Written by Caballero Oscuro
Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the finest series to ever grace TV. Not just a great Nickelodeon show, or a great kids show; it deserves a place in the hallowed halls of “greatest of all time.” And no, I’m not 12.
With a complex, intricately layered and clearly defined story arc stretching over three full seasons, to the masterfully created and extensively explored world setting, to its memorable and constantly evolving characters, to a perfect blend of writing incorporating healthy doses of humor, drama, action, and romance, the show is a powerhouse on all fronts and essential entertainment for discerning viewers of all ages. The primary culprit for keeping the show off the radar of most mainstream adult viewers is its Nickelodeon home, but with this new DVD box set release of the final season there’s no longer any excuse to overlook this new classic.
In an Asian-influenced world segregated into four nations, the evil Fire Nation has exerted its dominance over the Air, Water, and Earth Nations to such an extent that the Air Nation is nearly decimated and the Water and Earth Nations are increasingly falling under Fire Nation rule. This imbalance between the nations has traditionally been patrolled by the Avatar, an almighty warrior able to wield the powers of all four elements. Similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when one Avatar dies, another chosen mortal is called to take his place, learning the ropes from masters of each element as well as the spirits of previous Avatars. Unfortunately, the world hasn’t seen an Avatar in a century, during which time the Fire Nation has been allowed to rise unchecked.
In season one, the long-missing Avatar reappeared, but he wasn’t exactly an almighty warrior. Instead, he was a kid named Aang who had only partially completed his training when he was trapped in ice until he was discovered by a couple of young adults from the Water Tribe. They became friends and joined Aang’s quest around the world to learn how to bend the other elements to his will, making new friends and enemies along the way while also avoiding Zuko, a particularly persistent pursuer from the Fire Nation.
By season three, Aang has nearly completed his training except for Fire-bending, which is proving to be a difficult task since all Fire-benders are the enemies of the rest of the free world. Zuko, the banished prince of the Fire Nation, has grown to see the error of his father’s ways and ultimately offers himself up as Aang’s fire sensei, helping Aang to complete his training and prepare for his final battle against Zuko’s father for control of the world. The series leads up to a gripping four-episode climax that resolves nearly all dangling plotlines and sends the series out on a completely satisfying close. There’s so much that can’t be captured in a capsulated series summary, but suffice it to say that these are all characters you will care about and will delight at their transformation throughout the series.
The season 3 DVD box set collection includes all 21 episodes as well as an exclusive bonus disc chock-full of special features:
* An exclusive four-part audio commentary by the creators for the final "Sozin’s Comet" story arc
* A feature on the women of the show
* A look at the pencil test animation for the finale
* Footage from San Diego Comic-Con (where they gave all panel attendees great t-shirts!)
The only demerit for this entire collection is the inclusion of a sticker prominently displayed on the front shrink wrap reminding us that The Last Airbender is coming to theaters in Summer 2010, the first in a planned trilogy of live-action movies. [Unrelated commentary alert: While this could have been the key to launching the property into the public consciousness, the studio unfortunately lined up hack writer/director M. Night Shymalan to helm it, dooming the project to imminent failure. It also lost its Avatar name due to James Cameron’s forthcoming unrelated project of the same name, which will probably work out well in the long run since it will further separate the feature film abomination from the superb animated series.] Luckily, the shrink wrap can be hastily removed, allowing viewers to savor the delicious final act of this epic and masterful series.