Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Episode 1

The 10 Best Episodes of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Ranked

Ranking the ten best episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender is next to impossible. Though, so was learning to master water bending, earth bending, and fire bending when you’re literally only 12. Well, 112 But do you hear Aang complaining? Neither do I. So here we go.

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10. The Avatar and the Fire Lord

Young Avatar Roku smiles at Sozin in "Avatar"
(Nickelodeon)

For a world as rich as Avatar the Last Airbender, the show relies very little on flashbacks. A scene here, thirty seconds there, the writers generally keep the action centered around the present day. After all, Aang only has a few months to master the elements, the present is all they’ve got.

The Avatar and The Fire Lord takes a late series break from the action to give us an episode centered around Aang’s previous incarnation Roku and his fraught relationship with Fire Lord Sozin. You know, the guy they named the comet after? The two childhood buddies painfully grow apart as they ascend to the expectations the world has placed on them. From happy-go-lucky boys to bitter old men, the journey is hard to watch.

9. The Storm

An old man frowns at a timid Aang while Katara looks on angrily in "Avatar"
(Nickelodeon)

Before Avatar bent fire, earth, and water, it bent our expectations. This was supposed to be a kids’ show. A show about a chubby-cheeked little boy who just wants to ride penguins and move the wind with his mind. It wasn’t supposed to make me feel things. But feel things I did. The Storm is a deeper dive into the broken heart of Avatar, the melancholy and tragedy that permeates the series. We see Aang and Zuko in parallel for what they are, two young boys who were forced to grow up too quickly—Aang fleeing from the Air Temple in terror, Zuko being burned by his jerk of a dad. Tough tearjerker times all around.

8. The Blue Spirit

a figure wears a blue demon mask in "Avatar"
(Nickelodeon)

It was supposed to be simple. Go out of the cave. Get the frozen frogs. Stick them in your sick friends’ mouths. Easy. But things are never simple for the Avatar.

In this episode, Aang gets captured by season one menace Admiral Zhao and is imprisoned in Zhao’s fortress. But who comes to break him out? The mysterious ninja double-sword guy The Blue Spirit! After a high-flying escape, The Blue Spirit and Aang manage to make it almost to safety when BAM. An arrow fired by an archer bull’s eyes Bluie, knocking his mask partway off his face, and Aang sees DUM DUM Zuko’s scar beneath! A plot twist in this supposed kids’ show!? We never saw it coming. An emotional one-sided convo between Aang and Zuko at the end of the episode earns extra points.

7. Tales of Ba Sing Se

Iroh smiles at an image of his lost son in "Avatar"
(Nickelodeon)

Tales of Ba Sing Se is a mid-tier episode made unforgettable by a fan-favorite character: Uncle Iroh. Our ebullient, tea-slurpin’ surrogate anime grandad knows how to stay on the bright side of life, but this episode proves that heavy things weigh on even the lightest of hearts. Iroh spends a quiet day in town preparing a memorial for his deceased son, who died in the war as a young man. Iroh tearfully sings “Leaves From The Vine”, a sad banger, and at the end of his chapter the words “In Honor of Mako” appear. Mako was Makoto Iwamatsu, Uncle Iroh’s voice beloved voice actor who died from cancer before the episode aired. It’s impossible not to cry while watching.

6. Zuko Alone

Zuko scowls in the desert  in "Zuko Alone"
(Nickelodeon)

A few episodes earlier, we see Iroh and Zuko cut their hair, symbolically severing their ties to the Fire Nation’s royal family. After becoming frustrated with Iroh, Zuko ventures out into the world alone to work out his feelings while rocking his new pixie cut. It’s a quiet, slow-tempo episode that feels like a Western. Vast open landscapes. Minimal dialogue. The best part? It culminates in a high noon-style duel where Zuko reclaims his Firebending mojo and reveals himself as his nation’s prince. His new Earth Kingdom friends are sadly less than impressed.

5. The Siege of the North – Part 1

Zuko carries an unconscious Aang into a blizzard in "Avatar"
(Nickelodeon)

Yeah, Part Two has Aang turning into glowing fish monster Godzilla and smashing through the Fire Nation fleet, but Part One has arguably better moments overall. Zuko Navy Seals his way past the Northern Water Tribe’s defenses and Aang ventures into the Spirit World to have an encounter with the scariest thing in the entire series: the sweet-talking centipede spirit Ko the Face Stealer. Pair that with an unforgettable fight between Katara and Zuko and you’ve got a solid gold episode. No notes.

4. The Drill

A massive drill machine lumbers across the desert in "Avatar"
(Nickelodeon)

Just when you think Aang and friends make it out of the woods of the Serpent’s Past, Azula comes planting a new crop of trees. And these trees are sequoias. Azula ordered the Fire Nation’s top engineers to build a massive drill capable of cracking through the walls of Ba Sing Se, turning it into Na Sing Se (that means “penetrable city”). After witnessing new iconic character Ty Lee’s chi-blocking punches, Team Avatar’s resident egghead Sokka reasons that the drill can be defeated from the inside via pressure point… pressure. The gang invades the drill while Aang delivers a wall-running coup de grâce, much to Azura’s chagrin.

3. The Crossroads of Destiny

Katara touches Zuko's face in a room full of glowing crystals in "Avatar"
(Nickelodeon)

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Siege of the North went so well for Team Avatar! Aang had guru powers! He was just gonna waltz into the Earth Kingdom’s Imperial Palace and liberate from Fire Nation tyranny! That was the plan! How did it go so wrong? Azula. That’s how. This episode is perhaps the most devastating defeat that Team Avatar has ever suffered. Aang enters the Avatar state and is hit by Azura’s lightning, leaving him on the verge of death. At least Katara didn’t use that magic spirit water on Zuko’s face, or else Aang would have really been in trouble. The L Team Avatar takes in this episode just makes their Book 3 W’s so much sweeter.

2. Sozin’s Comet Part 3 – Into the Inferno

Sokka and Sukki look up in the sky in horror as Toph stands in the background in "Avatar"
(Nickelodeon)

Three words: comet-enhanced firebending. Fire Lord Sozen and his flame-spewing armies absolutely pop off during this episode, burning the world to ash with mile-wide land mower of fire shot from Zeppelins. Eat your heart out Dunkirk. Meanwhile, Zuko and Azula face off in one of the most cinematically beautiful fights ever animated. Blue and orange flames dance in a superpowered Agni Kai to decide the fate of the Fire Nation Throne. Jawdropping. Meanwhile, Aang and Ozai begin a knockdown, drag-out face-off to decide the fate of the world.

1. Sozin’s Comet Part 4 – Avatar Aang

Aang and Zuko smile at one another overlooking troops from different nations in "Avatar"
(Nickelodeon)

When an Avatar state powered by Aang grabbed Sozen by the beard to shut him up mid-villain monologue, I knew that Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s glory would last for generations to come. How did they do it? How did they make the best episode of the series the climax?

Katara beats Azula to tears. Aang pummels the Fire Lord and takes his bending away. The show’s main theme plays as ripped 13-year-old Aang takes his mantle of Protector of the Free World. And then they wrap things up too? Zuko and Aang hug. Sokka and Toph spit quips. Everyone sips jasmine at Iroh’s tea shop. And the cherry on top? Aang and Katara share a kiss as the sun sets and the credits roll. Avatar mastered more than just the four elements, it mastered my damn heart.

(Featured Image: Nickelodeon)


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Author
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.