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  • I Am Spartacus: In "The Headband" students at the Fire Nation School Aang was at donned a headband like he wore to confuse the teacher and his thugs when they were looking for him. A darker example is revealed in "The Southern Raiders": Katara's mother claimed to be the last waterbender to protect her daughter, directly leading to her death.
  • I Am What I Am: Much of the character development in Season 1 comes from Aang coming to terms with his role as the Avatar.
    • Conversely, Azula revels in being a self-described monster —Or so it seems .
    • The episode "Zuko Alone" deals with Zuko's conflict between his self-image and how others see him, particularly since he'd always been taught that the Fire Nation's war of conquest was their way of sharing their greatness with the world. Understandably, the people being conquered didn't see it that way, but he was still caught off-guard by the fact that a single good deed, however brave, wouldn't automatically make others who knew his identity see him as a good person.
  • I Call It "Vera": Space Sword.
  • Ice-Cream Koan:
    • Zuko ends up doing one of these when he asks himself, "What would Uncle do?" The best part is that it's not only a spot-on imitation of Iroh's style, but also spot on for Zuko's conundrum at the time!
      Zuko: Zuko, you must look within yourself to save yourself from your other self. Only then will your true self reveal itself.
    • And again in "The Boiling Rock":
      Zuko: Clouds have a light side and a dark side, and a silver lining in the middle. So it's kind of like a silver sandwich. So when life gets you down, just take a bite out of the silver sandwich!
    • And from Hue:
      "Pants are an illusion, and so is death." (spoofing an earlier koan of his that said time was an illusion)
  • Ice Magic Is Water: Waterbenders are also able to control snow and ice, and can turn water into ice and vice-versa. They can also control steam in the same manner.
  • An Ice Person: Waterbenders' control over water extends to all its forms, including ice.
  • Iconic Item: Sokka's boomerang and Space Sword, both of which he loses in the finale. Katara's necklace, water pouch and "hair loopies."
    • This is why Aang has to destroy his staff at the beginning of Book 3. In fairness, it was already in bad shape.
  • Idea Bulb: Sokka gets an idea — there's an audible ding, and the shot pulls back to indicate the light over his head...which also is the vehicle for his idea to use lamp oil.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode title card has been "Book number: Element (Season) — Chapter: Title (Episode)." The title cards have also remained consistent with a white background and detailed border (The sole exception is season 1, episode 3, "The Southern Air Temple," which superimposes the title over the sunrise rather than a white card, most likely due to Early Installment Weirdness.)
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: In a non-romantic sense, Katara says this to Zuko about Aang at the end of "The Western Air Temple."
  • Ignorant About Fire:
    • In "The Deserter", Aang is taught firebending by Jeong Jeong, who instructs the boy to perform breathing exercises to prepare. Bored and frustrated of doing mundane tasks, Aang decides to try replicating complex moves he saw at a festival while Jeong Jeong is away, quickly losing control of the flames and accidentally burning Katara's hands. This experiences ends up frightening Aang so much he becomes unable to effectively firebend due to his fear that he will harm someone.
    • Zhao was trained to firebend by Jeong Jeong, but was interested only in causing as much damage as possible, completely neglecting to learn restraint. This is ultimately a terrible decision that makes him reckless and ineffective, with Aang being easily able to take advantage of his lack of impulse control to trick Zhao into burning down his own boats.
  • I Have My Ways: In "The Blind Bandit," Katara is asked how she got information from two uncooperative boys and replies suggestively, "A girl has her ways." Cut to the two boys covered up to their necks in ice, and stuck up on the wall.
  • "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight: Aang to Jet in "Lake Laogai."
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: This doesn't actually happen, but is the topic of a ghost story Katara tells to the Gaang. Of course, said story is set at the South Pole, and the death did occur during a week-long blizzard.
  • Impairment Shot:
    • The Shirshu in "Bato of the Water Tribe" after Sokka has a group of nuns and Katara overwhelm its scent-sight with perfume.
    • "Zuko Alone" has Zuko's vision fading in and out of focus due to hunger and lack of sleep.
    • Scenes of Toph (and later Aang) "seeing" through earthbending use an impairment-shot-like format, showing the characters in greyscale with expanding rings depicting vibrations from people's movements.
    • When Zuko goes into his Angst Coma.
    • When Combustion Man, woozy from a smack by Sokka's boomerang, tries to target the Gaang.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Firebending soldiers are pretty lousy shots when trying to hit the heroes.
  • Important Haircut:
    • The usually shaven-headed Aang grows some hair between Seasons 2 and 3, and later gives himself an Important Haircut when he's about to face off with the Big Bad.
    • Zuko and Iroh cut off their topknots when they are marked as traitors.
    • Happens in the Season 3 Finale, only it isn't a turn for the better for Azula, who's suffering from a bad case of Sanity Slippage.
  • Improbable Age: King Bumi is at least 112 years old. At least one former Avatar lived over *150* years.
  • Immune to Jump Scares: Enforced in the episode "The Siege of the North Part 1". During a brief respite as the Fire Nation lays siege to the Northern Water Tribe, Avatar Aang mediates into the Spirit World to seek out the Moon and Ocean Spirits for aid in defending the Northern Water Tribe. His search has him cross paths with Koh the Face-Stealer, the only spirit old enough to know where the Moon and Ocean Spirits disappeared to. Koh attempts to elicit a reaction out of Aang throughout the entirety of their conversation, as his ability to steal the face relies on his victims making an expression of any kind, and in his first try, he simply leaps out of the darkness above Aang and only stops mere inches away from Aang's face. It's somewhat alleviated by Aang's bored look (as he knew what Koh was trying to do) and Koh just greeting him with a simple "Welcome!", but Koh's intentions in that brief moment are still made explicitly clear.
  • In a Single Bound: Justified with Airbenders, a bit less so with Earthbenders. However, for whatever reason, the Citizens of the Fire Nation seem to have abnormally powerful legs.
  • Incest Subtext: Azula towards Zuko. Sort of an odd combo of 'can't connect to anyone else' and her seeing seduction and sexual appeal as just one more thing to use for manipulating people.
    • The comics play the trope but ultimately subvert it. After Zuko's Awesome/Heartwarming speech to Azula at the end of "The Search", Azula undergoes something of a Hazy Feel Turn and becomes much more supportive of Zuko (though her ideas of support come from what Ozai would've thought was ideal). The subtext is somewhat there; but it's far less raw sexual desire and more of a "Finally, someone to love me" sort of thing.
  • Indy Ploy: Prince Zuko's efforts to capture the Avatar. Often leads to And Then What? Also, almost any of Sokka's plans.
  • Inevitable Mutual Betrayal: After Long Feng and Azula pull off a coup in Ba Sing Se, Long Feng approaches her with the line, "Now comes the part where I double-cross you." Which they both knew was coming. He then orders the Dai Li to arrest her, but she had already co-opted them, and brought them onto her side. Long Feng acknowledges that she's beaten him at his own game, which she laughs off with, "You were never even a player."
  • Inevitable Waterfall: In "The Waterbending Scroll". Aang and Katara actually manage to stop the ship from going over, but the pirates in Zuko's boat crash into them and send everybody careening over the edge. Good thing Aang got that bison whistle.
    • Since those same boats had gotten from the shore to above the waterfall, there must have been a lock system somewhere, right?
  • Informed Ability: The Terra Team is a platoon of elite Eartherbenders, or at least that's what General Sung says. On screen, they are all beaten by Ty Lee without much effort.
  • Injury Bookend: Aang is injured in the finale of season two, and unable to enter the avatar state. In the season three finale, he runs into a rock directly on the spot he was injured, unlocking his avatar state again.
  • Insomnia Episode: Nightmares and Daydreams.
  • Intelligent Forest: The Swamp, a huge habitat reportedly made from one central tree. The 'forest' itself seems to have a mind of its own, too, though whether it's sentient or not is mysterious.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged:
    • Averted in "The Northern Air Temple." Teo might be an excellent pilot, but this is never suggested to be because he is paraplegic, nor does anyone seem to consider him in any way unusual. The only notice anyone takes of Teo's handicap is when Sokka is impressed by his "glider chair."
    • Toph's blindness is never treated as a reason to pity her, and the writers are not afraid to lampshade her blindness with good-natured ribbing by other characters or Toph herself. Especially Toph. She's so good at it, references to her blindness are more hurtful to other characters than they ever could be to her. Such as when Aang and Katara are mocking Sokka's drawing of Appa, and Toph comes to his "defense":
      Toph: It looks just like him to me.
      Sokka: Thanks, I worked really- Why do you feel the need to do that?
    • Shortly after Toph joins the group, she must get over her trouble understanding that people can want to do nice things for her because they like her, rather than the pity over her disability that characterized her relationship with her parents.
  • Inspired by…: A number of things in the show are inspired by examples from real-life Asian cultures. However, some things come from other sources.
    • In "The Blue Spirit", the idea of sucking on frogs for medicinal purposes very likely traces its origin to real-world toads such as the Colorado River toad, which secrete a psychoactive hallucinogenic venom through their skin. In the 1970s, rumors were widely propagated of hippies and other teenagers sucking on or licking these toads to get high; but these rumors were never found to be true. Also, the practice would not actually work for humans, because the human digestive system cancels out the venom� it would have to be injected, inhaled, or smoked in order to have an effect. (This is apparently not true for dogs, however.)
    • One could also take it as a Shout-Out to an episode of Family Guy that Mike and Bryan worked on.
    • In "The Northern Air Temple", Sokka and The Mechanist's idea of adding the scent of rotten eggs to the gas to identify the source of the leak is similar to the real world process of adding ethanethiol to otherwise odorless LPG to make it detectable for humans. In fact, many of the Mechanist's inventions are inspired by real life. People told time with grooved candles before clocks (albeit not ones with gunpowder spaced along the fuse); hot air balloons have similar vents to those proposed by Sokka.
    • In "The Desert", Sokka and Momo's "quenchiest" cactus-juice-induced Mushroom Samba can be traced to a commonly known fact that all cacti collect water - excellent for quenching a desert traveller's thirst in a pinch. Less commonly known is that many cacti contain poisonous or psychoactive substances such as mescaline. Everyone's heard of Peyote, and now you know it's a cactus. And Knowing Is Half the Battle.
  • Instant Armor:
    • Frequently used by earthbenders, usually out of ordinary rock. Aang did it with snow in the first season finale (as a joke), with crystal in the second, and Toph did it with a metal door in the third. Both have also used the normal rock variation at least once. Curiously, Toph's only use of the rock version, while training Aang in "Bitter Work", left an opening for her eyes (which she doesn't actually use for anything).
    • In the Artbook, Toph's Rock Armor only had a hole on her mouth/nose, for breathing. It was a mistake of the animation crew.
  • Instant Expert:
    • Due to the compressed time frame of the show, not a whole lot of time was dedicated to showing the characters train. Katara and Sokka in particular seemed to pick up waterbending and swordfighting extremely quickly, often over the course of a single episode. Aang is sort of an exception given that he doesn't exactly master any of his skills until the very end, and he has the advantage of having mastered all the elements a thousand times before in his past lives. Likewise, Toph had already mastered earthbending before she even met the Gaang, and Zuko is shown steadily progressing in his firebending over the course of the series.
