Iroh sitting at the funeral rite for his son Lu Ten in Netflix's adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender

This One Specific Music Choice Gave ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ One of Its Most Emotionally Powerful Moments

While I think we can all agree that Netflix’s new live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender doesn’t come close in quality to the original animated Nickelodeon show, it would be unfair to say it doesn’t have its moments.

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And those moments are when the show takes its time—something quite difficult to do when you’re trying to cram twenty episodes worth of storytelling and worldbuilding into the standard Netflix eight-episode formula—to delve into its characters and their backstories, bringing back beats and details that left a lasting impression on the fans back when the original show was airing. Details like pieces of dialogue, for example, or music.

Jeremy Zuckerman, who composed the soundtrack for the animated A:TLA series, was initially set to return to the Netflix project but left when the show’s original creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, parted ways with the Netflix team due to creative differences. 

Not many of his original themes were incorporated into the music that new composer Takeshi Furukawa created for the Netflix show, but some of the most iconic pieces did find their way into the show—think the beloved ending credits soundtrack, for example, or the theme for Aang’s Avatar State. Or “Leaves From the Vine”.

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tear bending is real ? @Avatar: The Last Airbender #avatarthelastairbender

♬ Lu Ten’s Funeral – Takeshi Furukawa

***Spoilers ahead for the entirety of Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender and some minor spoilers for the second season of the animated show***

If you pay attention, you’ll hear a melancholic and sweet piece of music start playing as Zuko tries to comfort his Uncle Iroh in the flashback depicted in episode 4, “Into the Dark”. The two are sitting at the funeral rite for Lu Ten, Iroh’s only son and therefore Zuko’s cousin, who died during the almost two-year-long Fire Nation siege that the then General Iroh, the Dragon of the West, led on the great Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se.

Zuko recalls a memory of Lu Ten and then ends up sitting with his Uncle as the rest of the mourners pay their respects to the dead prince. And the music that plays as Zuko talks is very familiar to all longtime fans of the show—the instrumental rendition of a song titled “Leaves From the Vine.”

Now, “Leaves From the Vine” appears originally in the fifteenth episode of the second season of the animated show, titled “The Tales of Ba Sing Se”. It’s an anthological episode where each of the main characters is the protagonist of a small story—Uncle Iroh helps various people around the city before finding a secluded spot under a tree to pay homage to Lu Ten on the day that would have been his birthday. As he sets up the memorial, he tearfully sings “Leaves From the Vine” in what is widely considered to be one of the most emotional and impactful moments of the entire Avatar: The Last Airbender series.

And since “Leaves From the Vine” is such an important moment from the original animated show, it’s very nice to hear an echo of it in this adaptation. It helps make this scene one of the most powerful of the entire show, deepening a moment that was already emotional on its own.

Not only is the musical choice a beautiful easter egg for longtime fans to catch, but it also helps solidify the idea that Zuko is also the brave soldier boy of the song in Iroh’s eyes—the seed for what is sure to be a very satisfying emotional payoff in any possible future season.

(featured image: Netflix)


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Author
Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.