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    Q 
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad:
    • Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee.
    • The Rough Rhinos from Season 2 are a minor example. They feature in multiple episodes, but don't get any real characterization. Each one specializes in a different kind of combat. They're also, apparently, a great singing group.
  • The Quest: A fairly classical example. Our plucky hero and his companions undertake an epic globe-trotting adventure to master controlling the elements and defeat the imperial Fire Nation. On the way they gain new allies, undergo numerous hardships and grow as people. There are many elements of the hero's journey, too.
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    R 
  • Race Against the Clock:
    • Aang has to master all four elements before Sozin's Comet arrives.
    • During "Day of the Black Sun," The Resistance has to take over the citadel before the eclipse is over and the fire benders gain their power back.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Invoked by a general hoping Aang's Avatar state would be useful. Aang has good reason to fear what would happen, and the general's fortress gets devastated when Aang is finally set off.
  • Rage Helm: The Firebender mooks wear spiky helmets with skull-like masks.
  • Rage Judo: Aang does this against Zhao in one episode. After realizing that Zhao has no self-control, Aang keeps intentionally irritating Zhao and dodging his fire punches until all the boats are burned.
    Aang: Jeong Jeong said you had no restraint. [Jumps away] Have a nice walk home!
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Subverted. An ancient firebender city looks like it's in perfect shape despite being abandoned for centuries, but it turns out people are still living there.
  • Ramen Slurp: Master Pakku slurps noodles — and some kind of octopus or squid — while training Aang in "The Waterbending Master".
  • Randomly Gifted: Bending can travel down family lines, but isn't purely genetic and develops among non-benders.
    [From "The Fortuneteller"]
    Aang: If any of you are Earthbenders, come with me!
    Identical Twin Brother A: I'm an Earthbender!
    Identical Twin Brother B: I'm not!
  • The Rashomon: "The Great Divide". The real story is actually just made up by Aang, in order to get the people to make peace.
  • Ready for Lovemaking: In "The Southern Raiders", Zuko wanders into Sokka's tent for a talk and finds Sokka half-undressed and posed seductively in a lovenest of candles and roses, obviously expecting someone else to wander in. Just before that, Zuko bumped into Sokka's girlfriend trying to sneak into the tent. When we next see Sokka the following morning, he has a floral necklace for no particular reason except to indicate he got "lei'd." And, assuming that Suki gave it to him, that Suki got "deflowered."
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Sokka's duel against Zuko is a complete Curb-Stomp Battle in Zuko's favor. Since he is not only better trained, but also had people to practice with, while Sokka did not and is completely out of practice.
    • With the Fire Nation approaching for an invasion, the Northern Water Tribe plans to have some of their warriors don captured Fire Navy uniforms and infiltrate their ranks. Problem is, the Northern Water Tribe has been in near total isolation for almost a century, so when they pull out the "real" Fire Navy uniforms, Sokka bursts out laughing because they are totally out of date.
    • Aang tries to secure passage for his group on boat by claiming he is the Avatar, only to be rejected as people have tried that excuse too many times already.
    • While Toph's unique Earthbending allows her to "see" everything around her she is still limited by her lack of sight. Being unable to read or write. Her abilities are also limited to solid ground where she can sense vibration, leaving her blind in sand and water.
    • When the Fire Nation conquers Ba Sing Se, they appear to have pretty much won the war. However, the sheer enormity of the Earth Kingdom landmass and continued resistance to the occupiers means that holding the territory they've conquered is impossible for severely-overstretched Fire Nation military, which would, at the very least, need reinforcement from domestic troops to even have a hope of pacifying the conquered territory. It's for this very reason that Ozai instead opts to burn the continent and everyone in it to ash.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Aang is technically 112 years old, but spent one-hundred of those years as a Human Popsicle.
  • Rebel Relaxation:
  • Recap Episode:
    • "The Legend So Far" mini-episode, shown right before the penultimate episode of the first season, and narrated by the voice of Spirit Advisor Avatar Roku.
    • And then more minor examples - they're full fledged episodes which include recaps - by the second-to-last episodes of Seasons 2 and 3, "The Guru" and "The Ember Island Players".
  • Recognizable by Sound: The blind Toph recognizes people from their voice or footstep pattern.
    Toph: I never forget a voice!
  • Recruited from the Gutter: Inverted in the second season, when the young aristocrat Toph Bei Fong becomes Aang's Earthbending teacher to escape from the Gilded Cage her parents keep her in.
  • Red/Green Contrast: It is established that the two most prominent super-powers in the world are the Fire Nation (colored red and black) and the Earth Kingdom (colored green and gold), the Earth Kingdom being the most difficult nation for the Fire Nation to conquer, requiring Azula's tact infiltration to topple it rather than simple brute force.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Jet, a minor antagonist from season 1, joins the heroes for a brief time in the second book and offers them vital assistance in their search for Appa. Unfortunately, he is murdered by Long Feng in the same episode.
  • Redemption Quest: Zuko's main motivation in the first two seasons is to earn his father's approval. Inverted, however, in that he's trying to prove himself evil. Then, flipped back the right way around in Season 3, when Zuko seeks to redeem himself to the Avatar and to Iroh and prove himself good.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: When Zhao captures the Moon Spirit, he causes an eclipse that tinges the Moon red, depriving all waterbenders of their powers.
  • Refusal of the Call:
    • Aang ran away from home when the leaders of his temple tried to make him take up the mantle of the Avatar.
    • Toph initially refuses Aang's invitation to be his earthbending teacher.
  • Regional Redecoration: Almost 300 years before the start of the series, a powerful earthbending warlord named Chin the Great had conquered most of the Earth Kingdom, save for Ba Sing Se and the peninsula home to Avatar Kyoshi. In order to protect her home, Kyoshi severed it from the rest of the continent, creating Kyoshi's island. As a consequence, Chin, who had been standing at the mouth of the peninsula, ended up plummeting to his death as the ground beneath him became unstable.
  • Reincarnation: The Avatar is perpetually reincarnated and tasked with maintaining balance throughout the world.
  • Reincarnation-Identifying Trait: The Air Nomad method of recognizing the Avatar is by having their infant children pick four toys out of many. Every historical Air Nomad Avatar chooses the same four toys, known as the Avatar relics, so the infant who chooses said toys during the test is identified as the current reincarnation.
  • Religious Russian Roulette: Sokka, bargaining with the powers that be to give up meat in exchange for getting him out of a hole. Meat, AND sarcasm.
  • Remember the New Guy?: A semi-example. When we meet Avatar Yangchen for the first time in the series Aang doesn't seem to know all that much about her—she even has to introduce herself to him—but the comics that continue the story show that Yangchen was super-important in Airbender culture. She even has a holiday named after her, which makes Aang's apparent lack of knowledge about her a bit weird.
  • Repeated Cue, Tardy Response: In season 1 "Imprisoned", the Gaang hatch a plan to get Katara arrested for earthbending. When Katara says the cue, "I'll show you... Earthbending style!", Aang is distracted by a butterfly and doesn't perform his part. She then repeats the cue, angrily, "I said, 'I'll show you, earthbending style!'", causing him to wake up and make with the fake earthbending.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: The Fire Nation's crowns are extremely low key, but still elegant.
    • Although, when Ozai declares himself Phoenix King in preparation for his plan to destroy the Earth Kingdom and ensure total world domination, he gives himself a rather more ornate crown/helmet.
  • Residual Self-Image: Aang visits Avatar Roku in the spirit realm. While there, Aang has his traditional shaved head and Air Nomad robes, rather than the short hair and Fire Nation disguise he is currently wearing.
  • The Resolution Will Not Be Televised: While the series finale wraps up most plot threads, the ultimate fate of Ursa remains a mystery. The finale even includes a Sequel Hook with the angry Zuko demanding Ozai to explain what happened to her, but the scene ends before we hear what his answer is. Several years later, this subplot is finally resolved in the comic book sequel Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search.
  • Retcon:
    • In season two it was said that Fire Lord Azulon ruled for twenty-three years as fire lord, which would imply that Sozin ruled for the first seventy years or so of the war and that Ozai ruled for the last six or seven. Come season three, Word of God states that Sozin ruled for only the first twenty years of the war whereas Azulon's reign lasted the next seventy-five years, with Ozai being the fire lord for only the last five. This is strange because Mike and Bryan claimed to have had the timeline written from the beginning.
    • Roku and Sozin's ages seem to be different during the first two seasons of the show. Early references to Sozin imply that he was young enough to fight during the early stages of the war and Sozin's entries on the website imply him to have been a young fire lord when he started the war. Roku is indirectly implied to have been a much older man on the show's website (at least compared to Sozin) and in the show is said to have been born centuries before the present. Once the third season came out both were revealed to have been the same age during their times.
    • Katara mentions that the shipwreck in the Southern Water Tribe has been around since her grandmother was a young girl. At the end of the season we learn that her grandmother is a native to the Northern Water Tribe and we learn even later that the shipwreck occurred when she was in her twenties.
    • Koh, the Face Stealer tells Aang that one of his past lives tried to slay him eight- or nine-hundred years before, but we learn later that the Avatar who tried to kill Koh was Avatar Kuruk, who wasn't born until only about five-hundred years prior.
    • Iroh's title, "Dragon of the West." Originally it was said that he was given the nickname for his signature use of the breath of fire technique. It is later stated that he got the title for killing the last dragon.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: A non-canon example from the card game, but Afiko sold out the Air Nomads to the Fire Nation at the start of the war and was eventually executed by the Fire Nation for his trouble.
  • Riddle for the Ages:
    • Is Ursa alive, and if so, where is she? (This is currently being addressed in the sequel comics, though some have already figured it out by the penultimate issue.)
    • Why do the Gan-Jins and Zhangs really hate each other so much?
    • Did Aang and Katara kiss in "The Cave of Two Lovers"? The creators joked about this during Avatar Extras (where episodes were aired with annotations) "The only one that really knows whether or not Aang and Katara kissed is Appa... and he's not saying a thing."
  • Right Hand vs. Left Hand: Zhao has Aang captured until Zuko sabotages him.
  • Rip Van Tinkle: Happens in the first half of the season one two-parter "Winter Solstice", after Aang rescues Sokka from the Spirit World.
    Katara: You were trapped in the Spirit World for twenty-four hours! ... How do you feel?
    Sokka: Like I seriously have to use the bathroom! [Runs off]
  • Road Trip Across the Street: In "Nightmares and Daydreams", Zuko takes a palanquin to Mai's house, which is just across the street from the palace.
  • Royal Brat: Zuko acts like one for much of the first season. Azula increasingly does towards the end, when she suffers Sanity Slippage.
