Avatar: The Last Airbender was an incredible animated series that aired on Nickelodeon from 2005-2008. For a children’s cartoon, this show explored mature themes like war, prejudice, brainwashing and espionage. Although it was an American show, it took heavy influences from Asian culture, both in terms of the mythology and the animation style. The result was a three-season masterpiece of a show that still holds up to this day.
Avatar spawned a sequel series called The Legend of Korra, which focused on the Avatar who came after Aang, the main character from the first show. With fans hungry for more, Netflix is bringing us a live-action remake of the original show set to debut sometime this year. While we wait, let’s rank the best episodes from the original series.
10. The Day of Black Sun
This two-episode arc is a sort of mid-season finale for Book 3 (season 3). It begins with an invasion force meeting up with Team Avatar, and we see a litany of characters from all three season reunite to attack the tyrannical Fire Nation. Using the information they learned from Wan Shi Tong’s library about a solar eclipse, the plan is for Avatar Aang, who can control all four elements, to fight Firelord Ozai while the sun is blocked by the moon and firebenders like Ozai have no power. We also get an awesome speech from Hakoda, the father of lead characters Katara and Sokka, to rally the troops before the attack.
In the Fire Nation prison, fan favorite character Iroh has been bulking up physically and planning to break out. Meanwhile, Prince Zuko — a character who begins the series as an antagonist before going on a long growth arc — finally realizes how much of a colossal mistake it was betraying his Uncle Iron in Ba Sing Sei. While the eclipse is underway, Zuko finally confronts his father the Firelord and tells him off.
Zuko says that the Fire Nation is using its power for evil and that its military expansionism is resulting in suffering and hatred throughout the world. Just before the eclipse ends, Zuko says he will join Aang to help him defeat the Fire Nation. When he is about to leave, Ozai baits Zuko by bringing up his mother, telling him that she may still be alive. When the eclipse ends, Ozai shoots lightning at his son, intending to kill him. Using the technique Iroh taught him, Zuko redirects the lightning and escapes to find that his uncle has already broken out of prison.
While the invasion force works its way to the royal palace, Aang goes ahead only to find it empty. Somehow, the Fire Nation knew about the invasion before it happened and abandoned the palace. The group decides to look for Ozai underground, and the earthbender Toph is able to locate a bunker inside of a nearby volcano. Toph, Aang and Sokka infiltrate it and look for Ozai, only to find Zuko’s unstable sister Azula, who manages to waste the team’s time until the eclipse is over.
The group escapes and meets up with the rest of the invasion, who is staring down a fleet of airships moving to cut off their escape. When Sokka suggests they stand and fight, Hakoda orders the youngest to escape on Aang’s flying bison Appa and live to fight another day. The rest stay behind and surrender.
This episode begins with a feel good vibe, reuniting the gang with old friends like the Mechanist and the swamp benders, but ends in tragedy as the invasion fails. The silver lining is that Team Avatar escapes. More importantly, Zuko takes a positive step towards redemption, something that’s been a long time coming. When Zuko finally joins the group, we get some of the most interesting episodes of the whole series.