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The Last Airbender – Characters Who Are Improved In The Live-Action Series

Aang, Sokka, and Zuko in Avatar the Last Airbender

The idea of a reboot is always challenging, as many fans of the original will deny that a reboot has any merit. Netflix has made several reboots of older properties, most recently attempting to bring animated shows into live-action. Their recent release of the new Avatar: The Last Airbender series has been another major moment for the company, though fans have debated over it.



While there are undeniably some things that each version of this story does better than the other, the characters themselves can be difficult to pin down. Some were given so much story through the many episodes in the original that the live-action version can’t compare. However, others actually got more screen time and focus in Netflix’s version, and have actually been improved on.


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6 Monk Gyatso

A Much More Tragic Loss

Monk Gyatso In Netflix's The Last Airbender

  • Appears in 4 Episodes
  • Played by Lim Kay Siu

One of the notable changes that the new show made from the original Avatar: The Last Airbender series lies in the story of how Aang became frozen in the ice, and missed the destruction of the Airbenders. As such, Monk Gyatso, Aang’s friend and a notable Airbender, is a loss much more keenly felt in this version of the show.

After viewers see him telling Aang that he is the Avatar and reminding him that he will always be his friend, fans feel the loss of this character much more deeply. His death is shown as he attempts to protect some of the younger Airbenders and faces off with a powerful firebender, who he is unable to match due to the presence of Sozin’s Comet in the sky. But he returns and Aang sees him again in the spirit realm, giving him even more chance to shine.

In the animated series, Gyatso never got this much screen time, only appearing in flashbacks. The live-action series gives him a much better, and more affecting, turn. His death is even more tragic by the end of the first episode, when Aang finds his skeleton upon returning to the Southern Air Temple.

5 Suki

Given Depth & Emotion

Suki In Netflix's The Last Airbender

  • Appears in 1 Episode
  • Played by Maria Zhang

This is another character who doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but does not necessarily need it to achieve more for her character than was done in the first season of the animated series. Suki is the leader of the warriors on Kyoshi Island, dedicated to the memory of the former Avatar of the same name. The elements of her character are preserved, such as her fierce fighting nature and her burgeoning relationship with Sokka. However, the live-action version adds more.

In both versions, she only appears in a single episode in the first season. In just that episode, viewers see her arguing with her mother about hiding away from the war, further scenes with Sokka, and her fascinating stance on how she must train harder than any bender, so she can match them without that power. These facets show a much deeper character. Many fans are left saddened that, despite this added characterization, she didn’t show up again in the first season of the live-action adaptation.

4 Fire Lord Ozai

An Expanded Villain


  • Appears in 7 Episodes
  • Played by Daniel Dae Kim

Fire Lord Ozai is the terrifying final boss of the series, as far as Aang and his friends are concerned. Their attempts to bring peace to the land all lead directly to this man, obsessed with controlling the entire world. His terrifying reign, the war which he inherited and expanded upon, is the centerpiece of both versions of the show.


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However, in the animated series, his face wasn’t even shown until the third season. After casting the famous Daniel Dae Kim as Ozai in the live-action series, the creators decided to give him a lot more characterization. He’s shown putting down resistance fighters alongside his daughter, Azula, with the strength of his fire-bending. This gives fans more reason to fear the eventual final confrontation between Aang and Ozai than when he was a faceless monster, hiding in the shadows.

3 Sokka

Developed Far More Quickly

sokka atla live action

  • Appears in 8 Episodes
  • Played by Ian Ousley

Of the main characters in the show, Sokka is the most improved from the animated series. Despite having a great character arc throughout the animated series, Sokka was slow to grow or change, particularly in the first season. However, the Netflix version gives him more to do, showing his burgeoning relationship with Suki and his eagerness to become a warrior. It also shows his abilities as an engineer, getting to the heart of the character.

Growing and learning quickly is vital for Sokka. It allows him to keep up with Katara and Aang, who both have bending talents and are mastering them at a speedy rate. In the animated series, he was left far behind in character work and had to catch up much later on. The live-action show doesn’t allow this to happen, even having him challenge Zuko to a fight in the first episode.

2 Bumi

100 Years Of Frustration

Bumi In Netflix's The Last Airbender

  • Appears in 3 Episodes
  • Played by Utkarsh Ambudkar

Bumi, or King Bumi, is an old friend of Aang’s from before he slept in ice for 100 years. Still alive, if slightly eccentric, Bumi has been leading Omashu as King and fighting against the Fire Nation for an entire century. In the animated series, he held some anger and confusion at Aang’s disappearance. This idea is explored much further in the Netflix series.

Bumi is another character who represents the devastating effects of the Fire Nation’s war on the world. Everyone has lived an entire lifetime and more under the strain of this war. It isn’t Aang’s fault he was sealed in the ice, but he still left the world without an Avatar for a hundred years. Bumi represents the frustration of this more than any other character. He still comes around by the end of Aang’s time with him in Omashu, and they part as friends again. But Bumi shows both the darkness and the light of this new version of the show, and represents the most powerful Earthbender introduced so far.

1 Commander Zhao

A Much More Central Presence


  • Appears in 6 Episodes
  • Played by Ken Leung

The primary villain of the first season of the animated series manages to retain that role in the Netflix show, despite Zuko, Azula and Ozai all having prominent roles. In this version, Zhao is portrayed much more as a narcissist and opportunist who belongs among the ranks of villains like Azula and Ozai, completely ruthless and without honor.

Zhao was originally a similar type of villain, but with a lot less characterization. Ken Leung is a fantastic actor, and he brings a level of dedication and madness to the role. He shows how Zhao slips further into delusion, eventually reaching the point where he believes killing the moon spirit will do some good. This kind of act is not taken lightly by the show, improving the character of Zhao despite not keeping him around longer than the first season.


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