Hi everyone! I have completed my coursework for my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, so I am getting back into the swing of things: blogging, reading, and yes—editing (accepting clients for September)! I’ve also got plans to resurrect pg70pit in fall of 2020, with a couple other things cooking, so stay tuned!
In celebration of Avatar: The Last Airbender finally available for streaming on Netflix, I wanted to share 9 episodes for writers and enneagram nerds to watch or study.
Of course, I couldn’t just pick 9, so I reference 1-2 bonus episodes for each type as well.
I highly recommend watching the entire series of AtLA for its phenomenal writing, character building, and in my opinion, the only effective redemption arc to date. There are three seasons and a total of 61 episodes, for roughly 20 total hours of viewing time. Most of the episodes I choose below are from season 3—so at least watch that season in its entirety, but for the best viewing experience, watch through the first two seasons first.
I purposefully excluded season finales and major battles from this list because they don’t work as standalone episodes.
If you’re unfamiliar with the enneagram, it is a personality profiling system that focuses on motivation, fear, and character growth. As such, it’s an outstanding resource for writers.
Learn more about how writers can benefit from the enneagram here.
Not every enneagram type is represented by one of the main characters in AtLA, and therefore some enneagram types are better represented than others. However, whether you need to learn more about your own characters or yourself, I think you’ll find some insight thanks to this phenomenal, all-ages series.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Enneagram Type 1
Katara the Reformer
The Reformer is more than a perfectionist. She is motivated by morals and goodness and fears becoming corrupted or turning evil.
Katara is the one who believes in Aang the most—just listen to her opening voiceover. She’s the most idealistic character. She also has a temper, and her character arc involves relaxing her harsh standards and coming to terms with her anger.
AtLA Episode for Ones: “The Painted Lady” (303–Book 3, Episode 3)
In season 3, Katara avenges a small town that has been taken advantage of by the Fire Nation, who is polluting the lake they depend on for survival.
“I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me!”
Bonus Episodes: “The Runaway” & “The Puppetmaster” (307 & 308)
See Katara relax her high-standards and learn to live a little in “The Runaway.” See her face her deepest, darkest moment and temptation—her Final Exam—in “The Puppetmaster.” The Puppetmaster contains spoilers for the series.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Enneagram Type 2
Suki the Helper
The Helper is motivated by being helpful and feeling wanted. She fears abandonment, rejection, and feeling worthless.
Suki is a secondary character and doesn’t really develop through the series. The leader of the Kyoshi Warriors, Suki proves that Helpers can be strong protectors and advocates.
AtLA Episode for Twos: “The Serpent’s Pass” (212)
We meet Suki in season 1, and she teaches Sokka a thing or two about underestimating pretty girls. In season 2, Suki arrives to help Team Avatar and a couple expecting a baby through the dangerous Serpent’s Pass.
“We wanted to find a way to help people.”
Bonus Episode: “Bato of the Water Tribe” (115)
A Two’s greatest fear is abandonment, sometimes resorting to manipulation in order to keep hold of those they love. In a desperate attempt to keep Katara and Sokka with him, Aang very nearly drives them away forever.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Enneagram Type 3
Azula the Achiever
Apologies to type Threes, because Azula is a villain. But she is my favorite villain ever written, so that’s something!
Throughout seasons 2 and 3, Azula is cutthroat, possibly the best known firebender in the Four Nations and the only firebender able to produce blue flames. She holds her own against military leaders three times her age and experience.
AtLA Episode for Threes: “The Avatar State” (201)
“The Avatar State” is the first episode of season 2, where we meet Azula and see how cunning and ruthless she is. We also see that she has mastered lightning bending, the highest form of firebending, even though she is only fourteen!
“Almost isn’t good enough!”
Bonus Episodes: “The Crossroads of Destiny” & “The Beach” (220 & 305)
There’s no doubt that Azula is an excellent leader or the best at what she does. “The Crossroads of Destiny” shows Azula at her best, but because it’s the season 2 finale and isn’t a standalone episode, I didn’t want to include it in my nine choices. However, it includes Azula’s best line:
Long Feng: “You’ve beaten me at my own game.”
Azula: “Don’t flatter yourself. You were never even a player.”
“The Beach” shows Azula at her most human. We see her character wound, and we also see her desire to be liked and appreciated by others. It is my favorite AtLA episode of all time and includes my favorite line, when Azula awkwardly compliments a boy.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Enneagram Type 4
Iroh the Individualist
The Individualist is motivated by expression and originality. They fear blending in, being insignificant or unremarkable. To grow, they need to accept their originality—which often means accepting not being understood for who they are—and use their unique perspective and talents to do good in the world.
I type Iroh’s character as a 4 considering his backstory as revealed in Book 3. He spends most of his time fully integrated toward 1.
AtLA Episode for Fours: “Tales of Ba Sing Se” (215)
General Iroh is a fan-favorite character. He’s the mentor archetype, but unlike wizards who can be distant, Uncle Iroh is caring and kind, even nurturing.
“While it is always best to believe in oneself,
a little help from others can be a great blessing.”
Bonus Episode: “Appa’s Lost Days” (308)
When Fours are at their lowest, after their physical needs are met, they need to hear that they are relevant and that the world needs them. This episode is a tough one to watch and shows Appa, Aang’s sky bison, at his lowest. Fours often desperately want a rescuer to pull them from their gloom, and for Appa to be rescued, he first experiences animal cruelty. However, Suki’s and the Guru’s treatment of Appa are good examples of how to take care of Fours when they have sunk to their lowest.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Enneagram Type 5
Piandao the Investigator
Investigators are motivated by curiosity, understanding and self-sufficiency. They fear incompetence, reliance on others, and others relying on them. Wizard mentors are often type Fives, wise but avoidant hermits. Piandao, the swordmaster, is holed up in his estate and refuses to train anyone until he meets Sokka.
