Avatar: The Last Airbender Episode 4 masterfully expands Zuko and Iroh's relationship

The fourth episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, "Into the Dark" brings love in the secret tunnel and tears with Iroh's backstory
Avatar: The Last Airbender. Utkarsh Ambudkar as King Bumi in season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024
Avatar: The Last Airbender. Utkarsh Ambudkar as King Bumi in season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024 /

After a head-spinning third episode, Netflix's live-action of Avatar: The Last Airbender course-corrected with a fourth installment which gives us some very satisfying backstory for Uncle Iroh and Prince Zuko.

Iroh was captured in Omashu and now shares a prison cell next to Aang. One of the benefits of having the entirety of the Avatar universe to work with is that the showrunners can lay the seeds for Iroh and Zuko's turn away from the Fire Nation early on. This is the second time we've seen Iroh show regret for the war his nation has waged on the other nations of the world, and his role in it. I also like that Aang is the one bringing this out of him by simply pointing out the cruel hypocrisy of the Fire Nation agenda.

Interestingly, it seems like Iroh is on board with what Aang is saying, but the only thing holding him back is Prince Zuko. The crowned prince is still of the belief that capturing the Avatar will solve all of his problems, but Iroh knows that isn't true. He can only slowly try to peel back Zuko's trauma and obsession to avoid Zuko completely rejecting him. We find out that Iroh has the utmost patience beause Zuko was there for him when his son Lu Ten died. The flashback to Lu Ten's funeral is my favorite new addition to the story so far, where Zuko comforts Iroh and reminds him of how much of a positive impact Lu Ten had on his life.

This scene adds so much depth to the Fire Nation storyline, because it explains the unyielding bond Iroh has with Zuko. He sees Zuko as a son now that his own is gone and Ozai has shunned him. Zuko was the only one there to comfort Zuko, and that's why Iroh sticks with him through his banishment. Good stuff.

Avatar: The Last Airbender review, Episode 4, "Into the Dark"

The rest of the crew goes through mostly show-adapted storylines. Sokka and Katara enter the secret tunnel under Omashu in an attempt to get Aang out of Bumi's prison. I have to say I wasn't expecting Chong and his music-loving group of hippies to make an appearance this season but it was pretty fun.

The weird part was the fact that the only way to navigate through the tunnels is to trust in love. In the Nickelodeon show, Aang and Katara kiss so the lights activate in the tunnel to show them the way out. But the Netflix version shows Sokka and Katara having a loving sibling moment, which attracts a badger mole...which apparently are sensitive to human feelings? I thought the details on this were thin and it felt a bit fast and loose.

Meanwhile, Aand is hosted by his old friend Bumi, who he knew 100 years ago when Aang visited Omashu. I think Bumi was handled as best as can be expected considering he's a 112-year-old insane man who is also a jacked earthbender. Props to Bumi's actor Utkarsh Ambudkar for going through an undoubtedly extensive makeup and prosthetic process. Sure, some of Bumi's jokes didn't land but that's kind of the point.

Like Kyoshi, Bumi also guilts Aang by pointing out he slept through the worst parts of the war. While he was frozen in ice, Bumi was leading a city and making tough decisions for his people. I have to say, it was this point in the story that I really wish they cast an older actor for Aang and made the character about 16 years old. This show tries and fails to capture the light-hearted aspect of the cartoon by making Aang a goofy 12-year-old, but it just doesn't work for live action.

Aang urging Bumi to have more fun after he just explained how he has to make decisions like choosing between giving extra food to an orphanage or to the war effort just feels weird. It's hard to strike the balance between the cartoon's comedy and the seriousness of this live-action drama. That's the main problem with this adaptation, in my opinion. The main audience for this show is people in their 20s and 30s who grew up watching the original, like myself, and newcomers. I don't know who wants to see a 12-year-old child crack jokes like Jar Jar Binks. They could have made Aang a bit older and still keep his fun-loving nature intact with less cringe.

As for the episode itself, it was pretty solid throughout minus Aang wanting to have fun through war time.

Episode Grade: B-

atla. Avatar: The Last Airbender Episode 5 takes us on a messy journey to the spirit world. dark. Next

To stay up to date on everything fantasy, science fiction, and WiC, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and sign up for our exclusive newsletter.

Get HBO, Starz, Showtime and MORE for FREE with a no-risk, 7-day free trial of Amazon Channels