My next two Avatar posts are a countdown of my favorite episodes. I promise I will write my review of the series as well as a rundown of the show’s concept and design in the near future (This week actually.) Though I obviously love everything about Avatar, there are some especially fulfilling episodes for me as a historian and an admirer of animation. Of course, the comedic scenes helped in my decision as well.
Remember, this is my opinion. The whole show is fantastic and I cannot think of one episode or aspect of it I do not like. But there are some things I loved more. I will also post my favorite scenes soon, and will talk about them in more detail. Alright, let’s get started!
This episode is eerie and definitely less acknowledged then the three episodes that follow it. But I like many of the things it accomplishes.
First, Aang reunites with Appa. Watching as a young adult, I anxiously waited for Appa to come back to the group. The episode “Appa’s Lost Days” illustrated how difficult Appa’s journey to Ba Ding Se was as well as how his experiences connected to Aang and the other’s. That said, When he finally was with Aang again, it was extremely satisfying.
Second, this was the beginning of Zuko’s metamorphosis. Iroh’s powerful words “I’m begging you, Prince Zuko! Its time for you to look inward and begin asking yourself the big questions: Who are you? and What do you want?” finally spoke what everyone was thinking. Zuko had a bigger destiny beyond his father’s approval and title.
Third, I like the setting. The spooky green colors and cold stone walls really were well thought out. There is something about it that screams “this is a different type of enemy”.
Finally, I like the political intrigue connected to the whole thing. Whether it was the forced hypnosis used to control the citizens or Long Feng’s cold logic, it showed it was not specific elements or nations that were evil but individuals who misused their power.
Favorite Quote: Iroh- I’m begging you, Prince Zuko! Its time for you to look inward and begin asking yourself the big questions: Who are you? and What do you want?
19. “The Puppetmaster”, Episode 48
This episode is creepy. Really creepy. Why? Well, for several reasons. But it is not like a haunted castle special meant to pass the time before the big solar eclipse invasion. It had a strong story and deep moral questions.
First, there is the character Hama, Sokka and Katara’s sister from the southern water tribe. She represents a different type of evil. Hers was born from stifling years trapped and inprisoned by the fire nation. But it was a choice. There is a saying that often accompanies stories like this. “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” In other words, “What was Hama willing to forsake in exchange for her freedom?”
Second, Katara discovers a lot about herself. She does learn how to use her bending differently, but at the same time has to watch horrified at what Hama has become. Then, to save Aang and Sokka, she had to blood blend. It is heartbreaking to see her fall on her knees crying, knowing what door she opened.
Lastly, I like the coloring and animation for Hama and Katara’s fight. Water bending, at least for me, looks so beautiful in the moonlight. For here, it was tarnished bitterly by Hama’s presence and resolution.
Favorite Quote: Aang: I’d steer clear of the sea prunes.
Toph: I thought they were ocean kumquats.
Aang: Close enough.
18. “Bitter Work”, Episode 29
Here is the episode where Aang finally starts learning earth bending. It has its share of comedic and dramatic moments, as Aang’s story connects, as always, to Zuko’s. (Has anyone else noticed how often their personal journeys interconnect?) Now let’s go over why I like this episode.
First, it shows how the main characters must change. Aang struggled with earth bending because it coincided with his gentle, evasive nature. He had to learn to face his problems head on. Zuko had to face both his guilty feelings about his uncle’s injury and his overwhelming shame and grief. He was less successful but at least he became a little more humble.
Second, Sokka’s exchange with the little animal is priceless. He is always hilarious, but this is one of the scenes from the show that stuck with me. My favorite part is when Aang’s internal problems match Sokka’s physical ones. (For example, “Aang- I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. Sokka- Hm, How about that.”)
Lastly, Toph is an awesome character to watch. (She crushes a rock with her head!) It was so refreshing to have such a strong female added to their group.
