10:00 am EDT, September 12, 2018

Netflix’s ‘The Dragon Prince’ is a must-watch for ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ fans

If you’re a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, you absolutely must tune in to The Dragon Prince on Netflix. Here’s why!

Coming from the minds at Wonderstorm, Netflix’s The Dragon Prince is a tale of magic, family, betrayal, and growth… and there’s also a really cool frog named Bait. The series will also give you every single Avatar: The Last Airbender feeling you’ve been missing all these years, or your money back — guaranteed!

Okay, that’s not legally binding, but here’s why it’s totally true.

It’s got very good genes

The Dragon Prince is created by Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond, two guys with seriously strong nerd cred. Richmond has worked on the popular Uncharted video game series, as for Ehasz… well, the Avatar nerds in the audience will know exactly who he is. Aaron Ehasz served as head writer on Avatar: The Last Airbender, and in addition to guiding the story, wrote many fan-favorite episodes himself, including “The Siege of the North,” “Bitter Work,” and “Crossroads of Destiny.”

(Yes, that last is the one where Zuko does that thing that made everyone lose their minds for like a year.)

But the Avatar pedigree doesn’t end there. Giancarlo Volpe, who directed many episodes of Avatar (as well as Star Wars: The Clone Wars) is also an Executive Producer and director on The Dragon Prince. In addition to episodes like “The Drill” and “The Day of Black Sun,” Volpe directed the award-winning, soul-destroying episode “Appa’s Lost Days.” (Yes, the one where Appa… I still can’t talk about it.) So basically, be cognizant of what this dude is capable of.

Related: The Dragon Prince is the best new Netflix show of 2018

TL;DR version: The Dragon Prince is double-baked by the people who have made the animated stories you love — and that, probably, made you freak out and cry at least once. Expect more of the same excellence (and pain) in the new Netflix adventure.

That framing feels familiar…

The opening sequence of The Dragon Prince is pretty much designed to hit those Avatar buttons and get you feeling All The Things. Narrated backstory? Check. Rapid-fire mythology lesson? Check. Nature-inspired magic system? Check, please!

The cherry on top of all of this scene-setting is the series’ structure. Like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, The Dragon Prince eschews seasons for “Books,” and episodes for “Chapters.” The Dragon Prince begins its tale in Book Moon, likely referring to one of the six elemental forces of magic in this complex world. It’s all evocative of precisely the kind of epic storytelling that Avatar crafted so deftly — a richly thematic adventure that will encourage viewers to feel and think in equal measure, with plenty of laughs along the way.

Sokka is back! (Sort of!)

Another welcome throwback to the Avatar days is quite literally a star of the show in The Dragon Prince. Jack DeSena, who so memorably voiced Sokka in Avatar, plays the role of Prince Callum, here taking on a more contemplative (if still very wry) young protagonist.

Book-smart, artistic, and funny, Callum is anything but a budding warrior. But like Sokka, he is deeply loyal, always has a joke at the ready, and hides real pain and insecurity behind his lighthearted exterior. DeSena wastes no time in scaling Callum’s significant emotional range, performing with exactly the kind of nuance and sensitivity that will resonate instantly with newcomers and Avatar fans alike.

It’s literally a show full of Zukos

Speaking of characters, one of the most interesting elements of The Dragon Prince is the fact that it’s hard to identify any one character as a true villain. Just like Prince Zuko, hunting Aang and his friends more to fulfill an emotional need than to truly be Bad, the characters of The Dragon Prince all have strong and honest motives for their morally dubious actions.

Rayla, a Moonshadow Elf, is driven to murder because she believes it is true justice. The king’s advisor Lord Viren revels in dark magic to save his people. King Harrow, father of young Prince Ezran and Callum, contemplates terrible sacrifices in a quest for atonement, haunted by old sins.

Just as in Avatar: The Last Airbender, true evil in The Dragon Prince is defined as much by intention as by action. Xadia may be a brightly-colored world but it shades strongly gray, and has a crop of fascinatingly ambiguous characters who are all sure to spark spirited debate among fans.

She will rock you

As of the first three episodes of The Dragon Prince, only two female members of the cast stand out… but boy, do they stand out. Rayla the elven assassin and Claudia the dark mage are both indisputable badasses, each a powerful fighter in her own field and a compelling force to be reckoned with.

And like in Avatar, Rayla and Claudia are both much more than their specific set of skills. Rayla grapples with self-doubt and the pressure that comes from youthful talent. Claudia finds herself at odds with her friends, swept up in a dark plan which she is uniquely positioned to facilitate. Claudia is funny, Rayla touchingly naive for all that she is deadly. Each young woman has her own story to tell and path to walk, and within its epic scope, it seems clear that The Dragon Prince is determined to do them justice.

Lighten up!

In the midst of this grand story full of war, magic, and dragons, it’s important not to forget the fact that The Dragon Prince is also just a lot of fun.

It is written to be funny and it is, whether the jokes spark from the breakfast plans of random soldiers, the King and Lord Viren’s familiar rapport, or Callum and Ezran’s brotherly squabbles. The humor that peppers the series will ring a familiar chord with fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, as the show leavens its darker tones with sight-gags, casual, irreverent laughs, and longer-range character jokes.

Just like in Avatar, not every gag may fly for every viewer. But the ethos remains the same — your journey may be dark, and your goals intimidating, but isn’t that all the more reason to have some fun along the way?

Catch all episodes of The Dragon Prince on Netflix on Friday, Sept. 14.

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