Avatar: The Worst Book 1 Episodes That Shouldn’t Make Netflix’s Live-Action

Avatar: The Last Airbender was about as close to a perfect show as most mainstream cartoons can get, but in adapting it to live action, Netflix has an opportunity to make it even better. The reboot proved controversial upon its announcement, yet in looking over the show's first season, it's clear there are opportunities for improvement.

Book One was a great way to kick off The Last Airbender, but there's little doubting it took the series some time to find its legs and hit its stride. With the benefit of hindsight, Netflix has a unique opportunity to streamline the story. That could mean cutting or reducing the "filler" episodes that prove divisive among Avatar fans even to this day.

"The Southern Air Temple" (Episode 3)

"Filler" is a derogatory term too often hurled around to dismiss a story not immediately relevant to the plot or character development of a show's cast, but in looking over the imperfections of The Last Airbender, there are plenty of instances where even stories central to the overarching plot take too long to develop.

Episode 3, "The Southern Air Temple" is a perfect example, stalling out Aang, Katara and Sokka's journey north to establish something everybody in the world already knows: there are no more Airbenders. Of course it's important for Aang to accept that chilling reality, but rather than spend an entire episode on the matter that drags down the story's emotional tonality, it would be more efficient for Netflix to contain these events to a single introductory scene for a larger plot.

"Imprisoned" (Episode 6)

Another reason "filler" is not a particularly fair accusation is that each installment in a story establishes or progresses each character's arc in different ways, and one of the earliest Katara-centric stories, "Imprisoned," does just that. After meeting the Earthbender Haru shortly before his arrest at the hands of the Fire Nation, Katara endeavors to risk the Gaang's mission in order to save him.

Except later episodes in The Last Airbender do a better job at highlighting Katara's strong and principled nature. Her character repeats the same arc later in "The Painted Lady," and her flirtation with Jet just four episodes after meeting the milquetoast Haru proves far more interesting as well. Haru does return later in the series, but unlike characters like Bumi or Jet, he is far less important to spend an episode establishing.

"The Great Divide" (Episode 11)

The Great Divide

The appropriately named "The Great Divide" is one of the most divisive episodes in The Last Airbender, with many fans pointing to it as a prime example of filler -- while others ardently defend it as a fun standalone story. The chapter is later mocked in the series itself, with "The Ember Island Players" containing a retelling of the Gaang's adventures in which they treat "The Great Divide" as skippable.

Despite its merits as a standalone story, it's hard to point to any larger consequence the episode really has. Neither tribes of the Gan Jin or the Zhang appear again, Katara and Sokka's differences remain in their status quo after the episode's events, and it's hard to justify the story when valuable plotting or characterization could go elsewhere.

"The Fortuneteller" (Episode 14)

Similarly, "The Fortuneteller" is another standalone story that's hard to justify an entire episode's worth of space on in the Netflix reboot. Its primary function comes in advancing the romantic subplot between Katara and Aang, yet no advancements are made in their relationship throughout the episode.

Despite learning from the prophetic Aunt Wu that she would later marry a powerful Bender, and realizing Aang himself is a powerful Bender, Katara seems to remain oblivious to the Airbender's feelings for her throughout the rest of the season. She later tells Aang she thinks of him as a brother, and if Katara's revelations in "The Fortuneteller" were really so inconsequential, maybe it's best skipped altogether.

"Bato of the Water Tribe" (Episode 15)

Bato paints ceremonia symbols on Sokka and Katara

On the opposite end of the spectrum, "Bato of the Water Tribe" has far too much going on to fit into a single episode. The story sees Sokka and Katara reunite with a friend of their father, conveys Aang's resentment over the family they share and his insecurity about their friendship toward him, and Sokka's coming-of-age ritual that matures his character. This all happens while introducing the new characters Bato and June -- and building toward a climactic battle as Zuko tracks the Gaang down.

Rather than cramming all of that into a single episode, Netflix's Avatar would do well to use the freed-up space from cutting other less important stories and give "Bato of the Water Tribe" more room. There's a lot of important development of existing characters and the introduction of new ones. To cap it all off, the showdown at the abbey where Appa battles Nyla and Aang duels with Zuko is one of The Last Airbender Book One's best action sequences, and would only be better with a little more room to breathe.

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