Ranking Every Episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Top 20 Chapters
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…
20. Bitter Work
Aang and Zuko both learn a lot about the connections of physical and mental training through bending during the events of Bitter Work, but the major differences between both their teachings build unique storylines that are engaging in two separate regards. We get to see how Toph and Uncle Iroh present two completely different philosophies of bending: one that teaches thinking single-mindedly and straightforward as an earthbender while the other takes into consideration wisdom from all the elements to redirect lightning with firebending. While Aang’s earthbending lessons are fun to watch, Zuko learning Iroh’s advanced technique to use in the future is far more interesting as it builds upon Avatar’s Mythology. Bitter Work’s finest moment has to be its closing seconds as we see Zuko completely collapse as he begs a higher power to strike him with lightning due to believing that he can give it back. Zuko yelling that he has already been through the worst and can take more is nothing but chilling. How could anyone forget though how Sokka fell in a hole and met the adorable sabertooth moose lion cub Foo Foo Cuddlypoops to balance out that depressing ending.
19. The Blind Bandit
Avatar: The Last Airbender has always had a way of incorporating characters with disabilities, but the introduction of Toph Beifong is something incomparable to what audiences have seen before. Allowing a blind character to see through earthbending is a spectacular idea that is executed even better in action than on paper. Having a character that takes advantage of vibrations to elevate themselves above those with two usable eyes is riveting and artistically appealing in multiple directions. It puts Aang’s earthbending master in a whole potential line of scenarios that the other cast members can not face without the same faulty characteristics. On top of a highly entertaining cast of competitive earthbending performers like Xin Fu and The Boulder, Toph’s debut in the flesh culminates into a fascinating ride coupled with an insanely strong start for a key character’s future placement in the series. The audience expected a child to help Aang master earthbending, but the Blind Bandit was simply unconventionally amazing.
18. Lake Laogai
Lake Laogai can be considered the climax of the Ba Sing Se story arc as Team Avatar, the Freedom Fighters, and the Blue Spirit all race to discover Appa’s kidnappers as they search the secret underwater headquarters of the secretive Dai Li police. Lake Laogai came with major revelations of the city’s corruption and a shockingly abrupt end for the fan-favorite Freedom Fighter leader. While the action scenes with the Earth Kingdom’s agents of public censorship and Long Feng pair with Zuko’s decision to free Appa thanks to Uncle Iroh are worth talking about, Jet’s demise is by far the most memorable moment of the chapter that bent the rules of the network Avatar premiered on. Nickelodeon would never allow a character to be directly killed off on-screen in one of their shows, but the writers still found a genius way in which they would be able to let go of Jet in an impactful matter while creating different implications for age groups. Using Toph’s senses to detect Jet’s fate and the Freedom Fighters’ emotions together make for a great sendoff.
17. The Beach
The cast of Fire Nation characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender are flat out broken. This group of children has been beaten down both physically and psychologically to an extreme extent that inevitably creates who each of them would become, for better or worse. They are more than scarred and in need of proper guidance from others as seen by how dependent they all are. The Beach is a vacation to Ember Island with one core intent: reveal the inner feelings of our torn cast of “villains.” It is a chapter that heavily develops the relationships between Zuko, Mai, Azula, and Ty Lee like no other. This short vacation away from the Fire Nation capital perfectly delivers on exploring how each character feels about their own personal messy histories and sets them on their final paths to Sozin’s Comet. You are able to sympathize with the four each in unique ways. On top of all the phenomenal interactions between the Fire Nation characters, we get to see the powers of the assassin Zuko hired to kill Aang for the first time as he nearly obliterates Team Avatar.
16. The Avatar and the Fire Lord
The Avatar and the Fire Lord is a chapter packed with mind-blowing revelations that allows Aang and Zuko’s stories to finally come full circle and intertwine in a surprising way. The episode follows the lives of Avatar Roku and Fire Lord Sozin through spirits and testaments, as the audience engages with the story of the two men that Aang and Zuko carry the burdens of. From Aang’s perspective, we see how Roku’s story teaches him how relationships are not always what they may seem to be, but they can also potentially last lifetimes as seen through the previous Avatar’s retelling of his complicated history with his best friend. Zuko on the other hand views that same story through the perspective of Fire Lord Sozin as he uncovers the truth behind his family history. In the end, Zuko learns from his Uncle Iroh that his mother’s grandfather was Avatar Roku. The plot twist draws another level of complexity for the prince as the audience learns how Zuko can end the mistakes of his grandfathers by taking the right course of action. It shows us how there is a deeper line of good and evil in the relationship between the Avatar and the Fire Lord.
