July 2nd will be an auspicious occasion this year. It marks the 10 year anniversary of M. Night Shyamalan’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. I would be remiss in my duties to let this monumental event go unnoticed. So, in honor of ten years, I present the ten best moments from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
10. SECRET TUNNEL!
You didn’t really think I was going to talk about the movie, did you? That movie is a heaping pile of garbage, so instead let’s talk about the best moments from the TV series!
One of the best things about Avatar is that the filler episodes are really good. Even when they aren’t advancing the plot, they’re definitely still making you laugh. Such was the case in season 2 of Avatar when Aang is searching for an earth-bending teacher. They meet a group of nomads who tell them they can get to Omashu via a secret tunnel. In song.
To this day, my fiance and I will randomly burst out with “SECRET TUNNEL!! SECRET TUNNEL! THROUGH THE MOUNTAIN!” Enjoy having that stuck in your head.
9. She’s Crazy And She Needs To Go Down
Let me be very clear. Uncle Iroh could fill this list by himself. He truly is one of the best characters I’ve ever seen and just hearing Mako’s voice again makes me tear up. But in the interest of covering the show, I decided to narrow it down to a couple of Uncle Iroh moments.
The one I’ve selected is far from the most popular, but it’s the one that made me actually burst out laughing. It comes as Zuko is trying to figure out what he’s going to do about his psycho of a sister Azula. Looking at Iroh, he tells him that he knows he should try to make peace with her. Iroh stuns everyone, audience, and Zuko alike when he replies “No, she’s crazy and she needs to go down.” It’s classic.
8. That’s Rough Buddy
Ah yes, the line that launched a thousand memes. The ending of the first season is where Avatar cements itself as one of the better cartoons of all time. And the repercussions of the climactic first season finale are still felt throughout the rest of the show.
Sometimes, this manifests in major character motivations and plot arcs. And yet, other times it just serves for a simple one off line. Such is the case in the third season when Zuko and Sokka are talking. While discussing romance, Sokka informs Zuko that his last girlfriend turned into the moon. Zuko looks at him and gives the bluntest and yet understandable response I’ve ever seen. “That’s rough, buddy.” has now been memed a million times and each is better than the last.
7. Toph Is Blind
So admittedly, this is more of a collection of moments than just one. For those who don’t already know, Toph ends up being the earth-bending teacher for Aang, and don’t think she isn’t up to it just because she’s a young girl. Toph is a serious bad-ass, and yes, she’s blind. She sees through her earth-bending, able to detect vibrations with her feet.
While Avatar never once makes Toph seem any less capable due to her handicap, they don’t shy away from the fact that she’s blind. They make it plainly obvious in very subtle ways and aren’t above having a little bit of fun at hers or more frequently other people’s expenses. Toph’s moments of reminding people that she’s blind are some of my favorites in the entire series.
Don’t let her inability to put posters fool you. Toph is perhaps the most powerful earth-bender ever, and we see some really strong earth-benders in this show. She pioneers metal bending, and even the timeline of Korra, she’s still a beast.
6. The Blood-Bender
If you’re expecting Avatar to be all happiness and sunshine, you need to find another series to watch. Avatar touches on some really dark themes, and especially in the later seasons, explores some of the darker sides of bending. Look no further than Katara’s experience with the blood bender.
It starts innocently enough when she meets a powerful water-bender named Hama, who shows her that water can be drawn from places it seemingly shouldn’t be. Don’t have a lake nearby? Siphon it from the trees. No rivers to utilize? The grass itself can provide water. At first, the advice is great to Katara, but she gradually realizes that taking the water from the trees kills them.
Master Hama’s lessons reach a crescendo when she teaches Katara her ultimate technique: Blood-Bending. Why throw a wave of water at your opponent when you can simply control them and make them take their own lives. The very concept shakes Katara to her core and after using it to defeat Master Hama, she swears to never use it again.
5. The Ember Island Players
Remember when I said that Avatar does a really good job with its filler episodes? Well, that goes doubly true for its recap episode. Now typically, a recap episode is the cardinal sin of television shows. But when done well, it can be legendary. Such is the case of The Ember Island Players.
The group stops to see a play while on Ember Island, which proclaims to tell the true story of the Avatar. What we get is a recreation of the show’s major events, but all told spectacularly wrong. I am not kidding when I tell you this is my favorite episode of Avatar, but heed my warning: If you watch this episode first, it won’t mean anything to you. You have to watch the rest of the series.
4. Tales Of Ba Sing Se
I promise this is the last filler episode I’ve got on here. Talk to any fan of Avatar though, and they’ll tell you this is in their top 5 episodes. The Tales of Ba Sing Se follows different people in the city of Ba Sing Se as they go about their lives, and more importantly, as they interact with Uncle Iroh. Iroh shares his wisdom with each of them, helping them to find a better path in life and all while he’s running late for an important engagement.
At the end of the episode, as the sun sets, he sets up a shrine on a lonely hill by a tree. He then begins singing a song for his son, who passed away many years prior to a war. It’s one of the saddest moments in the entire series and still makes me cry. Doubly so, this was the final episode of the show that Mako was able to voice Iroh. He passed away shortly after recording and sadly didn’t survive to see the episode air. The episode is dedicated to his memory.
3. Katara confronts her mother’s killer
This is one of those that I feel is very important, and yet not a lot of people seem to talk about it. As much as the show is about Aang’s journey, Avatar does a wonderful job of making it about everyone’s journey. The character growth that we see in Zuko, Sokka, and Toph is so much fun to watch. But this may be more true with Katara than anyone.
From the word ‘Go’, Katara has been the mom of the group. She looks out for everyone’s best interests, frequently to her own detriment. This is why in the final season, it’s so jarring when she takes a day with Zuko to do something incredibly selfish. They hunt down her mother’s killer, allowing her to face the biggest demon from her past. It’s an incredibly powerful moment and one that even causes her to blood-bend again. Katara emerged by the end as one of my favorite characters and I really enjoyed this sequence for her.
2. Avatar Aang Fights Phoenix Lord Ozai
The two biggest moments of the series are, unsurprisingly, some of the last ones we encounter. Avatar Aang is fated to fight Lord Ozai of the fire nation pretty much from the beginning. He struggles greatly in the knowledge that his journey will eventually lead him to Lord Ozai, and will force him to make a decision about the value of human life. Needless to say, when the fight comes, it does not disappoint.
If you’re watching the third season and wonder where they put all the budget, wait until the last couple episodes and you’ll see. The final battle between Aang and Ozai really delivers on everything we hoped for. Aang’s eventual solution to his problem with Ozai may feel a little rote and convenient, but if you paid attention to the series, it makes a lot of sense.
1. Zuko And Azula’s Agni-Kai
While it may not be the quote-unquote main fight of the series, this was the battle I had been waiting for. Zuko’s redemption arc is one of the best I’ve ever seen. And we knew from fairly early on that his path to redemption would eventually take him through his sister Azula. Their rivalry was a key fixture of the series and that only escalates with each passing season.
When the final battle between them happens, Zuko challenges Azula to Agni-Kai, a one on one duel to determine who leads the fire nation. Zuko gets the best of Azula until she tries to attack Katara. What ensues, not only completes Zuko’s story but Katara’s as well. I won’t spoil anything else. Just enjoy.
And those are the top 10 moments in Avatar: The Last Airbender! Of course, I didn’t pick any of them from the movie. The movie is AWFUL. But the Nickelodeon animated series is an all-time classic. If you missed it, you can catch it on Netflix. You’ll be glad you did!
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