Ranking Every Episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender
Chapters 40 to 21
Avatar: The Last Airbender’s spectacular run was bound to come to an end. With only sixty-one episodes in its entirety, Avatar continually built on characters and locations as the story to Sozin’s Comet constantly progressed only forward. Now that each individual book’s lineup of episodes has been ranked, it is time to tackle every single chapter from the least best to the best of the best in one complete list. For each individual season ranking you can follow the links here for Book 1: Water, Book: 2 Earth, and of course Book 3: Fire. Now though, it is finally time to see how Avatar: The Last Airbender ranks in the bigger picture, from number 61 to 1…
40. The Drill
Fire Nation industrial inventions were always slowly being introduced in Avatar: The Last Airbender. While it may feel a bit too large in scale, The Drill is a chapter that still manages to feel right at home due to the destructive machine’s clever inevitable demise. The Drill provides viewers with some great earthbending action, thinking like mad geniuses, and a notable new addition to an already iconic soundtrack called the “Final Blow.” After navigating The Serpent’s Pass, it is the perfect episode to get the series back on course as the entire cast heads for the outer wall of the impenetrable city of Ba Sing Se. On the sidelines, while the Fire Nation attempts to invade the Earth Kingdom’s capital, Zuko and Jet’s conflict within the safe zone takes its first few heated steps as Uncle Iroh makes a foolish yet relatable mistake. Fun fact, this entry aired a week earlier in select theaters with The Serpent’s Pass before hitting the small screen. The two were paired together to be known as the Secret of The Fire Nation story arc.
39. The Waterbending Scroll
The Waterbending Scroll was where Katara’s waterbending skills versus that of Aang became more clear to the audience. In a selfish and jealous act to get the upper hand on waterbending, Katara not only steals a waterbending scroll from a group of pirates, but she secretly practices at night in hiding from the rest of the group after getting infuriated with Aang for being a natural at the skill depicted in the scroll. With the multitude of likable dynamics between Zuko’s crew, the pirates, and Team Avatar, this episode brings several indulging conversations and character moments to the spotlight. The Waterbending Scroll is most recognized among fans for being the first appearance of the White Lotus insignia, a secret organization that would later play a major role in the final chapters of book three and The Legend of Korra. Even if it was because of a missing lotus tile that would later symbolize a crucial aspect of the show’s whole narrative, this chapter has a stimulating first half followed by an even greater climax.
38. The Waterbending Master
As seen in two episodes prior with Jeong Jeong, clearly the Avatar needs to find his or her own relatable teachers, yet that did not stop Katara and Aang from seeking out a master at waterbending when Team Avatar arrived at the North Pole. The Waterbending Master posed several interesting questions regarding the differences between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes while handling the importance of understanding the relationship between master and apprentice that was explored in The Deserter. Princess Yue is first introduced here, but her relationship with Sokka would be set aside for the two-part finale in order to give his sister the full spotlight. As for the second subplot of this chapter, the assassination attempt on Prince Zuko’s life by Admiral Zhao helped build a further divide between the character and his home nation, a major aspect of the episode that largely goes underestimated by viewers despite its grand importance in the Siege of The North finale.
37. The Awakening
Aang with hair on a stolen Fire Nation warship? As if the season finale of Book 2: Earth did not provide enough questions, The Awakening adds dozens more to the stockpile as it builds an excellent foundation for the episodes that follow. The audience knew that Azula’s lightning blast would have serious consequences on Aang’s Avatar connection, but no one expected the character to fall apart the way he did. Seeing Zuko finally return home after completing his mission purposefully feels wrong yet necessary for his growth. This chapter presents our first true look at the inside of the Fire Nation capital we had seen in several flashbacks and of course the main villain himself Fire Lord Ozai. The Awakening delivers on two years of suspense that had been beautifully orchestrated to deliver one of the television’s finest overarching villains. As Aang and Zuko swap goals, the first chapter of Book 3: Fire creates an exceptional opening for arguably the best season.
36. The Earth King
Discovering that the Earth Kingdom’s leader is one massive public political pawn was surprising once we finally got to witness the bear-loving King Kuei. The Earth King sets the stage for the penultimate episode and finale of Book 2: Earth by slowly allowing the corruption of Ba Sing Se’s secret police to be the city’s downfall. Team Avatar’s siege to the Earth King’s palace hall was a thrilling action sequence that gave each bender a satisfying moment to shine along with the arrest of Long Feng. Zuko’s metamorphosis is by far the most intriguing aspect of the chapter. Seeing his temptations for the Fire Nation crown battle his struggle with choosing a free destiny presented one of The Last Airbender’s most psychologically challenging character moments as he experiences several nightmares. Seeing Zuko slowly descend into his complicated decision had every viewer wondering whether the banished prince would help his demented sister or finally join our hero’s quest to defeat his father.