15. The Ember Island Players
Another interpretation of the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender, what could go wrong? Well, every other version of these characters outside a comic book whether they are being featured in live-action or not is bound to cause someone in our main cast pain. Days before Sozin’s Comet, Sokka and Suki bring to the attention of Team Avatar that the iconic Ember Island Players are going to be presenting a story about their adventures around the world- a group Zuko complains that has butchered other shows. Naturally, the team proceeds to go to the theater, but rather than a few hours of entertainment they are presented with all their failures and problems from the past, present, and even future. The Ember Island Players is a phenomenal recap of all the important events within Avatar: The Last Airbender leading up to its spectacular finale. Despite being the penultimate episode to the final four-part story arc, the episode still manages to multitask developing characters and relationships as it explores how the cast has felt about their journeys. It is purely comical to beginning to end as it pokes fun at plot points, personalities, writing tropes, and the inevitable upcoming finality of the hundred-year war.
14. Appa’s Lost Days
Appa is one of those characters viewers never really think about until he receives his own major storyline. Everyone loves the supposed last remaining sky bison and they definitely would never want anything to happen to him, but for the majority of Book 1: Water and the first half of Book 2: Earth, Appa is utilized to hop from location to location and maybe get in on the action every once in a while. He unquestionably had a personality with key character moments before and a relationship with the rest of the cast, but until the sandbenders captured him he never received that spotlight he needed. Appa’s Lost Days is a rough episode to watch as we witness everyone’s favorite animal companion be put through the absolute worst. From the flashbacks of his first days at the air temples playing with his siblings to becoming Aang’s partner, this nation trotting adventure is jam-packed with emotional moments. The outcome is heartbreaking and suspenseful as audiences witness him nearly find Aang before being capture by the Dai Li agents. Appa’s Lost Days was also the first introduction of one of Avatar’s most important characters and speaking of…
13. The Guru
The Guru combines spirituality, mentality, and physicality by branching the three together on Aang’s journey to finally master the Avatar state as he opens up his several chakras through the act of meditation. Although we had previously seen him in Appa’s Lost Days, the nomadic supercentenarian Guru Pathik is fully developed here in a matter of one necessary episode. Pathik is by far the most under-appreciated character in all of Avatar: The Last Airbender and one of high importance. While this chapter lacks a lot of action, it never needs to as it is highly focused on psychology and pure emotion as our cast is put on separate paths temporarily that ultimately lead to their untimely downfall. This episode was the first appearance of Metalbending in the series, an art previously stated to be unachievable by any Earthbender but clearly, Toph was ready to prove Xin Fu and Master Yu wrong as she once again escaped their metal cage trap by mind-blowingly ravaging a hole through it. Not to mention, Azula’s scheme to take control of Ba Sing Se with the help of a secret pact between Long Feng and the Dai Li was nothing short of a brilliant setup for the Fire Nation’s colonization of the Earth Kingdom.
12. The Firebending Masters
In the same fashion as the other titled books, we were bound to see the origins of firebending incorporated into Aang’s training during Book 3: Fire. The Firebending Masters removes the scars of the modern Fire Nation to reveal the truth behind what is considered the most dangerous element by the majority of characters the audience has seen before. After Jeong Jeong’s appearance in season one, the audience is able to understand how badly the world has been scarred by a few individuals. Fire is part of life and something that the world must accept rather than fear. For Aang, it is a major step in defeating the Fire Lord as he finally gains the ability to properly bend and create his final element. For Zuko, it is proof to the audience and the Avatar that he has completely turned his back on the nation he once served to save it. The ancient civilization of firebenders hiding the master dragons Ran and Shaw inside two massive carved out mountains is an incredible concept that does not even need to be touched upon in the chapter. The world-building and mythology centered around these ancient beings gives way to one of the most memorable settings in all of The Last Airbender.
11. The Puppet Master
How far can an element actually be bent? We have seen lightning manipulated by firebenders and an earthbender that could bend metal, but nothing is comparable to the horrifying reality of the power waterbenders can harness under a full moon. Even after two seasons of unique usage of Avatar’s magic system, Book 3: Fire continued to push the boundary of creativity further with The Puppetmaster. When the gang comes across a mysterious Southern Water Tribe bender named Hama, Team Avatar is caught between discovering a village conspiracy and one of the most powerful waterbenders seen to date. There is plenty of moral dilemma surrounding the fact that waterbending can be used to take and manipulate life itself when abused unnaturally through the art of bloodbending. Bloodbending is an ability that rightfully should scar anyone who uses it and while the idea only made an appearance during this particular chapter it went on to become a major influence in The Legend of Korra.