Favorite Quote: Zuko (yelling angrily toward the sky): You’ve always thrown everything you could at me! Well, I can take it, and now I can give it back! Come on! STRIKE ME! You’ve never held back before!
17. “The King of Omashu”, Episode 5
King Bumi is amazing. That about sums up why I love this episode. Well, I do love it for other reasons but Bumi seals the deal really. I remember seeing this when it came out when I was fourteen. That joke “lettuce leaf” still makes me smile.
On the subject of Bumi, he is both endearing and hilarious. Kooky old guys like him do not come very often. He always has this funny pipe organ music playing whenever he makes corny jokes. Another thing, his fight with Aang is awesome. He is about 112 years old and still can bend like a master! Yeah!
Anyway, another reason I like this episode is the chute scene. Specifically, I love that one shot (as shown above) ⬆️ of Aang dragging poor Sokka and Katara on their crazy ride. How they animated it was also very impressive.
Favorite Quote: Katara: You can’t do this to us. Let us leave!
King Bumi: (holds up lettuce leaf) Lettuce leaf? (Chews lettuce outlandishly)
16. “The Siege of the North”, Episodes 19-20
I will combine episodes only when they are split into parts. This was the first truly epic battle in the series. Some parts in it stand out more than others, but as a whole it was an understandably well received finale for Season 1. Here’s specifically why I like this episode.
First, Aang’s visit with Koh the face-stealer is interesting. When I first watched Koh’s taunting exchange with Aang, I felt like my skin was crawling with each of his legs. Now I find him fascinating. I keep wondering how they created his character.
Second, I like the design of the spirit world, especially the colors. It feels. . . well, like an otherworldly realm taken directly from Indian mythology. (As in India). I love Indian phliosophy and culture so seeing this episode now after all the research I have done in college is incredibly gratifying.
Lastly, Aang’s partnering with the ocean spirit in the Avatar State is awesome. It was one of those moments you realize how powerful Aang actually is. (The stubborn part of me still affirms that Aang is an individual separate from the other Avatars in personality but joined in purpose.)
This episode makes me laugh, but there are also many insights into the lives of the characters. It shows, comedically, how Azula, Zuko, Mai and Tylee fit into the normal world. There are also some nice action scenes between “sparky, sparky, boom man” and Aang’s group.
Now, some people are not meant for normal interaction. Azula is one of those people. For the better part of the show, all you can do is hate her. In this episode, she actually tries to be a teenage girl and flirts with boys. Let’s face it though. There is no way she could ever be a normal teenager. But then, that’s what makes it funny.
Many questions are answered about these characters too. Tylee’s bubbly personality and acquired circus skills were born from an overwhelming need to be an individual. Mai acted sullen and proper because she had been raised by overly strict parents. The two most interesting revelations are about Zuko and Azula. Azula felt her mother thought she was a monster. Zuko was battling his feelings of anger towards himself.
As a side note, I love the small four or five second scene when Zuko throws off his robe and doves fly behind him. When I saw it for the first time, I was rolling on the floor in fits of laughter! Really, dark and brooding men are hilarious to me. Good thing he grew out it or I would have never liked him.
Favorite Quote: Zuko: Bad skin?! Normal teenagers worry about bad skin! I don’t have that luxury! My father decided to teach me a permanent lesson – ON MY FACE!
Ty Lee: Sorry, Zuko, I–
Zuko: For so long now I thought if my dad accepted me, I’d be happy. I’m back home now, my dad talks to me, he even thinks I’m a hero! Everything should be perfect, right? I should be happy now, but I’m not. I’m angrier than ever and I don’t know why!
Azula: There’s a simple question you need to answer, then. Who are you angry at?
Zuko: No one! I’m just… angry.
Mai: Yeah, who are you angry at, Zuko?
Zuko: Everyone! I don’t know!
Azula: Is it Dad?
Zuko: No, no.
Ty Lee: Your uncle?
Zuko: No! No, no, no!
Mai: Then who? Who are you angry at?
Azula: Answer the question, Zuko.
