I did a rewatch of ATLAB (alongside Korra) during the quarantine break and my opinion on the series changed since my first watch back in grade 12 year of highschool (2014). The show is remarkably well paced and very memorable throughout. Here’s my top 5 episodes from the entire series.
The Best Episodes imo
- The Blind Bandit
- Bitter Work
- The Ember Island Players
- The Chase
- The Storm
5. Zuko Alone
If you asked me in highschool what my favourite episode was, I would’ve said
Zuko Alone. I still think it is a remarkable episode but it is fairly simplistic in themes. Zuko tries to do good in the village and rides off into the sunset similar to western films as a lone cowboy. Good and well-executed but formulaic. It’s still a top 5 episode though.
4. Sozin’s Comet, Part 3: Into the Inferno
The final agni kai between Zuko and Azula is legendary. I would even parallel it to something of Macbeth versus Macduff where Azula is like Macbeth bent on maintaining her absolute position of power and has completely fallen apart. The music and the action do it justice as the series built up to this moment since Azula was introduced at the end of season 1. In many ways you could describe Azula as one of the FOILs to Zuko where they contrast in firebending, motivations, and goals in the end.
3. The Crossroads of Destiny
Zuko is at the crossroads of destiny just as much as Zuko was.
Zuko had just recently freed Appa and Katara talks to him while trapped in the cave. His story intertwined with Aang’s as they both need to make difficult decisions. His decision was clearly shown in the choice between siding with Azula to regain his honour by defeating the Avatar versus siding with Aang and Katara to take out Azula and reclaim Ba Sing Se. Zuko’s choice is more prevalent because in the episodes leading up to it, it seems he took a heel turn and was changing for the better. Even in the cave it seems that Zuko felt the most relatable up until that point in the show talking to Katara.
Aang’s decision is often overlooked (and to be honest what did “letting go of Katara” really mean in the end?). He had to open his last chakra and let go of “earthly tethers” to gain the cosmic energy and enter the avatar state. That was short lived as he is immediately shot with lightning by Azula and had to be carried by Katara when escaping.
2. The Firebending Masters
I didn’t understand this episode when I was younger. On surface level it is “zuko bad->firebend, zuko good->no firebend”, but I think it speaks to much deeper levels than just that. This was shortly after Zuko joined the group and had decided to teach Aang firebending. It all seemed to be going well until he realized he couldn’t firebend. It speaks on why we do certain things and how it interweaves with our choices. Zuko gave up his old life after being disillusioned with what it truly was like. Even he could not know what “helping the avatar” was going to entail but he did it out of belief of his destiny.
1. The Guru
This is a bit of a hot take but I liked this episode a lot. It mainly revolved around Aang and the reflection of the past. It brought a humanizing aspect to Aang as you realize he is 12 years old, he lost his entire (air nomad) nation, he had to realize the world changed greatly over the 100 years he was gone, and as the avatar what it meant to accept responsibility for what had happened but also move forward. The episode ends with him having visions of Ba Sing Se and going to save Katara, not fully unlocking all his chakras. In terms of plot, it is a little shakey putting it next to “The Crossroads of Destiny” episode where he has to let go of his earthly connection to Katara to enter the avatar state. (which really didn’t happen technically). This also set up the exposition of “how do I face the firelord” which becomes a prevalent theme in season 3 as aang’s peaceful nature conflicts with his duty as the avatar.
Also Toph metalbends for the first time in this episode which is pretty sick. She said she was the best earthbender ever and proves it.
The Worst Episodes imo
5. The Swamp
I hated this one.
4. Bato of the Water Tribe
This episode was straight filler.
3. Sokka’s Master
Even though this episode did:
- allow Sokka to gain some credibility
- Sokka got a sword
- learned from the Piandao that unconventional wisdom is great
- saw that Piandao despite being a non-bender still became a well respected sword fighter
I don’t think the overall lackluster plot made up for it.
2. Nightmares and Daydreams
Aang can’t sleep due to having to fight the fire lord. Hijinks in hallucinations but other than that not much to it.
1. The Great Divide
(almost) Universally decided upon as the worst episode. It was meant to showcase Aang’s ability as a peaceful arbitrator as the avatar but really just was really boring.