With the exciting/terrifying news that Avatar: The Last Airbender is getting a live action adaptation, we figured it’s a good time to look back on some of the most essential episodes of the classic cartoon. From monumental moments to intimate character beats, we’ve selected ten of the best entries from the brilliant body of work that is Avatar: The Last Airbender. Though we naturally recommend watching every single episode, we think that these are a fantastic place to start!
Warning: Some major spoilers lie ahead! (Especially in the final entry.)
“The Boy in the Iceberg”
Season one, episode one: In our first introduction to the world of Avatar, siblings Katara and Sokka are eking out a melancholy existence with the decimated Southern Water Tribe when they discover a mysterious boy and flying bison hidden in some ice! That would be none other than Aang and Appa, who awaken only to discover they’ve been frozen for a hundred years. Oops!
“The Southern Air Temple”
Season one, episode three: Only three episodes in and Avatar: The Last Airbender isn’t pulling any punches. One of the most heartbreaking and powerful episodes, The Southern Air Temple sees Aang, Katara, and Sokka return to the Avatar’s home, where despite his new friends warnings, Aang has to deal with the harrowing discovery that the Air Nomads were all slaughtered by the Fire Nation. Also, it’s the first appearance of Momo!
“The Siege of the North”
Season one, episodes 19 and 20: Aang, Katara, Sokka, Appa, and Momo have done their best to settle in with the Northern Water Tribe, but they’ve unintentionally brought the Fire Nation with them in this classic two-part finale to the debut season. This is the first time that we see Aang struggling to fully embrace his connection with the Spirit World to fend off his fiery attackers and save the waterbenders of the north.
Season two, episode four: This episode really expands the lore of bending, showing how the ancient skill can be crafted and tailored to different substances and settings when we meet “mudbenders” in the swamp and have a good old-fashioned adventure with Team Avatar. It’s also a notable entry as Aang has a vision of someone very, very important that he’ll soon meet… Toph!
“The Blind Bandit”
Season two, episode six: If you’re a fan of wrestling, then you’ll love this episode as the “one true sport” meets Avatar’s brilliant bending; plus we get our first full appearance of the final core member of Team Avatar: Aang’s irreplaceable earthbending teacher, Toph. After some hilarious and daring hijinks, Toph officially joins up with Sokka, Katara, Appa, Momo, and Aang and sets the wheels of destiny in motion.
Season two, episode ten: When an enigmatic man claims to have knowledge about a library holding information vital to the team’s plans, Sokka heads there hoping to find something he can weaponize against the Fire Nation. Whilst there he angers the knowledge spirit Wan Shi Tong, who’s furious at Sokka’s attempts to mislead him and puts the crew in grave danger. Also… get ready to cry when Appa gets kidnapped by sandbenders!
Season two, episode 19: A big episode for all of our crew, this emotional entry sees the team split as each of them pursues a personal journey all while Azula, sister of Zuko and heir apparent to the Fire Nation, gets ever closer to capturing the Avatar. We see a vital new side to Zuko as he interacts with Uncle Iroh; Aang begins to train with Guru Pathik, who teaches him how to harness the Avatar state; Toph is captured and has to utilize her metalbending skills to escape; and Sokka visits his father for the first time in ages. A wonderful example of how one of the show’s greatest strengths is the interpersonal stories it chooses to tell.
Season three, episode two: This early season three episode gets to the heart of the war that’s torn apart the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Another emotional hard hitter, “The Headband” focuses on the lives of the citizens of the Fire Nation who live under a brutal dictatorial rule. The title is very story-relevant but is also likely a nod to the biggest inspiration on Avatar: Journey to the West, the classic Chinese story based on the legend of the Monkey King.
“The Ember Island Players”
Season three, episode 17: A true highlight of the three seasons, “The Ember Island Players” is a masterclass in meta-commentary as Sokka discovers a Fire Nation theater troupe that performs their version of team Avatar’s escapades. Most of the group is massively offended by the foolish and exaggerated portrayals, but it’s the bleak ending that the troupe foresees for Aang that has a huge impact on the young Avatar. This episode also sees Aang struggle with his growing feelings for Katara.
“Sozin’s Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang
Season three, episode 22: Avatar: The Last Airbender didn’t hold back with its four-part finale, and the last episode is still one of the most powerful and hopeful cartoon endings of all time. We get to see Aang fully utilize the Avatar state and the root of all bending to beat King Ozaiâ€”after defeating Azula with the help of Kataraâ€”in the shadow of Sozin’s Comet. Ultimately, Aang strips Ozai of his firebending skills rather than killing him. And Zuko’s redemption comes full-circle as the episode ends with him promising to aid the reconstruction of the four kingdoms.
All episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender are now available to stream on Netflix. What’s your favorite episode? Let us know below!
Header Image: Nickelodeon