An Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series is coming from Netflix, and we need these eight storylines expanded.
The Avatar fan community has been recently shocked by the news that the beloved Nickelodeon animated series will once again be adapted to live-action. But no M. Night Shyamalan this time; instead, original co-creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko will reunite to revive Avatar: The Last Airbender as a Netflix TV series.
In addition to noting that the new series will not be cast with whitewashed actors, DiMartino and Konietzko call the reboot “a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build upon everyone’s great work on the original animated series and go even deeper into the characters, story, action, and world-building.”
And that got us thinking… which stories from the original do we want the creators to “go deeper” on? Which stories should be expanded, which ideas explored, and which characters need to be given more time to shine?
8 stories to expand in the ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ live-action series
Aang’s early life as an airbender
Though we saw some brief glimpses of Aang’s life at the Southern Air Temple, prior to discovering that he was the Avatar, very little is known beyond what he ever told Katara and Sokka during their early adventures. We know, of course, that Aang’s bond with Monk Gyatso was deep enough that the mere thought of being taken away from him set into motion the events that led to the beginning of the series, but seeing more of his day-to-day life would give so much more context to the Aang we meet straight out of the iceberg.
Aang has more than a passing familiarity of several locations across the Avatar world, and forged friendships with Bumi and Kuzon, but exploring those friendships, and some of Aang’s early travels and training, would go a long way toward showing just how he became the youngest ever airbending master in Air Nomad history. Well, at least until Jinora, but that’s a potential series-revisit for another time.
There are 12 unexplored years in Aang’s early life that could add a rich context to so many of his choices, and not just through brief mentions in conversations throughout his years-long journey to becoming a master of all four elements.
The story of Koh the Face Stealer
There’s no shortage of spirits to celebrate in Avatar: The Last Airbender (and in fact, more on that in just a bit) but there is one mysterious character who just demands more time in the live-action series. Koh the Face Stealer appears extremely briefly in the original series, but even in that time, he made a major impression on the fandom.
An ancient spirit of great wisdom and terrible power, Koh is a source of valuable information… but unless those who seek him maintain a perfectly blank expression, he will, quite literally, steal their faces. (It’s super creepy.) Koh has deep connections across the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and his influence can be felt centuries past in Aang’s previous incarnations, as well as the mystery of what happened to Zuko’s mother Ursa.
So to make a long story short, we want to see more of Koh in the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series. Have we seen the full extent of his powers? Can Aang, always in need of information, visit him again in the Spirit World? Could we see flashbacks to Koh’s terrible act of stealing the face of Avatar Kuruk’s beloved?
However it happens, we need to see more of this beguiling spirit… not least because we kind of want to watch him steal a face, okay?
Send in Raava and Vaatu
Speaking of spirits, let’s toss a little lore from The Legend of Korra into the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series. Season two of Korra presented the gorgeous, epic, and tragic origins of the Avatar Spirit. You should really watch it, but TL;DR, it’s all a part of an ancient battle between Raava and Vaatu, the spirits of good and evil.
Now that this information exists in the Avatar-verse, why not incorporate it into Aang’s story? The spirit of Raava lives within the Avatar and allows for the cycle of regeneration — why not heighten Aang’s awareness of the spirit that gives him his identity? And though he may be stuck in the Spirit World at this point in the story, who knows what influence the evil Vaatu might have had on the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender? In a series hardly lacking for drama, primeval spirit bent on destruction who loves to sway the minds of humans is a compelling prospect indeed.
June the Bounty Hunter
June was always a character that felt somewhat under-utilized. Originally introduced to track down the Gaang, using her shirshu, Nyla, she was only ever touched upon as a skilled resource in one other occasion over the course of the series — and once more in the comics. As one of the best, and most expensive, bounty hunters in the world, it would stand to reason that she would be encountered more, especially considering her lack of allegiance to any one nation or kingdom.
With the possibility to expand on characters that got very little to no time in the spotlight, June seems like one of the no-brainers to revisit. There’s so much to explore, such as how she became the renowned bounty hunter we were introduced to, but also why Iroh was so incredibly drawn to her. (And here’s hoping they can address some of the more inappropriate behavior that occurred there, or at least call it out, particularly with the current climate.)
