Praise the Firelord! Avatar: The Last Airbender is finally back on Netflix. It’s been a long time coming, but the greatest animated TV series of all time (we can debate this, but I’m right) is available for all the people who have yet to watch it, and also for all the people who have already watched it a million and one times already.
And while, yes, I do prefer The Legend of Korra (Boo all you want), I will never, ever, ever grow tired of watching Avatar. Everybody has their favorite episode, and how could they not? The show is so diverse and has such a deep lore that everybody is bound to prefer some episodes over others. But while one or two of your favorites might not be on this list, I guarantee that at least some of your favorites will definitely be on here. But enough of my yammering. Yip yip! Let’s go! Oh, and minor spoilers ahead.
10. The Painted Lady, Book 3, Episode 3
Avatar always had a lot to say about a myriad of topics, and “The Painted Lady” is their environmental episode. A spirit known as the Painted Lady watches over a fishing village. But when the Fire Nation comes along years later and builds a factory that pollutes the river, the spirit disappears. So Katara dons makeup just like the Painted Lady and gives the village hope.
I just love Katara episodes, and this one is all about her. Her brother, Sokka, is all like, let’s just keep going, because he thinks that if they defeat the Fire Nation, they can help this village in the long run. But Katara wants to help the villagers now, and she convinces the others to help her, too. I also just love the ending, which I won’t spoil here. But I will say this—a spirit never truly leaves. It just waits in the wings for someone new to discover it.
9. The Firebending Masters, Book 3, Episode 13
Aang needs to learn firebending, fast! And Zuko would be a great teacher. Buuut, well, by this point of the story, Zuko’s no longer angry, and anger always fueled his firebending. So Aang and Zuko travel to the Sun Warriors temple where they encounter the last two dragons in existence. The dragons are scary at first, but they show the true way of firebending, and both Aang and Zuko learn that fire doesn’t necessarily need anger to fuel it. It just needs passion.
This episode has my favorite moment in the entire series with the epic dragon dance. I also love how far Zuko has come as a character—he’s gone from hot head to chill dude. If the future live-action show is just a recreation of the cartoon, then this episode has the potential to either be really lame, or extremely epic. It all just depends on the CG.
8. The Avatar and the Fire Lord, Book 3, Episode 6
Aang learns about the history of Avatar Roku. It turns out that the previous Avatar might be the reason why the 100 year war started in the first place. Avatar Roku was once friends with Fire Lord Sozin. When Roku grew older, he spared Sozin life’s even though he turned out to be a real SOB. The story builds to a volcanic eruption, with Avatar Roku actually FIGHTING A VOLCANO. We also learn about the genocide of the Air nomads. All in all, a riveting episode.
I love learning about the past avatars, and this episode goes so deep into the lore that it expanded the universe tenfold. Plus, I just have to say it again, but Avatar Roku fights a volcano. You don’t get much more badass than that.
7. The Blue Spirit, Book 1, Episode 13
Following the episode, “The Storm,” Sokka is super sick and delirious, and Katara is taking care of him. But she gets sick, too! So Aang needs to get some herbs (or so he thinks), but winds up getting captured. He’s broken out by somebody in a creepy blue mask, and when we learn who the person behind the mask is, it changes the whole series.
I love how much this story travels, as even Momo has an objective. Plus, “The Storm” and this episode really put the show on another level with its storytelling. Oh, and Aang airbends with his mouth! It’s always cool to see new skills in times of duress. The Blue Spirit was also one of the only things that the abysmal movie actually got right, so this episode has that going for it, too.
6. Sozin’s Comet: Part 4 – Avatar Aang, Book 3, Episode 21
The final episode of the series, I won’t reveal too much, but everybody has their moment. Toph and Sokka (and Suki!) with the airships, Katara an Zuko battling Azula, and of course Aang’s epic battle with Fire Lord Ozai. As far as series finales go, this one lives up to the hype.
A lot of people would probably pick the preceding episode over this one, but I really love how this episode closes everything out. Especially Aang in his Avatar state. It almost becomes a sort of Dragon Ball Z fight between him and Ozai, which is utterly thrilling to watch.
5. The Siege of the North: Part 2, Book 1, Episode 20
The conclusion to Book 1 is a fitting conclusion indeed. Admiral Zhao slays a very important figure, and waterbenders lose their abilities to bend. Aang gets pissed off because of this and goes into his Avatar state. He then wrecks the Fire Nation’s ships and puts things back in order. Princess Yue also gives Sokka a kiss before sacrificing herself for the greater good.
The Siege is a fantastic culmination of everything that takes place in Book 1. We also get a great deal of plot development when it comes to the spirits, which I’m always a fan of. And unlike “Sozin’s Comet: Part 4” , Siege Part 2 is left on a satisfying cliffhanger that gets you pumped for Book 2.
4. Zuko Alone, Book 2, Episode 7
Zuko has been banished from the Fire Nation. He travels to the Earth Kingdom, which doesn’t know that he’s from the Fire Nation. He ends up staying with a family that takes him in and shows him kindness. Zuko helps the family against some soldiers, but doing so reveals his abilities, which gets him shunned.
“Zuko Alone” is one of those episodes that really elevates Avatar from just being a “kid’s show.” We get a great deal of emotional depth from a flashback scene involving Zuko’s mother, and we see the effects of war on a ground level. There’s also a phenomenal episode on The Legend of Korra called “Korra Alone” that’s similar since it’s more about internal conflict than external. But whichever episode you choose, you can’t go wrong. They’re both great.
3. The Tales of Ba Sing Se, Book 2, Episode 15
What I refer to as the Pulp Fiction episode, “The Tales of Ba Sing Se” is split into multiple stories. Toph and Katara are having a girl day, Zuko is shy on a date, and Momo has some harrowing dreams. Aang and Sokka also have some silly adventures. But the most important story involves Iroh and his dead son, which always makes me tear up.
This episode has the saddest moment in the entire series when we see Iroh crying over his son and singing. Not many shows actually move me to the point of tears, but Avatar does. And this segment is just proof of why.
2. The Puppetmaster, Book 3, Episode 8
One word. Bloodbending. Team Avatar goes to a spooky town and meet a woman named Hama. Hama is a waterbender, but she also knows a dark technique that she teaches to an impressionable Katara. Unfortunately, Katara is forced to use this technique on Hama, even though she feels that it’s evil to do so. Hama doesn’t mind losing as long as she passes down her evil knowledge to somebody else. And now, Katara’s forever tainted.
I love when Avatar goes full dark—which is why I love Korra—and this is the darkest the series ever gets. Waterbending is supposed to be fluid and beautiful. So the fact that you can actually torture people with it is creepy on a whole other level.
1. The Storm, Book 1, Episode 12
“The Storm” is the best episode of the series since it’s the one that fully humanizes Aang and Zuko, who are arguably the two best characters on the show. Aang talks about his past and how he got stuck in his iceberg in the first place (it’s because of a storm), and Iroh recounts how Zuko got his scar. Aang also has to save Sokka from another storm, which shows the Avatar getting over his fears and also shows massive growth in his character development.
This was the episode that got me to love Avatar. I’m obsessed with stories about reluctant leaders with shameful backstories, and Aang’s is a potent one. I also love how Zuko is shown to be so complex and troubled. Both Aang and Zuko are in a way running from their pasts and also trying to live up to people’s expectations at the same time. And it’s rare that you can link the hero to the villain in such a way that you feel bad for both of them. That’s the power of this episode, and why it’s my number one pick.
But I’m sure your picks are different from mine. Leave your favorites in the comments below and why you love them so much.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.
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