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I'm not going to lie, I've been looking forward to this one.
This, the pinnacle of emotion and development for our protagonist, is, for some reason far beyond me, not in the film. The film had all the pieces of a really, really emotional scene ready, and yet chose to show only the ending to this whole subplot. Though over an hour into the film, an unavoidable aspect, this sets up quite a bit of the rest of the film, in particular, the subplot of Aang not wanting to be the Avatar in the first place.
This version takes elements of both my first draft, the film, and the series to weave it into a single, cohesive scene.
The Legend of Aang: Painful Memories
EXT. YÁOLÁN FOREST – DUSK
The camera moves over a forest, as we see smoke rising from a campsite.
SOKKA is sitting near a fire pit, gently stirring something. KATARA lays out packs on the ground, looking over as she does.
AANG sits on a log, slumped over. SOKKA notices her gazing.
See if you can’t get him to help us out, will you?
KATARA whips her head to face him, a definite anger on her face. His face fades.
KATARA puts down the packs, walking softly over to AANG’S spot.
He turns her head toward her as she sits down, giving her a small reassuring smile.
She holds out her hand to him, revealing GYATSO’S NECKLACE within it. He looks up to her.
I saved it for you.
AANG takes it from her. She hops over the log, but stops.
How much does the Fire Nation control?
KATARA turns to face him, unsure whether to answer.
They’ve got most of the Earth Kingdom. Even our tribe was part of them.
AANG closes his eyes in anguish.
KATARA (O.S.) (CONT’D)
They haven’t gotten to the big cities yet, I’ve heard. But they’re probably close.
How many people is that?
How many people is that I was supposed to protect, to serve?
He swallows and tilts his head down. SOKKA walks forward, joining KATARA.
I’ve already failed them. All of them.
No you haven’t, you-
Don’t you understand?
I went back there to find a master, to finish my training.
Why should that be a problem?
Because I ran away before they could train me!
KATARA and SOKKA recoil, exchanging glances. AANG places his head in his hands, as KATARA seats next to him.
It’s a long story.
We’ve got a lot of time.
AANG composes himself.
It started when I was eleven.
FLASHBACK - ANIMATED
EXT. SOUTHERN AIR TEMPLE – DAY
AANG and his friends play in the temple’s courtyard, as the camera descends on them.
My skills had always been ahead of the others. I hadn’t really thought anything of it. As far as I was concerned, I was just very good at games.
AANG continues playing a ball game with his friends, sending it flying over a hoop. He celebrates, until he is approached by GYATSO and the elders.
GYATSO is clearly fatigued by something, but composes himself for the proceedings.
Aang… Might you come with us?
AANG turns nervously to his friends, who motion him on.
INT. SOUTHERN AIR TEMPLE - COUNCIL CHAMBERS - DAY
AANG sits before the high elders, with GYATSO standing next to PASANG on his throne. TASHI leans forward to speak.
Aang, your skills have never ceased to amaze the council. You have constantly shown the conviction and tenacity that so many others sorely lack. On top of that, you have shown an enthusiasm in the other cultures never before rivaled.
AANG nods confusedly.
This might come as a shock to you… But you are aware of some of the recent events unfolding elsewhere, are you not?
AANG nods once again.
Normally we would wait until you were sixteen, the proper age, but…
But the Fire Nation is proving to be a true threat, and in times like these, we need you…
AANG squints confusingly.
PASANG signals another guard, who rushes in and unrolls a tapestry in front of AANG.
Within it are four toys, each one different from the rest.
You recognize these, no doubt.
AANG looks up.
Of course. I used to love these toys.
What compelled you to choose these over the others? There were thousands you might have selected.
AANG is almost mortified, now.
They seemed fun, I guess.
Because they seemed familiar. These were the relics of the Avatars Tarrnuk, Kyoshi, Mozor, and Lomir.
AANG is still confused by the news.
This is no coincidence, young one. You chose these because you are the Avatar.
It finally hits him, and AANG settles down in his spot.
We’re sorry you had to find out now, but…
The world is in a time of great need, and the time has come for you to begin your training.
AANG’s expression is unreadable, as he simply sinks his head down.
GYATSO is clearly unhappy.
EXT. SOUTHERN AIR TEMPLE – COURTYARD – DUSK
AANG and GYATSO walk the trail up to the temple, AANG still very silent.
Something troubles you.
They couldn’t have made a mistake, could they?
GYATSO looks to him sympathetically.
I mean, master, I’ve never had any reason to think I was anymore than what I am…
Aang, I realize the anxiety you must be feeling. I’ve never told you this, but I was once a good friend of Avatar Roku’s.
I was. He felt exactly as you did. Uncertainty, confusion, fear. But, in time, he grew to accept it.
AANG does not look helped. GYATSO himself is not helped by his words.
Look… I don’t like it either. A mistake has been made somewhere.
Everything’s going to be different for us, isn’t it?
I don’t know.
AANG is brought down even further than before.
MONTAGE: AANG gloomily going through scenes of his new life (e.x.
Change it did. I barely saw the sun for the next two years. My time was consumed by training, lecturing, and studies of Avatars’ past.
AANG sits in a study room, forlornly staring out the window at the outside. ATANNA gestures at a carving on the wall.
His words are distant as AANG stares into the rising sun. Eventually, he raps on AANG’s desk, alerting him.
But why must I learn this? It’s nothing! It’s only stories! If I have to do what you keep saying then I should be spending my time on technique, not stupid legends!