35. Day of Black Sun Part 1
Day of Black Sun Part 1 is still a great episode on its own, but compared to the following chapter where all the intense character moments and action takes place, the first half really falls short in comparison. The preparation of the solar eclipse has tons of great moments as dozens of characters across the three seasons unite for a small-scale invasion on the Fire Nation including Haru, the swampbenders, and Bato. Sokka’s leadership skills are truly tested here as the character must present his full battle plan to all the volunteers who came to the front and Aang makes it clear that the Avatar is ready to stop hiding his existence from the world after being proclaimed as dead. It is certainly a fitting gathering that brings back fan-favorite characters, yet all the payoff for what happens in Part 1 is contained in the following chapter. Even by itself though, compared to most other first halves to the several double chapters Avatar has, Day of Black Sun Part 1 can more than well hold its own.
34. The Boiling Rock Part 2
In comparison to its first half, The Boiling Rock Part 2 blows Part 1 completely out of the water. Every character that escalates this story arrives during the second half to constantly keep amping up the stakes transition to transition. The entire dynamic between Zuko, Mai, Sokka, Hakoda, and Suki never fails to please during the back half of the story arc as the team makes their grand escape from the Fire Nation prison. Azula’s presence during this story is what really helps Boiling Rock keep itself high though. The final cable car battle chase out and down the volcano between the heroes and villains is thrilling to watch as the cast just barely makes it out alive, but it is the short moment between Mai and Azula that really seals this episode. The potential fight between Mai and Azula that could have ensued seemed like a fitting end for Zuko’s gloomy girlfriend. Seeing how Mai and Ty Lee would quickly turn their backs on Azula was unexpected yet justified from the two. Rather than losing one friend though, Azula lost two and it ultimately leads to her character continuing to crumble as her own best friends show their hate for her.
33. The Chase
As if the title were not self-explanatory enough, The Chase is all about characters hunting down one another. It is a brilliant pursuit where each of the individual main cast members is on a mission that intertwines with their allies and enemies. Azula and her friends are hunting Team Avatar who is currently being partially divided due to the arrogance of their newest addition Toph, while Zuko is chasing Azula and Aang, and Iroh is slowly trailing behind Zuko in hopes of helping his lost nephew after the two previously separated. The stakes and tension shrouding the episode never falls as it inevitably heads for a showdown where the future complete Team Avatar attempts to take down Azula together. This chapter introduces new Fire Nation machines, animal breeds, unseen interactions, and some great tea and advice. Perhaps it is not packed to the brim with a huge amount of deep philosophy that many other episodes reap the rewards from though it does contain some deep nuggets of truth amidst all the chaos.
32. City of Walls and Secrets
City of Walls and Secrets constantly builds upon the mystery of Ba Sing Se while finally unveiling the location itself. It is a city we have heard about since some of the earliest episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender yet the audience never got to actually see it before. Compared to every other location Team Avatar had previously visited, Ba Sing Se is a whole different beast packed with enforced censorship regarding the hundred-year war, social systems, and corruption. For a city claimed to be a symbol of freedom by refugees, Ba Sing Se undoubtedly did not live up to those words behind the scenes as its citizens live under a strict line of enforcers and political figures fight to gain wealth in the upper ring. In this chapter, we are introduced to the tour guide Joo Dee, a woman who is nothing short of creepy as we see the vapid and ignorant citizen constantly keeping Team Avatar in the dark from receiving answers to the questions from other residents in the city.
31. The Deserter
The Deserter himself, Jeong Jeong, is a massive contradiction to what fire is to the Avatar as we would see later on in the third season. The arrogant White Lotus member made for one of the absolute best first encounters Aang has had with an elemental master. Jeong Jeong’s presence allowed book one to explore more of the psychology of firebenders, specifically Admiral Zhao who we had not known much about until he encountered his former master. One aspect underappreciated with this chapter has to do with Aang’s mastery of the elements. The Deserter explains and shows the audience why it is important that the Avatar must master the four elements in the designated birth order the legends speak of. Aang clearly was not ready to embrace the art of firebending without understanding the elements of earth and water along with fire itself. The hot tensions between the group and Master Jeong Jeong culminate into several developments that would scar our characters until book three when Zuko would join Team Avatar.