    • Katara is something of an exception as well, during Season 1. Although she masters waterbending instantly in time for the finale, that was only after she got a teacher. Over the course of the whole first season, what waterbending she knows, she teaches herself, and there is a very clear and steady progression from Katara trying hard just to bend a fish out of water in the first episode, and Katara actually putting up a fight note  against Pakku, the most powerful waterbender in the world.
    • Even though characters may take some time mastering bending, they invariably instantly learn the physical motions involved, even if they haven't mastered the Full-Contact Magic part of the forms. Characters often learn complex routines after seeing it just once.
    • Off-screen training should also be taken into account.
    • Zuko and Aang master the Dragon Dance surprisingly fast, especially since that day they had only performed it twice and the second time was while two angry dragons were flying overhead.
  • Instant Flight: Just Add Spinning!: Played with in the episode "Sokka's Master". Sokka tries out different weapons and spins a lance above his head. It flies away after a short time.
  • Intergenerational Friendship:
    • Cute Bruiser Toph and Cool Old Guy Iroh.
    • Aang and Bumi could also count. They are technically the same age (or close), but Aang was frozen for one hundreds years while Bumi grew and experienced life.
    • Aang and Gyatso which is a friendship that carried over from Roku.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Zuko runs into Suki, who is nervously walking towards Sokka's tent. He asks if she needs to talk to Sokka, too. She declines. Upon entering the tent, Zuko sees Sokka... lying on the floor of the tent with a rose in his mouth. After he realizes that it's Zuko rather than Suki who entered the tent, he nervously sits up and speaks to Zuko. Given that he calls for Suki the moment Zuko exits and that upon the next morning, Sokka is seen wearing the Lei that Suki was wearing the previous night, they eventually got around to it.
  • In the Blood:
    • Zuko, revealed by Iroh in Season 3, has inherited his paternal great-grandfather Sozin's "evil" and his maternal great-grandfather Roku's "good".
    "Evil and good are always at war inside you, Zuko. It is your nature, your legacy."
    • Azula seems to have inherited her insanity from her father's side of the family.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Sokka (and Momo) in the desert episode.
  • Inverse Law of Complexity to Power: At first, bending seems pretty basic: Firebenders control fire, Waterbenders control water, and so on. But then Fridge Logic ascends to canon and we learn that Firebenders can generate and redirect lightning; Earthbenders can bend the impurities in metal and Waterbenders can potentially control all forms of water, including the water in a person's body. The sequel series, The Legend of Korra, showed that a sufficiently skilled Airbender can take the air right out of your lungs.
  • Inverse Law of Sharpness and Accuracy: In the first two seasons, Sokka hits quite a few mooks with his club and boomerang. After he gets a sword in season three, the only thing he cuts is some ropes, lots of things made out of metal, and a melon. This trope also appears in regard to Mai and Ty Lee - Mai uses knives, and specializes in not hitting the actual person. Ty Lee, on the other hand, fights unarmed and is very good at knocking out and paralyzing her opponents. Also, Zuko's broadswords have never touched human skin, but he doesn't have a problem with slamming people against walls, or lifting them with one hand on their necks. Also, his elaborate, deadly looking punches and kicks never seem to make the target.
  • Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality:
    • Aang is free to whack people with air blasts, rocks, and such, and Toph is free to smack people about with rocks, but Zuko's fire attacks always seem to JUST miss and Katara's sharp icicles never seem to connect unless she's just using them to pin someone in place by their clothes.
    • People slamming against hard surfaces are all over the show, yet seemingly no one gets a broken skull or snapped spine. And all surfaces are completely flat, even in a jungle or a forest where branches would offer plenty of impalement opportunity, people end up slamming against the bole. The only impact on a pointy object is in the series finale. Which helped the target more than it hurt them.
    • Unexpectedly averted for Jet. He gets hit once by an earth attack that looks like it would knock a person out at most by the show's standards, but reality comes to play instead and it causes enough internal trauma that he dies despite Katara's healing powers.
    • Averted in the case of Azula's lightning, which is repeatedly demonstrated to be near-lethal and extremely difficult to block.
  • Invisible Means Undodgeable: Bloodbending. No one ever dodges it throughout the series.
  • Invisible Writing: Zuko received a note with a secret message written in invisible ink which was revealed with heat.
  • Ironic Echo: When Katara gives her stern, and threatening, lecture to Zuko in 'The Western Air Temple', her speech almost completely mimics the ultimatum which Avatar Roku delivered to Fire Lord Sozin a century earlier, to within a few words of being verbatim. Especially toward the middle.
  • Ironic Name:
    • Pipsqueak is anything but small.
    • Mai's name means "Smile". She's pretty much played as a Goth who finds everything boring.
  • Irony: Near the end of the show, Iroh comments that he always dreamed of conquering Ba Sing Se. He then comments that he never imagined that in doing so, he was actually liberating it from Fire Nation rule.
  • It Makes Sense in Context:
    • "Shhh! Not in front of the fox; it's with the owl."
    • "Get out of the bison's mouth, Sokka."
    • "Surely you mean platypusbear?" "No, just... Bear..."
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Happens to Aang several times throughout the series, though a few standouts are when he returns to the Southern Air Temple in Season 1 and in Season 2's finale when he discovers that in order to control the Avatar State he has to give up his love for Katara.
  • It Was a Gift: Katara's necklace, from her grandmother by way of her mother. Also, "The Avatar State" opens with a gifting scene reminiscent of (and slightly parodying) Galadriel's gifting of the party in The Lord of the Rings.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • Katara says this almost word for word after Sokka tries to make "Team Avatar" a thing in the episode "The Drill" — everyone else thinks a team name is silly. Seventy-five years later, Korra and her friends are proudly referring to themselves as the New Team Avatar. Aang's group is commonly referred to as "Team Avatar" in fan circles and articles as well, making this an in-universe and out-of-universe example.
    • In The Promise comic, Iroh invents boba tea and has Zuko and Aang try it, only for them to immediately spit it out.
    Iroh:I am a man ahead of my time...
  • I "Uh" You, Too: Zuko and Mai, watching the sunset together at a romantic picnic.
    Mai: Orange is such an awful color.
    Zuko: You're so beautiful when you hate the world.
    Mai: I don't hate you.
    Zuko: I don't hate you, too.
  • I Want Them Alive!: Zhao said it when the Blue Spirit came and freed Aang. Cue the Blue Spirit placing his swords at Aang's throat.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Lo and Li. Zuko is... less than thrilled when they tell him this.
  • I Will Show You X!: In the finale: "I'll show you lightning!"

  • Jacob and Esau: Ozai preferred Azula while Ursa (albeit more subtly) preferred Zuko. Of course, this is a Big, Screwed-Up Family being talked about here.
  • Japanese Spirit: Aang, Katara, and Zuko exhibit talent, insight, and persistence respectively, and each of them gains more of the other two virtues. Aang is born a prodigy and the last of a lost people, but his lack of insight caused him to run away from his responsibilities. Katara helps guide Aang with her own insight, and through him and a little of her own persistence is able to find a waterbending master, and becomes a master herself. Zuko was not a firebending prodigy like his relatives, but this helped to fuel his persistence later in his quest to capture Aang, and through his own journey gains the insight on the world he had been lacking, as well as finding talents he had aside from firebending, such as swordsmanship and eventually leadership. Toph, Sokka, and Suki could even be seen to represent Talent, Insight, and Persistence, with Toph as the most powerful Earthbender before she was even a teenager, Sokka possessing a clever mind and ideas, and Suki being brave and courageous and taking great risks to help her friends.
  • Joke and Receive: Katara marches up to Aang and requests the usage of Appa. Aang, noticing Zuko standing behind her, is quick to jokingly ask if it's her turn to "take a little field trip" with him, just as Aang and Sokka did in the preceding episodesnote . Katara's answer is a Blunt "Yes", which leaves Aang momentarily startled.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Azula points out that Ukano's infant son, Tom-Tom, wouldn't have gone missing if he hadn't driven the people out of the city.
    • While Zhao only said it to be mean, he was quite right that Fire Lord Ozai wouldn't have exiled Zuko and sent him on a Snipe Hunt for years if he truly cared about him.
  • Just a Kid: Averted. Aang is rightfully seen as the most important person on the planet by whomever he comes across. Played straight by Zuko in the first episode.
    Zuko: I've spent years preparing for this encounter... training, meditating... you're just a child!
    Aang: Well, you're just a teenager.

  • Kangaroo Court: "Avatar Day" features a town with an absolutely terrible justice system, that does not allow evidence of all things.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The pirates, who nearly killed Zuko, got paid for it, and are never seen again afterwards.
    • Mai and Ty Lee, Azula's sidekicks. Reluctant villains or not they still helped Azula do terrible things and both girls show absolutely no remorse for it, they never suffer on screen, and both get off free by the series end. Ty Lee is even allowed to join the Kiyoshi Warriors she helped brutalize and imprison, even though there is literally no good reason for them to forgive her other than she showed them chi blocking.
    • The old man who sells Haru to the Fire Nation after being saved was never seen again.
  • Kick the Dog: When Zuko and Iroh are refugees in the Earth Kingdom, they are shown kindness by a woman named Song who invites them home for dinner. Afterwards, she has a heartfelt talk with Zuko about how the Fire Nation's war has severely hurt her and her family. In his storm of confused feelings, Zuko...steals Song's family's ostrich-horse.
  • Kill the Lights: In her debut episode, Toph fights against seven powerful Earthbenders all on her own. She takes out several of them by conjuring up a huge cloud of dirt. Because of her Disability Superpower that allows her to see by sensing vibrations in the ground, she can "see" them, but they can't see her.
  • Kill Us Both: The warden of the Boiling Rock is willing to do this rather than suffer the shame of having prisoners escape his inescapable prison.
  • Killed Off for Real: Admiral Zhao at the end of season one. (Later revealed in the sequel series that he was actually transported to the Spirit World as punishment for his crimes, earning himself a Fate Worse than Death). Jet (ambiguous in series because of Executive Meddling but Word of God confirmed as For Real by the creators) in late season 2. Combustion Man in mid season 3.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Done by a lots of characters in numerous episodes. When things get bad, almost no character is too proud to admit defeat and escape to fight another day. Probably most prominent at the end of "Day of Black Sun".
  • Know Your Vines: In the second season, Iroh has a run-in with some of these.
    "Delicious tea?... Or deadly poison?"
    • It was poison, unfortunately for him. He then had the same dilemma with a branch of berries which might have been the antidote...or yet more deadly poison.
  • King of All Cosmos: The lion-turtle from the finale, while not God, is the oldest, largest, and wisest living thing in the world, older than even the Avatar cycle itself. The sequel series expands on their history and relationship with the humans, bending and the first Avatar.
  • Knife Outline: Mai's signature trick. Katara pulls this trope off with ice.
  • Koan:
    • Half the things that Iroh says to Zuko, to Zuko's annoyance.
    • Also Hue: "Time is an illusion, and so is death."
  • Kubrick Stare:
    • Hama pulls off a pretty terrifying one after her true nature is revealed.
    • Doubles as Foreshadowing when Katara gives Zuko this exact same look at the end of "The Western Air Temple".

  • The Lad-ette: Toph is a prepubescent version of this. In the play based on the group's adventures, she's cast as a very large, muscular man, and she's ecstatic.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • "The Ember Island Players" contains a lot of this.
    • In the 12th episode, "The Storm", Sokka wakes up with a "What's happening? Did we get captured again?" He's lampshading the fact that the party has collectively been captured in four episodes already, and individual members have been captured far more than that.
