begins. In that time, his people were wiped out by the Fire Nation, and Aang doesn’t discover this until it’s far too late. When he returns to his childhood home, he finds it utterly destroyed, strewn with the skeletons of those he loved. It’s devastating stuff, even if we don’t get the entire picture. As effective as it was for Aang’s arc, however, it wasn’t quite enough for Netflix’s Avatar reboot — or for Albert Kim, who developed the series for the streamer.
Per Kim, the original Avatar was walking a tonal tightrope. “It’s a cartoon, it’s meant for kids,” he recently told Entertainment Weekly. As such, it had to make an adult conflict digestible for a younger audience. That’s why so many tragedies are depicted from Aang’s perspective, or relayed secondhand by other characters.
Netflix’s Avatar, on the other hand, is not limited in the same way. The fans who first tuned in to the series are now adults, allowing Kim to expand the scope of the reboot. Events that were once only alluded to are now free to be depicted fully, and that includes the battle between the Air Nomads and the Fire Nation.
“I felt it was important that we see the event that creates the story of Avatar,” Kim continued. “The famous line is, ‘Everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.’ I wanted to see that.”
In the live-action reboot, the genocide of the airbenders is the incident that incites global conflict. The sequence will be one of a handful of darker moments recontextualized in the series. It’s just one of the ways that the creative team is striving to set the show apart, and appeal to as wide a demographic as possible.
“We just wanted to make sure audiences didn’t think they were getting a kids’ show,” says Jabbar Raisani, who serves as executive producer and visual effects supervisor. “We want to ensure that our show is for all ages.”
It won’t be the first remake hoping to capture the attention of an older audience, especially not on Netflix. The “dark reboot” has been a constant for the streamer, even though it hasn’t always worked. Hopefully Avatar can strike the proper balance without feeling too gratuitous: it is important to see just how this attack began, but as the original series has already proven, sometimes less is more.