• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

Top 10 episodes of ‘Avatar the Last Airbender’

ByJohn Wintroub

Jul 12, 2020

Having recently rewatched Avatar: The Last Airbender with a couple friends via Netflix, I have been reminded how great the show is. Nearly every episode contains great moments that further both the characters’ developments and the story. Here are my 10 favorite episodes from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Spoilers for the entire show ahead!

10. Sokka’s Master

Sokka dueling Master Piandao in Book Three Chapter 4, “Sokka’s Master”

Sokka is my favorite character in Avatar: The Last Airbender, so naturally the episode that focuses on his development the most is one of my favorites as well. “Sokka’s Master” teaches that it is your own unique talents that make you strong. No matter where you come from or what skills you possess, anyone can be worthy of being taught by Master Piandao as long as they are not consumed by pride. Sokka forging a sword out of a space rock is pretty cool too.

9. The Storm

Zuko standing before his father in a flashback in Book One Chapter 12, “The Storm”

My favorite episode from Book One, “The Storm” finally brings to light the stories of Aang and Zuko. This episode is the first step in endearing Zuko to audiences, and the abuse he faced at the hands of his own father showed that Zuko was more than your average antagonist. After “The Southern Air Temple,” I thought that was all I needed when it came to Aang’s backstory. However, seeing the way his past friends and masters treated him allows us to further sympathize with Aang. The two stories being told simultaneously give us the feeling that their stories are not too different. This is cemented in the shared glance between Zuko and Aang at the end of the episode.

8. The Blind Bandit

Toph after defeating the Boulder in Book Two Chapter 6, “The Blind Bandit”

Before “The Blind Bandit,” I loved the group dynamic that Sokka, Katara and Aang shared and thought there was little room for new additions. I could not have been more wrong. Toph shows that wealth does not bring happiness. Being around those that accept you for you is all that truly matters. This is why, at the end of the episode, she leaves her family to join Team Avatar. “The Blind Bandit” presents the strong message about accepting who you are and learning to move beyond the expectations of others. Seeing Toph in action was a sight to behold and is one of the reasons why earthbending is my favorite bending style in the show.

7. Zuko Alone

Zuko being confronted by Earth Kingdom citizens in Book Two Chapter 7, “Zuko Alone”

The only episode in the entire show without Aang, Sokka, and Katara, “Zuko Alone” uses its singular focus on Zuko to further his story more than any previous episode. “Zuko Alone” is a western-style story of an outsider coming to a village and chasing out the antagonistic forces. We learn more about Zuko’s past, particularly the relationship with his mother, and how her disappearance affected his present. We also see Iroh as the great war general and discover why he disagrees so much with his own nation: the death of his son. The ending of the episode where the village learns Zuko’s true identity and shuns him forces Zuko to face who he is and realize how fearful people are of the Fire Nation.

6. The Avatar and the Firelord

Sozin giving Roku his prince crown in a flashback in Book Three Chapter 6 “The Avatar and the Firelord”

This episode begins with Zuko at his lowest points. Zuko is in mental turmoil, confused why he is still unhappy despite having everything he had always wanted. Both Aang and Zuko learn of the friendship Zuko’s grandfather and Aang’s past self shared. Sozin and Roku were both from the Fire Nation, being raised by the same teachings and becoming life-long friends. This was until Sozin decided to turn the Fire Nation into an empire, colonizing the Earth Kingdom. Their story shows that no matter their upbringing, “anyone’s capable of great good and great evil.” Additionally, the scene between Iroh and Zuko is one my favorite subtle moments in the entire show.

5. The Southern Raiders

Katara and Zuko confronting Yon Rha in Book Three Chapter 16, “The Southern Raiders”

Katara’s hatred for the Fire Nation had been developed in previous episodes, with the death of her mom even being mentioned in the very first episode of the show. By “The Southern Raiders,” Zuko had become a full-fledged member of Team Avatar, with everyone being completely on board with his addition to the team, except Katara. Katara has long linked her hatred of the Fire Nation to those actively pursuing their group. After showing Zuko sympathy in “The Crossroads of Destiny” (which I will discuss momentarily), Katara has not fully forgiven him for his betrayal. This episode teaches restraint, acceptance and the thin line between justice and revenge. When Katara finally forgives Zuko, it brought warmth to my heart.

