How Avatar: The Last Airbender changes the timeline of the original show (and why it needs to)

The live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender is removing the "ticking clock" that lent a lot of tension to the original animated series, but there's a pretty good reason.
Avatar: The Last Airbender. (L to R) Kiawentiio as Katara, Gordon Cormier as Aang, Ian Ousley as Sokka in season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Cr. Robert Falconer/Netflix © 2023
Avatar: The Last Airbender. (L to R) Kiawentiio as Katara, Gordon Cormier as Aang, Ian Ousley as Sokka in season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Cr. Robert Falconer/Netflix © 2023 /

Next month, Netflix will air the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, its live-action remake of the classic series. Over a decade after they saved the world on Nickelodeon, Aang, Katara, Sokka and the rest of Team Avatar are ready to do it all again.

Obviously, there will be changes in the jump from animation to live-action. The rules governing when Aang can enter the "Avatar state" have been tweaked, and we'll be spending more time with characters from the tyrannical Fire Nation. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Albert Kim explained that the show also has something of a Stranger Things problem, meaning that there's a danger that the young cast members will grow up faster than their characters.

“All three seasons of the animated series essentially take place in the course of one calendar year,” Kim said. “There was no way we could do that. So we had to design this first season, especially, to accommodate the possibility of some time elapsing between the first and the second season.”

This means there will likely be a time jump between seasons 1 and 2 of the show, if Netflix even orders a second season. Making special effects-heavy series like this takes a lot of time and resources. Lead actor Gordon Cormier was 11 when he was cast as Aang, the titular last airbender who must master all four elements and bring peace to a world at war. He's 14 now. Who knows how old he'll be when the cameras start rolling on season 2?

A time jump is at odds with the original series, which gives us a strict deadline early in the first season, in the episode "Winter Solstice, Part 2: Avatar Roku." In that episode, Aang is told that Sozin's Comet will return in about a year. When this comet passes by the planet. the expansionist Firelord Ozai will use its power to lead the Fire Nation in a war of aggression and subjugate those nations he hasn't bulldozed already. If Aang can't stop him by that point, all is lost.

The series finale of the original show depicts the coming of Sozin's Comet, so we know exactly how much time passed between that early episode and the end of the show. The live-action remake can't have that. “The comet was their ticking clock,” Kim explained. “We removed that particular ticking clock from our show for now because we couldn't know exactly how old our actors would be for the subsequent seasons. We definitely thought about that going into season 1 so that we can accommodate for puberty, adolescence, time passing — all of those fun things that happen to real-life human beings that don't happen to animated characters."

It's unclear what exactly this means for the new show. Will there be a new deadline, but it'll just be further back? Maybe Sozin's Comet is coming in five years now? We know that C.S. Lee is playing Avatar Roku, so there will presumbly be an opportunity for him to impact this valuable information to Aang. Or maybe they'll leave out any mention of Sozin's Comet from season 1 and return to it when they have a better idea of how long it'll take to finish this show?

Again, there's no guarantee that Avatar: The Last Airbender will get to that point. Whether or not the show gets a second season will probably depend on how many people watch the first, which premieres on Netflix on February 22. That's what Kim and company are focused on. "There's still a lot of work that has to be done, and it's a race to the finish line at this point," Kim said. "So right now, that's all I'm consumed with. I don't want to think about tomorrow yet."

Next. atla. Every actor in Netflix’s Avatar: the Last Airbender remake (and who they’re playing). dark

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