My Top 10 Favorite Episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender is easily one of the best American cartoons ever made. With its compelling narrative, memorable cast, colorful backgrounds and excellent voice acting, it’s a perfect show. There are a lot of fantastic episodes in this show that made the process of compiling them surprisingly difficult.

ATLA promotional artwork edited

10. The Crossroads of Destiny (Book 2: Earth)
“The Crossroads of Destiny” is an intense finale with excellent choreographed, simultaneous battles. The cliffhangers are exciting, memorable, and serve as an excellent foundation for Book 3.

9. The Southern Air Temple (Book 1: Water)

Watching Aang discover that his entire culture was taken from him is a surprisingly dark, morbid concept that is handled extremely well in “The Southern Air Temple” and shows how deep, compelling and mature Avatar: The Last Airbender is.

8. The Storm (Book 1: Water)
The character development for Zuko and Aang is cleverly woven together in “The Storm” to create a flowing narrative while establishing similarities between the two. These back-stories could have otherwise been separated, but they are so much more powerful and meaningful when combined.

7. Western Air Temple (Book 3: Fire)
“Western Air Temple” marks Zuko’s official transition from antagonist to hero. The character development is handled in a comical way at times, but the significance of Zuko struggling to amend for his past mistakes and earn Team Avatar’s trust still comes through.

6. The Firebending Masters (Book 3: Fire)
“The Firebending Masters” is an excellent, beautifully animated episode that helps characterize Zuko and Aang even more as they venture to a list civilization to find the true, original Firebenders. The banter between Zuko and Aang is great and better establishes their camaraderie.

5. The Blue Spirit (Book 1: Water)
I will admit that “The Blue Spirit” handles the suspense extremely well to the point where I was really surprised by it the first time I saw it. Because of its strong handle of tension, the entire episode is very strong, transitioning between comedic mishaps and dangerous situations flawlessly while creating some great set pieces for the action scenes.

Winner of the most terrifying disguise ever.
Winner of the most terrifying disguise ever.

4. The Drill (Book 2: Earth)
The Fire Nation’s plan to seize the Earth Kingdom with a huge mechanical drill that is almost unstoppable creates high-stakes for Aang and his friends in “The Drill”. This episode does a good job of emphasizing the strengths of Aang and his friends as they all use their talents to help stop the drill. The destruction of the drill is noteworthy since it provides a glimpse of the consequences had it not been stopped.

3. The Boiling Rock, Part 2 (Book 3: Fire)
“The Boiling Rock, Part 2” has a ton of exciting action while being well-paced and emotional as well. The comedic moments are appreciated, but the episode is noteworthy for being the starting point of Azula’s descent into madness.

2. The Blind Bandit (Book 2: Earth)
“The Blind Bandit” covers a lot of ground. In this one episode alone, Toph’s strong character is introduced, her style of Earthbending is explored in detail, and her back-story helps flesh out her personality even more. She’s a great addition to the cast, and this episode is largely responsible for that.

1. Zuko Alone (Book 2: Earth)
“Zuko Alone” is the first episode I ever saw of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and it was the perfect introduction to the show. Zuko’s backstory is explored in great detail, further establishing his relationship with his father but also with his mother and sister. The flashbacks are appropriately placed throughout the episode while exploring the prejudice of Earth Kingdom citizens against the Fire Nation in the present. It’s clear to see from this episode that, while some of the prejudices against the Fire Nation and the way may be justified, that doesn’t account for every individual within that nation. Zuko is a kind person who selflessly puts himself in harm’s way to save a young boy, but this selflessness is not honored because of his status as a member of the Fire Nation. This episode does an excellent job of developing Zuko’s character while also showing the effects of the war on citizens. For all of these reasons, “Zuko Alone” was singlehandedly responsible for my obsession with the Avatar: The Last Airbender show.

Zuko Alone screenshot

Notable Mentions:
The Boiling Rock, Part 1
“The Boiling Rock, Part 1” is a solid first half of this episode arc with fun comedic moments and solid writing.

The Avatar and the Firelord
“The Avatar and the Firelord” provides the compelling back-stories of both Firelord Sozin and Avatar Roku in a similar fashion to “The Storm”, and the revelations of this episode are too good to miss.

The Southern Raiders
“The Southern Raiders” is a flashback episode for Katara while also providing her with some great character development as she struggles with trying to avenge her mother while forgiving the man responsible.

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