AtLA Episode for Fives: “Sokka’s Master” (304)
Piandao will only teach the art of the sword to those willing to humble themselves to the art of observation. Unlike any of the other masters in the series (who are all benders), Piandao chooses lessons that will teach Sokka to be not only a master of the technique, but a master of learning itself.
“Knowledge of the arts belongs to us all.”
Bonus Episode: “The Library” (210)
Often a Five’s desperate need for knowledge can cut them off from reality. This episode is both wish fulfillment and a cautionary tale for Fives.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Enneagram Type 6
Sokka the Loyalist
Loyalists are driven by instinct and are master strategists because they approach problems from multiple perspectives. They are motivated by security, guidance, support, and preparedness. They fear uncertainty, emergency, and feeling lost without resources.
AtLA Episode for Sixes: “Jet” (110)
Part of a Six’s strength is their willingness to be skeptical, but that distrust can also become their weakness. In “Jet,” Katara and Aang don’t believe Sokka’s instincts and think he’s too distrusting. They expect his overly cautious nature makes him paranoid. However, it is Sokka’s skepticism and quick thinking that save the day.
“I’m not the boss, I’m the leader. […] Look, my instincts tell me we have a better chance of slipping through on foot, and a leader has to trust his instincts.”
Bonus Episodes: “The Day of Black Sun, Parts 1 & 2” (310 & 311)
This two-parter is Sokka’s Final Exam. We get to see him at his best and his worst as he reaches the culmination of his plan against the Fire Nation and attempts to lead an attack against the capital.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Enneagram Type 7
Aang the Enthusiast
Sevens are motivated by freedom, possibility, comfort, stimulation, novelty, and distraction. They fear missing out, but mostly they fear the external pain they are trying to avoid and the internal pain they are trying to distract themselves from.
Sevens need time for and guidance through introspection so they can dwell in appreciation and seek forgiveness both internally and externally. Aang can only become the Avatar if he meditates, forgives himself for running away, confronts painful situations, and commits to his role.
AtLA Episode for Sevens: “The Headband” (302)
“The Headband” shows Aang at his Enthusiast best, committing and investing in others.
“Listen guys, those kids at school are the future of the Fire Nation. If we want to change this place for the better, we need to show them a little taste of freedom.”
Bonus Episode: “The Storm” (308)
Throughout the series, Aang has to come to terms with his abandonment issues—that is, his own problem of abandoning responsibility by running away. “The Storm” shows him coming to terms with his running away. However, this episode isn’t his lowest moment—rather it shows him coming to terms with his character wound. In “The Guru” (the bonus episode for Type 8s), he seems to be choosing commitment, which is a good thing for a Type 7, but in fact, he is avoiding painful feelings and again, running away from his responsibility. “The Guru” marks his collapse and descent into his gloom as a character.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Enneagram Type 8
Toph the Challenger
Eights are motivated by power and control over their own life and destiny. They fear being controlled, being hurt or vulnerable (physically, but emotionally even more so), or appearing weak.
We don’t meet Toph until episode 6 of season 2 ,”The Blind Bandit.” It is an excellent introduction to a type Eight personality afraid of vulnerability.
I’ll admit it, as much as I thought this episode showed really awesome bending, I did not like Toph at first. She is very abrasive—even for me. However, she soon became my favorite character of the series.
AtLA Episode for Eights: “Bitter Work” (209)
At their best, Eights invest in others, and this episode—when Toph trains Aang—shows what she stands for…and what she won’t back down from.
“Earthbend, Twinkle Toes. You just stood your ground against a crazy beast. And even more impressive, you stood your ground against me. You’ve got stuff.”
Bonus Episodes: “The Blind Bandit” & “The Guru” (206 & 308)
“The Blind Bandit” for an introduction to the character. “The Guru” contains spoilers for the series. An Eight’s greatest fear is to be controlled, powerless, or vulnerable. Toph’s lowest moment—and greatest achievement—come when she is unable to earthbend.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Enneagram Type 9
Zuko the Peacemaker
The Peacemaker is motivated by reconciliation, unity, and peace. They fear separation and conflict, especially inner conflict.
Zuko begins the series exiled from the nation he is supposed to inherit. His quest is to find the Avatar to restore his honor, but more importantly, end the separation from his place in the Fire Nation. Zuko is all about his destiny. He is certain that as soon as he realizes his destiny, he will be happy, and the conflict inside him will subside.
AtLA Episode for Nines: “The Western Air Temple” (312)
It’s not a spoiler so much as a major reason to watch all three seasons—Zuko starts out as a son of an evil overlord and ends up … well, if you watch this episode, you’ll see. I do not recommend watching this episode without at least watching all of season 3, but watching the entire series leading up to this episode will give a payoff that is unparalleled by any other redemption arc.
“I’m realizing that I had to go through all those things to learn the truth. I thought I had lost my honor, and that somehow my father could return it to me. But I know now that no one can give you your honor. It’s something you earn for yourself, by choosing to do what’s right. All I want to do now is play my part in ending this war, and I know my destiny is to help you restore balance to the world.”
Bonus Episodes: “The Blue Spirit” and “Zuko Alone” (113 & 207)
Zuko’s character development is the most pronounced in the series because he pulls a complete turnaround. If you watch the other bonus episodes listed in this post, you’ll see his character wound and backstory (“The Storm”) and the culmination of his journey (“The Western Air Temple”). “The Blue Spirit” from season 1 is the change that starts him on his character arc, and “Zuko Alone” is his midpoint.
Avatar: The Last Airbender has 61 episodes. Which one listed above is your favorite? Which of your favorites did I leave out?