10. The Southern Raiders
If there is one thing Avatar: The Last Airbender excels in it is creating characters that are critical to its story, but never actually explored for the most part. Characters like Iroh’s son Lu Ten are mentioned multiple times yet we never see them in action- and that is okay because not every character needs a full block of screen time to make an emotional impact. The Southern Raiders allows Zuko and Katara to gain closure to a longtime mystery. The two scour the Fire Nation to find the killer of Katara’s mother who was part of a military group symbolized by sea ravens. After so many emotional moments involving Katara and her family, we understand how important this event is for her character and how it will change the way in which she views Zuko. After betraying her in the crystal catacombs of Ba Sing Se, Zuko is finally able to repay Katara for his sins and help change her perspective of who the enemy is. While on the topic of this chapter, the opening escape from The Western Air Temple is a phenomenal sequence that marvelously executes the episode’s plot.
9. Sozin’s Comet Part 1: The Phoenix King
The comet was bound to arrive and Book 3: Fire was ready to embrace the long-awaited prophecy. Sozin’s Comet was teased all the way back in Winter Solstice Part 1: Spirit World. The episode has little to no action, but it does not need any to hold itself high as The Pheonix King awaits the final battle. Part 1 prepares the audience for the final episodes of Avatar by setting up both the heroes and villains to their final destinations. Aang’s final lesson to redirect lightning with Zuko completes the latter’s training while giving Aang a possible easy way out of his ultimate confrontation. It smartly focuses on Aang’s ambition to stay true to his roots while finding a way to defeat a man willing to kill him in a heartbeat. The Phoenix King’s overarching lesson is something that will resonate with all audiences. This was the chapter that definitively made Aang a hero as he desperately searches for a way not to take life to achieve victory. Book 3: Fire’s moral decisions made it by far the most sophisticated season of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
8. Sozin’s Comet Part 2: The Old Masters
Ever since Iroh lost his lotus tile in his sleeve everyone has wondered what exactly the White Lotus’s importance is to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Iroh may have initially seemed like a foolish and lazy uncle, but over the course of the show, we discovered just how wise he actually is. It was pretty evident as the show progressed that this secret conspiracy was going to play a major role in the future. The Old Masters slips everything out from under our noses as it reintroduces the masters that Team Avatar previously encountered. The title, however, does not just refer to the Order of The White Lotus leaders and the previous Avatar’s Aang attempts to draw wisdom from. The show cleverly introduces an ancient lion turtle who teaches Aang how to bend the energy within oneself- something first teased during The Library in a book the team acknowledged. The elders of the four nations bring in the best life lessons the series could present to audiences during their final chance to bestow wisdom on our heroes.
7. The Blue Spirit
Avatar: The Last Airbender was packed with several revelations and twists revolving around our main cast of characters over the course of the series. The Blue Spirit, however, is a whole different breed of mystery and a perfectly executed audience revelation. Perhaps its excellent unmasking twist should be obvious to many viewers, however, the reason it never was is because of a false perception we see of the characters we love. Its engrossing way of storytelling is a high point of the episode and from a directing standpoint, The Blue Spirit is the series at some of its finest. The final few closing minutes depicting Aang’s disappointment in a potential friendship that was finite in the moment and Zuko turning his back on his homeland he just betrayed for his own selfish desires were purely heartwrenching to watch. Between an exhilarating team-up with our protagonist and antagonist and more screentime of the newly promoted Admiral Zhao, The Blue Spirit keeps the best aspects we love about a standard Avatar episode fresh by exploring alternative intriguing directional ques.
6. The Tales of Ba Sing Se
The Tales of Ba Sing Se may just be a simple anthology on the surface, but deep down it is blooming with personality as it hops from story to story giving each of the main characters a satisfying individual spotlight. These short stories range from humorous and goofy to absolutely moving and motivational. Each tale is a step forward for each character as we explore topics of inner feelings and outer conflicts that haunt each of the central cast members. It explores the hardships of disability, depression, and loss in a pure and unpredictable way you would expect from the series. The obvious highlight of The Tales of Ba Sing Se is Iroh’s story that is guaranteed to floor all viewers with its tear-jerking ending. The Tale of Iroh’s closing that pays tribute to the character’s original voice actor Mako who passed away before Book 2: Earth could be completed was a beautiful moment to honor the first Dragon of The West while closing the door on a perfectly executed mini-story about selflessness that originated from loss. This is an episode that flourishes with deep sentimental value for everyone that is involved with the series whether they are a fan, actor, writer, artist, or anything related to the show.
