Avatar: The Last Airbender is the amazing series that started it all! We’ve picked the best episodes of the original series for the convenience of all super Avatards.
1×02, ‘The Storm’
For a lot of television shows, it might be a bad thing that one of the best and most pivotal episodes aired just past the halfway point of the first season. But for Avatar: The Last Airbender, “The Storm” illustrated what the show was capable of. The episode is a game-changer not just because it adds unforeseen depth and dimension to both Aang and Zuko, but also because the episode stretches the boundaries of what we thought an American cartoon could accomplish.
“The Storm” showed viewers that Avatar: The Last Airbender could play drama as well as comedy, that it could delve into character as easily as it tore off on adventure. By illustrating bitter, single-minded Zuko’s capacity for innocence, The Storm proved that the show understood the journey of the “bad guy” as well the good. Showing Aang’s fear, guilt, and anger made it clear that even the peaceful protagonist was capable of terrible – even deadly – mistakes.
And by winding Aang and Zuko’s stories together, “The Storm” proved that Avatar: The Last Airbender could craft moving thematic stories, and show us how to care about the pain that linked the doubting hero with the desperate villain. Viewers learned to set aside our expectations and get on board for the amazing and complex ride that Avatar: The Last Airbender was quickly becoming.
1×20, ‘The Siege of the North, Part 2’
The Book 1 finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender was one gripping moment after another. The show went fearlessly full-throttle in this episode, moving from mystical intrigue to breathless battle to heartbreaking sacrifice without skipping a beat.
The introduction of Koh – the infamous spirit being also known as “the Face Stealer” – is one of the episode’s major highlights. Though this is the creepy-crawly creature’s only appearance in televised episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Koh instantly captured fan’s imaginations. His power to steal faces may be terrifying, but Koh’s calm persona and powerful aura of knowledge have kept fans hoping that he will keep his promise, and meet the Avatar again soon.
“The Siege of the North, Part 2” also features not one, not two, but three significant deaths in the same episode. Zhao’s killing of Moon Spirit – a shocking moment – kicks off the chain of events that leads to Zhao’s death and Yue’s tragic sacrifice. Zhao’s hubristic decision to reject Zuko’s help and go to his death was a surprising twist in the “hero tries to save the villain” trope, and offered a fitting ending to Zhao’s megalomaniacal arc in the first season.
But of course, it was the loss of Yue that really made the episode a classic; the young, soft-spoken woman’s choice to use her mortal life to restore the moon spirit was nothing short of heartbreaking. Though her arc on the show was brief, Yue’s bravery and responsibility made a lasting impact in the fabric of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and in the fans who still remember her as a highlight of the increasingly epic series.
2×06, ‘The Blind Bandit’
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine a time when Team Avatar felt complete with just Aang, Katara, and Sokka, but before “The Blind Bandit” aired, we had no idea that the group could get even better.
Enter Toph, the tiny, blind, female earthbender whose skill surpassed any earthbending viewers had yet seen. And even better, Toph proved to be a strong, complicated character with heavily guarded emotional walls; her life had not been easy, and she wasn’t out to make anyone else’s life easy either.
But “The Blind Bandit” isn’t only great for the character it introduces. The episode is also terrific on its own, featuring a great slice-of-life experience for the gaang in the Earth Kingdom, Katara’s takedown of sexist bullies, Sokka’s whispered “Water Tribe”, and the surprising reveal of the smack-talking Blind Bandit’s sheltered double-life. The episode climaxes in an amazing fight sequence where, as wrestling fans rejoice, an utterly unphased Toph smoothly takes down every enemy the Earth Rumble can throw at her.
Toph’s incredible demonstration of both power and smarts endears her fully to the gaang and to the audience, so savvy viewers are only a tad disappointed when Toph’s father seems to agree to her leaving too easily.
But even this flaw quickly becomes an asset as “The Blind Bandit” pulls yet another twist – Toph is lying, her family believes she is kidnapped, and the episode ends with the promise of dangerous consequences lurking on the horizon.
2×07, ‘Zuko Alone’
“Zuko Alone” is a unique episode in Avatar’s second season in that it doesn’t feature any of the main characters; it is, as the title suggests, Zuko’s story as he travels solo across the Earth Kingdom. It’s an interesting departure from Avatar’s Asian-influenced norm, delving into Western inspiration with Zuko playing the role of the mysterious wandering cowboy and culminating in a high noon showdown.
We have glimpses into Zuko’s life prior to this episode, but the flashbacks give us greater insight into Zuko’s upbringing and how his family life shaped who he has become. It also sets up the mystery of what happened to his mother.
But more than that, Zuko protecting an Earth Kingdom family gives us hope that Zuko will eventually make the right choice to abandon the evils of the current Fire Nation reign. It’s not a happy story as Ozai becomes Fire Lord in flashback and Zuko is rejected for his heritage in the present, but it remains a turning point for a character whose destiny will become just as important as Aang’s before the end.
3×06, ‘The Avatar and the Firelord’
Though “The Avatar and the Fire Lord” probably wasn’t as highly anticipated as some of the other big-name episodes in Book 3, this episode easily lands among the best in Avatar: The Last Airbender. The story of how Avatar Roku and Fire Lord Sozin’s deep friendship ultimately led to the war which has engulfed to the world for 100 years was told with a beautiful balance of humor and drama.
And while Sozin definitely does come off as the bad guy in the episode, “The Avatar and the Fire Lord” takes the time to show how evil can begin with positive intentions – and how the influence of friends can sometimes be misused. While Roku is the hero of this tragic tale, he definitely isn’t the winner, and his errors in making complicated judgements carry through into Aang’s struggle with Ozai – and beyond.
“The Avatar and the Fire Lord” also makes a brilliant move in consciously paralleling the pivotal season 1 episode, “The Storm.” Once again, Aang and Zuko are shown in contrast, but this time it is the two boys who learn the truth about their mutual past. The story of “The Avatar and the Fire Lord” may be about history, but it sets up a crucial journey for Aang and Zuko going forward. Their titles do not define their choices; rather it is their choices that will define the roles of Avatar and Fire Lord in the battle ahead.
This episode also ends on such a beautiful thought that it demands to be mentioned. After hearing the story of Roku and Sozin, Toph asks, “Do you really think friendships can last more than one lifetime?” “I don’t see why not,” Aang replies.