Ty Lee: Talk to us!
Mai: Come on, answer the question.
Azula: Come on, answer it.
Zuko: [makes their fire blaze] I’M ANGRY AT MYSELF!
14. “The Day of Black Sun”, Episodes 50-51
I like this episode for different reasons than the average onlooker. Of course I think the action is top notch and Azula’s clever manipulation of their plans was brilliant, but there is more to it than that.
First, I love the background paintings of the eclipse and Aang’s group’s flight from the fire nation. I have mentioned many times I love autumn colors of orange, red and brown. That color scheme is evident through a lot of the episode. But I do love the full feelings the clouds have, especially in the scene indicated above. ⬆️
Second, I do have a girly romantic side. (Well, I am female). When Aang kissed Katara I jumped up from my seat happy as a clam. I never have understood the “Zutara” fan club thing. (Again, the name is ridiculous! Does anyone else feel this way?) I like to see good guys like Aang find love.
Third, I think it was right that they did not win during the eclipse. I never agreed with Sokka’s actions in the desert library. He broke the trust of a knowledgeable being and stole scrolls and other pieces from him. It seemed ironic that after all the trouble Sokka went through to steal the necessary information, it brought them no closer to winning the war.
Finally, Zuko’s confrontation with his father Firelord Ozai was incredible. I had been waiting for that scene to happen for a long time. A part of me always knew Zuko would change sides. I just never expected him to do it so strongly. It was clear how much he had changed from the half-bald angry villain from Seaon 1.
Favorite Quote: Zuko: For so long, all I wanted was you to love me, to accept me. I thought it was my honor that I wanted, but really, I was just trying to please you. You, my father, who banished me just for talking out of turn. My father, who challenged me, a 13-year-old boy, to an Agni Kai. How can you possibly justify a duel with a child?
Ozai: (bitterly) It was to teach you respect.
Zuko: It was cruel! And it was wrong.
Ozai: Then you have learned nothing.
Zuko: No, I’ve learned everything! And I had to learn it on my own. Growing up, we were taught that the Fire Nation was the greatest civilization in history and somehow, the war was our way of sharing our greatness with the rest of the world. What an amazing lie that was! The people of the world are terrified by the Fire Nation! They don’t see our greatness – they hate us! And we deserve it. We’ve created an era of fear in the world. And if we don’t want the world to destroy itself, we need to replace it with an era of peace and kindness.
Ozai: (laughs mockingly) Your Uncle has gotten to you, hasn’t he?
Zuko: (closes his eyes for a second, then smiles) Yes. He has.
13. “Zuko Alone”, Episode 27
I do not like this episode as much as other fans, but there is a lot of important information about Zuko’s past that I liked seeing. Technically, by this time in the show, he was an anti-hero and an empathetic character. This is a hard episode to see but it is necessary for establishing how Zuko changes and how he handles being on his own.
I always enjoyed flashbacks in the show. For Zuko, it established several things. One, at heart he was a kindhearted person, close to his mother and understanding of other’s pain. Second, it showed the tumultuous relationship he had always had with his sister Azula, who excelled at everything. Third, it illustrated the estranged relations Zuko had with his father even then and the the lengths Ozai would go to to come to power, even kill his own son. All these things showed that not only was Zuko a human being but also his sister Azula. All of it boiled down to their childhood choices.
This episode not only gave the audience a better understanding of Zuko’s past. It also provided earth kingdoms citizens a face for Zuko to see. Since his eventual destiny was to replace his father as Firelord, this was extremely important. It caused him to question what he believed to be right and wrong; to question what he was fighting for. Above all, it made him think of others besides himself.
This episode leaves a bitter taste behind, but it lays the foundation for upcoming changes Zuko would make in his life. Zuko is not my favorite character, but I do like to see his transformation from an angry and troubled young man to an even-headed leader and teacher.