5. The Crossroads of Destiny
The Crossroads of Destiny is by far one of the most shocking season finales out there for a television show- at the very least it is the most surprising ending to a season on any show that has ever debuted on Nickelodeon. Every character was left in a complicated situation as they had to make quick decisions during Azula’s rain of terror on the Earth Kingdom. The final chapter in Book 2: Earth was an unsettling temporary sendoff for the cast that would make the wait for Book 3 even harder. It was certainly not a finale that left fans happy as our heroes were forced to flee from Ba Sing Se, Zuko betrayed Iroh for the throne after being wrongly pushed into a destiny during the latter half of the season, and several questions remained unanswered such as the whereabouts of the real Kyoshi Warriors including Suki and whether the Avatar cycle had been destroyed or not. To end the chapter off with Azula’s blast of lightning destroying Aang’s connection to the Avatar cycle was nothing short of jaw-dropping. All the stones put in place for the finale unraveled in true Avatar style: it was distinctive, unforgettable, and bewildering from beginning to end.
4. The Storm
The Storm is without question the most compelling and well-executed episode of Book 1: Water. It added a unique rich sense of depth to Avatar that had not been seen in the series up until this devastating episode. It may playoff initially as a simple gather-round fire tale story but once it begins to explore the tragic consequences ingrained from our hero and villain’s past mistakes, viewers are guaranteed to be far more invested in the future of these characters as they begin to question who they should be rooting for. The Storm brings out a whole different range of emotions the viewers will have regarding the protagonist and antagonist’s moral compasses and decisions. We discover how Aang and Zuko’s mistakes both drove them down similar paths; a path that sees the two both attempting to correct the failures of their childhood innocence. The only difference is that Aang is hiding behind laughs and high-energy while Prince Zuko is shrouded in pure violence and unhealthy anger. Their backstories added a different level of shame and honor that was previously not found in the simple perspective many had of these characters. It changed the way in which audiences viewed Avatar: The Last Airbender.
3. Sozin’s Comet Part 3: Into The Inferno
Avatar Aang versus Fire Lord Ozai is unquestionably the main event of Into The Inferno, but it would be hard not to talk about all three of the battles that begin during this chapter. While Aang fights for the future of the four nations against Ozai, Zuko challenges Azula to an Agni Kai for the Fire Nation throne, and the Order of the White Lotus descend on Ba Sing Se to recapture the Earth Kingdom Capital from the military. Every character gets in on some incredible action during Into The Inferno- even characters that made very few appearances that are part of the White Lotus including Jeong Jeong and Paku. It is definitely not packed with philosophy, but the audience knows the high stakes and what must be achieved during the last two chapters. It is a massive battle between good and evil for the sake of the world being charted on a better future. Into The Inferno is the beginning of the end as the cast fight for their lives to protect their morals and save their home. If there is anything that this episode should be recognized for though, it is Azula’s mental downfall that gets the best of her. The Fire Nation Princess finally collapses under all the intense pressure and it is all the more rewarding to witness.
2. Sozin’s Comet Part 4: Avatar Aang
Sozin’s Comet Part 4: Avatar Aang is the perfect conclusion to a television series. It phenomenally closes the doors on Team Avatar’s adventures while leaving open possibilities to be explored in the future if Nickolodeon ever chose to return to the world of the four nations- more adventures, however, that the audience does not require in the slightest to be left completely satisfied with the ending. It is the ultimate combination of sixty previous episodes being tied together for one final hurrah as Aang and the gang finally face their destinies to reunite the four nations once and for all. The action is fantastic, the set pieces are jaw-dropping, the conclusion is more than satisfying, and the ending soundtrack is beautiful. It ties up every main character’s story just in time to answer a few more questions before hitting the credits. Avatar: The Last Airbender ended on the highest note it possibly could as it rapidly approached its long-awaited closing scene. If there had never been any consumable content that took place after this ending, barely anyone would likely complain. It is without question one of the best series finales to ever air on television.
1. Zuko Alone
For Avatar: The Last Airbender, character development and world-building are incorporated into every episode. Zuko Alone, however, feels like more than just some developmental period for the character, his bloodline, his worldview, and all of his surroundings. It unfolds in the fashion of silent westerns structured by subcontext as the audience witnesses Zuko’s difficulties as a child and the first real hints as to how his family has been torn apart due to his father’s selfish desire to be the next Fire Lord. The amount of detail that is crammed into this one episode is astonishing by television standards and is nothing short of phenomenal.
Even characters that are barely present in the episode such as Uncle Iroh or Ozai himself are given important developmental roles that help characterize the Fire Nation royal bloodline. After watching this chapter, it is impossible not to sympathize with Zuko whether you love him or hate him. The banished prince’s rejection of the Fire Nation but desire to be honored in his family is an internal conflict that plagues the character up until the end of the series. Getting to see how he is a complete outcast no matter where he travels due to his destructive family history is upsetting at the moment, but bewitching by the end of his whole character arc. Zuko Alone only needs our so-called “antagonist” at the forefront to create the best chapter of the entire show’s run.