    • Any discussion of field trips with Zuko in the last half of the third season.
    • The Gaang is baffled and disturbed at the existence of a plain old, non-mix-and-matched bear.
  • Lancer vs. Dragon: The final episode showcases a climactic battle between Zuko, the show's deuteragonist, and Azula, his villainous sister. When he falls, the show's original Lancer, Katara, steps up to finish the job.
  • Large Ham: Princess Azula can Chew The Scenery like no one else, managing to turn even the most mundane activity into epic, dramatic supervillainy.
    Azula: *after a game of beach volleyball* Yes! We defeated you for all time! You will never rise from the ashes of your shame and humiliation!
  • Last-Minute Baby Naming: Ying and Than, the expectant couple whom Aang helps in The Serpent's Pass, don't name their baby until she is born. The child, Hope, becomes one of the few characters in the show with a non-Asian name (because the creators wanted to be sure the audience understood the name).
  • Last of His Kind:
    • Aang happens to be The Last Airbender.
    • Katara is the last waterbender of the Southern Water Tribe.
    • Appa is believed to be the last air bison. However, the sequel series Retcons this by revealing the existence of a small colony of surviving bisons.
  • Laugh of Love:
    • Aang is a frequent cause of these:
      • In "The Warriors of Kyoshi", Aang's fangirls tend to giggle and squeal when they're with him, much to Katara's jealousy.
      • In "The Fortuneteller", Meng giggles when Aang catches her hands as she accidentally trips while carrying a tray full of snacks, and later when she admits that she's been stalking him.
      • In "The Headband", two Fire Nation girls giggle when Aang, while dancing, gets very close to them before leaping away.
      • He also sometimes laughs when with Katara, who sometimes reciprocates, and they get together at the end of the series.
    • Sokka has a few of these too:
      • Princess Yue tends to laugh when she's with Sokka (and they eventually kiss), but not with her betrothed. Unfortunately, she has to sacrifice herself to save the Moon Spirit in the first season finale.
      • Suki also tends to laugh when she's with Sokka, and their relationship works out much better.
  • The Law of Power Proportionate to Effort: The Avatar State goes through five of the tiers.
    • It has incontinence, in that Aang, who is the first avatar we see in the series proper, is unable to trigger it normally by himself unless enraged, whereupon he's under constant mental and physical fatigue, and becomes a Glass Cannon.
    • He learns to control the Avatar State through concentration, meditation, and a calm mind, which took him time to master, being Fun Personified despite being raised as a monk.
    • While in the Avatar State, normal bending movements now work on a Bigger Is Better scale (e.g. the same movement once needed for moving a boulder is now capable of moving a literal island), while normal bending now only requires small gestures.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The poster for the Ember Island Players' production of "The Boy in the Iceberg" (itself a reference to the first episode of the show) is a thinly-disguised version of the Season 1 DVD cover.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Minor example, but there's a lot of scenes that keep going for two or three seconds after the action is finished, typically focusing on the characters acting fairly mundane, such as Zuko, left behind when his uncle and another White Lotus member have a secret meeting, standing looking bored before sniffing a flower.
  • Legacy of the Chosen: As established in the sequel series, the the Avatar has been an integral part of the world for almost ten millennia. Avatars past are still remembered and revered.
  • The Legend of X: The show is also known as Avatar: The Legend of Aang in PAL regions.
  • Leitmotif:
    • Aang's theme is most pervasive.
    • Momo has one which serves as a Mood Motif to lighten the mood.
    • Ba Sing Se, the City, has one, which varies in instrumentation and style, doing double duty as multiple Mood Motif.
      • Regal for the king's presence.
      • Tinkly and creepy for the Joo Dee situation.
      • The Dai Li too.
      • Regal with a subtle note of creepy for Ozai's Angels pretending to be the Kyoshi warriors.
    • The Fire Nation has a Leitmotif.
    • Zuko has several, most famous the mournful horn one.
    • Azula has one, far more sinister.
    • That twangy banjo music that plays whenever the focus is on the waterbenders from The Swamp.
    • The Blue Spirit theme plays whenever Zuko goes lurking around in his alter ego, or even just the mask hanging on the side of a peddler's cart trundling by.
    • The song Iroh sings at the start of "The Waterbending Master" becomes the leitmotif for Sokka and Yue's love theme.
    • The tune that plays in the closing credits for three seasons turns out to be a Sun Warrior ritual song for summoning the master firebenders, the dragons.
  • Le Parkour: Aang uses airbending and earthbending to get an edge on this. Zuko just wall-runs the old fashioned way to avoid a spike trap.
  • Less Embarrassing Term:
    • Sokka feels insulted when Zuko calls his hair style a ponytail, telling him that it's actually a "warrior's wolftail".
    • Aang and Zuko learn "The Dancing Dragons", an ancient firebending technique that incorporates rhythmic, graceful moves instead of the violent punches and kicks firebending is traditionally associated with. When Sokka sarcastically compliments their tap-dancing, Zuko angrily retorts that it's not a dance, but a "sacred form that happens to be thousands of years old".
  • Lessons in Sophistication: Surprisingly, Toph does this. She was born into Earth Kingdom High society, so she knows how to act like a proper lady, she just chooses not to. She's able to help clean up Katara for a palace party hosted by the Earth King but she doesn't even attempt with Sokka and Aang. They're that hopeless.
  • Like Father, Like Son:
    • Sokka has exactly the same offbeat sense of humor as his father (remarked upon twice: in "Bato of the Water Tribe" and "The Guru"), as well as the same knack for invention and leadership skill. An older Sokka is seen in a flashback Korra has after the first series has ended. At the age of forty-three, Sokka had fully developed the art of public speaking and was as good at giving convincing speeches as his father was.
    • Though Zuko averts the trope with his father, Azula plays it straight, being as cruel and manipulative as the old man himself.
  • The Lightfooted: Aang's lightness has been commented on several times, so much that he's been given the name "Twinkletoes" by Toph. He's able to float down gently from ten feet in the air.
  • Lightning/Fire Juxtaposition: lightning-bending is a form and result of fire-bending that applied the techniques of its elemental opposite, water. Zuko and Azula fit the Foil aspect of this trope best, as Lightning generation requires an absence of emotion and peace of mind, which reflects pretty nicely Azula's cold and calculating nature, whereas Zuko used (at least at first) rage as a source of power for his firebending.
  • Lint Value: Aang, who only has three copper pieces, tries to haggle with a pirate who is selling a waterbending scroll for 200 gold pieces. He offers one copper piece, at which the pirate laughs uproariously. Then, okay, how about two copper pieces? (He gets kicked out of the shop.)
  • Little Miss Con Artist: Toph proves quite adept at this in "The Runaway", and eventually draws Katara into it as well.
  • Living Lie Detector: Toph... although it turns out not to work well on Azula. She's also only able to tell whether or not the person believes what they are saying, so she can't tell if a brainwashed person is telling the truth or just what they've been programmed to believe. The reason her ability doesn't work on brainwashed people or Azula is because it works like a real lie detector- by detecting physical signs of anxiety (ex. increased heartrate) that most people have when they lie. In real life, people who believe that what they're saying is the truth (brainwashed) or psychopaths whose lying doesn't cause them anxiety (Azula) generally pass lie detector tests with flying colors. Which makes this an example of Shown Their Work.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Subverted and played straight. The kids have a variety of outfits depending on where there are, what they're doing, and what season it is, but if they can get away with it they'll just wear the same thing for as long as possible before being forced to change.
  • Limp and Livid: Used as a sign of Azula's progressing insanity.
  • Literally Laughable Question: In The Waterbending Scroll, Aang attempts to buy a valuable waterbending scroll from a pirate captain that is selling his wares. He offers three coins, which causes the captain to laugh loudly at him and assume he's joking; when it turns out Aang isn't, he scowls and comments that the perceived 'joke' is wearing thin.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: The Last Airbender.
  • Living Relic: The Lion Turtle, the largest animal of all, which is far older than the Avatar itself. That's old, considering the Avatar has existed for nearly 10,000 years. It's definitely Older Than Dirt.
  • The Load: Impressively averted with Sokka, at least until he Took a Level in Badass. Despite having no powers, few specialized skills, minimal fighting ability and not that much more intelligence than the others, he's a surprisingly useful member of the group. "Sokka's Master", where this is lampshaded, could have gone like this-
    Sokka: I feel so useless!
    Katara: Remember that time you saved hundreds of villagers from being drowned by terrorists?
    Sokka: Oh yeah!
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Lampshaded by Toph after the invasion during the solar eclipse fails, the gang discusses who could teach fire-bending to Aang. Katara suggests Jeong Jeong, who Toph has never even heard of before.
    Toph: Who's — oh, nevermind. If it's important, I'll find out.
  • Locked in a Room: Subverted: Katara and Zuko get trapped in a cave, but no moral is learned and no loyalties change. Although, it did serve as a one step forward two steps back event. Katara's budding trust for Zuko is crushed (and she holds it against him for a long time), while Zuko's loyalty changes from his uncle to his father and sister.
  • Logical Weakness: The main disadvantage earthbenders and waterbenders have is their dependence on the materials they need to manipulate (mainly earth and stone for the former; water and ice for the latter). Airbenders are for all practical purposes always surrounded by air, while firebenders can generate flames to use. If an earthbender is placed somewhere there's no earth (such as a metal enclosure or in a body of water) or if a waterbender doesn't have access to a significant source of free liquid, their abilities are virtually non-existent.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • While standing on a platform with an elderly Earth King, Aang is presented with a really strong looking warrior and a very deadly looking assassin and told he must choose an opponent from the people on the platform. Aang chooses the elderly king. This turns out to be a big mistake as the elderly Earth King turns out to be one of the strongest earthbenders Aang has ever met.
    • Also used in "Avatar Day". The Town of the Week's Kangaroo Court only allows the accuser and the accused (in this case, Aang) to testify. Katara convinces them to let Kyoshi to testify as well, since she's Aang's past life. Much like the above with Bumi, this backfires spectacularly as despite all the evidence pointing otherwise, Kyoshi admits to being guilty.
  • Love at First Sight: Aang towards Katara; Sokka and Yue. Also in the backstory, Avatar Kuruk and his wife Ummi.
  • Loved I Not Honor More: Zuko with Mai in "The Boiling Rock"
  • Loyalty Mission: The second half of Book Three is made up of these, as Aang, Sokka, and Katara each go off with Zuko to deal with personal matters and end up bonding with him. Lampshaded in the first part of the finale, where Toph complains that she hasn't had a turn yet.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Roku, Aang's spiritual predecessor, was Zuko's great-grandfather on his mother's side.
    • Played with in the episode where this fact is revealed, when Iroh tells Zuko to study the history of his great-grandfather and see what he can learn from it, Zuko undertakes a detailed study of the life and times of Fire Lord Sozin, but it doesn't have the end of Sozin's story. When Zuko complains at Iroh about the wild goose chase, Iroh basically says, "No, you idiot, your other great-grandfather" and drops the bomb.
    • While not directly related to her, Pakku realizes that Katara's grandmother is the same girl he once courted since Katara is wearing her bethrothal necklace. This helped him warm up to her.
  • Luminescent Blush: Wavers between this and Blush Sticker marks.

  • MacGuffin: The frozen frogs in "The Blue Spirit" were mostly a method to separate Aang from the group and give the episode a race against time.
