By Rachel Yang
August 14, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT
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Warning: This article contains spoilers about The Legend of Korra.

The Legend of Korra, the sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender that debuted on Netflix today after it originally premiered in 2012, introduces us to many compelling characters. Audiences will get acquainted with the headstrong new Avatar, her devoted mentor Tenzin, friends Mako and Bolin, as well as other members of Team Avatar.

But we know some fans of ATLA might be dying to find out if Aang and other core characters from the original series will drop into Korra’s world. We’re happy to report that not only do a number of main characters return, there are also surprising cameos from figures we never thought we’d see again. Read the full rundown of eight familiar characters below.

Aang (as well as past Avatars)

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While our favorite airbender passed away before the events of the show, he does appear in flashbacks and speak to Korra spiritually. We see some fun callbacks to Aang’s goofy side, but some fans might be bummed to find out he wasn’t the best father, according to Kya and Bumi. The two siblings recall how Aang was preoccupied with Avatar duties and so zealous about retaining the Air Nomad culture that he devoted all his attention to Tenzin when they were growing up. Aang took his youngest son all over the world and left out the two non-airbenders.

In any case, we do get another glimpse of Aang’s astonishing ability that he first showcased on Fire Lord Ozai in the ATLA finale — he’s shown stripping bending powers from Yakone, the head of a criminal empire in Republic City. That capability is later abused by Yakone’s son Amon, who targets benders in Book One.

Other past Avatars shown on ATLA, including Roku and Kyoshi, also make brief appearances in Korra.

Katara

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Katara makes her first appearance in Korra’s inaugural episode, when she presides over Korra’s firebending test along with members of the White Lotus. And just like she is with Aang in ATLA, Katara is encouraging and kind with his successor, vouching for Korra’s skills when others doubt the headstrong bender. Given that she’s in her 80s in the sequel and has outlived both Aang and Sokka, we don’t get to see Katara fighting alongside the Avatar, but her healing abilities are instrumental when Korra gets seriously hurt later in the series.

Sokka

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Like Aang, Sokka dies before LoK begins. He appears in one episode of Korra through a flashback, which also features most of the original Team Avatar as adults. As chairman and Southern Water Tribe representative of the United Republic Council, Sokka convicts Yakone of his crimes in a trial — even shouting out his “trusty boomerang” in the verdict. But the mob boss’ bloodbending overpowers him and Toph, and it takes Aang’s intervention to stop Yakone permanently.

Sokka is also mentioned in the show as part of the group, along with Tenzin and Zuko, that thwarted an early attempt by anarchist group the Red Lotus to kidnap young Korra.

Toph

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Toph has one of the biggest footprints in LoK, with not only her helping out Team Avatar but her daughters Lin and Suyin coming to Korra’s rescue numerous times as well. We learn Toph set up a metalbending academy and, eventually, the metalbending police force in Republic City. She acted as its chief and, down the line, Lin serves in the same role.

And like with Aang, audiences find out the now-elderly Toph was far from an involved parent. In fact, she never told her daughters who either of their dads were and ended up leaving society entirely when they were adults. It’s in Foggy Swamp, Toph’s new home, where Korra stumbles on the recluse and asks her for help in Book Four. Subsequently, Toph is vital in the rescue mission to save Suyin and her family from Kuvira’s clutches, and her fight scenes remind us that even as a senior, Toph can still kick everyone’s butt.

Zuko

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If you thought the sight of grown-up Aang with a beard is a trip, wait until you see elderly Zuko as an old man with a shock of white hair. In Book Three of LoK, Korra seeks the former Fire Lord’s counsel about how she should handle Zaheer and the Red Lotus, relying on his close friendship with Aang for insight. We meet some of Zuko’s brood too, like his grandson Iroh, the United Forces general, and his daughter Izumi, the current Fire Lord. By Zuko's side is his dragon companion, Druk, which calls back to “The Firebending Masters,” one of The Last Airbender’s best episodes.

So much has changed since the days of ATLA, but one thing that hasn’t is Zuko’s smooth conversational skills, which he flexes after telling Desna and Eska about the secret prison containing P’Li, the firebender with combustion capabilities.

“Ironically, I hired a guy with a similar ability to kill the Avatar myself once,” he dryly remarks, referencing Combustion Man in ATLA. “Didn’t work.”

Still, we wish we could’ve seen a scene with Zuko and Iroh. It was bittersweet watching Zuko’s bewildered expression after Korra tells him she’s talked to his uncle numerous times in the Spirit World.

Iroh

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Speaking of Iroh, everyone’s favorite uncle is back dispensing more wisdom in LoK. By the time we see him in the sequel, Iroh has transcended the mortal realm and his Fire Nation ties to live in the Spirit World. Dressed in Earth Kingdom clothes and serving tea to his spirit friends, Iroh helps Korra on more than one occasion. He also later assists Tenzin and his siblings when they get lost in his turf, proving that no matter which era, Iroh is always there to guide his friends toward the right path.

Zhao

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After Iroh directs Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya to the Fog of Lost Souls to find Jinora, the trio stumbles upon Zhao, who’s been in the Spirit World prison since ATLA’s Book One finale. It makes sense that instead of killing him, the Ocean Spirit banished Zhao to the Fog for slaying Tui, the moon spirit, so the vengeful admiral can spend eternity being tormented by his own mistake.

Wan Shi Tong (and Professor Zei)

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Wan Shi Tong is as crabby as ever in Korra — and really, can you blame him? People won’t stop abusing his library’s knowledge for evil. The gargantuan owl spirit meets Jinora and warns her against staying too long in the library by pointing to the skeleton of Professor Zei. The last we saw the academic, he was with the Gaang and had a little more meat on his bones.

Wan Shi Tong allows Jinora permission to access his domain when he learns she’s Avatar Aang’s granddaughter and came to the Spirit World with Avatar Korra. Ultimately though, he sides with antagonist Chief Unalaq due to the waterbender’s close relationships with the spirits.

Honorable mention:

Cabbage Merchant

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Has any other minor character been as memorable as the unlucky vendor, whose vegetables were under constant attack by the Gaang? Fans will be happy to know that his fortune turns around following the events of ATLA. In LoK, we find out the cabbage merchant left the produce game to found the automobile enterprise Cabbage Corp. We don't see him on screen and still don’t learn his name, but ironically we do find out his son’s. In his sole appearance in the show, Lau Gan-Lan is arrested for conspiring with the Equalists after he’s framed by Hiroshi Sato, the owner of rival automotive company Future Industries. As he’s led away by the police, Lau utters a familiar phrase: “No, not my Cabbage Corp!”

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The Legend of Korra

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