30. The Southern Air Temple
The Southern Air Temple unveiled the customs and cultures that inevitably drove two of the four nations to where they stood one hundred years into the war. The fire nation thrives in the art of combat while the air nation had been eradicated with its peaceful teachings. The third chapter in the series is most notorious for being the episode in which Aang finally comes to the realization that he is truly the last surviving airbender after finding the skeleton of his best friend and teacher Monk Gyatso at his home temple. It was an emotional storytelling point that explored the series title and answered several questions regarding Aang and Zuko’s home territories that viewers posed based on first impressions in the first two episodes. While we are talking about this entry, it would be dishonorable to not mention that the exhilarating faster-paced version of the Agni Kai soundtrack played during the firebending duel between Prince Zuko and Commander Zhao would help make this episode be deemed as a classic among fans.
29. Sokka’s Master
Sokka is the outlier of Team Avatar when we see the character as a fighter. Captain boomerang has no bending to contribute to the team, yet he still remains a crucial part of it due to his excellent planning and survival skills. When Sokka seeks his own master he comes across the final member of the White Lotus Master Piandao who is skilled in the art of sword fighting. He has always been the charming meat-head logical character of the show that everyone loves, but Sokka’s Master gives him a better chance to shine with his own unique weapon that oozes with his own personality. This chapter is a great opportunity for Sokka to get his own spotlight, but it does feel a little odd at times that he would consider himself unimportant to the team considering the topic has been touched on before. Sokka has used a Water Tribe machete plenty of times in the past, so it does make sense why a lot of people would not favor his choice of weaponry in the final season. The space sword is by far the absolute most stylish weapon ever seen in Avatar, but the man who wields the weapon is what deserves to be focused on- and of course, Iroh’s training sprinkled throughout the episode is worth mentioning.
28. Winter Solstice Part 2: Avatar Roku
Unlike that of its predecessor, Winter Solstice Part 2: Avatar Roku is chockfull of information yet balanced out by incredibly engaging action to break up the enrapturing exposition. From learning more about the spirit world to the cycle of the avatar, this episode is a fascinating ride as it switches between major action set pieces and excellently explained worldbuilding that heavily expands the spiritual and living ends of the Avatar universe. By far its biggest standout moment is when Aang summons the spirit of his past life, Avatar Roku, to help him escape from the overrun sacred tower located in the Fire Nation. There are several other moments like Zhao’s warship blockade and Roku’s guidance to write home about, but even those scenes are overshadowed by this adventure’s thrilling ending. Part 2 of the Winter Solstice story arc truly began to open up the mythology of Avatar in exciting ways that book one’s finale and the rest of the series going forward would explore when it came to expanding upon its vast universe of possibilities.
27. Siege of The North Part 1
As goes most two-parters in Avatar, it is without question that the second half of Siege of The North is going to be the better episode. With that being considered, unlike many other duologies in the series, the first half of Siege of The North actually stands toe to toe with its second half in many aspects. Although it may not be as action-packed or mind-bending as its follow-up brother, Part 1 is flooded with great moments- so many that tons of fans will complain that the final story arc of book one is way too short. While it constructs a great dynamic between Sokka and Princess Yue, the shining moment of chapter nineteen is undoubtedly Iroh’s farewell to Zuko before he embarks on his infiltration mission to capture Aang. Books two and three give way to major development for Uncle Iroh, but this single moment was the first glimpse we had into his backstory. Hearing how his son’s death led to his profound care for his nephew was a heartbreaking yet beautifully written scene that changed how many viewers saw the Firelord’s brother.
26. Siege of The North Part 2
It may not be the best Avatar season finale out of the three books, but being this high up on the list is a testament to just how great every ending of each season is. Siege of The North Part 2 is a damn fine conclusion to Book 1: Water. It manages to combine the season’s title and the spiritual connection of the Avatar into one ultimate large-scale conclusion. Part 2 is a high-stakes battle for the moon that is always exponentially rising in scale as it keeps on track towards its ending. Siege of The North Part 2 kept introducing new characters and concepts to the series such as the horrifying Koh The Face Stealer that contained the season’s scariest design and the human-world manifestation of the ocean and moon spirits. The last few seconds formerly introducing Zuko’s psychotic sister Azula with a cliffhanger only showed audiences how The Last Airbender was nowhere near finished. Siege of The North Part 2 only set the bar higher for what was to come in Book 2: Earth.