  • MacGuffin Super Person: Aang is the avatar's latest reincarnation; the bad guys want to kill him because if he becomes a fully realized avatar then there will be no stopping him from ending their Evil Plan.
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: "I love Zuko more than I fear you.", from "The Boiling Rock", which follows the trope, but not Machiavelli's teachings. While he taught that if you can't both be feared and loved, fear is more effective as a control mechanism, he made it clear that you should not do anything that makes your subjects hate you. Azula failed this when she tried to make Mai kill Zuko, and again when she was going to kill Mai in front of her best friend, Ty Lee. This prompted their Heel–Face Turn and started Azula on the way to her Villainous Breakdown and ultimate defeat.
  • Made of Iron: Pretty much every character comes away with minor cuts and bruises at the most from attacks or physical feats that would either kill or seriously injure them in reality. This particularly comes into play when earthbending or firebending comes into play, or someone falls 50 feet onto hard rock, but even getting hit by Katara's water whip or one of Aang's blasts of air could easily cause someone permanent damage/kill them in real life.
  • Mage Species: Out of the four Elemental Nations only the Air Nomads are all benders (apparently due to their greater spirituality).
  • Magic by Any Other Name: The series' main supernatural element are the bending arts, which enable certain individuals to control the elements of nature by performing certain motions. Lampshaded in the first episode, when Katara specifically tells her brother that waterbending is not magic, but an ancient art unique to their culture.
  • Magical Girlfriend: Sokka's girlfriend Yue is gifted with some of the essence of the moon.
  • Magitek: The use of bending as industry and as a proxy for modern technology. The Fire Nation still has some very advanced technology in comparison to what the rest of the world is using, though.
    • On the Day of Black Sun, the Water Tribe submarines used a combination of machinery and waterbending to get where they were going. Same with the Earthbender tanks, which were a flexible design moved by bending the earth under them.
    • The first licensed game revolved around a character called "The Maker" who created multiple steampunk robots that each were designed to replicate the powers of a particular kind of bender. Culminating in a monster tank called "The Ultimation", which could mimic the powers of Water, Earth and Firebending all at once.
    • Earthbending is used as a form of locomotion, allowing many Earthbending cities to have a fully working metro system and an efficient mail-delivery system by bending rock trains across rails and boxes made of stone through chutes. Likewise, the development of much of the Fire Nation's tech is based around applications of fire, namely hot air balloons are powered by fire benders heating up the air, while their tanks are little more than steam-powered bunkers on wheels, with the "gunners" being firebenders shooting from portholes.
  • Malfunction Malady: Aang's sneezes launch him 10 feet into the air, though he may be doing this on purpose (and explicitly does so at one point).
  • Mama Bear:
    • Ursa. Her name is actually the Latin word for a female bear, and it gets reflected in how fiercely protective she is of her son: After Azulon orders Ozai to execute Zuko, Ursa convinces her husband to murder the fire lord instead. Though this action spares the boy's life, her treason leads to her being banished from the Fire Nation.
    • When the southern raiders attack the southern water tribe to kill the last waterbender, Kya proclaims to be the person the invaders are looking for to protect her daughter Katara.
  • Making a Splash: Waterbending allows its practitioners to manipulate water in all its forms, including ice. Waterbenders exploit the fluidity of water and have an extremely versatile array of techniques and can easily switch from offense to defense (or the reverse). Interestingly, waterbenders can heal wounds by using water as a catalyst to redirect the chi paths in the body. That said, waterbending need some water to bend and they tend to be helpless if imprisoned or in dry areas; their power also waxes and wanes with the cycle of the Moon. Typical techniques involve whipping an enemy with a mass of water, blocking with a mass of water or ice, and hurling shards of ice at the enemy.
  • Manchurian Agent: The brainwashing done by Dai Li is activated by saying "(name), the Earth King has invited you to Lake Laogai." to which they respond by gaining Mind-Control Eyes and saying "I am honored to accept his invitation."
  • Manipulative Bastard: Azula, who likes to lampshade her ability to read people (which doesn't work quite as well as she thinks) and uses it to her advantage, notable examples being the way she played Long Feng, and telling her father that Zuko killed the Avatar so that, if it turned out Aang were still alive, Zuko would get the blame. She learned everything she knows about manipulation from her father, Fire Lord Ozai. There is a reason that just about everybody in the show has their life affected by the guy, even though most of it is offscreen.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Uncle Iroh, the Dragon of the West, is completely unafraid to weep openly for his lost son in "Tales of Ba Sing Se".
    • When Aang is locked up in jail in "Avatar Day", after a lengthy dialect about love lives, one of the inmates pleads that Aang tell Katara how he really feels about her while openly weeping.
    • Tears can be seen streaming down both Iroh and Zuko's faces when they reconcile in Part 2 of "Sozin's Comet".
    • Sokka cries almost every time Yue is mentioned after her transformation to the moon spirit.
  • Marionette Motion: Bloodbending, a waterbending technique that lets the practitioner control other people's bodies. The victim moves in a jerkish, erratic manner, similarly to a how a puppet moves when its strings are pulled.
  • Martial Pacifist: Iroh. He only fights when he has to, but when he does, it's clear that he is one of the most skilled characters on the show.
  • Martial Arts for Mundane Purposes: There's this one guy in "The Desert" who uses his dual dao swords to prepare soft drinks.
  • Market-Based Title: Avatar: The Legend of Aang in the UK, where "bender" is derogatory slang for a male homosexual.note 
  • Master of All: The Avatar is expected to become this: a master of all four elements in a setting where it usually takes a lifetime of training to become a master of just one. Aang takes this Up to Eleven when he becomes the first Avatar to also learn the lost art of energybending.
  • Mayincatec: The Sun Warriors resemble the First Nations of Central America, with a few Asian traits mixed in.
  • May–December Romance: Played with. Aang is technically over a century old, but is physically and mentally in his early adolescence. Additionally, Katara is visibly at least a year or two older than Aang, growth and maturity-wise. This makes Avatar: The Last Airbender one of the few shows to showcase a romance where the woman is the older partner.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Aunt Wu's fortunetelling is presented as this in the Season 1 episode "The Fortuneteller." Although the Aesop is that your future isn't set and you need to take responsibility for it, all of her predictions that we see play out come true. This is lampshaded at the end by the old man from the beginning of the episode.
  • Meaningful Background Event: While Jet and Zuko are conversing en route to Ba Sing Se, Iroh can be seen in the background discreetly using firebending to heat up his cold cup of tea. After Jet walks off, Zuko scolds Iroh for doing this, as they are trying keep their identities secret. As it turns out, Jet also noticed the change in Iroh's tea, which sets into motion a series of events which eventually ends in Jet's death.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • It's easy to miss, but in the episode "Avatar Day", Sokka suggests Aang break out of jail, demonstrating by yelling "Airbending SLICE!" Two seasons later, in the finale, Sokka decides to take down the airship fleet with an "Airship SLICE!"
    • In the Book 2 episode Zuko Alone, Zuko has a flashback to he and his mother, Ursa, feeding turtle-ducklings at the side of a pond in the imperial palace of the Fire nation. In the premiere of Book III, Zuko returns to the same pond to feed turtle-ducks after his rehabilitation. It hints that while Zuko finally has what he always wanted (regained honour in his father's eyes), he remains unfulfilled, since letting down Iroh cost Zuko his conscience (which his mother instilled in him as a child).
  • Meaningful Name: By way of Bilingual Bonus; the hanzi used in characters' names often has some significance to the character.
    • Ganjing means "clean" in Chinese, and the tribe condemns those whom they deem to be unrefined. Zhang means "Dirty", and the tribe is brutish and unkempt.
    • Toph's name reflects the delicate flower (lotus) her over protective parents see her as and also resembles the English word ""tough", which is lampshaded in "The Ember Island Players".
    • Ursa means "female bear", referencing her protectiveness of her son.
    • Qin the Conqueror from "Avatar Day" takes his name and much of his character from China's first Emperor, who is typically seen as a power-hungry warmonger with little to no respect for those under him, and self-obsessed. He was also responsible for shaping most of Chinese history and was remarkably progressive in the early Chinese innovative revolution.
    • Monk Gyatso's name comes from the Dalai Lama.
    • Azula is derived "azul", which means "blue" in Spanish and Portuguese. This ties in with her ability to conjure blue flames, which are hotter than orange fire.
    • Bumi means "earth" in Indonesian. He is one of the most powerful earthbenders in the series.
    • Yue means "moon". She was deliberately given this name after the Moon Spirit saved her life when she was just a baby.
    • Suki means "love" in Japanese, referencing her kind nature and the fact she is Sokka's first love interest.
  • Membership Token: White Lotus tiles, used to indicate membership in the secret order of the same name.
  • The Men in Black: The Dai Li wear green, but other than that they fit the trope perfectly as sinister government agents who base their power on intimidation and brainwashing.
  • Metaphorgotten:
    Suki: The king of...guys...who...don't win?
    Toph: ...leave the nicknames to us, honey.
  • Midflight Water Touching: In "The Waterbending Scroll", Momo the flying lemur gets chased by a carnivorous reptile-bird owned by the villain of the week. At one point during the chase, they fly low over a river, and each trails the tip of one wing in the water while doing a banked turn.
  • Might Makes Right: The belief in the Fire Nation that started the war. They have the most power, the most stable government and the most advanced technology. Therefore they should rule and the others should pay tribute to their greatness.
  • Mighty Glacier: Earthbenders, by philosophy if not always in practice. Many earthbenders are in fact perfectly capable of bursts of speed (using rock pillars to launch themselves in the air, or moving the ground under them in a sort of rollerblading motion as Toph sometimes does), but because of their underlying philosophy of confronting problems head-on, they seldom use this mobility to dodge around the way an airbender would. Instead, they tend to stay more-or-less stationary after closing to ass-kicking range and then apply pure, overwhelming force.
  • Milky White Eyes: Toph has white eyes, owing to her blindness.
  • Mirror Reveal: Zuko does it to himself. He gets up after his fever for a drink and to wash his face. Only when he looks in the mirror, he sees to his horror that he has become Zuko-as-Aang. It turns out to have been All Just a Dream.
  • Mind-Control Conspiracy: The citizens of Ba Sing Se are forbidden from speaking about the war against the Fire Nation. Those who disobey are kidnapped and brainwashed to forget the ongoing conflict.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Ty Lee, while personally loyal to the thoroughly-psychotic Azula, is a genuinely sweet girl.
  • Misery Builds Character: This basically became Zuko's personal life philosophy.
    Zuko: I don't need luck though, I don't want it. I've always had to struggle and fight and that's made me strong. Its made me who I am.
  • The Missing Faction: There are four people, of which Water, Earth and Fire remain. The three of them used to live in harmony with one another and with the Air Nomads, but the Fire Nation attacked everyone and exterminated the Air Nomads.
  • Mistaken from Behind:
    • A variation occurs in the Book 2 episode "The Swamp". While lost in the titular swamp, Katara has a vision of her dead mother facing away from her. Thinking the vision is real, Katara runs up, puts a hand on her mother's shoulder to spin her around...and suddenly it is not her mother at all, only a tall stump sticking out of the water.
    • Deliberately invoked in "The Headband", when the police are searching for Aang at a secret dance party he hosted for a bunch of fire nation students. Their description is "a boy with a headband". When Aang escapes, the other kids put on headbands to confuse them.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Almost every animal in this world is a mash-up of at least two Real Life animals. This started off for fun by Bryan Konietzko, but it wasn't long before the writers caught on. Lampshaded when it's mentioned that the Earth King wants to exhibit his pet bear. The characters who weren't reading the announcement immediately assume Katara meant some hybrid animal, but she assures them that no, it's just a bear.
