The Avatar: The Last Airbender series was a smash hit when it came out in the 2000s on Nickelodeon, and recently, this venerated animated show returned to Netflix -- a welcome sight for veteran fans and a great chance for newcomers to dive into the world of Avatar for the first time. It all started with Book One: Water, which had more than a few wild plot twists in store.
While Books Two and Three had some serious payoffs and memorable scenes, such as Azula and Zuko's final duel and uncle Iroh's heartbreaking scene in Tales of Ba Sing Se, let's not forget that Book One made it all possible. Here's a look at Season 1's biggest plot twists and developments, which were far more impactful than they seem at first pass.
When The Gaang Met Suki, A Kyoshi Warrior
At first, the pitstop on Kyoshi Island seemed like a mere "adventure of the week" session, but it was far more than that. When the Gaang arrived on Kyoshi Island and met the warrior named Suki, the series established the existence and name of Avatar Kyoshi, a vital figure in the Avatar world and one of Aang's past lives. However, just as important was how Suki planted the seeds of change in Sokka's mind.
Until now, Sokka had distinctly regressive views on women and gender norms, and female warriors were a foreign concept to him. Suki kindly but firmly proved him wrong, and sure enough, she would return in later seasons as a brave ally and hero in the fight against the Fire Nation. Suki's remarkable character arc started right here, in Book One.
When Aang Learned About Sozin's Comet
Once every century, Sozin's Comet arrives and significantly enhances all Firebending. The last time this happened, the Fire Nation (led by Fire Lord Sozin) launched the Hundred-Year War and used that power to wipe out the Air Nomads. In Book One: Water, Aang was unaware of Sozin's Comet until he visited a temple on a Fire Nation island, met the previous Avatar -- Roku -- and learned that this comet would arrive in less than a year.
If Fire Lord Ozai fights when that comet comes, he will become nearly invincible, meaning Aang has a tight time limit to master the other three elements and carry out his duty as the Avatar. This threat set the tone, stakes, and timeline for the entire series. And as promised, that comet arrived during the series finale.
When Zuko Saved Aang As The Blue Spirit
Many of Book One's best plot twists concerned Prince Zuko, who wasn't merely "prince pouty" chasing the Avatar. Zuko was introduced as a hot-headed prince obsessing over capturing the Avatar to regain his honor and his father's favor, but during Book One, that started to change. At one point, Admiral Zhao captured Aang, but Zuko couldn't allow that.
Acting as the mysterious Blue Spirit, Zuko infiltrated Zhao's compound and helped Aang escape, though he also proved hostile to Aang once they were in the clear. This not only freed Aang from certain doom but launched Zuko's redemption arc and made it clear that he is more than a tool of the Fire Nation. Zuko's relationship with Aang may have become more complicated, but his path was slowly becoming clearer too.
When Zuko Went Rogue To Capture Aang Alone
Near the end of Book One: Water, Zuko became an enemy of the Fire Nation. Admiral Zhao arranged for his assassination by setting off explosives in Zuko's frigate, and it was lucky that Zuko escaped his doom. Still, Zuko was no longer welcome in the Fire Nation, as early plot twists in Book Two showed, and it all started here when his quest became contrary to Fire Nation interests.
Zuko went after Aang alone out of sheer desperation. Once he did capture Aang, he explained his backstory to the unconscious Avatar -- telling him how his father considered Zuko "lucky to be born." It was clear now that Zuko and the Fire Nation were separate parties, and Zuko, Zhao, Azula and Ozai all knew it. During the siege of the Northern Water Tribe, Zuko realized that he had only Iroh to rely upon. This, in turn, allowed Zuko to take another step toward redemption.
When Yue Gave Her Life To Restore The Moon
The Northern Water Tribe is home to a spiritual oasis that sustains the moon, and the two moon spirits gave Princess Yue a second chance at life when she was born sickly. Unfortunately, at this stage, Admiral Zhao was a grave threat to the world, and he ultimately killed the moon itself by ending one of the spirits. Zhao's actions threw the world into darkness and imbalance until Yue repaid the moon for all it had done for her.
Yue nobly gave her life to restore the moon after bidding Sokka a fond farewell, and Avatar Aang took this chance to use incredible spirit powers to push back the Fire Nation fleet and save the entire Northern Water Tribe. Unfortunately, Zhao had gone too far, and Aang and Yue together made things right, spirit style. Still, Yue's sacrifice was a monumental moment in the series, one that Sokka never forgot.