Ranking Every Episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender
Chapters 61 to 41
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…
61. The Great Divide
For the largest canyon in the Earth Kingdom, The Great Divide lacks a lot of depth compared to any other episode in Avatar although it does impressively stand as the only filler episode in the series. While it may be proclaimed as the worst chapter- with even the creators going as far as to take a jab at this entry in The Ember Island Players- that does not make it a poorly executed television show episode by any means. For The Last Airbender’s standards, it undeniably does not live up to the respectable themes or relatability that we find in the show’s stories and characters, yet the episode’s narrative can be rather justified from a certain moral standpoint. Sure Aang’s decision on how he ends the feud between the Ghan Jin and Zhang tribes may be rather questionable, but that does not mean there is absolutely nothing to take away from The Great Divide. Aang’s final decision can be compared to numerous lies across real history that solved longtime feuds, and for that reason, it can be considered educational to many.
60. The Serpent’s Pass
The Serpent’s Pass has some captivating ideas and others that are not as much. The highlight of this episode is easily the return of the Kyoshi Warrior Suki, but outside of that, there is not much to talk about with Team Avatar’s final dangerous excursion on their way to Ba Sing Se. How the heroes are attempting to tackle their emotional problems in this chapter is nothing special when looking at almost any other episode of the season it debuted in, especially in comparison to something like The Desert. On top of this, the formal introduction of the pregnant couple first seen in Zuko Alone brings little to the table for the topic being handled. A lot of the issues this episode attempts to face head-on has already been either explored before or will be in a better way. It should be mentioned that though not terribly written in the slightest, Zuko’s side plot with Jet never feels important or rewarding during the first appearance of the short partnership. The overall slow pacing of the episode can make this short journey a drag up until around the halfway point.
59. The Fortune Teller
While not the most interesting episode of the first book, The Fortune Teller should be noted for being a major stepping stone in the love side of Aang and Katara’s relationship as it is the chapter where Katara starts to look at Aang as possibly being more than a friend in her future after hearing Aunt Wu’s prophecy that she would fall in love with an incredibly strong bender. The fortune teller herself does foreshadow to the show’s conclusion by looking into both characters’ futures, but besides that, this one is really just another standalone story with a batch of memorable comedic moments that help keep it consistently engaging. For older audiences, it is a chapter where Sokka’s arguments aimed at those who believe in magic and beliefs with no evidence rather than science and logic can really land harder comedically then for perhaps the core audience the show was intended for.
58. The Painted Lady
Katara has always been dedicated to helping those who are desperately struggling since the very first episode of the series. She will never turn her back on a group of oppressed people in need of help and The Painted Lady continues to show that in an unremarkable fashion. It is an episode that culminates into a lot of what we have already seen before in another unique location. The setup and premise are built up fine enough and provide several gripping ideas as to how Fire Nation industrialism continues to poison local civilians, but the payoff does not feel well earned by the time the conclusion hits. The twist that Katara is disguising herself as the spirit known as The Painted Lady is blatantly obvious from her first interactions with the townspeople, especially the kid who is in dire need of food. The entire episode plays out as if the team has nothing else to do, yet there is so much to still be explored with the cast’s current situation. The spirit of The Painted Lady herself is an interesting concept, but even then that is not fully explored by the time she appears.
57. The Swamp
The way in which The Swamp brings a level of spirituality to Avatar: The Last Airbender is not the most pleasing episode of Book 2: Earth, but it does provide important characterization to the series as we learn more about the Avatar’s spiritual connection with the physical world. There are some upsetting character moments for Sokka and Katara that stand out in this chapter as they each see a loved one they have lost, yet they are overshadowed by Aang’s teachings and visions of a girl with a flying boar. Sokka and Katara never receive the opportunity to explore what they traumatically saw- at least in this chapter. Aang learns about how everything in the world is connected, a theme that plays a major role down the line as it begins to prepare him to unlock his various chis needed to fight the Fire Lord, but the payoff never lands until later episodes. As part of a series, The Swamp is an excellent long-term addition that provides context to the show’s mythology. On its own, however, it is not able to create the strong roots it importantly produces.
