Avatar: 20 Unresolved Mysteries And Plot Holes The Last Airbender Left Hanging

It's hard to believe that Avatar: The Last Airbender wrapped up over a decade ago. (Feel old, yet?) The Nickelodeon animated series grew a huge baseman of both young and older viewers during its three-year run and this popularity hasn't waned one bit since it went off the air. In fact, as more time goes by, the more highly-regarded its legacy becomes, propelling it to the hallowed "modern classic" status few cartoons of its era have been able to achieve. Of course, we haven't exactly been starved for new Avatar content since The Last Airbender saga concluded. Aang, Zuko, Katara, Sokka, and Toph's adventures have continued in comic book form, as well as — with the exception of Sokka — their older, future selves in the sequel series that followed Aang's Avatar successor: The Legend of Korra.

And, of course, M. Night Shyamalan tried his hand at an almost unwatchable live-action movie adaptation. The enduring bankability and interest of the world of Avatar — and perhaps the crushing disappointment of Shyamalan's film — spurred creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, to begin work on their own live-action remake that promises to improve on all of the mistakes of the previous attempt. It could also offer a different take on the original story and maybe even expand on some of the grayer areas of Avatar lore. The Last Airbender comics have done a good job at tying up the series' biggest loose ends — like the mystery of what happened to Zuko's mom — but there are still bits and pieces of lore and story details that have left fans scratching their heads.


As the inevitable showdown between the Avatar and the psychotic Fire Lord Ozai edged nearer, it dawned on Aang that he had a monumental decision on his hands. Ozai's heritage and violent ambition meant that taking his life might be the only way to stop him, and by default, the century-long war. The problem was this conflicted with Aang's own peace-loving heritage.

While his moral confliction was an admirable quality, fans have since pointed out that it didn't quite line-up with his past actions in battle. Aang seemed to be fine with blasting away boatfuls and airships' worth of faceless soldiers but then acted as though Ozai would be his first fatality. Perhaps the Avatar should reassess his code of ethics.


During the Lake Laogoi arc of the third season, the Gaang find themselves reunited with teen Freedom Fighter, Jet. While traveling into the Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se, Jet becomes suspicious of Zuko and Iroh when he sees the elderly man use firebending to reheat some tea. His obsessive chasing of the pair eventually led to the city's secret police capturing and brainwashing him.

After breaking free, Jet was then mortally wounded while helping the Gaang rescue Appa. It was a watershed moment for the show, but one that might have been avoided had Katara just remembered the healing spirit water she had in her possession. While this worked out in Aang's favor later on, how would Katara have known that at the time?


After making it out of the treacherous desert in Book Three, the Gaang continue their journey to Ba Sing Se. They're faced with either making their way through the mountains via the short but equally treacherous Serpent's Pass, or taking the longer but safer route via the ferry from Full Moon Bay. They opt for the latter option.

Unfortunately, without a passport, the ticket-master refuses to allow Aang passage. His attempt to use his Avatar fame to get around her also fails because of the number of counterfeit Avatars she's dealt with. Aang dejectedly gives up, apparently forgetting that all he needs to do is show off the one skill no-one else could fake: airbending.


Toph puts "Twinkle-toes" through his paces when she becomes his earthbending teacher. As earth is an oppositional element to air — Aang's natural fallback — he has a lot more trouble getting to grips with it than water. Toph's teaching methods don't exactly help, either. Unlike Katara's gentle encouragement, Toph prefers to toughen her student up.

At one point, she spars with Aang and uses an armor coating of rock to defend herself against his attacks. Viewers were quick to spot, however, that the animators had mistakenly left the suit exposed around the eyes rather than the mouth, which, as a blind character, wouldn't be of much use to Toph.


Avatar Air Temple

The air nomads that Aang originally belonged to lived in very-hard-to-reach places. The Southern Air Temple that the young Avatar grew up in was located above the clouds in the Patola Mountain Range, while the Western Temple is harder to get to still — clinging to the underside of a cliff. They're deliberately designed to be accessible to air nomads only.

Knowing this, there's been a lot of speculation as to how Fire Nation troops were able to invade Aang's home. Airships hadn't been invented by that point so how did they do it? Did they have enough firebending power to launch themselves skywards? Did they commandeer dragons? We've never gotten an answer in the canon.


