Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Avatar State"

"I want my father not to think I'm worthless."

Our heroes leave the Northern Water Tribe so that Aang can begin his search for an Earth Bending teacher. Aang begins to feel guilty and overwhelmed by the sheer power he holds, and the fact that he has killed people while under the control of the Avatar State. At the same time, they meet an Earth Kingdom general named Fong, who urges Aang to learn to control that very state's power instead of focusing on the four elements, so that the war can be won quicker. Zuko and Iroh, meanwhile, are outcasts, without their ship; at least until Zuko's sister Azula comes welcoming them back to the Fire Nation with open arms.

Despite Katara's misgivings, Aang is convinced to find a way to purposely trigger the Avatar State after seeing the casualties from a battle. Hilarity Ensues. Nothing, like scaring Aang, making him wear uniforms from the four nations, or even an energy boosting drink, seem to invoke the Avatar State.

Meanwhile, Zuko can't believe his luck- and neither can Iroh. Ozai isn't the sort of person to just say, "Okay, I made a mistake. Sorry." Something must be up. Zuko accuses Iroh of being a lazy old man who's just jealous of his younger, more successful brother. The two, in spite of Iroh's suspicions, board Azula's ship. Things look all right... until her captain refers to Zuko and Iroh as 'the prisoners'. Realization hits, and Zuko attacks his sister in rage.

Aang, meanwhile, after a talk with Katara and another nightmare, concludes that forcing the Avatar State is a bad idea. He tells General Fong that the State can only be brought out if Aang is either in danger or enraged. Fong decides that the only solution then is attack Aang! He has his troops converge on the Avatar. Katara and Sokka run in to help, and the general decides to endanger Katara. He uses his earthbending to submerge the waterbender deeper and deeper into the ground, threatening to kill her if Aang doesn't transform. When he completely buries Katara, Aang snaps- and the Avatar State is invoked.

Back at the coast, Zuko and Iroh fight against Azula and her forces. While Iroh is able to fend off the soldiers, Zuko has his hands full fighting his more-skilled sister.

Azula: You know Father blames Uncle for the loss at the North Pole. And he considers you a miserable failure for not finding the Avatar. Why would he want you back home, except to lock you up where you can no longer embarrass him?

Despite Zuko's best efforts, he is unable to overcome Azula. Before the princess can finish him off with lightning, Iroh redirects the bolt and knocks his niece into the water. He and Zuko take this chance to escape.

Back at the base, General Fong is elated and unburies Katara. However, The Avatar State still perceives a threat to Aang and levels half the fortress with a single earthbending attack in order to neutralize it, hurting many of the soldiers.

While the Avatar State has control, Avatar Roku contacts him, and tells the secret behind the Avatar State.

Roku: The Avatar state is a defense mechanism, designed to empower you with the skills and knowledge of all the past Avatars. [...] In the avatar state you are at your most powerful, but you are also at your most vulnerable. If you are killed in the Avatar state, the reincarnation cycle will be broken and the Avatar will cease to exist.

The Avatar State powers down, and Aang comes to in Katara's arms, sorry for what happened. But General Fong isn't. If anything, he's more excited than ever about the Avatar State's power. Sokka just knocks the general out, and the Gaang head out to Omashu- without the military escort. But they probably won't need it.

At a Fire Nation colony, Azula publicly declares Zuko and Iroh fugitives, and anyone who harbors them will face the Fire Lord's wrath. Far away, Zuko and Iroh, now fully aware of their station, cut their topknots, symbolically cutting ties with their homeland.


