Week 2: Legacies of the Avatar
Day 4: The New Era: The Legacy of Avatar Wan
Day 5: The Legacies of Kyoshi and Roku
Day 6: The “Cop Out:” The Legacy of Avatar Aang
Day 5 is for Kyoshi and Roku, whose actions shaped the world.
All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.
We’ll start with Kyoshi, Aang’s former incarnation (once removed). We know about her early on because the Gaang travels to Kyoshi Island, where Kyoshi’s present-day people still live, and they meet the Kyoshi warriors who fight with fans and dress like she did.
We get a bit more information in the episode “Avatar Day,” where because Aang is too nice of a guy for his own good, he agrees to face trial and punishment for a crime supposedly committed by Kyoshi. It was the murder of Chin the Great, whom everyone loved, because he was so great, and then the Avatar showed up and killed him, and that’s what happened. (James. Freaking. Hong.)
At a pivotal moment in the trial, Kyoshi borrows Aang’s body and tells the true story.
This… doesn’t help Aang much, but other fortuitous events allow the Gaang to escape mostly unscathed. And then they eat unfried dough.
What it does do is show Kyoshi being pretty cool. She actually changes the shape of the continent in service of ending a war utilitarian-style and keeping her people safe.
Compared to Kyoshi, Roku is a lot more involved in Aang’s epic journey. Being the Avatar who lived right before Aang’s birth, he’s responsible for guiding him.
But it isn’t until early in Book 3 that we learn Roku’s backstory in “The Avatar and the Firelord,” one of those cool episodes that mirror Aang and Zuko’s experiences.
Roku’s deepest regret is that friendship got in the way of his dealing with Firelord Sozin. Watching the episode we can see that Roku isn’t wrong to give Sozin the benefit of the doubt – Sozin is capable of being a good person. But at a critical moment, he decides to leave Roku to die so that he can conquer the world.
It’s a little much to blame Roku for not, well, permanently ending Sozin earlier, but we like the complexity the show offers here. Hindsight is 20-20, but Roku did underestimate his old friend. Had he known that in not much more than a decade after his death, Sozin would be wiping out an entire race of people, we have no doubt that he would have taken Sozin out, no questions asked.
As with Wan, the first Avatar, Kyoshi and Roku make choices that shape the world for generations to come. We love that the show allows them to make complex choices that can be read as mistakes in some contexts. It’s more realistic that way and it really does emphasize that whether we’re following Korra or Aang, anything the Avatar decides to do, or not do, will have serious consequences later on.
The stakes are like whoa on this show.
This culminates in Aang’s story when he asks for the wisdom of four former Avatars, because he now has to make an important decision that he’s conflicted about. The two dudes are regretful and offer the mistakes they made, urging Aang to be decisive and to actively shape his own destiny.
Kyoshi is pretty pleased with herself, and both she and Yangchen tell Aang that he needs to do whatever it takes to protect the world and to bring peace.
What Aang eventually chooses to do (hint: it isn’t murder) doesn’t necessarily conflict with any of this advice. But we do get the feeling that all four past Avatars are gently suggesting that Aang needs to kill Ozai, and ultimately Aang chooses not to despite their wisdom.
And whether Aang made the right choice or not? Well, that’s for day 6 to determine.