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The 10 episodes to watch when Avatar: The Last Airbender hits Netflix

With so many new series popping up on streaming services and DVD, it gets harder and harder to keep up with recent shows, much less the all-time classics. With TV Club 10, we point you toward the 10 episodes that best represent a TV series, classic or modern. They might not be the 10 best episodes, but they’re the 10 episodes that’ll help you understand what the show’s all about.Twelve years after its finale, Avatar: The Last Airbender continues to stand out for its striking combination of gravitas and levity. While the overarching narrative is a carefully crafted epic inspired by Asian mythology and philosophy, the show never forgets that there are a thousand mundane and funny moments that take place between every grand one, and it is this delicate balance of both solemnity and humor that ultimately elevates the story above a simple hero’s journey narrative and makes it truly memorable.The Avatar: The Last Airbender opening sequence explains the entire premise of the series in just 45 seconds:Over the course of 61 episodes and three seasons (known as “Books”), the show followed airbender Aang and his friends, Katara, Sokka, and Toph—as well as the enemies pursuing them, Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation and his uncle Iroh—as Aang learns to master water, earth, and fire, and discovers the many changes that have happened to the world since he vanished a century ago. Created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, Avatar premiered on Nickelodeon on February 21, 2005. With an original 13-episode order, Konietzko and DiMartino assembled a talented team of writers, artists, martial arts consultants, and cultural experts to bring the show to life, including musical duo The Track Team (Benjamin Wynn and Jeremy Zuckerman), who composed the show’s stirring and distinctive soundtrack, which combines a symphony orchestra with traditional instruments from around the world, including Chinese lute, duduk, and the African kalimba.After a successful first season, Nickelodeon renewed Avatar for just two more seasons, giving the team a finite number of episodes to carefully plan out the story. By the time The Last Airbender ended three years later, the show was critically acclaimed, with multiple awards to its name, and would soon grow into a franchise that included comics, an animated sequel series, and a universally panned 2010 film adaptation. Currently, a live-action television adaptation for Netflix is in the works, helmed by Konietzko and DiMartino, who serve as showrunners and executive producers, with Zuckerman attached to score.Avatar does not hold back from depicting the far-reaching consequences of a 100-year war and the collateral damage—on both a societal and emotional level—of genocide, imperialism, political corruption, and sociopolitical games. Nor does it ignore the fact that Aang is only 12 years old and that the great responsibility that has been placed on his shoulders would be challenging for anyone, let alone a young boy who wakes up to a world that has turned upside down. A key theme of the story is the importance of balance, whether it is the balance of the elements, the balance between the mortal and spirit worlds, or simply the balance between the banal and the more meaningful. There is always room for silly asides, even in the middle of battle, and the beauty of allowing space for lighthearted moments allows grander, game-changing moments to have their full impact. Another reason the series holds up is because of its excellent character work. The narrative is fully invested in the humanity of not only the protagonists, but of all the minor characters that surround them. No matter what is happening, the story makes room for lives both big and small, from Aang’s pet lemur, Momo, to a disgruntled cabbage vendor to low-level employees on a Fire Nation airship.Avatar remains as popular as ever, with a passionate online fanbase that continues to create fan art, memes, and videos—a testament to the power of its narrative. With the complete series available to stream on Netflix beginning May 15, here are 10 episodes of Av
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