  • Royally Screwed Up: The Fire Nation nobility. Zuko's character development includes realizing just how far his family has fallen and that he has to set things right.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: All the Fire Nation royals, as well as King Bumi. Totally averted with the Earth King.
  • Runaway Fiancé: Kanna (Gran-gran) flees from her home at the North Pole because she did not agree to her forced marriage to master Paku.
  • Running Gag:
    • Zuko's ship suffering major damage every few episodes — losing the miniboat over a waterfall, a Shirshu ripping a hole in the deck, being buried under an avalanche, being set on fire by a catapult, being struck by lightning, and finally being blown up entirely in a failed assassination attempt by Admiral Zhao.
    • Frequent sightings of an unfortunate cabbage merchant in the Earth Kingdom, whose cart and produce are inevitably destroyed during every appearance. "My CABBAGES!!!"
      • This gag even continues in the show's successor, The Legend of Korra, where a company called Cabbage Corp. gets shut down by the police and the CEO (seemingly a descendant of the cabbage merchant) cries "NOT MY CABBAGE CORP!"
    • People forgetting that Toph is blind, and thus can't read or recognize people's faces. This reaches a point where, on two separate occasions in the same episode, someone tries to confront her by "showing" her a piece of paper.
      Katara:: Well then, what's this? [pulls out a wanted poster of Toph]
      Toph: I DON'T KNOW! I mean seriously, what's with you people?! I'm blind!
      • Toph has also been known to use her blindness to mock her friends, such as with Sokka's drawings in more than one scene. In one case, after Aang and Katara make fun of Sokka's crude and unrecognizable drawing of Appa, Toph comes to his "defense" and comments "It looks just like him to me!" It takes a second for Sokka to catch on. note 
      • The episode where the Gaang is looking for Appa. At one point they're putting up posters, and suggest Toph tags along with Sokka.
    Toph: You think I can't put up posters on my own? [Slathers the wall with glue and slams the poster on backwards] ...it's upside down, isn't it? [Beat] I'll just go with Sokka.
    • Sokka's fake beard and his "skill" with art.
    • Starting in Season 1 with King Bumi, every time a character (usually Sokka) tells a bad joke, there is a moment of silence, followed by an off-screen cough. See Chirping Crickets above. Similarly, some scenes end with Momo intruding, often to grab a bite. These are sometimes called "Momoments".
    • The fact that nobody other than Aang and Zuko (possibly Zhao) know that the Blue Spirit is actually Zuko. Made especially hilarious in the short "School Time Shipping" when Katara turns down Haru, Jet, Zuko and Aang because she's already got a date to the dance: the Blue Spirit.
      Zuko: I did NOT see that coming.
    • Whenever Zuko and Aang are involved in a fight scene, Zuko hits a wall. Any real fight involving Zuko has him hitting either a wall or the floor. Or occasionally a ceiling.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Iroh burning the fire nation flag hanging over the Earth King's palace in Ba Sing Se during the finale counts; it symbolizes his Heel–Face Turn in that he liberated the very city that he once attempted to conquer. More so, it's the fact that he accomplished the goal he'd set out for long ago. The only difference is he's conquering it for the Earth Kingdom, and not the Fire Nation.
  • Rule of Three:
    • In "The Painted Lady", the soldiers from the Fire Nation factory make three attempts at igniting a (presumably) explosive barrel, only to be repeatedly extinguished by Aang's air blasts.
    • When the trio is about to part ways with Pakku in "The Avatar State",he gives them all three a parting "gift" with advice.

    S 
  • Sad Battle Music: The music that plays during the Agni Kai between Zuko and Azula during Sozin's Comet. Fittingly, the music is called The Last Agni Kai.
  • Sadistic Choice: Toph has to choose between saving Appa from the sandbenders or stopping a magical library from sinking with the rest of the Gaang inside.
  • Sand Blaster:
    • The Sandbenders are a tribe of Earthbenders living in the Si Wong Desert, whose style of Earthbending incorporates unusually loose, fluid motions better suited to controlling sand. This gives them an advantage against the protagonists, who are more accustomed to Earthbending solid boulders.
    • Toph is shown to have difficulty with sand at first. Because she "sees" via ground vibrations, sand makes everything fuzzy and was a major factor in her letting Appa get captured (which Aang chewed her out for, never mind that she was trying to prevent the library from sinking into the sand at the time). Later in the series, she's seen sandbending a perfect replica of Ba Sing Se out of sand to show off her progress.
  • Sand Is Water: The sandbenders sail around on it. More justified than some examples in that, well, they're bending it.
  • Sanity Slippage: Azula, starting when her friends leave her, and accelerating after her promotion to Fire Lord. She rather quickly goes barking mad over the course of the penultimate episode.
  • Sarcasm Failure: When Toph and Sokka are dangling off an airship, with Sokka's space sword and boomerang gone and things looking bad, neither one of them has anything sarcastic to say. This may be one of the only times in the series that both of them are completely serious.
  • Scare Chord
    • Every single time the camera focuses on Azula's face, a Scare Chord plays, though instead of the standard blaring piano keys she gets a distinct bell-like sound that is a lot quieter and means she's up to something sneaky.
      • It seems like a modified gamelan...which would sound pretty weird to western ears. But even if you're used to the noise, this one is a little off.
      • Pretty much any music during her Villainous Breakdown, and the noises she makes when she finally breaks down and cries.
  • Scarecrow Solution: In the episode "The Painted Lady", Katara starts one of her own. As she helps some villagers, they mistake her for their local deities - and instead of trying to clear up the mistake or at least feel bad about it, she chooses to make the most of it. Of course, the villagers are outraged when they find out that she has deceived them, but they quickly forgive her since they realize that the help she gave them was genuine rather than a part of some manipulative plot. After the whole thing is over, it turns out that the real Painted Lady actually does exist - and she is pleased with Katara's deeds.
  • Scary Impractical Armor: Spoofed, with the creators admitting they just thought stuff like that was stupid.
  • Scenery Porn: Seriously, the background art is gorgeous.
  • Schizo Tech: Done very originally with bending worked into daily life leading to interesting variations from the less technologically advanced Water Tribes to the Steampunk warships and crawlers of the Fire Nation.
  • Scooby Stack: Katara and Aang watching Sokka forging his sword in "Sokka's Master". Also lampshaded in "The Blind Bandit" when Aang, Katara, and Sokka all peer out from behind a bush whilst sneaking around the Beifong estate, and then the camera flips around to show how ridiculous they look all schmooped up together.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: Aang was frozen in a sphere of ice for 100 years.
  • Sealed with a Kiss: Aang and Katara's kiss is the last scene of the finale.
  • Sea Serpents: There's a reason why the Serpent's Pass is called such, which the characters find out firsthand when a giant sea serpent comes out when they try to cross.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Admiral Zhao. Technically the third episode, since the beginning is a two-parter.
  • Secret Test of Character: Happens to Sokka in episode 4 of season 3. Piandao refuses to train him, but Sokka's humble and sincere statement of needing to be properly trained changes his mind. He then puts him through various tests, such as painting some scenery to utilize his ability to remember details around the battlefield. Later Sokka reveals he's not actually a Fire Nation citizen, which causes Piandao to attack him, but it turns out he was just testing Sokka to see how much he learned; he knew Sokka was water tribe all along. He gives Sokka a white lotus as a parting gift, which is a clue to his role later in the show.
  • Seen It All: The fortune teller senses that Aang will be in a tremendous struggle for the fate of the world. Aang quickly asks her to skip that and check his love life.
  • Send in the Clones: "Joo Dee" is not so much a person as it is a job title and the Dai Li have dozens of similar-looking brainwashed women ready to step in and take over should the current Joo Dee ever slip up.
  • Sequel Hook: "Where. IS. My Mother." Subverted in that while both The Legend of Korra and The Promise acknowledge the hook, neither one answers anything. It took until The Search before this plot thread was finally followed up on.
  • Serious Business: Azula's reaction to winning a game of, essentially, beach volleyball in "The Beach":
    Azula: Yes, we defeated you for all time! You will never rise from the ashes of your shame and humiliation! [pause] Well, that was fun.
  • Ship Sinking:
    • In-story, during "The Ember Island Players": Aang is dismayed to see his and Katara's actors gleefully sink their ship by agreeing to be "just friends", as they were playing the moment that actually was his love confession.
    • In universe, there is a ton of Ship Sinking done for Zutara during the last few episodes.
    • The Toph/Sokka ship was sunk as soon as Suki made a reappearance.
  • Ship Tease: Has its own page.
  • Shipped in Shackles: The bounty hunters who captured Toph stuck her in a metal box for transport so she couldn't use her earth bending to escape. Of course, Toph gets out by inventing metal bending. See the CMOA page.
  • Shipper on Deck: Played for Laughs by Toph in the first part of the series finale. "I knew it! You [Katara] did have a secret thing with Haru!"
    • The playwright of "The Boy in The Iceberg" was most likely a Zutara shipper.
  • Shirtless Scene: Every major male character eventually; one of Zuko's came complete with Disturbed Doves, with a following shot of a gaggle of instant Fangirls.
  • Shock and Awe: Firebenders can separate the yin and yang energies of their chi and generate lightning. Lightningbending is a Difficult, but Awesome technique that requires power and focus which makes it exclusive to only the most powerful benders, but allows one to shoot extremely powerful bolts of lightning. Firebenders can also learn how to redirect lightning shot at them, allowing a form of defense.
  • Shocking Defeat Legacy: Two examples. One was for the Fire Nation, when Iroh gave up on taking Ba Sing Se after breaching the wall. The other was for La Résistance when Azula's coup meant that said impenetrable city finally fell.
  • Shoo the Dog: In "Appa's Lost Days", the Kyoshi Warriors are attacked by Azula's group. When Appa tries to return and help them, Suki desperately shoos him away with a fiery branch, knowing that the situation is hopeless and they cannot allow the Avatar's bison to be captured.
  • Shoot the Dog:
    • Avatar Yangchen, the previous airbender avatar, was a proponent of this, and advised Aang to kill Ozai, claiming that his own spiritual needs would have to be sacrificed for the greater good, because she believes his role as the Avatar supersedes his teachings as an airbender.
    • Kyoshi has shades of this as well, though not to the same extent as Yangchen. When Aang consults her about what to do about Ozai, she takes responsibility for the accidental death of Chen the Conqueror, claiming that although she didn't kill him, she was prepared to if necessary.
  • Short-Range Guy, Long-Range Guy: Azula's companions Mai and Ty Lee. Mai fights from afar with throwing knives; Ty Lee fights up close with acrobatic martial arts.