  • Momma's Boy: Zuko, far from being in a My Beloved Smother relationship, loves and misses his mother very much, and thinks of her constantly when he begins to question what would be the right thing to do.
  • Monochrome Apparition: In the episode "The Spirit World", when Aang accidentally transfers himself into the Spirit World, he's shown as completely blue and translucent.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • In "Tales of Ba Sing Se":
      • The Tale of Iroh has the titular character being his usual funny self (singing a song to a baby, playing with some kids, stopping his own mugging by giving the mugger career advice). However, the vignette's ending is one of the saddest moments in the series, as Iroh builds a small memorial in honor of his deceased son, then sings to it while choking with tears. The camera then fades to a message dedicated to Iroh's voice actor, who had passed away after a long battle against cancer. This is followed up immediately by the comical Tale of Aang.
      • The Tale of Momo is a sharp contrast to the immediately preceding Tale of Zuko. The episode goes from Zuko being all adorable on a date to Momo longing for Appa and trying in vain to find him.
    • The main action stories of Book 3 ("The Day of Black Sun" and "Sozin's Comet") are both preceded by fluffy episodes ("Nightmares and Daydreams" and "The Ember Island Players").
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: The series presents a variety of moral standpoints possessed by the heroes and villains alike to justify their actions, which illustrates a core philosophy of the series according to Word of God: people aren't good or evil, but are either in balance or out of balance.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • Subverted in "The Tales of Ba Sing Se", Iroh is threatened at knife point by a mugger, and the audience expects him to open up a can of unholy whoop-ass on the mugger. At first, Iroh lectures him about his poor stance, then lightly knocks him to the ground while taking his knife. What makes it a subversion is that he then gives the knife back and corrects the mugger's stance, which almost borders on Fridge Logic when you consider he's essentially giving advice on how to more effectively mug people. Fortunately, he turns around and remarks "but to tell you the truth, you do not look like the criminal type" and then proceeds to make him tea and give him advice on turning his life around. For his part, the mugger is excited about this because no one has ever believed in him before.
    • Played straight by Zhao in The Siege of the North: he knew that the Moon Spirit was a vulnerable and harmless Koi fish and that he could destroy waterbending altogether by killing it. After he does, the Ocean Spirit took exception to his act by becoming Koizilla (cue Oh, Crap! and being too busy crapping himself to try and run for his life).
  • Muggle–Mage Romance: There are plenty of relationships between benders and non-benders, of varying degrees of prominence. Zuko and Mai are examples on the main cast.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Shows up a few times, usually played for comedy. For instance, the Ember Island Players' fight scenes consist mainly of actors jumping around and throwing streamers at each other, but the music is the same as or similar to what it was in the scenes they're based on.
  • Mundane Solution: While Zuko and Iroh are living in Ba Sing Se and hiding their identities as Fire Nation, Jet discovers that they're firebenders and sets out to prove it. One attempt was him stealing Iroh's fire-starting stones from their home, hoping to see him firebend instead. But Iroh learned his lesson after Zuko chewed him out the first time, and simply borrowed a set of fire stones from their neighbor.
  • Mundane Utility: Bending is used for all sorts of things.
    • Aang commonly uses airbending when lying down to stand up, Toph is seen doing something similar with earthbending. She also uses it to create a shelter out of rock in seconds.
    • In one episode Katara uses her waterbending to stir soup and feed the soup to Appa.
    • Iroh uses his firebending to heat a cup of tea. This eventually gets him into trouble.
    • The technique used to learn how to control fire also allows Zuko to regulate his body temperature, allowing him to swim in arctic water for a brief period.
    • Toph and Katara commonly use their bending to clean mud off of themselves.
    • The Fire Nation seem pretty fond of this, we see people using firebending to do everything from cooking food to putting on fancy stage shows to heating water in boilers to power steam-powered machinery, and the coronation of the Phoenix King has to be seen to believed as a display of firebending for pagentry.
  • Murder by Inaction:
    • In a flashback showing parts of Roku's life, Sozin leaves Roku to die when the latter accidentally inhales toxic fumes from an erupting volcano.
    • In the season one finale, Zuko considers doing this to Admiral Zhao when the latter is attacked by the (giant, enraged) spirit of the oceans. After a moment's consideration, he holds out a hand to save Zhao, but the admiral refuses to allow his rival to save him, and is swept away to (presumably) his death.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: For example, when June defeats some huge guy at arm wrestling.
    • Toph is a perfect example of this. She is a pre-pubescent girl, she's short, and she has no muscles. She faces the Boulder in battle, a large, muscular man, and in only a few swift movements she defeats him. (NOTE: Most Earthbenders are shown to be large muscular men, in fact very few female earthbenders are shown in the series.)
  • Mushroom Samba: Sokka (and Momo) in "The Desert"
    Sokka: Drink Cactus Juice. It'll quench ya. Nothing's quenchier. It's the quenchiest!
    • Also an example of Truth in Television: all cacti concentrate water, so most (including Sokka, a freakin' Eskimo Fictional Counterpart) believe that it can be easily extracted by desert travelers in need. What most don't know is that cacti also concentrate poisons and/or hallucinogens to deter herbivores (which Sokka and Momo found out). Ever heard of Peyote? Now you know that it's a cactus.
    • The whole episode "Nightmares and Daydreams" focuses on Aang suffering sleep deprevation and resulting hallucinations because he's been having anxiety nightmares for days.
    • Sokka spends most of "The Blue Spirit" sick and delirious.
  • Mystical Lotus: The White Lotus is a secret society composed of old martial arts masters, many of whom are some of the best benders in the series. They are devoted to maintaining peace, and many are close to achieving enlightenment, with Iroh having apparently done so.

  • Named After Somebody Famous: Chong, the leader of the New Age Retro Hippies in "The Cave of Two Lovers".
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Sabre-tooth Moose Lions.
    • Also Combustion Man, Koh the Face Stealer, and Long Feng (which means "dragon phoenix" in Chinese, and also sounds like "long fang"). Wang Fire deserves brief mention as well.
    • Iroh's nickname "The Dragon of the West" qualifies. We see him as a peaceful, enlightened old man, but he was a successful (and presumably feared by his enemies) general before he lost his son, not to mention a powerful Firebender.
  • The Napoleon: Chin the Conqueror from "Avatar Day" - possibly justified as he was only short in comparison to Kyoshi, who was huge.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Fire Nation was heavily inspired by Imperial Japan, which conquered almost all of the islands in the Pacific and launched several invasions into China, eventually becoming one of the Axis powers in WWII.
  • The Needs of the Many: Aang's final internal struggle was for him to put his principles aside for the sake of saving the world from Fire Lord Ozai, who was willing to destroy it unless Aang stopped him - permanently.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Aang gets shot with lightning right after entering the Avatar State in the second season finale, sending everything straight to hell.
  • Never Say "Die":
    • Averted with everyone that died before the series started, as well as death threats. On the other hand the fate of the three named characters that died during the show was systematically pussyfooted around (though all three were confirmed by Word of God). They even managed to lampshade the ambiguity without actually saying that the characters died.
    • In the Grand Finale, Ozai even said "Prepare to Die" in the usual dramatic fashion, but with none of the Narm involved. Probably because of the awesome "Reason You Suck" Speech, that he waited until he was seconds away from actually winning, and the fact that he's voiced by Mark Hamill.
    • That said, it's also played with in one very specific case. Throughout Aang's moral dilemma in the four-part finale over whether or not to kill Ozai, the actual word "kill" is almost completely avoided in favor of the phrase "take his life" and variations thereof. The softer wording becomes conspicuous in its awkwardness - which makes the impact all the greater when Aang mournfully concludes that "I have to kill the Fire Lord." The careful approach to word choice on the subject also lends an extra layer of meaning to the advice Aang receives from Avatars Roku, Kiyoshi, and Kuruk, all of whom seem to insinuate that he must kill Ozai but don't even use the "take his life" phrasing. That's because it turns out he doesn't have to.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer for the Season 2 finale.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: The "nomads" the Gaang run into during "The Cave of Two Lovers". Bonus points for naming the main one "Chong".
  • New Old Flame: Mai, to Zuko.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Politically destabilizing Ba Sing Se may have felt right, but it was a very, very, bad idea.
    • Then a few episodes later, Katara sees Zuko serving tea and instantly runs to inform the authorities. If she had investigated further, confronted him herself or thought about the situation for more than a second, Zuko never would have been put in a position to turn to Azula's side to begin with. (And Aang probably would have finished his last chakra.)
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the finale, Ozai manages to break through Aang's protective shell and proceeds to slowly walk towards him, ready to finish him off. However, all he managed to do was unblock Aang's seventh chakra, allowing him to enter the Avatar State. Much asskicking ensues.
    • Ozai has a second helping of this that deserves a medal for just how astoundingly long it takes to come around and bite him, compared to just how much it does. The simple act of banishing Zuko provides Aang with an extremely powerful ally without which Aang never would have learned Firebending, let alone True Firebending. Even before the heel face turn, how many times has he -saved- Aang from someone else because of his obsession with being the one to bring him in.
  • The Nicknamer: Toph, and also Sokka. Lampshaded with "Leave the nicknames to us, honey." in the finale.
  • Ninja: Inverted. The play in "The Ember Island Players" features authentic Japanese theater-style stagehands dressed in the all-black outfits that inspired the theatrical version of the ninja's costume.
    • Characters dress in ninja-style outfits for infiltration a number of times in the show: Zuko in "The Siege of the North", Zuko and Katara in "The Southern Raiders"...
    • Zuko's "The Blue Spirit" persona is a ninja in all but name.
  • Ninja Log: Zuko pulls this in "Lake Laogai" as part of an Indy Ploy to gain access to the Dai Li's headquarters.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: Somewhat averted by the fact that lots of violent death is explicitly mentioned, though never shown on screen.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Several Professional Wrestlers in "The Blind Bandit", most obvious "The Boulder".
    • Earth King Kuei heavily resembles Puyi, the last Emperor of China. Like Kuei, Puyi was made emperor at a very young age, and was a puppet emperor during his early childhood and later under the Japanese occupation. Puyi was also trapped for years inside the Forbidden City, similar to how the Earth King never left the palace. The Earth King also wears spectacles, like Puyi did, and clothing based on the Chaofu, ceremonial clothing of the Manchu-descended emperors of the Qing Dynasty.
  • No Conservation of Energy: Bending itself.
    • Katara's canteen (or whatever) of water is small enough to fit in her hand. And yet she consistently pulls out a "water whip" the length of her own body.
      • This makes sense if you consider that she could've been pulling extra water out of the air without knowing it.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Zuko encounters this a few times. For speaking out against a plan that would callously sacrifice the lives of new, loyal soldiers, he was given a permanent burn scar and banished by his father. After saving an Earth Kingdom village, he is cast out after using firebending to do it and revealing he is the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation.
    • In "Imprisoned", Haru uses earthbending to save an old man from a collapsing mine, and in return, the old man turns him in to the Fire Nation.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Happens to Azula in "The Beach".
  • No Name Given: None of the Kyoshi Warriors besides Suki and Ty Lee ever have their names revealed.
