For Avatar: The Last Airbender fans old and new, watching Aang and Zuko journey from enemies to friends is an epic adventure. Their seasons-long game of cat and mouse turns into an alliance for the ages, each helping the other realize their purpose and bring balance to the world.
Some humorous, some serious, and often a bit of both, here are eight epic moments between everyone’s favorite nomadic bald kid and hot-headed royal teen.
- The first encounter (Season 1, Chapter 2)
In just the second episode of the series, Aang and Zuko meet for the first time.
Zuko arrives at the southern Water Tribe village quite literally hot and bothered, only to be further aggravated by Aang careening through his legs – on a penguin! Once both of them get on their feet again (and only after air-blasting Zuko with snow), Aang demands, “Looking for me?”
Surprised but not shaken, Zuko goes on about all the years he’s spent preparing for this encounter, concluding, “You’re just a child!” to which Aang promptly replies, “Well, you’re just a teenager.”
Leave it to Aang to tell it how it is.
- The Blue Spirit strikes (Season 1, Chapter 13)
To Zuko’s dismay, the power-hungry Admiral Zhao captures Aang with the help of some scarily precise archers. In an effort to capture the Avatar himself, Zuko dons the mask of a blue spirit and infiltrates Zhao’s headquarters. Zuko manages to free Aang (who has no idea that Zuko is behind the mask), and they stealthily make their escape. Before long, however, Zhao discovers that Aang is gone and sounds the alarm. Once spotted, Zuko and Aang expertly — and creatively — fight their way through dozens of guards. Zuko a master swordsman and Aang a master airbender, the two are nearly unstoppable, making for one of the most action-packed escape scenes in the series.
- Aang saves Zuko from Zhao’s men and contemplates friendship (Season 1, Chapter 13)
Despite their skills in combat, Aang and Zuko get cornered. Just moments after the above scene, Zhao cautiously allows Zuko to exit the premises with his dual swords crossed under Aang’s throat. When the pair is almost out of range, Zhao orders one of his archers to “knock out the thief.” The arrow strikes Zuko squarely in the head, rendering him unconscious. Generating a cloud of dust for cover, Aang unmasks the anonymous figure and recoils at the sight of the Fire Nation prince. As Zhao’s men quickly approach, Aang almost runs away, but in a moment of compassion he grabs Zuko and disappears into the forest.
When Zuko awakens, Aang is staring into the distance, telling him about how he misses one of his best friends from 100 years ago: a Fire Nation boy named Kuzon. Aang then turns to Zuko and asks, “If we knew each other back then, do you think we could’ve been friends, too?”
The universe seems to hold its breath for a beat. Then Zuko aggressively blasts fire at Aang, who nimbly flees. Zuko is left looking not entirely unaffected by the question.
- Aang prevents Zuko from freezing to death at the North Pole (Season 1, Chapter 20)
In the last episode of season 1, Aang once again saves Zuko from harm — and, in this case, dying.
While Aang is in the Spirit World searching for the identity of the Moon Spirit, Zuko holds him captive in the icy northern tundra. When Aang wakes up from his Spirit World journey, his spirit flashes across the sky, leading Katara and the others to him. Upon their arrival, Katara — a force to be reckoned with at the height of the full moon — easily defeats Zuko, leaving him lying unconscious in the snow. As Aang reunites with the group and mounts Appa, he remembers Zuko and says, “Wait — we can’t just leave him here.”
Sokka promptly retorts that of course they can (oh, Sokka), but Aang is obstinate. “No. If we leave him, he’ll die.” Aang holds all life sacred, always. His captor is no exception. Seriously, how epic is that?
- Aang and Zuko battle in Ba Sing Se (Season 2, Chapter 20*)
Set in the Crystal Catacombs of Ba Sing Se, this tense battle marks the almost-turning point for Zuko.
Just moments after Iroh pleads with him to finally choose the path of good, Zuko joins his sister in attacking Aang and Katara. While Azula takes on Katara, Aang and Zuko go head-to-head, each displaying some truly epic bending. Aang employs water, earth, and air to fight his opponent. At one point, Aang generates a massively strong airblast in the shape of his own body, sending Zuko flying backward. (Talk about getting the wind knocked into you.) But Zuko quickly recovers, shooting a huge, comet-like fireblast at Aang and subsequently creating two long fire whips that he wields with impressive skill. It’s clear that both benders have grown in their abilities since their previous encounter at the beginning of season 2 (not mentioned in this list).
- Zuko declares that his destiny is to teach Aang firebending — and Aang agrees (Season 3, Chapter 12*)
Following the failed invasion of the Fire Nation, Team Avatar retreats to the Western Air Temple for safety.
Zuko, having realized that his true destiny is to help the Avatar, follows the team to the temple, seeking to join them and teach Aang firebending. When Zuko first presents himself to the group, he’s met with resistance and rejection. But later in the episode, after helping them through a surprise attack by Combustion Man, Zuko makes his case again, this time more articulately. During part of his speech, Zuko apologizes for accidentally burning Toph’s feet and vows to be more careful with his bending so he doesn’t hurt people unintentionally — a moment that drives Aang to his own realization.
“I think you are supposed to be my firebending teacher.”
After all this time, Aang has found his missing link. After a seemingly endless chase, Zuko has found his purpose. If this moment doesn’t move you, I’m not sure what will.
- Zuko and Aang meet the firebending masters (Season 3, Chapter 13*)
This is by far my favorite episode — and moment — in the entire series. After joining the forces of good, Zuko loses his ability to firebend because he’s no longer reliant on rage to fuel it. In search of knowledge, he and Aang travel to the ancient ruins of the Sun Warrior civilization, who were the first to learn firebending from the original source: the dragons.
And their trip is undeniably epic. When they perform “The Dancing Dragon” (the ancient firebending form they discovered in the ruins) alongside the last surviving dragons, your heart is probably pounding. And when the dragons deem the pair worthy of their knowledge, your heart probably soars as high as the pillar of fire the dragons shoot into the sky. Surrounded by colors they’d never dreamt of, Zuko and Aang are in true awe. They realize that fire is not just destruction, but energy and life.
With this newfound understanding, Zuko regains his ability to firebend. And Aang, who was fearful of firebending ever since he burned Katara in season one, finally finds the confidence to try it again. Our two heroes stand triumphant, ready to continue on their path to saving the world.
- The End (Season 3, Chapter 21*)
Aang and Zuko’s relationship comes full circle.
“I can’t believe a year ago my purpose in life was hunting you down. And now…”
“And now we’re friends.”
Before Zuko’s coronation, they share a few brief moments together, reflecting on the past, the present, and the world they’re going to rebuild. They hug. And then they stride through the curtains to address the crowd.
Aang, the one who saved them all, receives resounding applause; Zuko, once a banished prince, is welcomed home as the new Firelord. Finally, the two friends step forward together, side by side, a symbol of unity and hope.
I’m not crying. You are.
*Please note that the episode numbers used here are based off of the Wikipedia episode listings, which list each episode individually. Netflix, on the other hand, merges a handful of two-parters (and the last four episodes of the entire series) into single, longer episodes. Anything marked with an asterisk indicates where Netflix deviates from the individual numbering.