Favorite Quote: [After Azula tricked Zuko into knocking Mai, and himself, into a fountain to put out the flaming apple on Mai’s head]Ursa: I was just coming to get you. Uncle Iroh sent us a letter from the war front. …You’re soaking wet.Zuko: Girls are crazy!
12. “The Avatar and the Firelord”, Episode 46
Major questions are finally answered in these intertwining flashbacks. Questions like, “How did the war start?”, “Why couldn’t Avatar Roku stop it from happening?”, “What is Zuko’s other connection to the Avatar?” etc. Again, it was cleverly told both from Zuko’s study of Sozin’s memoirs and Roku’s memories.
The story is tragic but it is a fulfilling one. First, it showed who Roku was as a person. He loved a girl and married, felt insecure, and had a strong friendship with Sozen. Second, it established Sozen’s motives and downfall. Last, it showed how power and pride can blind anyone, no matter how sincere their actions once were.
My favorite scene from this episode was Zuko’s conversation with Iroh. I was not expecting Zuko to be Roku’s grandson at all. It makes sense why the royal family would want to join their bloodline with Roku’s. At the same time, it is tragic seeing that Sozen was willing to forsake Roku for power. Having Ozai marry Roku’s granddaughter seemed liked a final blow. At the same time though, it gave a clearer picture of what Zuko’s role in the story had been all along.
Favorite Quote: Iroh: You have more than one great-grandfather, Prince Zuko. Sozin was your father’s grandfather. Your mother’s grandfather was Avatar Roku.
Zuko: (in shock) Why are you telling me this?!
Iroh: Because understanding the struggle between your two great-grandfathers can help you better understand the battle within yourself. Evil and good are always at war inside you, Zuko. It is your nature, your legacy, but there is a bright side. What happened generations ago can be resolved now by you. Because of your legacy, you alone can cleanse the sins of our family and the Fire Nation. Born in you, along with all the strife, is the power to restore balance to the world.
11. “The Fortune Teller”, Episode 14
I watched this episode after Avatar finished in 2008. It surprised me and made me wonder how on earth I could have missed such an interesting episode. This was one of the few times they deviated from the main journey and focused solely on the character’s relationships and personalities. It was also the first time they hinted at Katara and Aang’s future together.
Oh this episode made me laugh. Sokka had so many funny one liners and reactions. My favorite is his one-sides battle with the fish. I also like his “self-inflicted” struggles, like the rock hitting him in the head and the goose attacking him. He really did cause 99% of his stress and problems.
Aang was also so fun to watch. His expression outside Aunt Wu’s room during Katara’s reading was priceless! My other favorite scene was when he tries to act aloof as Katara buys a papaya. When he gags on the fruit I just can’t help but laugh. The episode makes it seem that Aang’s feelings would never be acknowledged but then it throws in that one line near the end when Katara realizes he matches Aunt Wu’s prediction. Granted a lot of different men could have fit that description but what was important is who she decided it would be. I was for her and Aang falling in love from the get go. Plus, Aang is too adorable to have a broken heart. Ah, to be young and in love.
Favorite Quote(s): 1.Sokka: Wow. Sometimes I forget what a powerful bender that kid is.
Katara: (Katara’s expression instantly changes at this, remembering Aunt Wu’s words) Wait, what did you just say?
Sokka: Nothing, just that Aang is one powerful bender.
Katara: I suppose…he is.
2. [Katara puts on the necklace Aang made for her]
Katara: [to Aang] So, how do I look?
Aang: [blushes] You mean all of you or just your neck? I mean, because both look great.
Sokka: Smoochee smoochee. Someone’s in love. [screams as the fish hits him in the face.]
3. Aang (trying to sound cool): So…papaya.
Katara: Uh-huh. Would you like some?
Aang: You know me. (He picks up a fruit.) I don’t really care what I eat.
Katara: Ok then. See you later.
(She turns and walks out of view while Aang takes a bite of the fruit. He chokes and spits it back up, clearly hating the taste.)
Aang: Maybe aloof isn’t my style.