(raising his voice)
If you are to be a successful Avatar, you must learn the successes and failures of your incarnations! This is most pertinent, I assure you.
AANG gives up, placing his chin in his palm. ATANNA composes himself.
Now. Avatar Savi was forced to challenge the Emperor to a khang lōk…
AANG zones out once more.
GYATSO and AANG practice AIRBENDING forms, as GYATSO uses a small gust to knock AANG over. They both share a laugh.
Gyatso tried to inject some levity, but…
TASHI shows up, most displeased, and begins inaudibly berating GYATSO. AANG stands by, horrified.
As TASHI walks away, GYATSO looks on with great contempt.
ATANNA and AANG are finishing up a lesson, as AANG looks out the window to see his friends playing in the courtyard. As ATANNA starts off down one end of the hallway, AANG darts down the other.
One day, I decided to visit a few old friends.
AANG rushes into the courtyard as his friends begin a game. He smiles broadly for the first time in a while.
Jinju! Aka! Chinto! I’m back!
They briefly look his way, before turning back and beginning the game again.
AANG’s smile dies as he walks toward them.
AKA turns to face him.
Well, look who’s decided to show up again.
Yeah. What game are you playing?
Nothing you’d be interested in.
AANG is shocked.
Of course I would, what are we playing?
Don’t you have somewhere to be?
I got done early. What are we playing?
AKA whips around to face him.
Don’t you get it! We don’t want you. You removed yourself from us when you became the ‘all-powerful’.
AANG is shocked.
What are you talking about? I’m still me!
Why weren’t you here, then?
AANG grows angrier.
I… uh… Er…
That’s what I thought.
AANG’s anger festers.
Now, run along. You have lesson with that dunghead master of yours, no doubt.
AKA turns to leave. AANG’s eyes widen.
AKA turns around.
His name is Gyatso!
AANG leaps forward onto AKA, landing a few hits before others try to pull him off.
GYATSO comes running in and pulls AANG off of him. AANG gets to his feet and walks away with GYATSO.
His friends yell at him inaudibly. AANG tries as hard as he can to keep composed.
The day came of the Presentation. The day where I would prove my worth in front of the whole group.
AANG walks down a hallway with GYATSO.
And I’d never dreaded anything more in my life.
AANG sits down in a small room, as GYATSO leaves down a hallway.
Time is shown passing as AANG soon gets up from his place to follow down the hallway. The sound of a heated argument continues on from within a large room. AANG stands next to the doorway, beginning to hear the conversation.
We must let up! I have seen the way he acts! He is a shell of his former self!
You have heard the reports, Gyatso! The Fire Nation is growing. If we were to wait, we would plunge the world into turmoil.
I understand, my friends, truly! But we cannot deprive him of his boyhood, no matter the circumstances. And sheltering and training him is not the answer!
Calm yourself, Gyatso.
I only want what is best for him!
And right now, that is his separation from you!
AANG widens his eyes. GYATSO is agog.
You don’t dare!
It is the only option, my friend. He will be sent to study under Pathik at the Eastern Temple tomorrow. Say your goodbyes.
AANG wells up. GYATSO sinks his head.
AANG has returned to the spot, as GYATSO comes to retrieve him. He has composed himself, trying to muster a smile for him.
Are you ready?
AANG nods. The two continue down the hallway.
Do you remember what to do?
They shall bow, and I must bow in return, to show that I am not above or below them.
The approach AANG’s dropping off point, and GYATSO kneels to face him.
You will do well. I know it.
AANG cannot help but embrace GYATSO wholeheartedly. GYATSO tightens his grip as well, but as a bell is sounded, the two part ways.
AANG is shown onto an auditorium stage, where many are assembled in front of it. An announcer, in VA NYU, invites AANG onto the stage.
I tried, I really did…
The crowd falls before him. AANG prepares to take the bow, but as he sees GYATSO in the crowd…
But I couldn’t do it.
AANG runs off stage. GYATSO erects himself and looks at AANG as he rushes away. Chatter erupts as he stands to follow.
AANG shuts himself in his room, collapsing onto his bed in a heap. He sits up, staring at his end table decisively.
I couldn’t think clearly. I probably wouldn’t have done what I did if I could.
AANG scrawls out a note of paper, leaving it on his pillow.
He surveys his room one last time, before donning his head and shutting the door.
EXT. CAMPSITE – DAY
KATARA and SOKKA sit with rapt attention, as AANG finishes his story.
I packed up my things and left that night. Appa and I were caught in a storm so ferocious I couldn’t help but freeze us to survive. Then you came along.
KATARA remains silent for a few beats.
I’m so sorry.
I abandoned them. When they needed me most. They all died because of me.
Aang, if you’d been there you would’ve been killed too.
What does it matter? I can’t face them now! I don’t have the experience. The world is doomed, and it’s my fault.
No it isn’t. Gyatso was right, they shouldn’t have told you. Not then.
AANG is forlorn.
Listen, that’s in the past. But you’re here now. And it doesn’t matter how much time has passed, your goal hasn’t changed. You still need to do now exactly what you needed to a century ago; stop the Fire Nation. And, I hate to say it, but you’re the only one who can do it. Now, what do you need to do?
AANG looks up.
I have to get to the Northern Water Tribe. I need to learn waterbending.
He looks to KATARA.
They still have masters up there, don’t they?
AANG breaks a small smile.
Are you up to that long a journey?
AANG’s smile widens.