Avatar Four Nations

There are famously four nations in the Avatar world, one for each controllable element: earth, fire, air and water. But, there's been a lot of debate within the fandom about whether this is true or not. There are two separate Earth Kings in Omashu and Ba Sing Se, and two separate Fire Nation groups made up of the ones under Ozai, and the Sun Warriors.

As for the Water Tribe, they're split into the Southern Tribe, Northern Tribe, and the Foggy Swamp Tribe. By that logic, seven is a more accurate total. The only feasible counterargument to this is that "Nation" is just another way of describing one group united by culture and racial characteristics, even if they're geographically dispersed.


One of the many things that make the world of Avatar so unique are the beasts and animals that live there. Though there are some creatures that you'd recognize from our world — like the Earth King's pet bear — the majority are combinations of two different species. Korra's steed Naga, for instance, is a polar bear/dog hybrid.

The names of these two-for-one animals reflects this: spiderfly, tigerseal, skunkfish... the list goes on. This has caused some confusion as to how these names came to be, considering not all of these combined species necessarily exist individually. The best guess is that non-hybrids used to be the norm and were replaced by widespread crossbreeding.


Avatar tanks

In a world where people can breathe fire, create water whips, and shoot rocks at each other, you'd think man-made weapons would be redundant. But, don't forget — not everyone is a bender. Throughout the series, we see people fighting with arrows, swords, spears and their bare fists. Steamships, airships, and tanks are also used by the military.

Knowing this technology exists, the lack of more advanced weaponry like rudimentary firearms and cannons seems like an oversight. You'd think non-benders would welcome the extra firepower. Out-of-story, the real reason could be that the production team didn't want things getting too explosive in a kids show.


Toph by ArtsByCarlos on Deviant Art

Aang doesn't carry much with him, but his glider is never far from his hand. Though he uses it mostly to fly, it serves as a multi-purpose tool, makeshift weapon, and even a conduit to channel his bending. With his full force behind it, we've seen the glider dent and crack through the toughest materials.

This is why it seemed like a misnomer when, in the episode "Bitter Work," Aang scolded Toph for using the ancient air nomad object to crack nuts. "It's a delicate instrument!" he claims. Delicate? Really, Aang? While we know the glider isn't indestructible, Aang must have been fibbing just to get her to stop.


Foggy Swamp Tribe Avatar

The Avatar is a spiritual entity that is part of a constant cycle of rebirth. When one Avatar passes away, another is reborn with access to all the memories of their past selves. The cycle is spread evenly around each Nation to mimic the changing seasons and ensure balance is maintained. After fire comes air, after air comes water, and so on.

One unanswered question, however, is what would happen if the Avatar was born into one of the Nations' fringe groups like the Sun Warriors or Foggy Swamp Tribe. As those tribes are cut off from the rest of the world, could the Avatar live their entire life in seclusion? It seems like pure luck that Kyoshi, Roku, Aang, and Korra grew up in mainstream society.


Avatar Hama

"The Puppetmaster" episode of The Last Airbender is known for being one of the series' darkest thanks to the vengeful waterbender, Hama. After being snatched from the Southern Water Tribe by the Fire Nation, Hama reveals to the Gaang that she had to get creative to escape. Using the water within people's bodies, she invented a frightening variant to waterbending: bloodbending.

The Gaang also discover the psychotic woman had been imprisoning firebenders in underground cells and the craftsmanship of her prison prompted some viewers to question how an elderly woman was capable of constructing all this on her own. Did she also bloodbend her captives into carrying out manual labor, too?


Avatar Dragon

Hundreds of years ago, the first benders learned formative techniques by studying animals. For firebenders, dragons were their first teachers, making the firebreathing lizards very important to Fire Nation culture. Not important enough, though, for them to be sufficiently preserved.

Hunting dragons became so popular that General Iroh claimed to have slain the last one — which later turned out to be a lie. But, considering that dragons were used as powerful steeds by people like Roku, it seems like a big tactical blunder to wipe them out for mere sport. Surely someone should have had the sense to campaign for their conversation, right?