  • Showing Up Chauvinists: Even though Northern Water Tribe tradition forbids women from using Waterbending in combat, Master Pakku has a Heel Realisation and permits Katara to become his first female student at the end of "The Waterbending Master". It doesn't take long before she can beat all of his male students in single combat, and he dubs her one of the fastest learners he's ever tutored and permits her to take over the responsibility of training Aang from him.
  • Shown Their Work: Enough instances to have its own page.
  • Show Within a Show: The Ember Island Players' production of "The Boy in the Iceberg" is featured in its entirety in the last episode before the Grand Finale.
  • Shut Up and Save Me!: A restrained-by-pirates Sokka, to Aang and Katara, in "The Waterbending Scroll".
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Aang is held captive by Zhao, Zhao states that he won't kill Aang, because he would just reincarnate as a new Avatar. So instead, Zhao will keep Aang alive...barely. Aang's response? He inhales and blows a gust of air that completely knocks Zhao on his ass.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss:
    • Sokka kisses Suki in "The Serpent's Pass" when she tries to apologize for doing the same in the previous night.
    • Aang kisses Katara in "The Invasion" and "The Ember Island Players" while the two are talking in private. Unfortunately, at these points she is still confused about her feelings and is visibly uncomfortable.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang:
    • Sokka and Katara. He's logical, cynical and as a non-bender, mostly relies on his brains to survive. She's compassionate, more emotionally-driven, and a powerful bender, but lacks her brother's strategic genius. Despite this, they're still close and supportive of each other.
    • Zuko and Azula. He has an explosive temperament but is a genuinely nice person deep down, whereas she is a cold sociopath that hides her true nature behind a permanent sardonic smile.
    • Iroh and Ozai. The former is compassionate and merciful despite still being loyal to the Fire Nation, whereas the latter is a cruel dictator who relishes in making his enemies suffer.
  • Silent Bob: The show strongly implies that Longshot is mute, until he speaks at the end of "Lake Laogai", voiced by Marc Donato.
  • Simple Score of Sadness:
    • The song that plays when Yue sacrifices herself to revive the Moon Spirit.
    • Also, the music playing during the final Agni Kai between Zuko and Azula.
  • Single-Palette Town: In fact, single palette continents: Nearly all Earth Kingdom residents wear a green & brown motif, Fire Nationers wear red, and Water Tribers wear blue. When there were still Air Nomads, they wore orange and yellow, though being part of a monastic order may have inclined them towards maintaining a similar form of dress. Notably averted with the fishing village the Gaang come upon in season 3. Despite being Fire Nation, most of the town wear simple clothes one would expect of fishermen, mostly tans and light blues.
  • Skirt over Slacks:
    • Katara, in both her Water Tribe and Fire Nation outfits
    • Azula, Mai and Ty Lee wear sarongs over their swimwear in "The beach"
  • Sky Cell: The Earthbender prison is built far out at sea with only a few token handrails, ensuring the prisoners have no contact with dirt to fight with.
  • Slasher Smile: Azula's Psychotic Smirk becomes this after her Villainous Breakdown.
  • Sleep Deprivation: Aang is unable to sleep due to stress over the impending attack on the Fire Nation, which causes him to have Anxiety Dreams.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: The show is mostly like level 4 (Arc-Based Episodic); although the Gaang is always traveling the world to find bending masters to teach Aang and there are plenty of Fillers that belong on level 3 (Subtle Continuity), there are pretty steady continuous developments on the villainous side that would be very jarring to anyone who just watched individual episodes here and there.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Level 5. The genders are represented fairly equally.
    • To break down the main group, in the first season and part of the second, there was Aang (male/bender), Katara (female/bender), and Sokka (male/normal). In the second season they pick up Toph (female bender) and the group stays as that until the third season. Then, halfway through that season, finally finishing his Heel–Face Turn, Zuko (male/bender) joins and several episodes later helps bring in Suki (female/normal). That brings it to an even representation in overall numbers and combat abilities for both sexes.
      • Azula and her all girl team of antagonists are far more successful in general than the previous male antagonists (succeeding in their conquest of the Earth Kingdom where Zhao failed at the North Pole, and striking down the Avatar himself after Zuko failed so many times).
    • It's also a bit odd to note that the villainous Fire Nation seemed to have a more gender equal military (or at least police) than the good guy Earth Kingdom (we only ever saw male Earth Kingdom soldiers or police/city-guards, while the Fire Nation even had mixed gender prisons and prison guards). The Water Tribes turned out to be even more sexist; Sokka was something of a He-Man Woman Hater, at first, and the waterbenders at the North Pole turned out to be a bunch of jerks—much to Katara's chagrin. This resulted in a Jackie Robinson Story, which ultimately worked out for Katara.
    • Of the six Avatars we know of (Korra, Aang, Roku, Kyoshi, Kuruk and Yangchen) there's a perfectly even three to three gender balance.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The series flips flops back and forth on the scale. The series starts and ends idealistic but the middle bit gets more and more cynical until it almost seems hopeless at times.
    • The series is a little more cynical by typical kids standards but by more normal standards, idealistic with a heavy dose of Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • Sliding Scale of Villain Effectiveness: High. The villains are extremely dangerous and quite often succeed in their plans.
  • Slipknot Ponytail:
    • Any time Katara is in a prolonged fight, her normal hair-loopies-with-bun-and-braid hairstyle will slowly become more and more disheveled, until she's left with just a loose mass of hair. The first and most notable of these being her fight with Master Pakku.
    • Azula once had to use her royal hairpin as a blade brake. Naturally, her hair didn't stay in place without it.
  • Slipped the Ropes: A running gag has Aang removing his hands from his bonds to make some sort of gesture, then putting them back in, such as in "Avatar Day" and "The Earth King".
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: The main conflict in "The Great Divide" is due to the rivalry between a clan of crude barbarians and a group of snobbish, refined warriors.
  • Smash the Symbol
    • When the White Lotus members take Ba Sing Sae back from Fire Nation rule, they pull down a statue Ozai has had put up of himself. In the same scene, Iroh burns a Fire Nation flag that was hung over an Earth Kingdom symbol.
    • When King Bumi reclaims Omashu on the day of the Eclipse, he defaces an Ozai statue with smiley face bits of stone and then pulls it down.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: "Bitter Work" has Zuko doing this, in hopes that he could practice his new lightning-redirection technique. Unusually for the trope, it's played for drama.
  • Smug Snake: Admiral Zhao. Seriously, when your Establishing Character Moment is getting your ass handed to you by both a teenager and an old man in the same ten minute interval, you should start considering the possibility that maybe you're not as awesome as you think you are. As "The Deserter" shows, Zhao is a strong firebender, but not at all a ''skilled'' one.
  • Sneaky Departure: In "The Awakening", Aang feels he needs to regain his honor by fighting the Fire Lord alone, and so he sneaks off the ship that the gang is currently hiding out on.
  • Sniff Sniff Nom: Sokka does this to the slime covering the walls on a cave inhabited by Buzzard Wasps.
    Katara: You spent the last day hallucinating on cactus juice and now you're licking something stuck on a cave wall?!
    Sokka: I have a natural curiosity.
  • Snipe Hunt: The terms of Zuko's banishment. Track down someone not seen for 100 years and you can come home again? Right. This is really brought home when Zhao, acting with the full authority of the Fire Nation, immediately moves to prevent Zuko from continuing to hunt him when it becomes apparent that the Avatar actually has returned.
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: Many of Sokka's weird nicknames and jokes are this. (And apparently so are his father's, according to a comment from Bato when Sokka makes one in Bato's presence.) Apparently the unfunny-is-funny effect holds true for the rest of the Gaang as well as the audience, because by Season 3, they have gotten so used to Sokka as a source of humor that they actually miss his jokes when he's off training with his master… and the replacement jokes they try to make are even more unfunny-funny (but only to the audience, not them).
  • Soft Water:
    • Averted In the finale, Sokka lowers the airship to a safe distance before dropping the crew out of the ship using the bomb bay. Later on, Aang uses waterbending to soften what would otherwise be a very hard crash into a lake from a very long drop.
    • In "The Swamp" when Sokka, Katara and Aang fall off Appa above the treetops and land in a foot of water, but are totally unharmed when they stand up. Aang cushions his fall with airbending, Katara might have done something subconsciously, but Sokka is magically fine without it.
    • In "The Kyoshi Warriors" when Aang is tossed away by the Unagi when it first shows up. The rather splat-like sound for the splash when hitting the water implies a bellyflop landing, further complicating things.
  • Solar and Lunar: Waterbenders and Firebenders draw strength from the moon and sun, respectively; a Waterbender's strength is greater when the moon is up, and at its absolute greatest when the moon is full, whereas a Firebender's strength is greater while the sun is up. Additionally, Waterbenders and Firebenders lose their bending during their respective eclipses.
  • Solid Clouds: Lampshaded in "The Water Bending Scroll." Katara mentions that she would love to walk on the clouds passing by. Aang tests this, concluding that "Clouds are made of water." Incidentally, this means that Katara could still theoretically walk on clouds.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Zuko is the first antagonist, possessing a single ship and the crew therein in his quest to capture the Avatar. He is quickly surpassed by Zhao, a non-disgraced Commander (later Admiral) who eventually gets command of an entire naval fleet and provides the first real test of the Gaang's skills. When Azula and her Quirky Miniboss Squad come in the second season, the threat level spikes well beyond the Gaang's ability to handle at that point seeing the second season end with a major downer ending. Then, Fire Lord Ozai gets involved.
  • Spared, but Not Forgiven: In "The Southern Raiders", after Katara finds her mother's killer, she goes on to turn the raindrops into icicles with a clear threat of killing him with them. After seeing him in a pathetic state (even begging to kill his mother instead of him), she decides that he's simply not worth killing. However, Katara states that she will never forgive him.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Duke and The Boulder are never referred to by their true names, only by these specific labels.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": No confusion among fans as to how to spell names, but the official spelling often differs significantly from what you might expect based on the pronunciation. For example, Mai is in fact named for the Chinese word for beauty, which is "mei"; Ty Lee sounds like Tai Li, Joo Dee probably ought to be Zhu Di, and Iroh is pronounced like Airou would be. Also, the water tribe uses the character for river (川) rather than the character for water (水).
  • Sphere of Power: Whenever Aang enters the Avatar State, he bends the air around him to create a bubble of high-speed wind. In the finale, he combines this with rings of water, earth, and fire.
  • Spirit Advisor: All previous Avatars become this to the current one. Roku is the one to whom Aang speaks the most often.
