I arrived late to watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. I finally got around to watching the series last summer when I started watching its sequel series, Legend of Korra. It didn’t take too long for me to fall in love with the story and characters. I have many favorite characters from the show, but one that stands out is Prince Zuko from the Fire Nation. After receiving a large scar over his left eye and banished by his father, Fire Lord Ozai, he sets out to capture the avatar, Aang.
To say that Fire Lord Ozai is a bad father is an understatement. Throughout Zuko’s life, he’s been the black sheep in Ozai’s eyes. Overtly favoring Zuko’s sister, Azula, Ozai also chastised Zuko and at one time told him that he was “lucky to be born.”
The reason that he scarred Zuko was because Zuko spoke out of line during a war meeting Ozai had with the general. While what Zuko said about a decision in the war meeting was right, Ozai challenged Zuko to an Agni Kai because he personally felt that Zuko disrespected him. Before scarring his son to life, Ozai almost ended Zuko’s life when he was a young boy. This almost became the case because after the death of Iroh’s son, Ozai suggested to his own father, Azulon that he should take away Iroh’s birthright becoming the Fire Lord-and give it to him. To teach Ozai humility, Azulon suggested that Ozai should kill Zuko if he truly wanted to rule.
These actions left Zuko yearning for his father’s approval and ultimately feeling that making his father proud would restore his honor and grant him self-worth. With that logic, he Aang and his friends throughout the two seasons, which ultimately led to Zuko siding with Azula and betraying Uncle Iroh at the end of Season Two.
If Ozai is the yang in Zuko’s life, Uncle Iroh, nicknamed “the Dragon of the West,” would be his yin. Ozai’s older brother, he accompanied Zuko on his search for the Avatar. After the death of his son, Lu Ten, Iroh began to change his views about the Fire Nation’s attempts to rule the world.
Throughout the series, Iroh gave Zuko advice on being a better firebender as well as a person. Besides Zuko, Iroh also gave some pointers to some of the protagonists during the series as well. After a huge fight with the gang, Toph runs off and crosses paths with Iroh. Iroh offers her tea encourages her to allow her new friends to help her if she needs it.
At one point, Iroh confesses to Zuko that he feels like he’s a son to him. Despite being betrayed by his nephew, he still tried to guide Zuko in the right direction when asked. It was through Iroh that Zuko found out about his mother’s heritage: he’s a descendent of Avatar Roku.
The moment that solidified Zuko and Iroh’s relationship was in Season Three, when Zuko found Iroh at the Order of the White Lotus camp. Even though Zuko betrayed Iroh back at Ba Sing Se, Iroh forgave Zuko for what he’d done. In the end, Iroh was just happy that Zuko chose to do the right thing by fighting alongside the Avatar instead of against him. The moving scene with Zuko and Iroh proves how Iroh is the real father figure to Zuko: although children will make mistakes in life, a parent should love their child unconditionally and encourage them to do what’s right.
Janelle Smith is a TV & Film Writer at Girls in Capes. She is a rising senior at Ohio State University majoring in film studies and minoring in studio art.
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