56. Avatar Day
While the background for Avatar Kyoshi is intriguing, Avatar Day is a whole lot of talk rather than actual exploration for what is being told. The notion of towns and cities being against the Avatar is something we have seen time and time again throughout the series. The only real difference this time is Aang is being jailed and subjected to supposed crimes caused by one of his previous lives who he eventually calls upon to help him- or rather attempts to do so as Avatar Kyoshi explains the creation of the island named in her honor and ultimately pleads guilty for what she believes was a course of rightful actions against an Earth Kingdom dictator. Sokka and Katara’s detective skills are a fine bulk of the episode, but this chapter should be focused more on Aang’s thoughts on his past lives contradicting with his monk teachings. It has a few comical moments and returning gags, but Avatar Day never culminates into anything substantial for our heroes that we have not seen before. It holds an interesting premise, the same just can not be said for its execution when looking over how other episodes have embraced the topics being explored.
55. The Headband
There is a ton of substance in regards to Fire Nation culture that generally goes unappreciated by many fans when discussing The Headband. When Aang accidentally enrolls in a Fire Nation academy due to a misunderstanding between authorities and his stolen clothing, he decides that he is going to throw the restricted students a secret dance party to loosen them up. It is far from being the most important episode of the series, but it does shed a neat amount of light on the daily lives of young Fire Nation civilians in the current time period as they are fed propaganda and fabricated facts about their nation’s history. Zuko’s dismantled relationship with Iroh and the hiring of the assassin is undoubtedly the more desirable plotline of the episode, although the main focus never comes off as unwelcoming or even unpromising at that. Has anyone ever thought about how Kuzon is probably viewed as a legend to these kids as he caused a revolution and disappeared in a matter of two days?
Jet is a character with a great overarching story, however, his first standalone episode does not land as perfectly as it could have- at least for Avatar quality when it comes to introducing and developing reoccurring minor heroes and villains. Chapter ten of Book 1 unquestionably has a strong moral and a likable cast of newcomers that would return on several occasions later down the line, but it is shrouded with a predictable outcome that affects the payoff viewers would hope to find in a scenario that was more well built up than its unfortunate foreseeable ending. Although the episode initially starts off interesting with its Robinhood-like charm, it ends on a rather bland note as we see how Jet’s darker viewpoint of life causes him to go too far to take down Fire Nation soldiers. The character himself may not have been as well developed as he could have been during his debut, but he certainly had a hard-earned redemption in Book 2. For a show that constantly brings several surprises to the table, it is shocking how typical this story unfolds.
53. The Cave of Two Lovers
The Cave of Two Lovers is an oddball of an episode, even by Avatar standards. Hippies, secret tunnels, singing, and loveable badger moles undoubtedly make this episode one that will stand out from the rest of Book 2: Earth yet it feels right at home with the optimistic attitude and deeper mystery it presents to the audience. When Aang and crew are attempting to find the fastest route to the city of Omashu without encountering the Fire Nation they come across Chong and his nomad friends who lead them through a tunnel built by two lovers that were forbidden from seeing one another. Although the backstory given to Omashu may come off as unnecessary, it adds a neat little amount of characterization to a location the audience sees once a season. The chapter’s setting undeniably gives way to a lot of great moments between Aang and Katara’s love relationship that is consistently being developed through the series. Chong’s song though is the main reason why everyone will likely remember this chapter because who could forget about the secret tunnel, through the mountain, secret secret secret secret tunnel, yeah!
52. Winter Solstice Part 1: The Spirit World
The Winter Solstice story arc works far better as a back-to-back two-parter rather than single episodes- that really is a statement subjected to the first half though. Parts 1 and 2 are practically completely different chapters even though they revolve around the same location, the spirit world. The real event these two episodes focus on is the upcoming Winter Solstice Aang is told to utilize, except part one sadly falls victim to being the chapter that is forced to succumb to the events that escalate to the exciting back half. Its real highlight moment that caused a stir of speculation had to do with Uncle Iroh as the audience discovered that more people than just the Avatar can see spirits outside of their homeworld. Paired with part 2 this chapter definitely works as a strong buildup. On its own, however, it is a whole lot less electrifying even though it still manages to remain compelling the whole way through due to its many ideas that would receive better opportunities to be expanded upon in the future.
Imprisoned suffers from similar side-effects that the chapter Jet had. The two new earthbenders Haru and his father Tyro are characters that perhaps may not need a major buildup due to their minor appearances, but knowing more about the newcomers in Imprisoned would have been welcomed as they are backed up by an impressive setup. The episode’s premise of encasing earthbenders on a metal ship that they can not escape from as there is a lack of bendable material on board the fleet is fascinating and justifies the broken spirits the prisoners had developed since their capture. The outcome is predictable and Haru was in desperate need of more screen time, yet the captivating setup and ethical construction of the setting never keep this chapter from going stale. On top of George Takei’s odd guest star appearance as the prison warden, there are several aspects of Imprisoned that the series easily could have explored more with a longer runtime.