  • Splash of Color: A very dramatic version on The Siege of the North. After the switch to Deliberately Monochrome that happens after Zhao kills the moon spirit, only firebending attacks and Yue's blue eyes keep their color, indicating Yue's true nature.
  • Spoiler Opening: Episodes will often open with a recap of anything from an earlier episode that is related to the current one in any way; if scenes from the episode "Jet" show up in the recap, don't be surprised about the character Jet suddenly showing up in the episode. The Order of the White Lotus was given obvious importance extremely early because of this, for one example.
  • Spontaneous Weapon Creation: Aang briefly discusses the idea of making a 'Wind Sword' this way.
  • Spoof Aesop: "The Waterbending Scroll". Katara steals and justifies it by saying that it isn't wrong as long as you steal it from pirates.
  • Squee!:
    • During the Beach Episode, when Zuko takes off his shirt and the camera cuts straight to nearby bikini girls enjoying the view.
    • The Foaming-mouth Guy from Kyoshi Island is prone to this whenever Aang shows up.
  • Squishy Wizard: Katara is a waterbending master, but she relies completely on her bending for combat and is not physically strong. If she is put into a situation where she can't waterbend, she's completely helpless.
  • Staging the Eavesdrop: This is how Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee formed their alliance with the Dai Li. Knowing the Dai Li would be monitoring them, Azula arranges for Dai Li agents to overhear Mai and Ty Lee "accidentally" outing themselves as Fire Nation infiltrators. This prompts the Dai Li, angry at the Earth King due to the recent imprisonment of their leader, to make an alliance with Azula and company where both sides look to use the other.
  • Stand-In Parents: Sokka and Katara stand in as "Kuzon's" parents Wang and Sapphire Fire, when he gets into trouble at school.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Oma and Shu, who had to sneak through the SECRET TUNNEL! SECRET TUNNEL!
    • Sokka and Yue. They fall for each other quickly, but she has Arranged Marriage to Hahn while Sokka is viewed as a southern peasant. Then she sacrifices herself to restore Tui's life force and ascends as the moon spirit, separating them permanently.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Ozai wonders why Zuko doesn't just kill him, seeing as Zuko has just cornered him during a solar eclipse (which means there's no firebending) and has a pair of swords pointed at him. Zuko states that that's the Avatar's destiny, not his own. This is reflected later during the finale, when the protagonists ask Iroh to defeat Ozai in Aang's place. His reasoning is that even if he could, history would only see it as a brother killing another brother for power. Similarly, if Zuko killed Ozai it might end the war but it wouldn't bring peace, especially given Ozai's vulnerable state. Only the Avatar, as the guardian of balance, really has the right to pass justice in this scenario.
  • Status Quo Is God: The Gaang's lack of adult supervision. If a parent or mentor figure appears, you can bet they'll be gone an episode later - the group join up with Hakoda no less than three times only to be separated from him almost immediately, Aang is prevented from enlisting the adult Jeong Jeong and Bumi as his bending masters, none of the Northern Water Tribe adults accompany the team when they leave, the alliance with the armies of Bae Sing Sae instantly falls apart, and all the adults sacrifice themselves in the Day of the Black Sun, leaving the children on their own for the last stretch of the series. Even Iroh, who travelled with Zuko for the first two series, is off on his own mission when Zuko finally joins the Gaang.
    • Averted for most aspects of the show, with the make-up of Team Avatar, their location and the villains they're facing, all evolving over time.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The Northern Water Tribe only trains men in combative waterbending; women can only learn healing techniques. It's implied that this may change after Pakku accepts Katara as his student.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The morning after Sokka is shown to be waiting for Suki in his tent wearing only his underwear, he is wearing a necklace of flowers. He got "lei'd", and Suki got "deflowered."
    • In "The Ember Island Players", the Gaang goes incognito to watch a play that recaps the story so far, and Sokka wants to meet the actor-Sokka, so how does he introduce himself? As "a big Sokka fan." Say it out loud a couple of times.
    • In "The Puppetmaster" we meet Old Man Ding... who promptly dings himself with a hammer.
  • Stepford Smiler: Joo Dee has an extremely wide and fake-looking smile on her face at all times, even when she's warning the Gaang against stepping out of line. The smile only fades into tears once, and after Long Feng re-applies her brainwashing, it's back.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: We know this is at least somewhat the case regarding Zuko's desire to please Ozai. The question is: how much more abuse did he actually go through? And how much of that is also the case for Azula? Both are much more fragile and battered than anyone realizes...
  • Stone Wall: Waterbending, ironically enough. It's not particularly offensive in nature; it focuses more on defensive tactics, usually only countering as an offensive move. The Northern Water Tribe was essentially this during the Hundred Year War. As Zhao pointed out, they survived a hundred years of war since the landscape of their home itself was an icy fortress that made invasions incredibly difficult, and a massive invasion force was needed to break through. However, throughout the war, its people couldn't do much more than defend their own homeland, as they lacked the resources to mount any offensive campaign against the Fire Nation.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Both Sokka and Zuko strongly resemble their fathers (down to the designs for their fathers being based on the sons in question). It's lampshaded for both of them - Bato comments on the resemblance (down to similar senses of humor) between Sokka and his father in the second season, and Zuko points out that the picture of a smiling toddler is actually his father, not him.
  • Stuff Blowing Up:
    • A mountain full of methane pockets. And one of them is right underneath the Fire Nation invading force. Guess what happens.
    • Azula seems to think a volley ball-like game called Kuai Ball requires explosions.
  • Stumbled Into the Plot: Katara and Sokka find Aang frozen in an iceberg while going out fishing, starting off their Great Big Adventure.
  • Stunned Silence: Azula tries to seduce a guy in "The Beach", but her megalomaniacal side kicks in and she boasts that they will rule the world while summoning menacing blue flames. The boy understandably is terrified and leaves her.
  • Sundial Waypoint:
    • Aang's first real communication with Roku could only happen on the winter solstice, which was indicated by a beam of sunlight shining on the forehead of Roku's statue.
    • The door to the Sun Warrior temple would only open when the sun, focused through a lens, struck a stone on top of the door frame. Aang and Zuko are able to cheat by reflecting the focused light beam onto the stone, rather than waiting for the right time of day.
  • Super Mode: The Avatar State embues Aang with the knowledge of all his previous lives and enables him to control all four elements at once. However, since he has not mastered it yet, he can only enter such mode when he is enraged, at which point he becomes a threat to everyone around him, including his friends.
  • Supernatural Elite: The royal family of the Fire Nation, all of whom are firebenders.
  • Supernatural Floating Hair: Yue's hair while in spirit form always appears to be floating in water.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Benders use their powers by performing moves from real-life martial arts styles.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: The Avatar State is the Elemental Embodiment of all previous avatars' knowledge, but if not mastered will only show up in moments of extreme rage and send Aang into a rampage.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Bending is partly genetic, though mostly random. Katara is the only bender in an otherwise non-bending family; Zuko and Azula, two powerful firebenders, come from a long and storied line of firebenders. In "The Fortuneteller", one of two twin brothers is an earthbender and the other isn't.
  • Surprise Slide Staircase: During season 2 episode The Earth King, Toph collapses the giant stairs leading to the palace into this. She then proceeds to use it as an elevator all while Sokka apologizes to the Earth Kingdom soldiers spilling down the slide.
  • Surprise Witness: Subverted in the Trial episode. Avatar Kyoshi comes through Aang in a vain hope of proving the Avatar's innocence towards the murder of their king, although she ends up saying that she killed him for being a tyrant. However, after all was said and done...
    Aang: What just happened?
    Katara: You kinda just...confessed.
  • Survival Mantra: After Iroh loses his son in the war, Ozai tries to take advantage of his brother's weakened mental state and proposes to become the next Fire Lord instead. However, Azulon perceives this act as Ozai mocking Iroh's sorrow and is enraged, ordering him to execute Zuko so that he too can understand what it feels like to lose a son. When Azula relays this information to Zuko, the poor boy cowers under his covers and starts repeating the same sentende to himself: "Azula always lies, Azula always lies..."
  • Swallowed a Fly: Katara when she tries out a glider.
    "How do I land this—Ackk! Bug! BUG! That was a BUG!"
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Guru Pathik's admonition was incorrect, at least as Aang took it. Aang mastered the Avatar State by letting go of his love for Katara, but still loves her outside of the avatar state
  • Sword Fight:
    • The dual dao sabers vs. twin tiger-head hook sword face-off; overlaps with Evasive Fight-Thread Episode.
    • Several times in Season 3, when Sokka receives sword training.
    • Aang hallucinates one between Momo and Appa in "Nightmares and Daydreams," where Appa quadruple-wields katanas.
  • Sword over Head: After Zuko defeats his arch rival, Commander Zhao, in an Agni Kai (one-on-one firebender duel), Zhao expects Zuko to kill him with a Finishing Move, but to his surprise, Zuko spares him, blasting the ground near his head.
  • Symbolic Blood: In "The Guru", Katara is incapacitated by Ty Lee as she tries to get water out of her flask for bending. She ends up unconsious on the floor, with an expanding puddle of her bending water flows about her stomach, looking for all the world like a pool of blood.

    T 
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Aang energybends Ozai to rob him of his firebending rather than kill him or be killed by him.
    • Ozai could either kill Zuko, or give up his claim to the throne. Instead Ursa took a third option for him, assassinating Azulon and setting Ozai up as heir, then fleeing into exile.
    • In an early episode, Aang is presented with two armed men to duel against. He, instead, chooses King Bumi, the doddering old guy who's been testing him. Much to the audience's delight, Bumi reveals himself to be an all-powerful Earthbender...
  • Take That!: "The Ember Island Players" is a gentle, good-natured "take that" at what the creators perceived as the more extreme parts of the Avatar fandom, including Fan Fic writers, Zuko-Katara shippers, and what happens to Jet. "Did Jet just... die?" "You know, it was really unclear."
    • Also in the same episode they did one on first season episode "The Great Divide", as fans thought it was just pointless filler.
    Actor Aang: Look! It's the Great Divide, the largest canyon in the Earth Kingdom!
    Actor Sokka: (looks down. Beat) ... Meh, let's keep flying.
    • A similar jab at Season 2’s "The Drill" occurs when much of the audience is yawning and falling asleep during the part of the play that covers it. This is because many fans found that particular episode boring.
    • Word of God says the absurdly violent armor Aang tries on in "Sokka's Master" is a jab at the makers of the action figures, who kept demanding Aang have some sort of "battle" outfit; as well as at Scary Impractical Armor as a whole.
  • Taking the Bullet: Zuko to Katara, from Azula.