  • Non-Indicative Name:
    • The geographical feature "The Great Divide" in the episode by the same title is the Avatarverse equivalent of the Grand Canyon. The "Great Divide" in the real world is exactly the opposite: the North American mountain range that divides the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds.
    • Bloodbending involves all the water in a person's body, not just blood. Then again, humorbending doesn't exactly have the same ring to it. Similarly, Metalbending doesn't control metal directly, but instead the impurities of earth left behind in it (which is why bending doesn't work on more purified metals like platinum in The Legend of Korra).
  • Non Sequitur: Expect Sokka's dialogue to consist primarily of this when he's sick or under the influence of cactus juice.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The Great Blubber Fiasco
    • The time Sokka got two fishhooks stuck in his thumb note 
    • What exactly is "Love Amongst the Dragons" about, and how did the Ember Island Players "butcher" it?
    • The event that kicked of the Gan-Kendall/Zhang rivalry. Played with in that versions of the event actually are told, but nothing is ever comfirmed.
    • From "The Warriors of Kyoshi":
    Katara: No, Appa! Don't eat that!
    • Iroh's journey to the Spirit World.
    • "Miyuki, did you get in trouble with the Fire Nation again?"
  • No One Could Survive That!: After Aang's apparent death by lightning in the second season finale, Zuko claims, "There's no way he could have survived"... but he's lying, and Azula knows this, and so claims Zuko was the one to do the deed.
    Azula falls off the blimp.
    Zuko: She's not gonna make it.
    Azula saves herself from falling to her death.
    Zuko: ...of course she did.
  • Nothing Can Stop Us Now!: Invoked by Sokka in "The Earth King".
  • Not So Stoic: In "The Invasion," Sokka realizes that Azula is baiting them, and tells everyone to just leave and ignore her. "IGNORE!" Then she tells him about how she's been keeping Suki prisoner, and Suki was always convinced that Sokka would come to save her, which he never did... He loses it.
  • Not Wearing Pants: Aang's most humiliating nightmare in "Nightmares and Daydreams". At the end of the episode, he turns it around on the dream version of Ozai.
    • In the trip to Kiyoshi Island. Just before they arrive, Katara is mending Sokka's pants. He makes a snarky remark about women and she refuses to fix them. He states that he needs them! Without missing a beat, Aang responds "Don't worry Sokka! Where we're going, you won't need pants!" Thus they arrive on the island of the women warriors.
  • Not Worth Killing: What Katara decides in regards to Yon Rha, her mother's killer, in "The Southern Raiders."
  • Now or Never Kiss: Before he sets out to play his part in the Invasion on the Day of Black Sun, Aang voices his concerns that he might not survive to Katara- and then kisses her before he flies off. It's Aang's First Kiss too (Unless you count them as kissing in "The Cave of Two Lovers". Katara, however, has kissed someone else before this: Jet.)
  • No, You: A couple times humorously:
    Aang (in a dream): No, Fire Lord Ozai, YOU'RE not wearing pants!
    Actor!Ozai: No, it is YOU who are going down!
    • The most memorable instance, however, is anything but funny:
    Azula: No, YOU miscalculated! You should have feared me more!

  • Obfuscating Insanity:
    • Iroh in "Sokka's Master" acts like a broken man slobbering for what food he can when people are looking. When alone, he is working out big time.
    • King Bumi pretty much all the time. He even encourages this tactic to Aang, wanting him to think outside the box.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Iroh since the start of the series. We know that he's a wise, respected general and a master firebender, but we often wonder why. It's also quite easy to forget that he's the Fire Lord's elder brother.
    • And King Bumi tends to behave crazily, but there is definitely a method to his madness.
  • Oblivious to His Own Description: Sokka fails to recognize when Suki is talking about him.
    Suki: I lost someone I care about. He didn't die. He just went away. I only had a few days to get to know him, but he was smart, and brave and funny.
    Sokka: Who is this guy? Is he taller than me?
    Suki: No. He's about your height.
    Sokka: Is he better looking?
    Suki: It is you, stupid!
    • A more physical example would be the entire gang minus Suki and Toph, when they went to see the Ember Island Players. Most were in denial even when rather similar depictions could be spotted in the acting.
  • Official Couple: Aang and Katara, Zuko and Mai, Sokka and Suki.
  • Offing the Offspring: Ozai almost did it to Zuko when he was 10, and tried to do it again in "The Day of the Black Sun."
  • Offscreen Inertia: The last we ever see of Azula is her being chained to a grate, completely insane and screaming in despair. While Word of God stated that Azula was committed to a high security asylum, it's not actually shown in the series proper.
    • Also, Toph's earthbending teacher and the hired mercenary were never seen again after Toph locked them in a metal box together.
    • "Where. Is. My mother?"
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Iroh's escape from the Fire Nation prison in Season 3 was never seen (although there was plenty of action in the invasion arc already). We're just told he was a One-Man Army. And this might have even happened during the eclipse, when he couldn't firebend. This is largely why the fans consider him so awesome.
  • Oh, Crap!: Whenever anyone is stupid enough to provoke Aang into the Avatar State, this is usually their feelings in general as they realize what they're in for.
    • Taken even farther in "Winter Solstice: Part 2", when Zhao attempts to kill Aang upon the opening of the sanctuary door, only to find out he's actually facing an Avatar State manifestation of Roku.
    • During the series finale, the look on Ozai's face during his fight with Avatar-State Aang says it all.
      • Actually even before Aang regained his Avatar state, Ozai had pretty much the same look when he thought that Aang was going to serve up his own lightning right back at him using the redirect he had learned from Zuko. Ozai stopped using lightning for the rest of the fight.
    • To really put things into perspective, that's the Oh, Crap! look on the face of the world's most powerful firebender who's also gooned on the juice of a hundred suns.
  • The Ojou: Mai, and Toph might fit. She at least acted like one before she revealed her skills to her family.
  • Older Than They Look: Aang is technically 112 years old.
  • Old Magic: The oldest form of bending is the manipulation of pure Life Energy, which can grant and remove the other bending powers. It's a lost art by the time of the original animation until the last Lion Turtle grants it to Avatar Aang.
  • Old Master: The Order of the White Lotus is made up of people who gained the highest forms of wisdom through their age.
  • One-Woman Wail: Happens during the last episode, when Sokka and Toph are about to die. And during the penultimate episode. And almost every time the show goes into slow motion, e.g something awesome is happening.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting:
    • Several scenes in the finale related to Aang on the giant lion-turtle; except they're chanting the Nianfo in Chinese.
    • Before Roku lays waste to the Firebenders in "Winter Solstice, Part 2."
    • When Aang fuses with the ocean spirit's One-Winged Angel form in "The Siege of the North, Part 2".
  • Ominous Owl: Apparently, the designated Halloween episode "The Puppetmaster" wasn't complete without a shot of (presumably) an owl-fox in a tree.
    • Also, Wan Shi Tong in "The Library".
  • Ominous Walk: Azula engages in this on top of the drill in Season 2 after pummeling Aang into near unconsciousness.
    • Ozai does it as well in the finale.
  • Omniscient Morality License: Everyone believes that the Avatar has the right to kill Ozai...except for Aang himself.
    • Ozai attempts to invoke this when "giving Zuko advice" (read: trying to corrupt him) in the sequel comic "The Promise", claiming that whatever the Fire Lord decided was right by definition.
    • Justified (though not specifically killing) by Iroh, who explains that while he's the only other firebender who might be capable of defeating Ozai, history would look at him doing so not as an act to restore peace and balance (the Avatar's role in the mortal world) but as one brother killing another for power. Their aims at the end may be overly optimistic - we know things went wrong in the past, they will do again - but under the circumstances emphasizing the Avatar's duty was probably the better way of handling things.
  • Once a Season: Three things happen.
    • A character is violently (albeit mostly off-screen) Killed Off for Real. Zhao in Season 1, Jet in 2 and Combustion Man in 3.
    • Aang learns a different form of bending. The latter is played with in the beginning of season 3, where (a) there's no one to teach Aang firebending, and (b) there's apparently no immediate reason to learn it, since the eclipse during the invasion will disable firebending anyway.
    • To place emphasis on the dangers of firebending, one character actually gets hit by a firebender's fire on screen and is severely injured. In season 1, Aang burns Katara. In season 2, Azula burns Iroh. And in season 3, Zuko burns Toph. In all three instances, it's played for drama. note 
  • One Hero, Hold the Weaksauce: Aang, as the Avatar, is the only one who can bend all four elements.
  • One-Winged Angel: Koizilla.
    • Hei Bai is an interesting subversion— his One-Winged Angel form is the one we first see him in. He has a normal form, it's just that the heroes arrive in the middle of his Freak Out.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Combustion Man, though Zuko apparently knows what his real name is.
    • Jet's gang of orphans
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: In the first season, Zuko needs to capture Aang to regain his honor, and will go as far as invading a prison and breaking Aang out when somebody else from his nation catches him.
    • In fact he fights Azula over this very point in "The Chase."
    • Mentioned in a way when Zuko confronts his father during the day of black sun. While both of them are temporarily bending-less, Zuko is armed with his broadswords. Ozai asks why Zuko doesn't just kill him right then and there; he responds by saying that that is the Avatar's destiny, not his.
    • Also stated by Iroh in the finale, where he says that while he could potentially defeat Ozai, he can't, because the Avatar is the generally recognized arbitrator. According to Iroh, if he kills Ozai, the world will simply see it as a brother killing a brother for control of the throne, while if the Avatar defeats Ozai, it will be seen as a restoration of balance.
  • Only One Finds It Fun: Toph is the only character to enjoy the completely biased Fire Nation-sponsored play recapping the Gaang's adventures (despite not being able to see it), in part because the play's version has the same personality (if laughably wrong powers).
  • Only Sane Man: Sokka in "The Cave of Two Lovers" and "The Fortuneteller".
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Longshot speaks just once... and it literally stuns everyone who hears him because it's so rare.
    • The two times in the series Iroh loses his cool and outright yells at people: when Zhao is about to kill the Moon Spirit in Season 1, and when he finally confronts Zuko on what Zuko wants in Season 2.
  • Opening Narration
    Katara: "Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed, and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar — an airbender named Aang, and although his airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he's ready to save anyone. But I believe Aang can save the world."
    • Said narration is actually different in the first episode, since Katara and Sokka haven't found Aang yet.
  • Open the Iris: Sokka's Mushroom Samba a la Cactus Juice in "The Desert"; people who have been to Lake Laogai.
  • The Ophelia: Subverted with Azula.
  • Opposed Mentors: Katara and Toph have very different opinions on how Aang should be trained. Katara, his waterbending teacher goes for the soft, encouraging, positive attitude, while Toph, his earthbending teacher, prefers the rougher, blunter, drill sergeant style. This culminates in an interesting mud-fight scene between the two.
  • Oral Fixation: Jet is almost always seen chewing a piece of hay, even in the heat of combat. Even after losing one piece after his duel with Zuko (and subsequent capture and mental conditioning by the Dai Li) he has found another one by time we see him next.
  • Orifice Invasion: Played for Laughs a few times:
    • This happens to Sokka when Momo grabs a spider out of his mouth to eat it.
    • Momo is missing, and Sokka thinks Appa ate him, so he crawls in Appa's mouth to see. Appa just spits him out.
  • Orphaned Punchline: At one point Zuko tells Iroh's favorite joke. Trouble is, Zuko can only remember the punchline.
