As the conclusion of this show drew near, I was expecting that Aang's resolution was coming to a beautiful close. Unfortunately, instead of a resolution, I got a solution that did nothing to solve the ultimate moral questions that had been riding throughout this entire show. Aang's steadfast determination as a pacifist is rewarded without a single sacrifice, a much too ideal of an outcome that undermines the struggles necessary to overcome the Fire Lord.
But let's start at the beginning. We get the finishing to Toph, Sokka, and Suki's stories. For the most part, I was satisfied with how it all played out. The emotion that played into a near death scenario was nicely portrayed. That part played out really well, and the ending of the battle gave such a nice sense of relief. There was no real deep meaning to Toph, Sokka, and Suki's role in the finale other than "stop the air fleet", which is okay. These three people were always going to be delegated to supporting characters in the first place, and for the large part that they did play, I think I was happy.
We then get to the most face palming moment in the show. Ozai blasts apart Aang's rock shelter and Aang is sent flying backwards, until a small spike stabs into the wound where Azula shot him, suddenly unlocking his Avatar State again.
Now, Azula taking away Aang's Avatar State with that shock of lightning was understandable. It was electricity, and electricity often has properties that can disable and maim people permanently. Aang was also on the verge of death, and the shock of that potential death could have easily triggered his Avatar State into a state of remission. All of these make sense, given to the context of the Avatar world.
However, a spike stabbing into Aang's back and retriggering his Avatar State made almost zero sense. In The Awakening, Katara attempts to heal Aang and senses a huge buildup in energy in his back. That tells me that the problem with Aang exists on not only a physical level, but also perhaps a spiritual level as well. The idea that a rock stabbing Aang in the back somehow retriggers the spiritual properties and channels needed to get into the Avatar State are questionable at best, and if anything, the likelihood and convenience of the event just made the fight between Aang and Ozai less impressive.
And then comes the final minutes of Ozai's battle with Aang, where the biggest deus ex machina comes into the picture.
I wouldn't be so mad at the Lion Turtle's reappearance if he had been mentioned more heavily. If Aang was recollecting on the words that the Lion Turtle had said in the previous episodes, then that would've been fine. Instead, the Lion Turtle says something entirely new, which somehow gives Aang the ability to take away someone's bending. There are a few problems with this.
The first is that the Lion Turtle specifically mentions "the era before the Avatar", which suggests that either the power was lost to the ages or was replaced by a more superior methodology of bending. Whatever the case, it seems clear that the ability to bend "energy" wasn't readily available. So how did Aang learn it? Why does bending energy equate to bending someone's ability to bend? Are the two interconnected? These questions go unanswered, and they're perhaps the most important questions regarding the ultimate climax and ending of said show.
Second, the Lion Turtle gave Aang deep lines that he never referred back to. If the Lion Turtle was going to be something more than just a random creature, the episode should have at least acknowledged the words that the Lion Turtle said, because I thought those words were really deep. It sounded like he was talking about how no matter what decision Aang made, if his intentions were pure and for the best of the world, then it would all be okay. Instead, the Lion Turtle's words are ignored and replaced by an entirely new line that gives Aang a solution that he always wanted without a single sacrifice.
Avatar the Last Airbender was a great series, and I love the show. I am, however, disappointed in the finale, and definitely thought that Mike and Brian could have done a much better job getting to the finale.
The concluding chapter of this enrapturing tale that attracted millions of viewers and fans is one of its best. I'd say the conclusion doesn't leave its fans wanting, but Avatar is such a loveable story, set in such a well-crafted fantasy universe that us fans never want to leave. The final chapter does, for the most part, provide the closure and finality you'd expect from a finale and the result is universally moving.
One of the things I've always adored in the series is the theme. This isn't a typical tale of good versus evil or surmounting adversity. Yes, that is the backdrop here, but the themes of Avatar are transcendent. This tale is about personal growth in adventure, the preeminence of universal justice, and the power of love, serenity of spirit, and hope. Despite the colossal misfortune of Aang's loss, the scars The Fire Nation dealt the world, the impossible task at hand, and the series of events presented in the preceding episodes, Aang, in all his innocence, prevails. It is impossible to not empathize with the characters. By time the dust settles and the action has ceased, the episode allows its viewers to finally stop holding their breath, release a few tears, and sigh, "We did it! It's over, we won."
To address the specifics, "Avatar Aang" is a perfectly balanced episode. Drawing all battles to a close with remarkable flair, Aang basically "glows it up and stops that Firelord," and Katara tags in for Zuko to finish off Azula. The initiation of Aang's Avatar State rampage is another much disputed happenstance: its convenience screams contrivance, yet I beg to differ. Aang was running on so much adrenaline in this fight that his Avatar State defense mechanism was long overdue in this fight; any contact to his scar would have done the trick, and perhaps his interaction with the Lion Turtle helped to initiate the chakra unlocking process.
The two action sequences in this episode were flashy and epic, and their conclusions were truly awing. Katara's victory – her finishing more is tactical brilliance – and Zuko's recovery is relieving. Aang's success in taming the Avatar State and unlocking the secret of "energybending" is to be expected of the prodigious Avatar, and for me there was almost no other way of ending it. Aang's spirit soars: his purity is beautiful and untouchable despite the tragedy that befell him and his people. When Aang found his nonviolent solution and sucked all of Ozai's immense power directly into the Avatar Spirit, I could do nothing but rejoice. It was the most deserved ending.
The rest of the episode is an overflowing fount of emotion. Zuko's promise to the world is beautiful and hopeful: his coronation, ideal. We're teased for a bit with the prospect of finding Zuko's mother, but it slips away as the scene changes to a calm, twilit gathering in Iroh's Ba Sing Se teashop, The Jasmine Dragon. I cannot imagine a more perfect ending: the sky ablaze, the characters reunited and finally at peace, and Aang and Katara, together at last. A picture perfect ending to the greatest animated series ever to grace American television.