25. The Desert
After losing Appa, Team Avatar was bound to face some serious consequences when it came down to both physical travel and of course emotions. No one underwent a traumatic experience quite like what Aang was going through. The Desert plays out like a long hopeless journey through nowhere as our heroes aimlessly travel to Ba Sing Se in an empty territory only be navigated by the stars. It is a test of endurance for how much our cast can withstand without the help of their dearest sky bison friend. Seeing how Aang could easily snap over losing his animal guide and best friend was not surprising in the slightest, but using the Avatar state to nearly cross his moral code he has upheld all the time from his childhood monk teachings was shocking. It is by far the closest the character has come to using violence without the intention of self-defense. He arguably even does in a way by destroying the sand-sailers and threatening Appa’s kidnappers. There is no need for cactus juice to sit through this emotional rollercoaster.
24. Nightmares and Daydreams
Nightmares and Daydreams is where everything begins to fall in place for the final slew of stories of the series from Aang and Zuko’s perspectives. It is when the darkest fears of the Avatar come into the light as he realizes how little time he has before he must face his destiny, while the Fire Nation prince is ready to acknowledge his mistake at Ba Sing Se. Aang losing his mind over the thought of facing Fire Lord Ozai is expected. He is just a scared child who is by far one of the least experienced Avatar’s- and the youngest to face such a difficult challenge according to his past lives. Despite all our hero’s fears being present in this chapter, it still plays off as absolutely hilarious and childish as Aang hallucinates talking animals having samurai duels and dreams about not being ready to face Fire Lord Ozai because of a math test. The fight between Momo and Appa will still go down as one of Avatar’s most comical moments. It is flat out ridiculous and a nice change in pace before the Day of Black Sun story arc.
23. The Library
Spirits residing in the living realm are nothing new to Avatar, but the ginormous owl who knows over ten thousand things can provide an unsurprising amount of knowledge regarding the connection between the two separated worlds- I mean he lives in his library, what did you expect from Wan Shi Tong? The Library brings mystery and urgency to the forefront as Sokka abuses his “spiritual vacation” to get the upper hand on the Fire Nation just as Zhao did the year prior before the invasion on the Northern Water Tribe in the same library. Wan Shi Tong’s short story is intriguing like the spirits who came before him, yet his odd presence in the physical world and strange history is what makes him so distinctive from what the audience has seen before. The heartbreaking ending as Aang falls in tears realizing that the sandbenders kidnapped Appa brings a hard-earned melancholy tone to every viewer’s home and on top of this fans were left with tons of questions that would go unanswered for years. The disappearance of Professor Zei had us wondering about his fate for so long- but everyone who watched The Legend of Korra knows how that philosopher turned out now.
22. Day of Black Sun Part 2
Day of Black Sun Part 2 is an endless run of constant payoffs after so much build-up to the solar eclipse. The event was teased all the way back in The Library and finally saw light here. Its major theme plays a substantial role in the build-up to Sozin’s Comet: there is no easy path to complete one’s supposed destiny. Zuko’s confrontation with Ozai is the episode’s highlight emotional moment that reeks of this. No one wanted Zuko to stay behind when his father teased him about his mother’s disappearance but he has to. Once again the prince demonstrated himself victorious by not only proving his father wrong in a battle of words but in a battle of bending lightning. The Day of Black Sun’s second half proves once again that there is no easy way to complete one’s destiny as seen by the heroes’ failure with the game-changing event and Zuko’s proper hesitance.
21. The Western Air Temple
Zuko joining Team Avatar seemed inevitable since his metamorphosis in book two, but Aang, Katara, and Sokka accepting him into the group was going to be a large issue to overcome. The Western Air Temple has characters running from and facing their fears not long after the failed solar eclipse invasion. After their defeat at the Fire Nation capital, it is no surprise that Aang would be the one to want to take his mind off their situation by exploring the ancient temple rather than creating a plan, but with a lack of time before the comet comes the team needed to make some quick decisions. Zuko earning his place on the team was already hard-earned to the audience, but to our characters, he still had so much more to prove. Combustion Man was a short-lived villain that tied the story together, but he made one heck of an impact over the course of his run. It is just a shame we did not get to learn more about the Fire Nation assassin even though it was not integral to the story.