    "Leaf me alone, I'm bushed!"
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Although she's technically only half an orphan (her father is still alive, but off fighting a war in another part of the world), Katara's grandmother's necklace functions as this on a couple of occasions: lost on a prison platform, found by Zuko, used to track the band by scent, retrieved by Aang; revealed Katara's grandmother's history with the Northern Water Tribe and the man who becomes Katara's waterbending master.
  • Outscare the Enemy: Azula is scarier than the tide. And, later, scarier (slash more inspiring) than Long Feng.
  • Outside-Context Problem:
    • Toph become this after she learns how to metalbend, something no one thought was even possible.
    • Aang's Avatar State merged with the ocean spirit, La, at season 1's finale. It is so out there that they destroy the Fire Nation's entire navy fleet and killed their captain without them being able to do a thing to stop them.
    • Aang himself is out of context since, on top of being the Avatar, he is the last airbender, an art thought to be lost for one-hundred years. Aang with air bending alone was enough to take down an army unit since no one had any experience with dealing with an air bender.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: In the North and South comic, Toph describes the Beifong Metalbending Academy as "the most prestigious metalbending school in the world". One of her students points out they're the only school but she sees it as the point since they do something that used to be considered impossible until she learned how to do it.
  • Overly Polite Pals: Aang and Sokka briefly in the episode "The City of Walls and Secrets", as they are trying (and failing) to behave like high society folk.
  • Overly Specific Afterlife: The series is vague about the afterlife. There are no referenced gods, but reincarnation is a known thing. However, the only individual known to reincarnate is the Avatar. It's never mentioned if others reincarnate too. Reincarnation is also iffy in the Avatar-verse, as the previous lives are their own individual spirits.
  • Overprotective Dad: Toph left the Beifong family's Big Fancy House for a reason.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Wan Shi Tong.

  • Parental Abandonment: Used excessively and in a variety of ways, due to the fact that war is raging:
    • Aang, like all Airbender children, was raised communally by monks, so it's hard to say if he even knew his parents. However, his father-like mentor, his unknown parents and the rest of his nation were entirely wiped out while Aang was frozen in an iceberg. Hence the subtitle of the show. Katara and Sokka's mother, Kya, was killed when they were young and as of the beginning of the show, their father has left to fight in the war. They live with their grandmother, Kanna, who rather blithely sends them off to travel the world with Aang (though it is later revealed that she ran away from home herself, which perhaps explains her attitude). Toph deliberately runs away from her overprotective parents. This trope even applies to Appa.
    • The villains have it no better. Zuko and Azula's mother, Princess Ursa, is absent (to say the least) and their father, definitely not the overprotective type, seems to have no problem with sending the kid he actually likes halfway across the known world to hunt his enemies and/or drop the hammer on the Earth Kingdom. Zuko was banished on a Snipe Hunt (after being publicly disfigured and humiliated) for speaking out of turn when he was no older than fourteen. Mai's parents are seen briefly but seemingly have no interest or no say in her actions (possibly due to Azula's influence, though in "The Beach", Mai says that her mom repressed her a lot not to ruin her father's high-profile political career) and Ty Lee's apparently did not notice when she ran away to join the circus, due to them having 6 identical daughters.
    • Even the minor and one-shot characters suffer from this in spades — nearly every young person encountered by the main characters during their travels has lost at least one parent thanks to the ongoing war and its subsidiary disasters.
  • Parental Bonus: In "The Southern Raiders", Sokka invites Suki to spend the night at his tent. In the morning, he is seen playing with a wreath of flowers around his neck. He got lei'd.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Toph's parents have no idea how good she is at earthbending. And when they do find out about her amazing proficiency, they go in denial, and refuse to let her teach the avatar.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Zuko finds his parental substitute in his eccentric uncle, Iroh.
    • Monk Gyatso is shown to be Aang's parental figure in flashbacks. Finding out about his death is the event that causes Aang to enter his raging Avatar State for the first time.
    • Katara is the parental substitute for Sokka, Aang, and Toph. Sokka even mentions that when he tries to remember his mother the only face he sees is Katara's.
  • Parenthetical Swearing:
    Sokka: [Season 1, Episode 1] Leave it to a girl to screw things up!
    Aang: [Season 2, Episode 7] I've been training my arrow off!
  • Passed in Their Sleep: Played with: Zuko receives a message telling him to research his great-grandfather's death. Later he asks Azula about it, who tells him that Firelord Sozin, their father's grandfather, died peacefully in his sleep, an old man. But Iroh wanted him to know about his mother's grandfather, Avatar Roku, who was betrayed by Sozin and left to die at an erupting volcano.
  • People Puppets: Bloodbending, as the name suggests, allows a proficient waterbender to manipulate the blood inside other people's bodies, bending their victims to their will.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Air Nomads were a great example of this, having no army and preaching peace and harmony. But they could still fight if needed. When you see Monk Gyatso's body, he is surrounded by the remains of Fire Nation soldiers.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Experienced benders, particularly a fully realized Avatar, can be quite destructive, managing to generate massive tidal waves, earthquakes, gigantic fireballs and tornados with relative ease.
  • Personality Powers: Bending is easier for people with certain dispositions. Earthbenders confront their problems head-on, firebenders tend to be angry/passionate, etc. This is why Aang has such a hard time learning earthbending as he did not like direct confrontation.
  • Pet the Dog: "The Storm" is the first episode to hint at Zuko's redeeming qualities: Firstly, it's revealed he got his trademark scar as punishment for speaking out against a Fire Nation general's plan to deliberately sacrifice an entire division of new army recruits. Later on, he gives up on a chance to go after Aang because he prioritizes protecting his crew from a storm.
  • Peter Pan Parody: In "The Ember Island Players", the gang see a an epic stageplay based around them and their adventures, starring exaggerated, flanderized characterizations of themselves with a mildly inaccurate take on true events. In the case of Aang himself, he is played by a woman, similar to how Peter Pan is often portrayed by a woman in real-life adaptations of Peter Pan, featuring him flying around and giggling mischievously through the play, taking all of Aang's occasional playfulness and whimsy and none of his serious desire to do good or worries about the future.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Katara holds Aang's lifeless body after Azula electrocutes him in the Book 2 finale.
  • Pillar of Light:
    • When Aang gets released from the iceberg in the first episode, a pillar of blue light erupts from his body as he leaves the Avatar State. This is what alerts Zuko to his awakening.
    • In the finale, Aang's body emits a beam of blue light that pierces the clouds once he successfully energybends Ozai.
  • Pinned to the Wall: This is Mai's primary combat tactic, due to the fact she's a specialist in throwing daggers in what is ostensibly a kid's show. Rather than hit the squishy humans, she usually pins their clothes to whatever is behind her victim (or the attack gets blocked altogether).
  • Pirate Parrot: In episode 9, The Waterbending Scroll. It's one of the things that tips off Sokka that the "merchants" the Gaang is interacting with are pirates.
  • Phlebotinum Battery: Waterbenders are at their peak under a full moon. Firebenders are at their normal peak under the sun. When a comet passes through the atmosphere it supercharges the firebenders' abilities, which is a major plot point throughout the series.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Zuko's father issues are represented physically through the scar over his eye, and Zuko suffered both as part of a confrontation with his father. The connection between the two is even discussed in-universe when Katara laments that she didn't get the chance to heal the scar because it may have helped clear up his emotional issues as well.
  • Playing with Fire: Firebenders generate fire and heat out of their own chi and can project it outward. Firebending has a strong offense because fire can consume anything, but their defense is subpar compared to other bendings. Their power also waxes and wanes with the Sun and other celestial bodies. Typical moves involve shooting balls of fire, creating walls of fire and generating simple heat.
  • Plot Archaeology: One early episode introduces Bato from Katara and Sokka's father Hakoda's fleet, and suggests the kids can meet up with the fleet. When this fails, no further attempts are made to meet up with Hakoda or the fleet until the end of the second season.
  • Plot Hole: In the second season, Iroh explains that lightning-bending is not fueled by rage or aggression like other forms of firebending, but by peace of mind. This creates a plot hole during the finale, when Azula, who by this point is clinically insane, successfully uses the technique to attack Zuko and Katara in a fit of rage.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Both played straight and inverted. The antagonistic Fire Nation promotes the view that all other cultures in the world are inferior to their own, yet has the greatest degree of gender parity out of all the nations, with a high proportion of women in military and police positions. Fire Lord Ozai, the Big Bad, even favored his younger daughter over his older son, making her his heir simply because she was more competent and more trustworthy. Granted, for him, competent = psychotic, and trustworthy = unquestioningly going along with his immoral schemes and war crimes.
    • Zuko in Book 1 spends a lot of time using "peasant" as an insult toward Katara and Sokka.
    • During the final Agni Kai, Azula calls Katara a filthy peasant.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: In-Universe in "The Cave of Two Lovers". The woman's name was Oma, and the man's name is Shu, so they named the city of Omashu after the first two Earthbenders.
  • Portal Statue Pairs: The Great Gates of Azulon was a giant flaming net guarding the port of the capital city of the Fire Nation, supported by two giant dragon statues on either side and a giant statue of Azulon in the center.
  • Posthumous Character: Monk Gyatso, Avatar Roku (and, by extension, every other avatar except Aang), Fire Lord Sozin, Fire Lord Azulon, Lu Ten, and Kya I are only ever seen in flashbacks.
  • Potty Dance: An unnamed Water Tribe boy does this in the second episode. Sokka does a minor one in "The Spirit World."
  • The Power of Friendship:
    • Aang couldn't have gotten by without his True Companions, as they provide him moral support and comfort when he realizes that he, an 11-year old boy, must take the responsibility to end a war that has been ravaging the world for 100 years.
    • Deconstructed with Azula's personal arc. She refuses to believe in friendship and love, choosing to dominate people through fear instead. When Mai builds up the courage to turn against her and says that her love for Zuko is stronger than her fear of Azula, the fire princess is shocked and starts her descent into a Villainous Breakdown.
  • Power Floats: When Aang enters the all-powerful Avatar State, he envelops himself in an air sphere and floats through the air menacingly.
  • Power Glows: In the second season premiere, Roku explains that the glow in Aang's eyes when he enters the Avatar State is the combined power and experience of every Avatar that came before him being channeled through his body.
  • The Power of Friendship:
    • It's the only thing that can cool down Aang's Unstoppable Rage. Azula's Villainous Breakdown is largely due to her inability to inspire loyalty through trust and friendship instead of fear. It was also implied that friendship can withstand generations—as in, they last lifetimes through reincarnation.
    • Avatar Roku tried to use the Power of Friendship to restrain Fire Lord Sozin, and it worked initially. When Roku tried to stop a volcano from destroying his village, Sozin helped him, and this was after Roku put the veto on Sozin's expansion plans. Then Roku fell into a vulnerable position and Sozin left him for dead. Sozin immensely regretted it in the end.
  • The Power of Love: Mocked in "The Cave of Two Lovers". Aang and Katara's kiss triggers the luminescence of the cave's crystals, lighting their way to the exit. When the two ask how Sokka's group made it out of the cave without doing the same, Sokka calmly replies that they tamed a group of huge, ferocious badgermoles to lead them out.
  • The Power of the Sun: Firebending is much stronger during daylight hours than at night, and firebending is completely disabled during the solar eclipse. As shown in "The Firebending Masters", the true firebending practiced by the Sun Warriors follows the power of the sun even more.
