Avatar: The Last Airbender has gained a reputation as a standout animated series thanks to its storytelling, but that doesn't mean that some of the 61 episodes didn't flop with fans. In fact, there are some episodes that are arguably more well-known for their unpopularity than anything else, and now creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have admitted that they can agree with some criticisms of one particular episode that aired back in 2005: "The Great Divide."
"The Great Divide" aired about halfway through the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and it centered on Aang, Katara, and Sokka's efforts to reach the Northern Water Tribe leading them to a massive canyon. And instead of just flying across it on Appa's back, they're drawn into a feud between two clans during the dangerous journey across on foot, with the resolution coming when Aang just comes up with a lie convincing enough to stop the fighting.
Avatar: The Last Airbender creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who were previously attached to Netflix's live-action take on the series and are now helping expand the Avatar universe, spoke about "The Great Divide" when they appeared as guests on Dante Basco and Janet Varney's Braving the Elements podcast. When the subject of filler episodes came up during their conversation with the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra voice actors, DiMartino weighed in:
The most famous one is ‘The Great Divide’ one, which I’ll give ‘em. I’ll say that’s pretty filler-y.
Not a whole lot happens in "The Great Divide," and certainly not developments that would have a lasting development on Aang's efforts to master all four elements and take on the Fire Lord. Zuko, who was still seemingly the main antagonist of the series at that point in Avatar: The Last Airbender before Azula would change the game, doesn't even appear in the episode to mix things up. Co-creator Bryan Konietzko agrees with Michael Dante DiMartino, saying:
That’s terrible. You’ve got this big gap. It’s a big empty hole, yet it is filler…. Yeah, I was not happy with it. But even the episodes that I wasn’t as stoked on, there were always moments that I really liked.
While "The Great Divide" has its criticisms for a lot of elements, the most common critique seems to be regarding Aang solving the decades-old feud by making up a story about two men who played a game together and the feud was based on nothing at all. It also might not be helped by the fact that it follows the episode "Jet," directed by future Star Wars producer Dave Filoni, which introduced some characters who would come back in a big way, with a nuanced plot.
The next few episodes that followed put the show right back on track as well, making "The Great Divide" really stand out in an unflattering way. In the grand scheme of things, one episode that flopped enough for the creators to admit that it was filler more than 16 years later didn't exactly ruin the entire series, and I'd say that there are more episodes memorable for being excellent than for being filler. Then again, I count myself as a big fan of Season 3's "The Ember Island Players," and that episode isn't exactly universally beloved!
Was "The Great Divide" filler, as even the creators agree at this point? Weigh in our poll below! You can also revisit Avatar: The Last Airbender with the full series streaming on both Netflix and Paramount+, as well as with Dante Basco and Janet Varney's Bending the Elements podcast. Basco and Varney opened up to CinemaBlend about how the podcast is helping honor late voice actor Mako, who originated the fan-favorite role of Iroh, and that's not nearly all.