30 Days of Avatar: The “Cop Out:” The Legacy of Avatar Aang

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 6 is for Aang making decisions and stuff.

Big huge massive spoilers are in this one.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

The Last Airbender has Aang defeating the Fire Lord in order to usher in a new era of peace. Because Aang is a nonviolent monk, he used a previously-unseen method of bending (energy… bending…?) to take Ozai’s fire bending away.

Some viewers were disappointed with this. Some of them wanted to see Aang make the personal sacrifice and kill Ozai because it was better for the world, which is understandable. Others were OK with the nonviolent solution but wish it didn’t just conveniently show up like that in the last few episodes. And sure. The show is for kids, so a little convenience is going to happen here and there, but the climactic solution probably should have been built up more. So we understand labeling this whole thing “Lion Turtle ex machina.”

There was also a bit of talk about how Aang’s decision here could have created more chaos, since leaving Ozai alive would allow his supporters to rally around him. But that never happened, as far as we know, because in Korra we learn that Aang and Zuko’s later work revolved mostly around building Republic City, and not defeating any rogue Ozaiist movements that may have cropped up.

Anyway, if anyone was going to lead a backlash revolt against peace, it’s Azula, so, no.

However, the first book of Korra has its villains stem directly from a decision Aang makes as an adult.

Yakone is a crime boss who can bloodbend even if it isn’t the full moon. Aang takes his bending away, presumably so that he won’t be able to hurt anyone else.

But Yakone escapes prison (of course), and goes right on ahead and has a couple of kids who inherit the ability. Aang says to Ozai, “I took away your firebending. You can’t use it to hurt or threaten anyone else ever again.” He doesn’t say this to Yakone, but here’s the thing. Yakone may not be as powerful as he was, but he still has dominion over his kids and he hurts them plenty.

Until Noatak kills him. Noatak goes on to lead an extremist non-bender group in the city, hurting a lot of people. Tarrlok does his fair share of hurting people as a councilman as well.

Now, this isn’t really Aang’s fault. It would be pretty remiss of us to say that, considering how fervently we defend Ariel, for example, for getting caught up in Ursula’s schemes. Aang can’t force people to be good people, and that isn’t his fault. But there is that pesky little fact that if he had just killed Yakone, the child abuse and ensuing terrorizing of Republic City, from both sides, wouldn’t have happened.

So it’s not Aang’s fault, but we do think this is the writers acknowledging the criticism the Lion Turtle solution received and agreeing: “Hey, yes. Every choice these people make has the potential to cause a lot of misery down the line. But they have to do what they think is best in the moment.”

And that’s the cool thing about Avatar. We saw it with Kyoshi, whose actions, while pretty freaking just, put Aang in danger hundreds of years later, and Roku, whose inaction is partially what caused the genocide of the Air Nomads. Even our heros, Aang and Korra, have the potential to make mistakes or to make choices that aren’t 100% perfect, and that’s big.


2 thoughts on “30 Days of Avatar: The “Cop Out:” The Legacy of Avatar Aang

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s