  • Tanks for Nothing: Though the Fire Nation's mechanized forces give them a big advantage in the overall war, this is mostly played straight in the series, especially in the finale.
    • Averted (mostly) with the 'Caterpillar' tanks the heroes use in "The Day of Black Sun, Parts 1 & 2". Aside from cannon blasts from nearby battlements, ordinary soldiers' firepower is simply insufficent to slow them down or damage at all (similar to Real Life tanks).
  • Tastes Like Chicken: With the Mix-and-Match Critters, there is no chicken around, but in Episode 4 of Season 2, "The Swamp", one of the Swamp people suspects that Momo will taste like Possumchicken, to which the other answers "You think everything tastes like Possumchicken"
    • Sokka later says that Possumchicken tastes like arctic hen.
  • Tasty Gold: Trope Namer.
    • Sokka also performs this trope in the episode where he undergoes his training as a swordsman. Faced with a selection of metals with which to forge a sword, he picks up a hunk of the stuff and gnaws on it.
  • Teach Him Anger: Part of Toph's training of Aang in "Bitter Work", due to Personality Powers.
  • Team Dad: Zuko. Especially towards Aang and in thecomics. He's also one of the only members of the team who doesn't get Katara's motherly treatment.
  • Team Mom: Katara. This is made blatant in "The Runaway", which explores how much the team depends on her, as well as the downsides of this trope. In the same episode, Sokka privately admits that Katara is almost more like a mother to him than a sister. Toph admits that Katara cares about her more than Toph's real mom ever did.
  • Tear Jerker: "The Tale of Iroh" full stop. In-universe because we find out that Iroh's cheerful jaunt through Ba Sing Se dispensing wisdom and cheering up crying babies is actually his journey to observe the birthday of his only child, who had died in the war years ago. Out of universe because this was the first episode to air after the death of Mako, who was Iroh's voice actor. This tale is famously known for making fans of ATLA spontaneously burst into tears whenever the phrase "Little Soldier Boy" is mentioned.
  • Technical Pacifist: Most of the good guys are this, considering it's a kid-friendly show, but the topic is actually brought up and discussed. While asking past avatars for guidance on how to stop Ozai without killing him, Kyoshi reminds Aang that she killed Chin the Conqueror to stop his invasion of her village. Aang points out to Kyoshi that "technically" she didn't kill Chin, he was just too stubborn to move away from a collapsing cliff side created by Kyoshi. Kyoshi claims she doesn't see a difference; she considers herself responsible for Chin's death either way.
  • Technicolor Fire:
    • Blue fire signifies a higher firebending power, though only Azula is demonstrated using it. This could actually be a case of Shown Their Work, because the hotter parts of a regular fire are, you guessed it, blue.
    • The dragons that appear seem to be able to produce flames of all the colors.
    • Long Feng's office has a fireplace with crystals burning with green flames.
  • Tell Me How You Fight: Not only is each kind of bending based on a visually distinct and appropriate martial arts style, but there are noticeable differences in how the various fighters execute those styles.
    • For example, whereas earthbending is mostly based off the Hung Gar style of Kung Fu, Toph's style utilizes several elements of Southern Praying Mantis style, particularly the precise steps which allow her feet to stay in contact with the ground so that she can "see".
  • Tempting Fate: Virtually Once an Episode. Sokka is to blame for 70% of instances relating to this trope.
    • Lampshaded in "The Awakening".
      Sokka: The Universe just loves proving me wrong, doesn't it?
      Toph: You make it too easy!
    And then subverted right away, when the giant serpent that just appeared attacks the Fire Nation instead of the heroes.
    Sokka: Thank you, The Universe!
    • Near the end of book 2. The Gaang have convinced the Earth King there is a war outside Ba Sing Se, they have the entire Earth Kingdom on their side, they have info which would guarantee their victory against the Fire Nation, and Aang is going to be taught how to control the Avatar State. Sokka is far more positive and thinking along the lines of "Nothing can go wrong now." Then Azula, Ty Lee and Mai show up posing as the Kyoshi warriors and it's all blown to Hell.
    • In the second-to-last episode of Book 2, Yu and Xin Fu capture Toph, put her in a metal cage, and declare that she may think herself strong but not even the greatest Earthbender in the world can bend metal. Toph then invents Metalbending from scratch and declares herself the greatest Earthbender in the world.
  • Tentative Light: From the episode "The Cave of Two Lovers": Aang and Katara are separated from the others. They haven't found their way out of the cave and their torch is burning down to nothing. Turns out, the key to finding their way through the cave was to let their torches burn out, allowing them to see the dimly glowing crystals in the cave that marked the path.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Iroh has a small tendency to do this.
    Iroh: Why would [your father] banish you if he did not care?
    [Zuko gets up and storms off]
    Iroh: [groan] That came out wrong, didn't it? [two assistants exchange glances]
    Iroh: [to Toph, in a slightly panicked tone] Not that I love you! We've just met...
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: Played for drama. Aang thinks he sees the currently-missing Appa flying in front of the moon, but it turns out to be an Appa-shaped cloud.
    • Aunt Wu also uses the shapes of clouds to predict the future in "The Fortuneteller".
  • That's No Moon!: The Lion-Turtle Island.
  • Theme Naming: The three sets of siblings in the cast all share a syllable of their name: Sokka and Katara, Ozai and Iroh, and Zuko and Azula.
    • Even the tentative "Legend of Korra" falls in line with another existing line of Theme Naming: Kanna, Kya, and Katara, all Water Tribe women. Speaking of which, the only named Water Tribe members whose names don't contain a "K" or an "A" are Yuenote  and Ummi (Kuruk's wife)note .
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Evil: Becomes this way at the end of season one, with the roles being filled by Team Avatar, Zuko and Iroh, and Zhao, respectively. In season 2 and 3, Azula takes Zhao's place and Zuko and Iroh join The Good. By the Grand Finale, you have everyone on Aang's side as the good, Azula as the bad, and Ozai as capital-E Evil.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Combines with Calling the Old Man Out. In Episode 11 of Season 3 Zuko gives his dad Ozai a piece of his mind. In short: Ozai treated him like crap, the Fire Nation is an imperialistic menace, and if the world hates them, they deserve it. Finally, Zuko is going his own way - with the Avatar.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Zuko gets this when he starts using firebending in Zuko Alone. The theme music in question is the villainous Fire Nation anthem, neatly portraying how the observing crowd interpret the moment.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: The manipulative, charismatic leader Azula (seductress) and her two friends — sweet, affectionate Cloudcuckoolander Ty Lee (innocent) and calm, sane, level-headed Mai (wife).
  • They're Called "Personal Issues" for a Reason: In “Zuko Alone,” Zuko flatly refuses to reveal anything about his past to the curious Earth Kingdom villagers—with good reason, as it turns out.
  • This Is No Time for Knitting: Aang, Sokka, and Katara are fighting pirates on a ship about to go over the Inevitable Waterfall. Aang suddenly stops fighting and blows the "broken" whistle he bought earlier in the episode. Sokka screams, "Have you lost your mind? This is no time for flute practice!" before learning (along with the viewers) that it's a bison whistle Aang can now use to summon Appa to save them.
  • This Is Not My Life to Take:
    • Prince Zuko refrains from killing his father, Fire Lord Ozai, out of recognition that he is not the person who should kill Ozai.
    • Iroh makes a similar decision when he chooses not to fight the Fire Lord, because history would see it as a brother killing a brother to grab power. The Avatar is the only one who can end the war peacefully.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: The Final Battle for Aang.
  • Time Zones Do Not Exist:
    • While it's evening in the Fire Nation during Sozin's Comet, it's also evening in their Earth Kingdom while the White Lotus frees Ba Sing Se.
    • Additionally, the nations seem to be perpetually locked in the same seasons, regardless of the planet being confirmed in an interview and The Legend of Korra to be a round and orbiting a sun.
  • Thoughtcrime: Ba Sing Se had no idea that an incredibly destructive war was going on outside of their walls, with inhabitants that think differently and make a fuss about it being brainwashed.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Aang, although it's really an issue of premeditated, deliberate killing. In battle and self-defense, his fighting style generally lends itself to non-lethal subduing of his foes, so deaths, if they do occur, can at least be said to be unintended or accidental.
    • After Appa is stolen, Aang is enraged when a vulture wasp tries to carry off Momo. Even after freeing Momo, Aang proceeds to obliterate the wasp with a powerful airbending strike (which, by the way, is a bending form confirmed to be completely lacking in lethal moves). It's Aang's only confirmed kill in the series.
  • Three-Act Structure: The series is divided into three "books," with each book relating to Aang's journey to learn to bend one of the other three elements besides Air.
  • Throat Light: Part of what happens to the two combatants in an Energy-bending duel.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: One Rough Rhino's Weapon of Choice.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: Sokka's sword, as well as the left-over meteor metal he gives to Toph, which she wears as an armlet.
  • Tightrope Walking: Ty Lee does this in the episode "The Boiling Rock", to get to the cable car: She sprints across a gondola cable for a rematch with fellow Action Girl, Suki.
  • Tired of Running: Zuko chooses to fight Azula rather than run in the Season 2 Finale.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: There are multiple female characters in this show, and many examples of this dynamic that can be identified between different combinations of them.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Toph may be an ass-kicking Action Girl who doesn't take crap from anybody, but she does know high society manners and actually enjoys her spa day with Katara in Tales of Ba Sing Se.
    • Suki is the badass leader of an elite team of warriors, but her signature weapon is a fan, she wears make-up and a dress as her battle uniform and is sweetly romantic when it comes to Sokka.
  • Tongue on the Flagpole: Aang does this with his glider in the very first episode of the show.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Several people over the course of the show:
    • Aang repeatedly takes levels by mastering other types of bending.
    • For most of season 1, Aang was the only person on Team Avatar who could fight evenly with Zuko. In the first episode, Katara could only move water around a bit, not even enough to use it as a weapon. Then she finds a waterbending master near the end of Season 1, and from then on she's one of the group's principle fighters, going head-to-head with Zuko in her first real fight and losing only because of a surprise attack, trouncing him in a rematch.
    • Sokka goes from a wannabe warrior with a chauvinistic streak to a skillful planner, strategist, and combat commander by the end of the show. He also gains sword skills in season three.
    • Toph was a master earthbender to begin with, but she gains sandbending and metalbending abilities over the course of the series.
    • Zuko, when he started out, could never keep up with Azula, but learned some new skills, like how to redirect lightning, and learned to harness the true source of firebending. By the finale, he is more than a match for Azula.
    • Iroh was already badass, but loses his paunch and gains some considerable muscle when preparing for his prison break.
