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Why Avatar: The Last Airbender Fans Can't Agree On The Great Divide Episode

There is a reason that "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is beloved to fans and heralded as the best animated show ever. With three perfectly concise seasons, the series is a shining example of pristine television. The Nickelodeon show is thematically resonant, telling a hero's journey as Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen) learns to master the four elements in order to end fascism. 

With so many exemplary episodes, it is hard to choose which "Avatar: The Last Airbender" episode stands above the rest. The series finale, "Sozin's Comet Part 4: Avatar Aang," is a clear contender, of course, with an almost perfect score of 9.8 on IMDb. However, not all episodes are a shining example of peak television. And when it comes to the worst episode of the series, fans are surprisingly united in regard to which entry that honor should go to. 

The Season 1 episode "The Great Divide" has become infamous for its dislike among viewers, partially because of its filler content. But while it differs drastically in quality as opposed to some of the more popular episodes, there is one aspect about it that fans can't seem to agree on.

Some fans don't mind The Great Divide

With only 6.9 stars on IMDb, "The Great Divide" is not high on the list of great episodes, to say the least. The tale of the Zhangs and the Gan Jins is a classic story of warring communities who can't agree on who is at fault. Aang must find a way to bridge a gap between the two and find a safe way across The Great Divide. But despite its lower rating, some fans on Reddit don't mind it.

"Apparently it's common agreement that The Great Divide was possibly the worst episode in the series. However, when I watched it (and I've seen the series thrice), I enjoyed the episode," commented u/tehdemoness. "I guess it didn't really further the plot in any way and it's kind of more a filler episode, but it still had themes and values that were fun to watch." Many agree that the episode isn't its best, but that doesn't inherently make it unwatchable: "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is considered a classic to fans and even when the episodes are lackluster, they still have a measure of quality. As pointed out by felllow Redditor u/lemursteamer, who wrote, "The worst episode of AtLA is like saying I found the worst pile of gold." 

But even though some fans are likely to be kinder to the episode, that is not a common practice. Many fans are quick to point out exactly why "The Great Divide" is a failure.

Aang was out of character according some

Viewers' main concern with the episode wasn't necessarily the central conflict, but how Aang chooses to handle it. As someone meant to bring balance, it is up to Aang to unite the two communities. But many fans think his conflict resolution style contradicts his previous established character traits.

"Aang lies to get the groups to agree and he's pompous about it [afterwards]," posted u/Eledraug. They go on to say: "Many find that those actions are completely out of character and Aang should have felt depressed that he had to lie to bring about peace." 

Aang is a character that is defined by his moral compass. Throughout the series, he struggles with guilt for initially running away after finding out he's the Avatar. This leads to him being trapped in ice and being absent from the world for 100 years. Though sometimes it is necessary to lie, fans were put off about how flippant at his decision to mislead the Zhangs and Gan Jins.

The theme of his gentle nature persists throughout the series. Even in the ending of "Avatar: The Last Airbender," he refuses to kill Firelord Ozai (Mark Hamill). Ozai has caused mass destruction as well as the genocide of Aang's own people. If there is ever a time to give up your pacifist ways, that would be it. Throughout the rest of the series — other than "The Great Divide," that is — Aang believes in doing what is right, and lying is not one of those things.

Even the creators can't get behind the episode

A creator is often the most critical of their own work. The same can be said for creators of "Avatar: The Last Airbender," Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. The two went on the podcast "Braving the Elements," and recounted their least favorite episodes to sympathetic hosts Janet Varney and Dante Basco. Fans may recognize these two iconic actors as the voices behind Korra and Zuko, respectively, and they gave a welcome ear to the struggles that the writers had with their previous work. "The most famous [bad episode] is 'The Great Divide' one, which I'll give them," DiMartino recounted (via Entertainment Weekly), adding, "I'll say that's pretty 'filler-y." 

While DiMartino was light with his criticism, Konietzko went even further. When Basco tried to let the writer off the hook by saying a different ending would've fixed the problem, he wasn't having any of it and concluded that the episode was beyond hope, stating: "Nah, I don't think that would have saved it."  

Whether that be the case or not, Konietzko made clear that, at the very least, there are still some things to love about "The Great Divide," particularly in regard to the canyon crawlers. "Even the episodes that I wasn't as stoked on, there were always moments that I really liked," Konietzko said.