4. The Crossroads of Destiny

Iroh defending Katara and Aang in Book Two Chapter 20, “The Crossroads of Destiny”

“The Crossroads of Destiny” shakes up each of our characters’ dynamics completely. Aang has forgone his training despite warning from Guru Pathik, leading to him being severely disadvantaged going into the fight against Azula. Katara and Zuko’s capture allows the two to form a bond over their mothers both being taken by the Fire Nation. This parallels to the conversation between Iroh and Aang, in which Iroh gives Aang my favorite piece of advice in the show “Perfection and power are overrated. I think you are very wise to choose happiness and love.” This all comes crashing down, when Azula offers Zuko what he has always wanted, the chance to return home with his honor restored. Backed into a corner, Aang gives up his love for Katara to enter the Avatar State, only to get mortally wounded by Azula. With Iroh captured, Zuko choosing the side of evil and Aang believed to be dead, the world would not be the same going into Book Three.

3. Appa’s Lost Days

Suki finding Appa in Book Two Chapter 16, “Appa’s Lost Days”

The saddest episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, “Appa’s Lost Days” is an episode focused entirely on Appa’s adventures after his capture by the sandbenders in “The Library.” We see Appa get sold, abused, starving and struggling on his own. Luckily, he is shown compassion by many, including Suki and Guru Pathik, who aid him in his travels. Upon reaching Ba Sing Se, we believe Appa to finally be safe, only to see him captured by Long Feng and the Dai Li. This episode hangs entirely on the shoulders of the sky bison, and despite being non-human, Appa carries the entire story. The amount of emotion on display with Appa is only possible because of the animated medium, and it leaves my face soaked in tears every time I watch it. Thus, when he is finally freed in “Lake Laogai,” it feels cathartic.

2. The Boiling Rock

Zuko and Sokka heading to the Boiling Rock in Book Three Chapter 14, “The Boiling Rock Part 1”

After their defeat on the Day of Black Sun, Sokka blames himself for the imprisonment of his father. This guilt leads Sokka to mount a rescue at the Boiling Rock, where he believes his father is being held. Zuko accompanies him and shenanigans ensue. This two-part episode explores what is probably my favorite character dynamic in the show. Sokka and Zuko have great chemistry, and the exploration of the two’s love lives allows for some easy bonding between them. Sokka reuniting with Suki and his father is incredibly heartfelt. However, my favorite moment of this episode is Mei turning on Azula after Zuko’s confession. Love will always triumph over fear.

1. Sozin’s Comet

Aang defeating Ozai in Book Three Chapter 21, “Sozin’s Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang”

“Sozin’s Comet” is everything great about Avatar: The Last Airbender packed into a four-episode long finale. There is fantastic world building, excellent character moments, breathtaking action and beautiful visuals that come together to create one of the most satisfying endings to a show I have ever seen. Aang is conflicted because he must kill Fire Lord Ozai to truly defeat him. Being a monk, he was raised to respect all the creatures of the Earth, even those that cause conflict. However, as the Avatar, he must put the safety of the world first before his own morality. This conflict has been a part of Aang’s motivation for the entire show. It is the very reason he was able to accept Zuko into the group so easily. When we see Aang defeat Ozai, not by killing him, but by taking away his power, it feels like the perfect conclusion for Aang. It may seem out of left field at first, but the show has been building to this through Aang’s compassion.

Zuko fighting Azula in Book Three Chapter 20, “Sozin’s Comet, Part 3: Into the Inferno”

However, the greater conflict was Zuko’s. Zuko finally faces his family, the uncle he had betrayed at Ba Sing Se and the sister who so desperately wants Zuko’s birthright. Iroh forgiving Zuko is a beautiful scene that greatly contrasts their last conversation in “The Avatar and the Fire Lord.” Zuko and Katara’s fight against Azula is the culmination of all three of their characters. Zuko selflessly saving Katara, Katara outsmarting Azula and Azula’s complete meltdown after losing everything she so desperately desired. The fight is beautiful, with amazing color contrast between Azula and Zuko’s firebending. It even hearkens back to previous fights, such as Zuko’s Agni Kai against Zhao in “The Southern Air Temple.”

The entirety of “Sozin’s Comet” is filled with these meaningful moments, and the happy ending with each of our characters together sharing tea is the icing on the cake.

Is there an episode you love that didn’t make my list? Comment below!