50. The Avatar Returns
The Avatar Returns is the episode that really completes the call to adventure stage of our heroes’ journey as we get to see some of the driving forces behind the main cast of characters. The Fire Nation was shown as a real threat for the first time on screen here as they pummeled through Katara and Sokka’s home village threatening the defenseless people of the Southern Water Tribe in hopes of capturing the Avatar. Chapter two establishes the fact that everyone in the world is expecting Aang to be a century old and already a master of the four elements. Many characters are yet to come to the shocking realization that the Avatar is nothing but a twelve-year-old inexperienced child though. This entry is most known for being the first time we got to see the avatar state being used in an action scene as Aang rises from the depths of the South Pole waters to easily wipe out Zuko and his crew. An important detail we discover in this episode during its final moment was Aang’s distraught emotions with being the avatar- something that would not be explored until later down the line in The Storm.
49. The King of Omashu
The King of Omashu is the first time viewers witness the capabilities of an earthbender in the series as Aang, Katara, and Sokka visit the long-standing Earth Kingdom city of Omashu. The distinctive structured cliffside city that uses gravity and earthbending to power a messenger system of unrailed carts was just as odd as Aang’s childhood friend Bumi who became the king of Omashu during the hundred-year war. The introduction of King Bumi is more than a welcomed change of pace from Book 1’s first few episodes as it throws a character into the mix that is so out of the ordinary from everything the show had presented up until that point. Of course, it is impossible to not acknowledge the fact that chapter five began the misfortunate traveling Cabbage Merchant adventures that would become a running gag throughout books one and two as Team Avatar always witnessed or caused new ways that would lead to the destruction of his valuable cabbage carts.
48. Bato of The Water Tribe
Bato of The Water Tribe is one of the very few chapters in the entirety of Avatar that has caused a stir of debates online. When Aang finds a note from Katara and Sokka’s father he decides to selfishly hide the message in hopes that his friends will never discover it. Was Aang keeping Katara and Sokka’s chances of seeing their father again out of character or justified by his anxiety? Personally, I am on the more optimistic end of the spectrum although there evidently is credible reasoning on both sides. To some, Aang’s fear of losing the people that have become his only family despite his altruistic nature felt justified and humanizing, but it is hard to not consider the counterarguments. With Bato’s exit halfway into the episode and a focus on Zuko, Iroh, and June the bounty hunter, it is hard to not wonder why the chapter helms its odd title. Nonetheless, with most viewers, this episode will come off as an emotional one. For those on the opposing end, it is hard to discredit the episode’s entertaining fight scenes and Sokka’s important memories derived from Bato’s water tribe traditions he bestows on him.
47. The Runaway
Toph and Katara have always had a generally rocky relationship- one that always resolved the same way time and time again though. The Runaway contains tons of great moments between Team Avatar as Toph abuses her earthbending to scam street artists. It ultimately leads to Toph and Katara fighting about whether their form of stealing is right except this argument has already been tackled before. The problem with this episode is how this topic had already been addressed in the past. After season one’s The Water Bending Scroll, one could argue that Katara was written rather unreasonable in this chapter and contradicting to what she previously states about stealing from thieves. The back half of the episode gives good reasoning to Katara’s stance, but in comparison to what audiences had previously witnessed The Runaway can feel a little off at times. There are plenty of humorous stand-out jokes and needed relationship development here though that keep the chapter engaging till the end. Katara using her sweat to waterbend was a genius idea many fans previously wondered if it were possible to do.
46. The Boiling Rock Part 1
The Boiling Rock is Sokka’s chance to redeem himself after his invasion failure during the solar eclipse, while for Zuko it is an opportunity for him to bond with a new friend he has attacked on more than one occasion. Boiling Rock stands out because of its location being a prison located in the middle of a volcano that is inescapable due to the heat. The science behind the location is a welcomed explanation that influences the storyline except the payoff of the island’s build-up is utilized more so in the second half. The reintroduction of Suki into Team Avatar is a surprise and motivational factor for Sokka not giving up on his father being relocated at the prison, except once again that payoff is more reliant in the second half. This chapter introduced a firebending prisoner known as Chit Sang who has been abused by the guards for clearly longer than the time Zuko and Sokka have been present. Chit Sang is the comical relief of the story though he does play a larger role in showing just how much the prisoners at this facility are taken advantage of by those in power, but we never find out more about the character himself.