  • Tooth Strip: Most characters are drawn with a tooth strip instead of individual teeth.
  • Tornado Move: Aang sometimes does this, using it to directly assault opponents, levitate himself or shoot rocks as if from a cannon.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: Used by the group to attack the Fire Nation. Justified, since Firebenders gain their power from the sun — an eclipse leaves them powerless. And realistically, it only lasts eight minutes.
  • Totally Radical: "The Headband". With in-universe slang, no less.
    Sokka: 'Flame-eo?'
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
  • Training from Hell: For Aang, earthbending tutelage under Toph.
  • Training the Gift of Magic: One is apparently born as either a "bender" or "non-bender." Without training, Katara's "waterbending" is little more than a parlor trick; you could move more water just by splashing with your hands. With training, she is capable of manipulating, freezing, and thawing large quantities, and even (under the right circumstances) manipulating water in people's blood to make People Puppets out of her enemies. It does appear to be possible for some prodigies (such as Avatar Korra of The Legend of Korra, who is seen bending three of the four elements at a very young age with little or no formal training) to be self-taught, but it is very rare.
  • Training Montage: In "Sokka's Master." which is, in essence, one episode-long training montage.
  • Transformation Is a Free Action: Azula is savvy in this regard: when Aang enters the Avatar State in the Book 2 finale, she averts this by electrocuting him from behind before he can build up too much steam.
  • Translation Convention: The writing implies that the characters are speaking archaic Chinese but the show was developed in English.
  • Trapped on the Astral Plane: Aang (being the Avatar and all) is more spiritually-attuned than most, and has to travel to the Spirit World on several occasions. During at least one instance, Aang is trapped there with no knowledge of how to escape, but is bailed out by his past life, Avatar Roku.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Played with: at first, Aang is forced into the Avatar State when he is either in mortal danger or experiencing emotional trauma.
  • Trash Talk: Frequently comes from Toph.
    • Aang also taunts Zhao during their fight in "The Deserter" in order to make him angry so that he’ll destroy his own ships.
  • Trash the Set: The ending of "The Beach."
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: It takes the Gaang an entire season to get from one pole to another, but subsequent travels seem to take much less time than they should.
  • Tribal Face Paint: The Southern Water Tribe has face paint for when they go to battle. And for the ceremony that comes after ice dodging.
  • Troll: King Bumi.
    Bumi: First of all, it's pretty fun messing with people.
  • Trophy Child: Mai's parents raised her to be perfectly behaved, with her opinions and emotions hidden, in order to help her father's political career. In return, she got whatever she wanted, though she wasn't interested in material wealth and rebelled against them later on.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Zuko practically embodies this one.
  • Truth in Television: Many survivors of abusive families can confirm that, paradoxically, the "favorite" of an Abusive Parent often becomes the one most screwed up by said parent — because it's that much harder for them to cut ties, leaving them stuck with the parent even after all the other siblings have escaped. This is exactly what happens with Azula and Zuko. Zuko is The Unfavorite who gets mutilated and thrown out, but that lets him out of Ozai's influence long enough to gain Character Development, have a Heel–Face Turn, and ultimately move on to a new life after the war's end. Azula, meanwhile, is trained by her father into a total psychopath and stakes her self-worth on his approval to the extent that it ultimately breaks her. By series end, she's in a mental hospital.
  • Tunnel King: The badger-moles.
  • Turtle Island: The Lion-Turtle.
  • Tsundere: Zuko would be a male Tsundere, and Mai closely fits a stoic Kuudere. And they make a really great couple. They apparently despise everything but each other, which leads to a funny moment in one scene as they watch a sunset:
    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.
  • TV Teen: Played straight (everyone's skin is perfect, and some of the VAs are well past 30).
  • 24-Hour Armor: Averted with most of the main characters, who only wear their combat attire when they're actually going into a major battle, particularly during the invasion of the Fire Nation in season 3. Played straight, however, with a lot of B characters, though justified in that many of them are soldiers and must always be on alert.
  • Twist Ending: Prominent throughout Season 2, in contrast to the usual "ride off happily into the sunset" endings of most episodes in Season 1. One episode in which it is played with contains several plot twists at the end.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Book Two follows both the group of Aang and his friends and the duo of Zuko and Iroh on their respective journeys through the Earth Kingdom.
  • Two Roads Before You: Zuko must choose between Azula and Iroh.

    U 
  • Uncertain Doom:
    • Played with when it comes to Jet. After he is injured by Long Feng, Katara says his wounds don't look good, and Toph notices the boy himself believes his chances of surviving are grim, but the show leaves his ultimate fate ambiguous. The episode "The Ember Island Players" lampshades this, with Zuko asking Sokka whether Jet really died, to which the latter responds "It was really unclear".
    • Yue's fiancé, Hahn, is last seen falling from a great height after Zhao hurls him from a Fire Nation ship's observation deck. Whether he managed to survive the fall is left to the viewer's imagination, though Iroh's facial expression and Zhao's nonchalance heavily imply that he bit the dust.
  • Unconventional Vehicle Chase: During the Gaang's first encounter with Azula they attempt a getaway using Omashu's cargo chutes. Azula jumps into one of the carts and follows them down the chute, flinging fireballs at them the entire way down.
  • Underside Ride: This is how Zuko gets inside Zhao's compound, during "The Blue Spirit" episode, by hiding beneath a layer of dirt in the road and then grabbing the undercarriage of a supply wagon as it passes over him. It takes him straight inside the fortress.
  • Unfamiliar Ceiling: Aang waking up at the beginning of Season 3, six weeks after being struck by lightning. You'd think that somebody at some point might have thought about removing the Fire Nation banners so the Avatar doesn't wake up thinking he's been captured.
  • Ungrateful Bastard:
    • Haru falls victim to this trope after he saves an old man from a rock slide. He immediately sells him out to the Fire Nation, who shortly afterwards take him towards a prison rig.
    • After a kind young woman in the Earth Kingdom saves Iroh's life from poisoning and invites him and Zuko to dinner at her mother's house, Zuko steals their ostritch-horse.
    • Zuko's successful attempts to save an Earth Kingdom village gets him banished immediately because he is forced to reveal his identity to do it.
    • Katara saves a Fire Nation village while posing as the Painted Lady, a spirit from their folklore. When they find out, they're angry until Sokka calls them out for this trope and Katara apologizes.
  • Uniformity Exception: In the first Northern Water Tribe war episode, Zuko disguises himself as one of Zhao's Faceless Goons. Zuko's eyes are visible through the mask's eyepiece, whereas the other goons have their eyes concealed.
  • The Unintelligible: All humans sound like this to Momo - but apparently not to Appa.
    • Momo hearing people and understanding them is situational by Rule of Funny. There's at least one occasion where Aang tells Appa and Momo to stay out of sight. Momo immediately finds a hiding place; Appa tries the same hiding place, but since it's a bush, it does not work so well.
  • Unpronounceable Alias: The page quote for this trope comes from the episode "The King of Omashu".
  • The Unreveal: "Where is my mother?" Not in the finale.
  • The Un-Smile: Unlaugh, technically, when Ty Lee tries to teach Azula how to flirt.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Watch the first 8 minutes of "Day of the Black Sun," and then decide for yourself whether they'll emerge victorious or not...
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Azula turns it into an art when her team wins a volleyball game.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The Avatar State, before Aang masters it, due to it being triggered by extreme anger or mortal danger.
    • Azula also enters this state in the Agni Kai between her and Zuko.
  • Unwitting Pawn: If Zuko's word is to be considered, it would appear that this is the case with the majority of the Fire Nation in regards to the war, and that only the most cold-hearted and sadistic people are given the truth. It is worth noting that Fire Lord Ozai is careful to keep these people close to him, perhaps not wanting word to get out.
    Zuko: Growing up, we were taught that the Fire Nation was the greatest nation in history, and that somehow, the war was our way of sharing our greatness with the rest of the world. What an amazing lie that was. The people of the world are terrified by the Fire Nation! They don't see our greatness; they hate us! And we deserve it.
  • Upsetting the Balance: The balance between the four nations is important to maintain the harmony of world. The expansionist Fire Nation disrupting that balance is part of what causes the spirit world to act up, as demonstrated in several episodes. This is probably best demonstrated when Admiral Zhao manages to kill the Moon Spirit in the Season 1 finale, depriving the water benders of their powers and upsetting the balance of the tide. This ultimately results in the Water Spirit merging with Aang to annihilate the Fire Nation army until the Moon is resurrected.

    V 
  • Vapor Wear: The real Painted Lady's outfit. The statue and idols that the villagers are fond of also appear to have a bare back.
  • Variant Chess: Pai-sho. Has a black and white board like chess, a star-shaped playing field like Chinese Checkers, large checker-like pieces with Shogi-like symbols on them, and it starts with the players taking turns putting pieces on an initially empty board much like Go. So, it's essentially Variant Chess/Checkers/Shogi/Chinese Checkers/Go. Its rules are never seen.
  • Vegetarian for a Day: Subverted by Sokka in Bitter Work, in which he gets stuck in a hole chasing a baby moose-lion cub. He pleads with the universe promising to never eat meat or be sarcastic ever again if it will just let him out. Less than ten seconds after the sentence is out of his mouth, Aang finds him and Sokka immediately asks if he has any meat.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Inverted with the Ember Island Players version of the Gaang's journey; in most respects they've Shown Their Work. They pretty much do the Abridged version of every episode up to that point (which, as it happens, was the last before the finale); the only thing that really sticks out is cast and characterization, and even then the Gaang mostly just disagree, or dislike, on how they personally are portrayed (like Aang being played by a woman, or Zuko being reminded of his treachery). Toph and Sokka love their portrayals, though. The only difference is how it ends (The Bad Guy Wins; it's a Fire Nation play, after all), and even then it's technically correct: Zuko does fight Azula and Ozai does take on Aang, and in a sense both villains do beat the crap out of the heroes—the good guys just end up ultimately turning the tables.
  • Victimized Bystander: It's a Running Gag that the Gaang will somehow cause the same man's cabbage cart to get destroyed and he'll scream, "MY CABBAGES!".
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Aang, in a sense. He and Katara haven't known each other from childhood, but he was plagued with all the psychological baggage that comes with this trope for the entire series. Also, in a more traditional example, Mai.
  • Victory Is Boring: Although not a usual case, Mai's declaration after beating Katara and Sokka is the Trope Namer.
  • Vignette Episode: "Tales of Ba Sing Se" is made up of a series of short stories.
