The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

The world of Avatar is one of richest fictional franchises in recent memory. From its magic karate to its intricate global history to its pan-Asian overall philosophies, it stands apart as a unique creation. It’s deep enough to fill up two whole shows (The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra) with plot and characters while still leaving fans hungry for more. Speaking of characters, one of the most endearing parts of the Avatar mythos is large cast of memorable characters. Some of these characters have more screen time than others, but they’re all worth celebrating. So here are, unranked, some of the best side characters from both shows in the Avatar universe.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

1. Avatar Roku

Avatar Roku is basically the Dumbledore of the Avatar world. He’s an old, bearded, paternal, seemingly all-powerful guide to our young magical heroes. However, also like Dumbledore, he’s hiding a surprisingly morally grey past behind that nurturing persona. His relationship with Fire Lord Sozin, the instigator of the Fire Nation’s genocidal war, is a great bit of backstory.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

2. Mai

As Princess Azula’s sidekick, Mai could have easily been a one-note character. She’s the gloomy teen girl contrasted against Ty Lee the bubbly teen girl. But as the show teases out her relationship with Prince Zuko the more complex and fascinating a character she becomes. Zuko’s arc is the strongest on the show, and Mai’s becomes stronger by association. She also plays a pivotal role in Azula’s final breakdown, another great arc.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

3. Long Feng

Avatar trains viewers to expect that villains only come from the Fire Nation. After all, that’s the country waging war across the world for a century. So when we discover that the capital of the Earth Kingdom, the safest place on the planet, is actually under secret authoritarian control, we are shocked. And we hate the man responsible, the cold and ruthless bureaucrat Long Feng. A villain we love to hate is a great villain indeed.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

4. The Sun Warriors

If you want to get reductive, each of the major cultures in Avatar maps onto an Asian culture or a culture from people descended from Asia. The Earth Kingdom is China, the Fire Nation is Japan, the Air Nomads are Tibetan, and the Water Tribe are Eskimos. However, the Sun Warriors, some of the earliest practitioners of the art of firebending, are clearly modeled after South American Aztec and Mayan cultures. So with their one brief appearance, they broaden the scope of the show’s international influences in a really exciting and unexpected way.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

5. Adult Avatar Aang

In the The Last Airbender Aang is obviously a main character. The show is about his journey and is even named after him. However, by The Legend of Korra he’s been dead for 16 years, and the legacy he left behind as an adult still shapes the characters. He provides spiritual guidance to his successor as you’d expect, but it’s the quietly sad relationship between Aang and his now-adult children that adds so many appreciated layers of depth to his character. What made Aang a great leader for his people and for the world may have also made him a not-so-great father.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

6. Ikki

Ikki is the Jan Brady of the Avatar universe. A hyperactive middle child, she’s constantly overlooked in favor of her intelligent older sister Jinora and increasingly dickish little brother Meelo. But as one of the few airbenders left, Ikki deserves more attention. And whenever the show checks in on her, whether she has run away to make tea with animals or is negotiating with fascists, we’re all the better for it.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

7. Tarrlok

The biggest difference between The Legend of Korra and its predecessor, at least when it debuted, was the show’s new urban setting. And like any city, Republic City has a seedy criminal underbelly and scheming politicians of all nationalities using that crime to further their own agendas. Secret bloodbender Tarrlok is another foe who begins as a bit of a stock character before gaining new depths, and the place the show ultimately takes him is one of the grimmest yet oddly poignant moments of the franchise.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

8. Avatar Wan

One part Buddha part and one part Keanu Reeves, Wan becomes the first Avatar after merging with Raava the spirit of light during a fight for the fate of the Earth at Harmonic Convergence. But he’s also a good, chill dude we care about who just wants everyone, spirits and humanity, to get along. Even once he’s a literal god we feel for him as a person. You could even see the Avatar cycle itself as Raava honoring Wan’s legacy centuries after his death.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

9. Zaheer

Korra’s self-contained seasons allowed the show to mix up its main villains. Zaheer is the best of the bunch, and not just because he was voiced by Henry Rollins. After two show’s worth of seeing airbenders as oppressed, lighthearted, good people, it was jarring witnessing the logical dark conclusions of a valid interpretation of airbender philosophy. Air is the element of freedom, so total anarchy is the only real political stance. Zaheer’s more violent airbending techniques, from flight to literally sucking the life out of someone, were also a visual treat.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

10. Suyin Beifong

The daughter of Toph, sister of Lin, and matriarch of the progressive metalbending city of Zaofu, famous Anne Heche performance Suyin Beifong is one of the more morally flexible ally characters from the latter half of Korra. She’s dedicated to helping people better themselves and she fiercely loves her family. However, she holds onto some personality traits from her criminal past that help the cause in ways more rigid characters can’t. But she adds friction as well, friction that pretty much causes the global conflict of the final season. Fans used to think Su would end up being a secret villain, but the show was smart to keep her a light shade of gray, like metal.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

11. Aasif Mandvi

Hear me out. The Last Airbender was a terrible movie. Even a good filmmaker couldn’t adapt 20 episodes worth of elaborate cartoons as one moderately budgeted live-action film, and M. Night Shyamalan isn’t a good filmmaker. But Aasif Mandvi as General Zhao was such a weird but entertaining bit of miscasting that I smile every time I remember it actually happened. Mandvi tries his best and I respect that, even if the movie he’s in leads to more unintended laughs than any Daily Show sketch.

Purchase the entire series from Amazon here.

The Best Side Characters from the World of Avatar | Television | Geek.com

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