Avatar Sozin's Comet

Waterbenders draw extra bending power from solar eclipses as the moon is the governing force behind the ocean's tides. Firebenders similarly get a dramatic boost whenever Sozin's Comet appears; named after Fire Lord Sozin who took advantage of the astral event to begin the One Hundred Year War.

However, as some astronomy-savvy fans have pointed out, comets aren't actually the big balls of fire we imagine them to be. They're made of ice and dust, so scientifically-speaking the comet shouldn't affect firebenders in the way that it does. Sozin's Meteor, however, might have done the trick.



One of the coolest things about the world of Avatar is seeing how creative some benders can get with their abilities. A master waterbender like Katara, for instance, can freeze water and turn it into shards; trap people within watery spheres and even heal wounds.

We've also seen her cut through wood and steel with water whips, which seems improbable, but water can actually do this in the real world. The only problem is, water can only do this at a very high pressure and at a straight angle, not usually in the curved shape we see on the show. And could Katara really generate enough pressure? It seems like a stretch.


Fire Nation propaganda throughout the war ensured that the royal family were both feared and respected throughout their territories. In his quest to become the world's leading dictator, Fire Lord Ozai's face was plastered over every history textbook and on the wall of every official building.

Despite this, his children, Zuko and Azula, were somehow able to travel around without attracting much attention. In fact, while the pair were vacationing on Ember Island during Book Three, none of the other Fire Nation kids even recognize the most famous teenagers in the land. Either they were super misinformed or playing it super cool.


Korra Avatar Wan

The Avatar is the bridge between the spirit world and the physical world, a link first made possible by the bonding of Wan with the spirit of peace and love, Raava during the Harmonic Convergence. According to "The Avatar and the Fire Lord," a new Avatar is born the second their predecessor is gone.

This information makes us curious as to what exactly is being reincarnated. Raava tells Wan, "we will be together for all of your lifetimes," implying that Wan himself is continually being reborn in new forms with Raava travelling along for the ride. Or, does Raava simply carry Wan's memories into a new host? We need answers, Team Avatar!


Avatar Appa

After losing Appa in the desert, the Gang continue their search for Aang's beloved sky bison in Ba Sing Se. Unbeknownst to them, Zuko and Iroh are also in the city, and when Zuko learns that the Avatar is searching for his flying steed, he sees an opportunity to pick up his Avatar-seeking mission once more.

This begins quite a few leaps of logic. First off, Zuko finds out where Appa is by threatening a random Dai Li agent who happens to have the information, and then, he and Iroh somehow manage to let Appa loose — despite not being earthbenders — without anyone noticing. Impressive, sure, but also improbable.


Of the four elements that humans are able to control in the world of Avatar, fire is the only one that doesn't require a bender to have preexisting material to bend. In other words, firebenders can create their own fire as well as manipulate it. But, why is this? It could be because water, earth, and air are much more readily available.

But, it could also be because fire was the first element humans learnt to bend. (Avatar Wan stole the power from the lion turtle.) Before it became associated with destruction, fire was considered closely linked with the energy of life, which confuses things more because it suggests anyone with a soul could theoretically firebend. We may never get a definitive answer.


Avatar Aang flying

Avatar fans have been trying to wrap their heads around what is and isn't needed to bend since the show began. In the case of firebenders, just an exhalation is enough to make things go up in flames. Other benders, however, rely on more obvious physical motions to practice their art.

This opens up a can of worms when we see Aang flying. Though airbenders can also use their breath to bend, Aang was able to fly with his glider without opening his mouth or moving a muscle. How did he do it? Was he just riding the currents well enough like a bird? Or was it just the result of years of practice?


Out of Azula's two-woman entourage, Ty Lee was a refreshingly cheery companion who was more interested in having fun than taking a fight seriously. Her "fun" was incredibly effective, though. Using chi-blocking, Ty Lee could temporarily paralyze people and even block their bending ability.

Ty Lee's official status as a non-bender has provoked endless discussion in the show's fanbase, particularly knowing that energybending exists. Some feel that Ty Lee's chi tinkering replicates this skill on a less severe level so it could be thought of as a bending subclass. Others just think of it as advanced acupuncture. Only one thing is certain, Ty Lee is a one-off.

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