  • Villain Decay:
    • Zuko as Season 1 progressed. He hadn't even become all that conflicted about what he was doing yet, but he kept on failing in his endeavors. No wonder Zhao wound up the final enemy of the season, despite Zuko being its main villain.
  • It's also somewhat ironic since Zuko got noticeably and progressively more powerful throughout season 1. It just became more and more apparent as the season went on that he had inadequate resources facing effectively impossible odds. From the very first episode, the only reason he was a threat to Aang at all were his cunning, desperation, and absolute refusal to give up.
  • Villain Episode: "Zuko Alone" focuses on Prince Zuko's backstory.
  • Villain of the Detour: Aang and his friends make an enemy out of Wan Shi Tong, when they use his library to gain an edge over the Fire Nation after he told them not to abuse its knowledge.
  • Villain Protagonist: In-universe example. The Gaang go to see a play about themselves in "The Ember Island Players". The play was written by a Fire Nation playwright and written for a Fire Nation audience. The Gaang's exploits are played (somewhat) villainously, most notably Actor!Katara's reaction to Actor!Jet destroying the village. And the audience cheers when Actor!Azula "kills" Actor!Zuko, Actor!Ozai kills Actor!Aang, and the Actor!Gaang are defeated.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Azula comes down hard at the end. Ozai also undergoes this.
  • Villainous Crush: Ty Lee, one of Azula's friends and cohorts, has a crush on Sokka. She calls him cute after losing a fight between him and his sister and actively flirts with him during their next encounter. During their fight in Book 2's season finale, she calls him "cutie" and says that their fight (her trying to block his chi and him effectively dodging her attacks) looks like a dance.
  • Villainous Plan Inertia: The defeat of Fire Lord Ozai allows Zuko to ascend to the throne and end the Hundred Years War, but it's only a start to the recovery process. The tie-in comics go into greater detail about how tensions between the three nations are still very much high.
  • Villainous Valor: The commandant of the Boiling Rock is a brutal authoritarian and a thug. He is also perfectly willing to command his own men to kill him rather than allow enemies of the Fire Nation to escape his prison.
  • Villains Out Shopping: The episode "The Beach," as its name suggests, involves Azula and co. hanging out at the beach.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend:
    • Let's just say that potential harm to Aang is a very bad idea. Zuko receives a death threat over it and Hama becomes the victim of Katara's first use of Bloodbending when she tries to kill him in "The Puppetmaster."
    • When Azula attempts to murder Zuko, Mai opts to betray her friend and attack her fellow countrymen rather than let her boyfriend fall to his death.
  • The Voiceless: Longshot, until Jet's death scene.
  • Voice of the Legion:
    • While in the Avatar State, Aang speaks with the voices of every Avatar that came before him on top of his own. Whether this is terrifying or not depends on what all those voices are saying.
    • Wan Shi Tong, the guardian owl of the library in "The Library," speaks this way, too.
    • Li and Lo have their moment, too, providing the same effect with two completely normal voices in the first episode of season 3.
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    W 
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Admiral Zhao was certainly a credible threat in Book 1 thanks to his resources, but still handable. The entrance of Princess Azula in Book 2, on the other hand, completely changed the game and the heroes' inability to adjust to her threat level quickly enough resulted in their most crushing defeat in the Book 2 finale.
  • Walking the Earth: The Season 1 plot; overlaps with Stern Chase.
  • "Walk on the Wild Side" Episode: Katara decides to pull a scam with Toph to prove she can be fun. It backfires, horribly.
  • War Is Hell: A kid-friendly version of this trope appears in most episodes, and the show seriously explores the prolonged effects of Imperialism, foreign occupation, and even genocide while still remaining viewable for the whole family. Its responsible, yet brutal depiction of war and its consequences is one of the stated reasons for why it won a Peabody Award.
    "Little soldier boy, come marching home...."
  • Warrior Prince: Prince Zuko. Even Iroh, technically, since he still holds the "prince" title, although he tends to go by "General" now.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: After Azula wins a volleyball game via explosive firebending:
  • Watch Out for That Tree!: Aang does this to a boulder in the opening credits, as well as Sokka's snow tower in the pilot and a pillar in the second season premiere.
  • Watching the Sunset: Usually done at the end of certain episodes. It's also the last scene in the series.
  • Water Is Womanly: Female waterbenders in the patriarchal Northern Water Tribe are only taught healing, a waterbending-only technique, and forbidden from learning how to fight, with men also forbidden from learning healing. The episode "The Waterbending Master" has Katara challenge the notion that female waterbenders should only heal.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: An in-universe example. All the citizens of any of the four nations wear their nation's colors, and most will have their country's emblem somewhere on their clothes. All the time. To the point that, while hiding out in a non-native kingdom, virtually the only thing any of the characters must do to blend in is wear that nation's colors. Overlaps with the Color-Coded for Your Convenience of the show.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: During the century of the war, the remaining nations lacked one thing that would make them a credible threat to the Fire Nation—unity. Due to the lack of a united front, it was all the more easy for the Fire Nation to pick them off one by one. Even the Earth Kingdom lacked the unity to stand against the Fire Nation, which was why most of its provinces fell so easily.
  • We Can Rule Together: Azula's unsuccessful pickup line for boys. The proposition does, however, work when she tries it with Zuko. In another more serious example, Fire Lord Sozin's offer to Avatar Roku.
  • We Have Reserves: The basis of the plan that Zuko spoke out against.
  • Went Crazy When They Left: Ty Lee and Mai decide they want to be out of the iron grip of Azula and rebel against her. This is the start of her downfall.
  • We Will Meet Again:
    • In Season 1, Zuko says it to Iroh to reassure his uncle that Zuko will survive his plan to capture the Avatar at the North Pole.
    • Also said by Koh to Aang in the same two-parter. They don't meet again in the show, but Aang meets Koh again in a supplemental game on the Nickelodeon website.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Zuko's been away from home for three years on a mission to "restore" his honor and prove to his father that he's worthy of the crown. At least, that's what he tells himself. He finds out later that he just wanted his father to accept him for who he was; it took him two and a half seasons to realize that it would never happen.
  • Wet Means Defeated: Seeing that this show is aimed at a younger audience, and that there are people who can bend water, plenty of bad guys end up like this, though mostly those of the Fire Nation Mook category.
  • Wham Episode: The Season 2 Finale. Zuko has been so blatantly set up for a Heel–Face Turn through most of the second season that when he doesn't make one in "The Crossroads of Destiny" it is incredibly shocking (not so much the fact that he doesn't turn, but the way in which he doesn't). In addition, there's also Azula conquering Ba Sing Se and putting Aang into a coma. Just another way Avatar took a sledgehammer to the Animation Age Ghetto.
  • Wham Line:
    • Zuko is the recipient of one in "The Avatar and the Fire Lord"; after being told by Iroh to look at the story of how his great-grandfather died, he looks up Sozin's personal history, only to learn nothing he doesn't already know. When he hears the line, he has the facial expression of someone who soiled themselves:
      Iroh: [to Zuko] You have more than one great-grandfather, Prince Zuko. Sozin was your father's grandfather; your mother's grandfather was Avatar Roku.
    • Toward the end of the first season, it appears the Waterbenders will gain the advantage at night.
      Admiral Zhao: [to Iroh] I assure you, I have everything under control. I intend to remove the moon as a factor.
    • In "Lake Laogai," Toph delivers a Wham Line regarding Jet, as he's dying and assuring his friends that he'll be OK:
      Toph: He's lying.
    • From The Puppetmaster:
      Hama: Congratulations, Katara. You're a blood-bender.
  • Wham Shot: A dual-wham, both in- and out-of-universe in The Tales of Ba Sing Se
    • Iroh seems to be preparing a dinner picnic to watch the sunset, until he takes out a piece of paper and lights two incense sticks, and the point of view changes to a memorial painting of his son.
      Iroh: Happy Birthday, My Son.
    • Ending Text for "The Tale of Iroh": In Honor of Mako
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There're quite a few mice unaccounted for, especially when characters get Put on a Bus. Many of those buses come back in the comics.
    • Where did the crew of Zuko's ship go? They were explicitly pressed into Admiral Zhao's fleet. Whether they survived the Siege of the North is another question altogether.
    • Master Yu and Xin Fu were stuck in the metal box and couldn't metalbend. They're not mentioned again until Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift, where Toph's father says they gave up searching for her at that point. This still doesn't explain how they got out of the box, but suppose someone came by and found a way to break it open?
    • What happened to the rest of the Joo Dees?
    • What happened to Ursa? This isn't revealed in the actual show, but it's the focus of The Search.
    • What happened to Hawky?
    • Shyu, the only fire sage to still be loyal to the Avatar, and in reality the Gaang's first Fire Nation ally. He helped them get past his fellow sages and talk to Roku, then disappeared during the destruction of the Fire Temple. He is briefly shown in Avatar: The Last Airbender – Smoke and Shadow to be working at the Dragon Bone Catacombs.
    • What happened to Chit Sang, the prisoner that escaped with Sokka, Zuko, Hakoda, and Suki from the Boiling Rock? We see him, Hakoda, The Duke, Teo, and Haru escape on the stolen airship in the beginning of "The Southern Raiders." Everyone except Chit Sang appears at the end of the finale.
    • Guru Pathik looks and sounds like an Indian and has an Indian name, but we never see anyone else of the same ethnicity. Where did he come from, and what happened to him after he taught Aang the chakras?
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Lampshaded, when Sokka calls out the elemental powers of the Gaang, in the style of Captain Planet and ends with "fan and sword" (Suki's and his respective skills).
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: In the finale Aang is angsting about whether killing the Fire Lord is justified, but by that point in the series his personal bodycount is in the dozens at least (and in the thousands if you include his Avatar State rampage in season one). He then opens the fight by blowing up the airship Ozai is riding on, presumably killing many (or all) of the crew.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Sokka just before he Takes A Level in Badass.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • When Aang starts literally and figuratively Playing with Fire, he seriously burns Katara, a testament to his immaturity at that point in the story. Sokka tackles and chews out Aang for it.
    • The same can be said for him hiding the map to their father from them. What Sokka says is quite true... but harsh.
    • Sokka calls out Jet twice over his extreme behavior, such as robbing an old man simply for being a Fire Nation citizen and later for trying to drown an entire town full of people to get at a few Fire Nation soldiers. This also earns a reprimand from Aang and Katara, who were tricked into helping.
    • Also done to Aang in regards to his 100-year absence early in the series - though in his case, he already felt guilty about it.
    • Wan Shi Tong, guardian of the spiritual library, is immensely fed up with people who come seeking knowledge of battle and warfare under the excuse that this war is perfectly justified and righteous, and he lets the heroes know it. Further justified in that, though Aang and friends weren't responsible for it, the current war did result in a good chunk of the library getting damaged.
