Features and Columns · TV

‘Avatar: the Last Airbender’ Shows Us What Can Be Done With a Bottle Episode

Here’s a video essay on why two episodes of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ are shining examples of a show using the bottle episode to its advantage.
Avatar The Desert
By  · Published on July 21st, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. This one explores a brilliant example of a bottle episode in Avatar: The Last Airbender.


Avatar: The Last Airbender is an excellent show with strengths to spare. The animated series about warring element-based nations has a high standard when it comes to humor, heart, high stakes, and…bottle episodes! God, this show’s good.

Traditionally, a “bottle episode” is designed to save the studio money. To cut corners, bottle episodes stick to regular cast members and established sets, and largely consist of dive deeps into emotional narratives rather than move the main plot forward. At their worst, bottle episodes can feel forced and interrupt pacing. At their best, they can deepen characters and allow creative writers to shine.

“The Desert” (S02E011) and “The Beach” (S03E05) are shining examples of bottle episodes that work to a show’s advantage. Both episodes trap their characters in locations they can’t escape and give them opportunities to process and wrestle without progressing the main narrative. Technically they could be removed without impacting the main plot. But the show wouldn’t be the same without them.

You can watch One Reason Avatar’s Characters Feel So Real,” here:


Who made this?

This video essay was put together by the Texas-based Royal Ocean Film Society, which is run by Andrew Saladino. You can browse their back catalog of videos on their Vimeo account here. If Vimeo isn’t your speed, you can give them a follow on YouTube here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).