Today we will be discussing one of my favorite television shows: Avatar: The Last Airbender. Though I don’t remember very much from when it was televised on Nickelodeon, we purchased the DVDs at Walmart for my 6 year old daughter. Even though I’m late to the game, I would like to provide the following list of my favorite emotional moments of the show.
** Spoiler Warning **
There are descriptions of episodes throughout the entire Avatar The Last Airbender series, therefore if you haven’t seen every episode, this article will provide spoilers.
10. Return to Omashu
Return to Omashu
Book Two: Earth Episode 3
Team Avatar’s first encounter with Omashu was filled with adventure, intrigue, and even a reunion with an old friend. But their return to Omashu was anything but happy.
In the conclusion of the episode, Aang finally finds Bumi, enclosed up to his neck in a coffin and suspended on a chain. They are double crossed by Azula and Mei, but not before having an emotional conversation with Bumi. He explains to him the concept of neutral “jing” which is Bumi’s reasoning for turning the city over to the Fire Nation without a fight. He explains to Aang that he has to stay as a prisoner and that they will see each other gain, when the time is right. Aang reluctantly turns away from Bumi, eventually releasing the baby back to the Fire Nation royal family.
9. Losing on the Day of Black Sun
The Day of Black Sun, Part 2: The Eclipse
Book Three: Fire Episode 11
Watching this episode for the first time, I was super pumped and excited for the outcome. By the end, I could barely hold back my tears. This is hard to admit, but I used to harbor a special place in my heart for Azula. Yes, she was evil, but wouldn’t anyone be in the situation she grew up in? Until this episode. I was finally fed up with her antics and this further solidified my distaste for her.
The first emotion that comes to mind is frustration. Azula succeeds in stalling Aang from reaching the Fire Lord. But in true Avatar form, the aftermath of the loss is what really tears at my heartstrings. We see the adults risking their freedom so Aang can escape, being taken as prisoners.
The second emotional aspect of the episode is Zuko and Ozai’s conversation. Zuko tries really hard to make him understand what he put him through, as well as asked what happened to his mother, but all Ozai does is mock him. Thankfully we do get some truthful backstory out of Ozai, but I still feel super sorry for Zuko.
8. Yue becomes the Moon Goddess
The Siege of the North Part 2
Book One: Water Episode 20
Oh Yue and Sokka…. This ship was my favorite (even more-so than Aang and Katara)…. Until she turned into the moon. Thankfully, Suki came back and stepped into the role of Sokka’s love interest, buy Yue will always have a special place in my heart.
This episode had a few emotional moments.
As Zuko is dragging Aang through the frigid tundra, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them both. Zuko for getting in over his head (as usual) and Aang for getting captured by the enemy while he’s stuck in the Spirit World. After Aang is rescued, he even rescues a knocked-out Zuko from the weather, much to Team Avatar’s dismay.
I only have one question for you about Yue and Sokka’s emotional farewell: What would you do if your significant other had to turn into the moon to preserve the spiritual balance? Nuff Said.
Bonus Comic Relief:
7. Zuko Turns His Back on Iroh and Katara
The Crossroads of Destiny
Book Two: Earth Episode 20
This episode is another one of those book-ending drama-fests. Of course there will be tears!
I was super optimistic and hopeful about Iroh and Zuko serving tea in the palace. But of course, in true Avatar fashion, optimism is usually quashed.
Also, Katara and Zuko have a very touching moment in the caves of Ba Sing Se, which is then IMMEDIATELY QUASHED by Zuko who switches sides again. Azula is a pretty convincing broad, but I was so proud of Zuko’s transformation, yet this happens….
6. Katara Is Forced To Bloodbend
Book Three: Fire Episode 8
At first glance, I had a feeling that this was a Halloween special, originally. It aired on November 9th of 2007, so I am assuming this is the case. The setting and atmosphere of the whole episode is SUPER creepy and I LOVE IT.
I’ll bet you’re wondering: How in the world is there anything emotional about this scary ass episode? That is where you’re wrong, dear reader. The emotion lies in Katara’s choice to bloodbend Yama, to subdue her. Not only that, but Team Avatar’s reaction to her making this horrible choice is enough to have me dabbing my eyes.
5. Appa’s Kidnapping and Journey
Book Two: Earth Episode 10
Appa’s Lost Days
Book Two: Earth Episode 16
Hands down, Appa is my favorite non-human character. Therefore, these two episodes were super tough to stomach.
Not only do we see Appa kidnapped as Toph helplessly watches, we also see Aang’s reaction to it. Aang and Appa are inseparable and they are miserable without each other.
A few episodes later, we learned where Appa has been all this time. The circus incident was meant to incite the viewer’s anger and when Suki finds him scared in the cave, we are to feel sympathy. This makes me wonder if Avatar’s writers purposely meant to tug at our heartstrings so hard.
4. Aang Realizes He’s The Last Airbender
The Southern Air Temple
Book One: Water Episode 3
This episode is my first glimpse into the heart-wrenching emotions that I will later become used to feeling, thanks to this show. Most television shows wait until an important milestone (such as season finale) to mess with our emotions, yet Avatar has already proven itself to us as a different kind of show.
This image elicits strong emotions, as it is. Not only the skeleton itself, but the draw in on Aang’s reaction upon finding the body makes my chest hurt. Plus, he doesn’t really get ample time to mourn, due to his Avatar duties. This is a huge monumental moment that will shape both Avatar: The Last Airbender and even Legend of Korra until the end.
3. Agni Kai Between Zuko and Azula
Sozin’s Comet Part 3: Into the Inferno
Book Three: Fire Episode 20
From what I’ve heard, this particular scene was originally set to entirely different music, but they decided to elicit pity and sadness rather than actual fighting battle music.
This scene is Azula’s final stand. She tries so hard to best Zuko by hitting Katara with her lightening, which ends up backfiring on her in the end. Her crazed screams and blue firebreathing were the ultimate icing on the cake of sadness.
2. Iroh Mourns His Son
The Tales of Ba Sing Se
Book Two: Earth Episode 15
This is what I’d normally call a “filler” episode. But we all know that Avatar the Last Airbender doesn’t do fillers. We can’t have a fun episode (such as Katara and Toph bonding) without a little bit of sap to go with.
Oh my, where do I begin? Iroh’s mourning of his lost son is bad enough, but the death of Iroh’s voice actor Mako is what did it for me. Though I’m a late Avatar bloomer and I watched this episode almost ten years after it actually happened, my heartstrings were ripped anew as if it just happened. Plus, I have to add that “Leaves From The Vine” was a perfect song to use.
1. Zuko Apolgizes to Iroh
Sozin’s Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters
Book Three: Fire Episode 19
We find ourselves almost at the finish line and we are finally let in to the huge secret that was foreshadowed previously: Bumi, Iroh, Jeong Jeong, and Pakku are all members of The White Lotus.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Why did she pick this one? Iroh and Zuko’s relationship has always been one of my favorites, so yes, I am biased. Just seeing my two favorite characters crying is enough to squeeze my heart, but no, the writers have added some great quotes from this scene, such as, “I was never angry with you. I was sad because I was afraid you’d lost your way.”