More. Azula. Please.
From her earliest appearances in the series, Zuko’s crazy evil and crazy talented sister Azula is easily one of Avatar: The Last Airbender’s most vivid and intriguing characters. Expanding her story is a delicate prospect — when it comes to Azula, what we don’t quite know can be every bit as powerful as what we do know. A certain degree of mystery is what makes Azula as dangerous as she is, after all.
But we think there is still room to explore more of this prodigy/psychopath. Perhaps her appearance in the second season can be foreshadowed more strongly in the first. More scenes demonstrating Fire Lord Ozai’s profound influence on his daughter definitely wouldn’t go amiss, as that relationship dominates so much of Azula’s identity.
And who else does Azula have in her life? What does she value besides power, and what does she want beyond her father’s approval? The Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series has an incredible opportunity to explore the inner workings of the fire princess’ twisted mind — to show us, literally, a more three-dimensional Azula. However they chose to approach this opportunity, we think it’s one that the reborn Avatar can’t afford to pass up.
The fall and corruption of the Dai Li
When it comes to Azula, it’d be difficult to not also mention the Dai Li, the elite police force of Ba Sing Se. Originally set up by Avatar Kyoshi to protect the cultural heritage of Ba Sing Se, it became increasingly corrupt over time, and eventually — during the war with the Fire Nation — fell under the control and sway of Azula.
But how did Azula convince the Dai Li to give up any and all loyalty to the Earth kingdom and pledge themselves to her cause? Yes, as a group, they had become corrupt, but up until that point had still remained devoted to the Earth kingdom and its people. In the show, it is ultimately passed off as them preferring the effectiveness of Azula’s leadership over Long Feng, but with more time to explore, it could be a far more complex choice.
The Dai Li choosing the Fire Nation — particularly when it means the fall of the city they were duty-bound to protect — was always something that fascinated me, but which felt light on the details. In expanding on Azula’s character, her leadership, her charisma, and influence, it would make sense to showcase that through her acquisition of the Dai Li, and just what they gave up their kingdom for.
When it comes to Iroh, there is so much that could be touched upon, in order to develop him further — especially in his younger years, as a General of the Fire Nation. We know Iroh was well respected by many in his home nation, despite his “dishonor” after failing to capture Ba Sing Se, and a little of his relationship with his younger brother, Ozai, but there is so much more that the show could tap in to.
“The Tale of Iroh” was so deeply affecting because of how much had been held back about Iroh’s family life, leading it to pack an even more devastating emotional wallop when it aired, but there exists a large swathe of time in the wake of Lu Ten’s death that could provide more needed Iroh content. His journey across the world and, allegedly, into the Spirit World in search of his son, whilst Iroh worked through his grief and reassessed his priorities in life — thus leading to his profoundly beautiful relationship with Zuko — would provide some interesting context to the character, as he moved away from the Iroh that was, to the Iroh the audience knows and loves.
But more so than that, there are other aspects of Iroh we just never learned more about. For example, how did he become a member of the Order of the White Lotus, and rise through its ranks to the position of Grand Lotus? It is likely that that development fell into the time following Lu Ten’s death, and Iroh’s return to the Fire Nation, giving just one more reason to expand on some of his life before the series.
What really is the Order of the White Lotus
The Order of the White Lotus lives behind the scenes for almost the entire run of the animated Avatar show, only emerging in Uncle Iroh’s allusions and a mysterious rescue or two… at least until the Order breaks free and kicks butt in the series finale. It’s a fun card for the show to play, but one that might be hidden a little too well for fans to get the full effect of what this secret society is all about.
Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series is a perfect chance to take fans behind the scenes of the main action and experience the secrets of a story we all know so well. How did this ancient group come to be, and what decisions led to their dedication to the Avatar? What role did they play in covertly resisting the Fire Nation? Was the Order pulling strings we’ve never even thought of before? Fan questions are endless, and hopefully the showrunners take this opportunity to answer them.
Plus, maybe we’ll finally learn the rules of Pai Sho.