  • Achilles' Heel: Aang is just as, if not more, vulnerable in the Avatar State as he would regularly. That is because getting killed in the Avatar State results in dying for real for the Avatar in general.
  • All Your Powers Combined: Parodied. What do you get when you combine Fire, Air, Water, and Earth? The Avatar State? Nope — mud.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: General Fong wanted to get Aang into the Avatar State. Unlike most examples, the result is just what he was hoping for.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Azula tries to convince Zuko to come home, being unnaturally pleasant towards him. Then Iroh tries to weigh in with his opinion, and she snaps at him. Of course, even when she's trying to be nice, much of her usual unpleasantness shines through. Zuko's just so distracted by her manipulations he doesn't even notice.
  • Bullying a Dragon: In General Fong we have a rare case of someone doing this while specifically hoping for the dragon to lash out.
  • By Wall That Is Holey: Earth Kingdom soldiers attempt to squish Aang between two enormous stone coins, so he jumps into the square holes in their center.
  • Catapult Nightmare: For all of Aang's Avatar State nightmares.
  • Cessation of Existence: Avatar Roku reveals to Aang that if he dies in the Avatar State, the cycle of reincarnation would end.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Azula had a cameo in a flashback of Zuko's Agni Kai with Ozai a season prior.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Iroh redirects the lightning that Azula was about to use on Zuko.
  • Continuity Nod: Aang's nightmares reference every time Aang has gone into the Avatar State in the series so far, including "Koizilla" from the Season 1 finale.
  • Covered in Mud: An oracle tries to make Aang enter the Avatar State by combining the four elements and throwing the muddy mixture onto Aang.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Iroh fights off pretty much all of Azula's guard by himself, in less than a minute.
  • Death Glare: The captain of Azula's flagship receives one when he speaks carelessly.
  • Defense Mechanism Superpower: Roku specifically identifies the Avatar State as primarily being one of these.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Azula is depicted with very long nails, and the direction even draws specific attention to this, suggesting a much more sedentary lifestyle than the hands-on villainy and martial mastery that later becomes her signum.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Azula's conversation with her ship's captain about the tides.
    • Then her practicing establishes her perfectionist streak. Just one hair out of place is enough to piss her off.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: Aang says "I was scary" while he's reflecting on the Avatar State. It's not a strict example, since the Avatar State is a neutral force of nature.
  • Fatal Flaw: Zuko's need to be accepted by his father blinds him to the fact that Azula's playing him like a fiddle.
  • Femme Fatalons: Azula's nails, demonstrated when she first meets Zuko and Iroh, get used during her fight with Zuko, scratching him on the head.
  • Foreshadowing: After Aang's been calmed down, General Fong (who has learnt nothing) suggests trying to find a way to control the Avatar State. Of course, Roku's display back during The Winter Solstice shows it could be controlled, Aang just doesn't know how... yet.
    • Azula's treatment of the captain not only showcases her control freak nature, but foreshadows the nature of her eventual villainous breakdown in the finale where she starts banishing any servants and advisors who disagree or make a slight mistake. The "one hair out of place" moment is another, at the start of her breakdown after the Boiling Rock incident, Azula starts caring a lot less about how controlled she is in combat and her hair comes down more often to showcase her instability.
  • Freudian Slip: Azula would have easily had Zuko and Iroh caught if not for one of her subordinates accidentally refer to the two as "prisoners".
  • Gone Horribly Right: General Fong eventually gets Aang into the Avatar State - and gets a good chunk of his base destroyed as a result.
  • G-Rated Drug: The "chi-enhancing tea" that sends Aang into a babbling speed-freak frenzy.
  • Heroic R.R.O.D.: It's this episode that reveals that while the Avatar State is powerful, it's, at best, a last resort and if Aang dies while in the state, the Avatar line will cease to be.
  • I Lied: Azula, who is nothing but smug when called on it.
    Zuko: You lied to me!
    Azula: Like I've never done that before?
  • Important Haircut: Iroh and Zuko cut off their topknots at the end of the episode to signify their status as traitors.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Fong might well be going too far, but the Fire Nation is coming close to winning the war, and Aang is the only person at this point who could stop them, if he knew how.
  • Kick the Dog: Zuko says several very unkind things to Iroh when he tries to point out the situation isn't what it seems, accusing Iroh of being lazy (well...), untrusting and jealous of his younger brother.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: To emphasize how dangerous she is, we witness Azula practicing her lightning technique (the first time we've seen anyone shooting lightning).
  • Motor Mouth: Aang while riding an air scooter after drinking some Chi-enhancing tea.
    "Is it working? Is it working? I can't tell! Somebody tell me if I'm in the Avatar State 'cause I don't have a good view of myself! Am I talking too loud?"
  • Oh, Crap!: It's a near Freeze-Frame Bonus, but Azula is noticeably shocked when Iroh redirects her lightning.
    • Before that, the guard who accidentally called Zuko and Iroh "prisoners", when he realises what he just said.
    • General Fong goes from ecstatic to happy to Oh, Crap! when he realizes the Avatar is active... and pissed off, at him.
    • At the end of the episode, when Azula declares Zuko and Iroh traitors, along with anyone who aids them, the two spa workers who'd tended to them at the beginning of the episode are seen panicking.
  • Properly Paranoid: Iroh also finds it unbelievable that Ozai would want them back. He's right, and he knows well enough that his brother would never regret anything.
  • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: General Fong eventually resorts to this to unlock the Avatar State, making sure Aang will need to do so in order to save Katara.
  • Story-Breaker Power: After the previous season finale revealed how incredibly powerful the Avatar State is, this episode is quite smartly devoted to explaining why Aang doesn't just use it all the time now.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Iroh trying to explain that Ozai does like Zuko... and failing completely.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The A story is Aang's struggle (both inwardly and outwardly) with trying to reach the Avatar state, the B story is Azula's attempt to trick and capture her "traitor" uncle and "failure" brother. No Interaction.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: General Fong wants Aang to use the Avatar State to make a quick attack on the Fire Nation and end the war, and all the suffering it brings. Unfortunately, he doesn't take it well when Aang doesn't want to.
  • Wham Episode: We see the new main enemy in this episode along with the crippling weakness involving the Avatar State.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: General Fong will use any means to get Aang into the Avatar State.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: This is the first time the Avatar State is really explained, with both its power and its dangers, making the point that aang must use it responsibly.