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Netflix changed how Avatar: The Last Airbender's big bad was revealed - and its a good thing

You can't give a surprise reveal of a character we saw on screen a decade ago.

Fire Lord Ozai in Netflix's Avatar the Last Airbender
Image credit: Netflix

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Netflix has been on something of a winning streak with their live-action adaptations lately. One Piece was one of their biggest hits of last summer and managed the difficult task of actually satisfying most fans of the original anime. Now their Avatar: The Last Airbender adaptation has posted some similar numbers in its first week and a half on the streamer and has had to make some similar changes to the original’s pacing to make the jump to live-action.

Aside from cutting large chunks of the original animated series’ filler content, Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender also introduced two of the series’ villains significantly earlier. Azula, Zuko’s intensely unhinged sister, originally didn’t show up until well into season two of the animated show, and Fire Lord Ozai, the series’ main antagonist, wasn’t shown on screen until the final season. These small changes alter much of the dramatic pacing of the show and set Ozai up as a truly unstoppable force – Azula is a nearly overwhelming force in season two and her father is even more powerful – but it makes sense given the amount of time that has passed since the show came out.

Fans already know that Azula is waiting in the wings for future encounters with Aang. We already know that Ozai is going to be a terrifying force of nature. Ty Lee and Mai exist, so what is the point of hiding them? There isn’t any point in hiding these reveals just to repeat the same moments that the original show already covered.

Just like with One Piece, which heavily streamlined Luffy’s early adventures to the benefit of its pacing, removing these dramatic reveals allows the series to have a different, fresher feel. How successful it is at that is a matter of opinion but at least they’re giving themselves the chance to deliver something we don’t expect. We’ll take that over a shot-by-shot remake of the original any day.

Netflix has renewed Avatar: The Last Airbender for season 2! While you wait, check out our watch order for newcomers, an exclusive Avatar reunion panel from ECCC 2024, and a couple recommendations on what to watch after the series. Heck, we've even interviewed some of the best Avatar cosplayers from across the four nations - why not check it out?

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Trent Cannon avatar

Trent Cannon


Trent is a freelance writer who has been covering anime, video games, and pop culture for a decade. (He/Him)