  • Power Tattoo: Air Nomads are given their signature tattoos when they become Airbending Masters.
  • Power Trio: Azula, Mai and Ty Lee are the main antagonists of season 2. Their fighting skills and cunning let them triumph over the heroes and conquer the last remaining city of the Earth Kingdom.
  • Praetorian Guard: Azula has one when she's introduced, but they're not too useful. She later gets a better one.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:
    • In Season 1 when Haru's father is about to throw the warden of his prison overboard.
      Warden: Please, no! I can't swim!
      Haru's father: Don't worry, I hear cowards float.
    • Iroh's "Did I ever tell you how I got the nickname 'the Dragon of the West'?"
      Azula: I'm not interested in a lengthy anecdote, Uncle.
      Iroh: It's more of a demonstration, really.
  • The Precarious Ledge: The Serpent's Pass is a long, narrow ledge across the body of water separating the main land from the city of Ba Sing Se. Because the Gaang and a pair of newlyweds cannot manage to buy the ticket for the ferry, they went here instead. Not only navigating here is already hard, there's a freaking giant water serpent that lives here, trying to knock them off the ledge.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: Sokka's boomerang always comes back. Lampshaded frequently:
    Sokka: Boomerang! You really do always come back!
    • Subverted in the Grand Finale, when it doesn't. And subsequently lampshaded.
      Sokka: I don't think boomerang's coming back.
  • Pretty in Mink:
    • Mai has a fur trimmed robe, one of the few luxury clothes she wears, for when she's on a date with Zuko.
    • Toph's Earth nation outfit has two white furry puff balls on her head.
  • Prevent the War: The Avatar's mission is to defuse tense situations and avoid wars between nations. In the series proper, Aang tries mightily to end the already existing war.
  • Previously on…: A recap opens most episodes.
  • Previously Overlooked Paramour: In the Season 1 episode "The Fortune-Teller," Katara initially dismisses Aang as "a sweet little guy, like Momo [their pet lemur]." At the end of the episode, she has this realization when Sokka remarks that Aang is a powerful bender, which is the description the fortune-teller gave her of her future husband.
  • Princeling Rivalry:
    • Iroh is the larger, good-hearted rightful heir and Ozai is the evil, scheming younger brother who tries to use Iroh's moment of weakness (his only son dying) to persuade their father to pass over him for succession. Some shady business later, their father dies, and his dying wish is exactly what Ozai wanted. Unusually, although Ozai is an evil schemer and has a smaller frame, there's no indication that Iroh is any stronger (the usual dynamic for this trope). They're both firebending prodigies; the outcome of a duel between them would be uncertain, and Iroh is even more uncertain about the prospect by the time of the show, when he has become old and Ozai is in his prime.
    • While she is smaller, and a schemer, and evil, Azula is also stronger than her older brother, Zuko, who should be Overlord Jr., but is instead a Token Good Teammate to his evil family and rightful heir. Azula never really indicates that she has designs on the throne for herself until Zuko does a Heel–Face Turn and leaves the family and it's about to be handed to her, but she always made sure that if anything went wrong in the family, Zuko would get the blame from the beginning.
  • Princess for a Day: Katara and Toph in "City of Walls and Secrets", of the non-royalty variety. Played with for Toph, who actually is a member of a very wealthy and prominent family, but was posing as someone else.
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: Iroh working himself back into shape in "Sokka's Master".
  • Prison Episode: The show seems to enjoy using this trope, perhaps because the show is about fighting a totalitarian state:
    • Season 1 has "Imprisoned", where Katara deliberately gets herself imprisoned by the Fire Nation in an attempt to free friend from said prison. It's a specially designed prison for Earthbenders, a steel rig out in the middle of the ocean so there's nothing for them to bend (except coal from the engine room).
    • Season 1 again "The Blue Spirit", where Aang is captured by the Fire Nation.
    • Season 3 has "The Runaway", where Toph and Katara end up in jail, and "The Boiling Rock", where Zuko and Sokka infiltrate a Fire Nation prison.
    • In the "Puppet Master" episode, Hama tells the gang how she, and the other water benders from the Southern Water Tribe, were rounded up and taken prisoner by the Fire Nation. There, they were kept in cages, with their hands shackled, so they couldn't bend. The warden even pumped in dry air as an added measure. And while they were given food and water, it only enough to keep them alive, but just barely. Clearly a P.O.W. Camp of the Hell Hole Prison variety this time for Waterbenders.
    • Another similar prison camp completing the trio of the earthbender rig and the waterbender camp is a Firebender camp called the Boiling Rock, given two episodes "The Boiling Rock Part 1 and 2." Rogue firebenders are put into giant coolers that temporarily freeze their ability to bend. Also hailed as the most ruthless and efficient prison in the Fire Nation. There probably would've been an airbending prison had they not wiped them all out.
  • Prison Rape: Defied. In "The Boiling Rock: Part 1," a female guard catches Zuko (disguised as a male guard) loitering in the female prisoners' block, seemingly standing watch for a buddy. The female guard silently glances at Suki's cell before demanding Zuko let her check inside.
  • Prized Possession Giveaway:
    • In "The Avatar and the Firelord", when Roku is feeling down about having to leave behind everything and everyone he's ever known to start his Avatar training, his best friend Sozin gifts him a precious artifact worn by the Crown Prince to cheer him up.
    • In "Zuko Alone", Zuko gifts a custom pearl dagger, a present from his beloved Uncle Iroh (who himself stole it from an Earth Kingdom general during his attempted siege of Ba Sing Se), to a young Earth Kingdom boy he had bonded with. Unfortunately, once the boy finds out that Zuko is a prince of the Fire Nation, he refuses to have anything to do with Zuko and rejects the gift.
  • Pro Bono Barter: At one point, Sokka takes an odd job, and rather than getting paid in coin as he was expecting, he got handed a large, wet, dead fish.
  • Prodigal Hero:
    • Aang fled his home after seeing It Sucks to Be the Chosen One. Returning after decades frozen in a glacier to discover that his people were wiped out and the world has been at war for a hundred years because he wasn't there. He continues to blame himself for this throughout the series until he finally stops the Fire Lord.
    • Zuko was forced to leave home, but otherwise fits here. More meaningfully for this trope is when he betrays Iroh, the only one who stood by him during his exile, and upon realizing his mistake abandons his father to rejoin Iroh's forces. He tries to give a clumsy apology speech upon seeing Iroh again, but it's cut off by Iroh giving him a hug, overjoyed that he didn't 'lose' Zuko after all.
  • Professional Wrestling: Brilliantly skewered in "The Blind Bandit", complete with Kayfabe and a guy who talks like The Rock (himself played by pro-wrestler Mick Foley, friend of The Rock). Because of of all the pro wrestling references, it counts as a Pro Wrestling Episode.
  • Propaganda Piece: The play in "The Ember Island Players" is this In-Universe, being a work of Fire Nation propaganda, extolling the effort spent combating a rogue Avatar and their certain victory against him.
  • Prophecy Twist: Iroh mentions that when he was young he had a vision of himself taking down the walls of Ba Sing Se, which he believed meant his destiny was to conquer it. It is only in the finale that he realizes he wasn't meant to take over the city as an invader, but to liberate it from the Fire Nation.
  • Psycho Electro: Lightningbending is the secondary ability of firebenders. However, it's a complete subversion as it requires a kind of emotional clarity and detachment (which can be calmness, such as with Iroh, or cold-heartedness, as with Azula and Ozai) which allows one to separate and focus the necessary energies. Azula's ability to continue shooting lightning even after her Villainous Breakdown is probably due to a combination of familiarity, the significant power boost provided by Sozin's Comet, and having great clarity in terms of really wanting to kill Zuko and Katara.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: The Foggy Swamp.
  • Psychosomatic Superpower Outage: After Zuko does his Heel–Face Turn, he loses his firebending powers for a while, since he no longer feels the anger that fueled them.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Azula does this a lot, as does her father Ozai and Long Feng. Joo Dee is somewhere between this and Stepford Smiler.
  • Pun:
    • Said to the fan-blade wielding Kyoshi Warriors:
      Azula: What are you, the Avatar's fan girls?
    • Pretty much every other thing that comes out of Sokka's mouth.
  • Punch-Clock Villain:
    • Many Fire Nation soldiers are portrayed this way. Although there are some that seem to enjoy being cruel, most are just normal people doing their jobs. Certain episodes show that the Fire Nation Soldiers, by and large, don't even view themselves as villains. The Fire Nation uses very liberal amounts of propaganda on the populace, and many are convinced that the war they're waging on the "lesser nations" is in their best interests. In one of the final episodes, Sokka manages to take over a ship from the Fire Nation Airship fleet, by dumping the soldiers into the sea. During a conversation between 3 soldiers, they are portrayed as decently behaving people...who were on their way to burn an entire country.
    • Mai and Ty Lee are only doing evil due to being bored and needing something to fill time (Mai) or being intimidated into it by Azula (Ty Lee). Mai takes it further than Ty Lee, on more than one occasion refusing to fight if she doesn't feel it worth her time, regardless of what Azula might do to her.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: In "Day of Black Sun":
    Sokka: WHERE?! IS?! SUKI?!?!
    • And in the finale:
      Zuko: Where. Is. My mother?
  • Pungeon Master:
    • The King of Omashu makes lots of puns.
      Katara: Let us leave!
      King: [Picking up bit of his salad] "Lettuce leaf...?"
    • Actor Sokka, at the real Sokka's insistence.
      Actor!Sokka: Aang, would you say you and Toph have a "rocky" relationship?
      Sokka: I told him to say that!
    • The Boulder tends to this as well.
      The Boulder's gonna win this in a landslide!
  • Punishment Box: In "Boiling Rock", the titular prison has "The Cooler", a small refrigerated cell designed to contain fire benders.
  • Punny Name:
    • Bleeding over a bit with Bilingual Bonus, Princess Azula's mastery of fire-bending yields flames so hot they glow blue, or azul in Spanish. Canonically she's named for her grandfather Fire Lord Azulon.
    • As the tom-boy of the hero squad and master of the most stubborn and unyielding element, Toph's name suits her tough attitude.
  • The Purge: A century before the start of the series, Fire Lord Sozin massacres the Air Nomads, largely in hopes of killing the new Avatar. (Unbeknownst to Sozin, Aang was frozen underwater in his Avatar State and thus remained unharmed.) As the series draws to a close and Sozin's Comet returns, Sozin's grandson Fire Lord Ozai attempts an even larger-scale massacre of the vast and powerful Earth Kingdom, with the ambition of thereby becoming ruler of nearly the entire world.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Zuko's ship crew, after Zhao commandeers them.
    • The Earth King and his bear, between books 2 and 3.
    • Sokka's one-episode pet Hawky, was never seen again. At the end of the episode Toph and Katara attempted to send a letter to Toph's parents. It is likely that the Hawk was either intercepted, never reached its destination, or never returned once the Gaang relocated. Either way Toph's mother and father never reappear, nor does Hawky.
  • Putting on the Reich: Toyed with and subverted. In the first season, the Fire Nations uniform is very Mongolian in design and visually defines them as the show's villains. The uniforms are shown to be but one design of many as the culture itself opens up and they and the people wearing them are given a bit more depth as the series progresses.
    • The uniforms of the Dai Li are much darker and more sinister than those of the Earth Kingdom army. The way they walk in perfect sync in the same pose is also reminiscent of the goosestep.