With the arrival of Netflix live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender, interest has been reignited in the original animated series. While the series is often hailed a near sacred classic, there’s always a big “what if” among fans. What if there had been more? The original show did end with some loose threads after all. What would it have been like if Avatar had continued into a fourth season, one which would have likely been themed around the element of Air.
In April 2019, fans got a small peek into what could have been when former head writer of ATLA, Aaron Ehasz, sent shockwaves through the fan community. He revealed on his personal Twitter that at one point a fourth season of the series was briefly considered.
The major plot point Ehasz discussed was the character of Azula, the ruthless and power-hungry sister and enemy of Zuko. The show’s original ending left her in chains after she’d been overpowered by Zuko and Katara. Her mind shattered, the once powerful woman having a complete mental breakdown.
Ehasz’s plans for the fourth season would have involved Azula being given a redemption arc. In her deepest and darkest moment she would have turned to Zuko for help, paralleling his own journey out of darkness with the help of Uncle Iroh. He also said that one of the reasons season 4 didn’t happen was that ATLA creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko were focusing on The Last Airbender film directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
At San Diego Comic-Con 2019 we sat down with Ehasz to get further details about this fabled fourth season and he shared some exclusive insights into where it would have gone. Ehasz was keen to clarify right from the jump he didn’t want to sound like he was second-guessing DiMartino and Konietzko’s creative choices. It was simply that, towards the end of season three, he had been asked to think about what a fourth season would have been like.
“In my mind I was always thinking this was going to be a four season arc,” Ehasz said. “Mike and Bryan’s initial plan was three seasons, but there was a period where they were open to the possibility of a fourth season. There was a period where Mike said, ‘Hey, can you run season four?’ Then some of those plans got interrupted.”
Ehasz reaffirmed his earlier stated plans for a longer arc for Azula but also divulged additional details. One plotline would have followed up on Aang taking away Fire Lord Ozai’s bending at the end of the third season.
“My feeling about that was like there’s always a cost, right? There’s always some balance. You can’t just be like I’m the Avatar, taking your powers away. It’s a great power, but part of it is you just took all this evil into you. To take it away from someone else you’re holding onto it to protect the world.”
For Aang that would have been an incredible burden and something Ehasz would have wanted to see him deal with.
“The story I wanted to tell with Aang was about him struggling with taking some of that inside and probably a considerable amount of anger and guilt and big feelings. By the way, guess who would be the best person to have a mini vacation with? It’s Zuko! Someone who’s processed a lot of anger on his own, right?”
Ehasz stated other storylines included one around the spirit world featuring Iroh. Another was “a story about a child being born that people were wondering if this was another Airbender or not. In particular Aang started to wonder if this was the reincarnation of Gyatso. That was something I wanted to do and talk about the idea of friendships lasting beyond lifetimes.”
Even with these ideas for how a fourth season could have played out, Ehasz was quick to clarify that many loved ATLA exactly the way it was. “Obviously some right decisions were made.” Still, as Ehasz puts it, “we had a fourth season if the world had deemed it.”
With original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko now heading up Avatar Studios and an animated feature film following Aang set for release in 2025, is there a chance we could see these plans finally brought to fruition? It’s not impossible but with Ehasz working on the Netflix animated series The Dragon Prince, we’d guess that his ideas will go unused. However, if the live-action series is a smash success and they want to keep it going longer than the original series, there’s enough compelling ideas from Ehasz that it would be a solid jumping off point.
Special thanks to Hazel for their help with the interview for this article.