45. The Warriors of Kyoshi
Avatar has always been a progressive show, however, the way in which it approaches several themes never fails to please younger and older audiences. Sokka’s dynamic with the Kyoshi Warriors is one of the earliest examples of this in The Last Airbender. The Warriors of Kyoshi handles the cliche of sexism in children shows smartly by developing Sokka’s character while introducing the Kyoshi Warriors, an order of women fighters who don the appearance of Avatar Kyoshi. The warriors prove to Sokka how women are more than capable of taking on the task of physical combat as he befriends one of the younger fighters Suki who is willing to teach him the order’s methods despite his gender difference. Besides Sokka’s major developments, Aang continued to see how the presence of the Avatar causes only destruction to those surrounding him as he failed to protect the island village when fame gets the best of him. This episode was downright packed with several humorous moments including the fan-favorite “foaming mouth character” and the “master of evasive maneuvers.”
44. Return to Omashu
The Return to Omashu is quite an unexpected yet familiar change in tone compared to the last time audiences witnessed the crazy King Bumi and his unique messenger city. While Team Avatar does have an entertaining story in this episode as they search New Ozai in hopes of helping the rebellion of Omashu and saving King Bumi, the real spotlight falls on Azula’s newly introduced longtime friends Ty Lee and Mai- the oblivious acrobatic circus girl who is manipulated by the princess and the rich daughter of a high ranking Fire Nation governor. These two characters have great introductions that showcase their personalities and unique nonbender fighting styles that add refreshing action to the series. While we have seen plenty of forms of physical combat before in the show, Ty Lee and Mai are completely different from what had been previously established as we are shown hand enforced chi blocking far superior to what the Kyoshi Warriors used. The guards’ reactions to the Pentapox crisis also could not be more relevant now than ever before. Wash your hands and burn your clothes!
43. The Avatar State
Early into the series, the Avatar State was known to be an incredible source of power that connects Aang to all of his past lives, but it was never something that the audience understood to its full extent. Is it triggered by personal anger? The need to help others? After annihilating Zhao’s forces at the Northern Water Tribe’s home, it is not surprising that some characters would want to find a way to weaponize Aang’s unique ability to end the hundred-year war as fast as possible. The Avatar State does an excellent job guilt-tripping Aang as we see how General Fong utilizes the war’s rising death count and catastrophic effect on his injured Earth Kingdom soldiers to push our hero into forcing himself to explore uncharted spiritual territory. On top of all this, the introduction of Princess Azula is nothing short of exceptional. Seeing the broken dynamic of the Fire Nation royal family between only three of its present members goes to show how the overarching villain has been nothing but cruel to his bloodline.
42. The Boy In The Iceberg
The first episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender is deceptively engaging. It is one of those rare premiere episodes that perfectly manages to grasp what a beginning should contain as it fashionably grabs the audience’s attention through both its beautifully structured script and marvelous visual storytelling from Clone Wars director Dave Filoni. From its onetime extended opening monologue to its closing action setpiece, The Boy In The Iceberg knew exactly how to multitask world-building and character development in a single twenty-minute block by defying audience expectations. The way it introduces its main cast and poses future questions that go unanswered for several episodes all culminates into an impressive groundwork that arguably is one of the lesser appreciated episodes throughout the fandom. It may be the oldest chapter in the series, but it certainly holds its own against the episodes that debuted after its opening success fifteen years later.
41. The Northern Air Temple
The Northern Air Temple is a technological foreshadowing of future inventions that would aid and defeat our heroes over the course of the next two books. It manages to help develop the world of Avatar while also being a critical moment in Aang’s overarching story. Seeing Aang’s internal battle with those using the ancient temple grounds to accommodate for their survival is a relevant theme we still see today in society when old civilizations are torn apart and reconstructed time and time again. The Northern Air Temple excellently plays into both sides of a moral debate that we see mostly through the eyes of the last remaining airbender whose culture is being demolished by outsiders. The outsiders may know nothing of the air nomad culture, but is destroying the land worth their long-term survival? Is reconstructing where someone once lived ideal or unethical? This chapter brings an interesting pool of conflicts to the table before the climax of the episode can even be reached. It still somehow manages to amp up its stakes once Team Avatar discovers that the mechanics are being forced to develop weapons for the Fire Nation in exchange for their survival.