    • Jet gets another one when, instead of going straight, he decides to find evidence of Iroh and Zuko being Firebenders, so that he can turn them in.
    • Katara gets her own when she tries to take Appa behind the group's back for her selfish quest of personal vengeance—during which she tells Aang, who lost his entire civilization to genocide, that he doesn't understand her pain, and tells Sokka he must not have loved their mother enough.
  • What Would X Do?:
    • "What would Uncle do?" is a question Zuko frequently asks himself when trying to do the right thing in Season 3. Sometimes results in Ice Cream Koans.
    • Aang does this just before consulting the previous avatars for advice.
  • Wheel of Pain: Flopsy gets chained to one of these.
  • When She Smiles: Both Zuko and Mai.
  • Whip It Good: A frequently used waterbending technique. Firebending, as well: Zuko in the second finale against Katara's water ones, along with a stage magician and a circus animal trainer.
  • White Man's Burden: This is the Fire Nation's official reason for conquering and colonizing the rest of the world: they want to "share their greatness" with the rest of the world. Certainly, Fire Lords Azulon and Ozai don't care about that and they just want to be the supreme rulers of everything, but that was Fire Lord Sozin's reason for beginning the war in the first place.
  • White Mask of Doom: Koh, the face-stealing spirit, wears one.
  • White Sheep: Zuko, right from childhood, Iroh because of circumstances.
  • Who Are You?: Zuko gets such a scene after he defeats a group of thugs in his Day in the Limelight:
    Gao: Who... who are you?
    Zuko: My name is Zuko! Son of Ursa and Fire Lord Ozai! Prince of the Fire Nation and heir to the throne!
  • Who Would Want to Watch Us?: "The Ember Island Players"
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "The Storm", "Appa's Lost Days", "Zuko Alone", "The Avatar and the Fire Lord"
  • Whole Plot Reference:
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Toph, due to her Disability Superpower, really dislikes flying, sailing, or riding huge mounts, though not to the extent that she's outright scared. (Then again, she does mention that riding Appa without a saddle is terrifying.) Appa, being a Sky Bison, hates going underground, and also develops a fear of fire following the events of "Appa's Lost Days."
  • William Telling: In a flashback to Zuko's childhood, Azula puts an apple on Mai's head and hits it with a fire blast, telling Zuko it's a "game." Mai freaks out from having a burning apple on her head and Zuko, trying to help her, accidentally knocks her into the fountain. All of this, because Azula suspects Mai has a crush on Zuko.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Aang has a crush on Katara from the first episode and it remains unclear if they will admit their feelings and begin a romance. In the end, They Do.
  • Wise Old Turtle: The lion-turtles are mountain-sized creatures thousands of years old, who originally gave humanity the ability to bend the elements. In thanks, the humans hunted them to near-extinction. The last one gives Aang the ability to block someone's bending ability, which comes in handy for the final battle.
  • With a Friend and a Stranger: The character dynamic in Season 1 and half of Season 2.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Ozai at the end. Also Azula is an inversion; she snaps because she's realizing she's either losing political power or never had it in the first place.
  • With My Hands Tied:
    • In the first episode, Aang tells some guards that he could take them with his hands behind his back (which he proceeds to actually do).
    • King Bumi manages to show his skill while trapped in a solid metal box. Aang explicitly asks how Bumi is able to earthbend while in said box, with his body locked in place. Bumi's response: "They didn't cover up my face!"
    • He does the same trick twice, breaking out of the box using only his face during the Day of Black Sun and proceeding to take Omashu back on his own. The second time is exceptionally skilled earthbending for the additional reason they tend to need some contact with the Earth in order to bend (although Toph can bend earth which is in the air). Bumi's metal box is suspended high above any earth, and with his face alone he draws enough earth to him to break out. Aang uses a similar distance trick for his Sphere of Power in Sozin's Comet.
    • Iroh does this when captured by earthbenders, only he actually uses the shackles to aid in his delivering a beatdown. Twice in one episode.
      • As the Avatar Extras put it, "Earthbenders 0, Naked Shackled Guy 3."
    • Subverted when the group is captured in the Earth King's throne room in "The Earth King". Aang pulls his hands free to wave and puts them right back, despite his earthbending being at elementary level.
  • Wizard Beard: Avatar Roku has one.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Bumi is over 112, Guru Pathik over 150, and Avatar Kyoshi lived for 230 years, powerful to the end. The lattermost is noted as exceptional, even for Avatars.
  • Woman Scorned: Mai, in "The Boiling Rock."
  • The Wonka: "Bumi, you're a mad genius!"
  • World of Badass: To the point where random old guys fight Platypus Bears.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech:
    • Zuko's Calling the Old Man Out
    • Katara's speech to Zuko where she tells him exactly what will happen to him and his destiny if he even looks like he's threatening Aang.
  • The Worm That Walks: Huu's swamp-monster disguise.
  • Worst. Whatever. Ever!:
    • Toph calls Ba Sing Se the "Worst. City. Ever." based on the rules the Dai Li imposes.
    • Also from Toph, in Part 1 of the Finale:
      Worst. Fieldtrip. Ever.
    • At the end of "Avatar Day", Sokka sums up the whole experience with, "This is by far the worst town we've ever been to."
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: The Gaang (including Sokka, for all his hating of the Fire Nation) hold to this trope. In "Jet," when Jet's idea of fighting the occupying Fire Nation is to blow a dam to flood a village of civilians (of the Earth Kingdom!) that also happens to have some soldiers the Gaang try their best to stop it.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: A bullying jerck at the Fire Nation school Aang attends attacks him. Aang doesn't fight back, just dodges, and after a particularly wild swing, the bully ends up tumbling to the ground, just in time for the headmaster to show up. The bully adds some sniffles for good measure.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math:
    • Fire Sage Shyu is about 60 during the present, and his grandfather was already an old man when Roku was in his 20s!
    • Koh mentions that Avatar Kuruk tried to slay him 800-900 years before the present when Aang comes to see him, long before Kuruk could've possibly be born according to the timeline.
    • This is the reason Avatar Kyoshi lived to be 230 years old.
    • It's canon that Roku is Ursa's grandfather, but he was already dead for 74 years when she was born, and died at 70. His daughter, Rina, had to have been long past menopause age to have given birth to Ursa and be Roku's daughter.
    • At Azulon's funeral, he is said to have reigned 23 years. Bear in mind, his father, Sozin, was 70 years old 112 years before the start of the series, supposedly making him 154 when he died.
  • Wrong Context Magic:
    • When it comes to bending, the Avatar goes by different rules than anyone else; Aang can bend all four elements, access the Avatar State, and use other spiritual powers. Sokka eventually lampshades how spiritual abilities don't fit with how the rest of the world works by saying, "That's Avatar stuff; it doesn't count."
    • Throughout the show the Gaang encounter various specialized forms of Bending that none of them expected or know how to counter (at least initially):
      • Lightningbending, a Difficult, but Awesome form of Firebending only the most skilled benders can use note  that requires extreme focus and control to use, the complete opposite of normal Firebending which runs of rage and/or passion. Likewise, lightning redirection is a technique create by Iroh as a counter to lighningbending known only to himself, Zuko, and Aang.
      • The Foggy Swamp Tribe from "The Swamp" use much more rigid movements than normal Waterbending and some (most notably Huu) specialize in "Plantbending," manipulating plantlife by bending the water within it. Huu's capable of using this to create a massive swamp monster disguise out of vines (and later seaweed).
      • Toph is blind, but can utilize Earthbending to "see" through the earth around her. This allows her to become the greatest Earthbender in the world since she can sense and counter any Earthbending attack before the move is even finished.
      • Sandbending is a subset of Earthbending adapted to life in the Si Wong Desert that works closer to Airbending, utilizing more fluid motions in general and able to be used in conjunction with sand sailers to traverse the desert by creating small sand tornadoes.
      • Metalbending, a bending form once believed impossible until Toph was able to detect and bend the impurities in the metal. Notably, only Toph is capable of Metalbending, Aang is never shown picking it up.
      • Combustionbending, a form a Firebending unique to Combustion Man that works by channeling chi through a third eye tattoo to fire a laser beam of sorts that creates devastating explosions. Unlike other specialized forms of bending, it's never really explained why only Combustion Man is capable of this.
      • Bloodbending, using Waterbending to bend the blood within living being to essentially turn them into puppets and can only be preformed during a full moon. There are only two bloodbenders in the whole series: Hama (who created it) and Katara.
      • Energybending, an ancient from of bending that involves manipulating the energy within living beings and can either bestow or take away Bending. Literally nobody knows it even exists until a Lion Turtle gifts Aang with the knowledge and ability to use it.

    X 
  • Xanatos Gambit: Azula giving Zuko the credit for killing Aang in the Season 2 finale. If her victim survived then she's in the clear, and in the meantime, she has blackmail on Zuko.

    Y 
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Zuko for the first two seasons. Aang... well, check the title.
  • You Don't Want to Catch This: Pentapox.
  • You Just Told Me: Azula says (to Zuko) she heard that Zuko visited his uncle in prison. Zuko says that the guard he intimidated told on him, but Azula says "No, you did. Just now."
  • Younger Mentor, Older Disciple: Because he was frozen in ice for 100 years, Aang is technically older than most of the people who teach him the bending techniques. Toph is possibly the only one who is younger than Aang without the technicality.
  • You Need to Get Laid:
    • Iroh to Zuko. "I just want our new place to look nice, in case someone brings home a lady friend..."
    • Katara to Sokka. "I bet you wouldn't be so bossy if you kissed a girl."
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: The Avatar State is a transformation that before Aang masters it is an Unstoppable Rage triggered by emotional trauma (or mortal danger).
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Katara, when she bloodbends for the first time and is congratulated by Hama.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Aang tries to get his group free passage on the ferry to Ba Sing Se, and the woman taking tickets doesn't find his Avatar costume any more believable than those in the nearby group of Aang cosplayers/impersonators.
    • In "Ember Island Players", a kid tells Zuko that he got his scar on the wrong side.
  • Your Magic's No Good Here: When Aang travels to the Spirit World, he can't use bending there.

    Z 
  • Zeppelins from Another World: The single biggest Oh, Crap! moment in the series after Azula ambushing Aang with her lightningbending. Granted, there is foreshadowing at the end of the episode introducing the war balloon, with the Fire Nation officer finding it after the battle. So, they showed a fleet of war balloons for the initial Oh, Crap!, and THEN came the zeppelin armada.


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