ALWAYS ZUKO

anonymous asked:

I find it really interesting that whenever you ask people their favorite character from ATLA they never say Aang, like I'm dead serious, it's always Zuko, Katara, Sokka, Iroh, Toph like those are the popular ones mainly Zuko, Sokka and Iroh, Aang rarely gets mentioned tbh, at least from my experience and from what I've seen people say, you said your favorite character is Zuko, mines is Zuko and Katara, Aang gets no love and I love it! He really became unlikable towards the end of the show.

He really became unlikable towards the end of the show.

Definitely. He became far too perfect by the end and extremely boring. He wasn’t that bad in the first 2 seasons, but I didn’t like him at all in the end. Nobody really hated him until Book 3 from what I remember. By the end he became the pet character of Bryke though.

  • <p> <b>dentist:</b> open up<p/><b>me:</b> well...okay. so not only does the narrative of Avatar: the Last Airbender continuously circle around themes of harmony and unity and balance, there are multiple examples throughout the show that support the idea of two opposites coming together to complement each other and ultimately bring balance to the world. Tui and La, Oma and Shu, the various parallels between Zuko's journey with his fatherlord vs. Zuko's journey with his uncle, the foils of Azula and Zuko's siblingship to Katara and Sokka's... not to mention the entire journey of the Avatar is all about bringing harmony and balance to the world. All these things considered, the importance and thematic possibility that a relationship between the last Southern Waterbender and the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation, each from wildly different upbringings (their relationship with their fathers) but still with similarities that bring about a sense of complete and absolute understanding (the loss of their mothers) would have not only completed the show's purpose of showing how two things, in this case two young people caught up in a war and each struggling with their own personal journeys, can ultimately come together to not only thrive (their complemented fighting styles) but also grow in drastic ways that serve to bring about maturity, kindness, selflessness, forgiveness and, as we see in the finale, unfaltering, devoted, unconditional love. The two of them, red and blue, fire and water, sun and moon, yin and yang, end up having a deeper connection and understanding of the other, and that is apparent in the way they tackle problems together, both offering their entire help to each other as a consequence of this absolute understanding (Zuko helping Katara find closure concerning her mother and Katara offering Zuko help when he's ashamed to see his uncle again). This also gives them complete acceptance of the other, as we see in Zuko's immediate acceptance of Katara as a bloodbender, and Katara as the only person that has been allowed to touch his scar. Their relationship development, which is a lot deeper than a simple enemies to friends to lovers trope (though that appeals to many) shows us how two people can fulfill that balance completely and wholly. Add to that the fact that Zutara was not canon and you are left with a tragic "almost" story that leaves you with very real feelings of regret and sorrow because of the way that this couple, canonically could have brought the war torn nations the same balance and peace with their devoted actions and that the people would see, through their example, that harmony was not only possible, it was beautiful and productive, and healthy. The possibilities that would be brought about by having these two characters come together would have not only opened up a world of important themes and the discussion of acceptance and love and the welcoming of differences, but it would have also allowed for a full blown exploration and self fulfilling of the show's thematic desires. Of balance. Of harmony. Of peace. Do you see what I mean??<p/><b>dentist:</b> you have five cavities<p/></p>

anonymous asked:

I never felt such a strong wish for a fictional character to be happy like for Zuko. I dont get it why they had to pu(ni)sh him in a relationship with mai. I didnt expect any pairings in the end except sokkaxsuki although i was confused about the lightning scene and thought they wanted to rush zutara which would have been ok for me but then it came worse then I had ever expected. Katara in a relationship with her son and Zuko with zombie.I would have prefered nearly anyone else to be with him.

I agree about wanting to see Zuko be happy. The show definitely was a disappointment for me in that regard. When I first watched the show, I never saw the lightning scene as romantic, though. I always saw it as Zuko redeeming himself for his past with Katara. She had offered to heal him and he attacked her and helped almost kill her friend.

But in the end, he tries to make up for that and nearly dies to protect her. And she heals him, which she never got the chance to do in the first time. It was basically his act of redemption for betraying her. But I never expected them to be a couple. Especially not in the last episode like that. And since their dialogue was so platonic. All they said was “Thank you”. I could tell they were trying not to make the dialogue seem too shippy. I was disappointed that he had to get back with Mai, though. I would have preferred him to stay single.

Zuko’s Redemption Arc:

“Growing up, we were taught that the Fire Nation was the greatest civilization in history, and somehow, the war was our way of sharing our greatness with the rest of the world. What an amazing lie that was. The people of the world are terrified by the Fire Nation. They don’t see our greatness. They hate us, and we deserve it. We’ve created an era of fear in the world.”

Can we just talk about how impressive this was and how well-written it was? I know I like to do a lot of critiquing meta, but I’m gonna do a positive one today. Zuko facing his father was a scene the entire series built up towards. Throughout the first two seasons, Zuko’s father is shrouded in mystery, and you only hear about him through the menacing memories Zuko holds, and the impersonal impression the world has of his tyrannical reign. But, in the third book, you are shown Fire Lord Ozai, and he isn’t this grotesque, horrific sight: he looks exactly like Zuko, but without a scar- older. That was a clever buildup and character design. 

But, this scene never ceases to amaze me, nor does Zuko’s character arc. Zuko has been abused so severely. He’s been beaten down from his upbeat, lively, natural self that we see when he is little. When he is thirteen, and goes to the war meeting, we see a little boy who, despite the trauma of losing his mother, and being abused by his dad, is still eager, optimistic, loving, social, and confident. After his banishment, he becomes repressed, pessimistic, cold, more aloof, and painfully insecure, masked with arrogance that is expected in his culture. 

Zuko has been locked in a palace with no interaction with any peers, or anyone his age, or anyone at all- except Azula’s little friends who were strung along into tormenting him, his mother, and from time-to-time: his uncle and adult cousin. He has been stripped of every ounce of confidence and optimism he had, yet his loving nature still shone through in the series. We could always tell that Zuko was repressing his sensitivity, and that he could not bring himself to cut off entirely his strong sense of empathy that got him into the situation of banishment in the first place. Ozai hated Zuko for his empathy, that was weak to the imperial Fire Nation. But, Zuko was bursting with it. He and Azula, have always possessed prowess in emotional intelligence, just in different aspects and choices of execution that parallel.  Ozai perferred what Azula did with it. Nothing was weaker than compassion, and Zuko held it innately in his personality. We see it when he speaks with characters even before his redemption. When he interacts with his uncle we see it the most, when he just knows what his uncle is thinking and feeling before he even says it, even when he saves his crew, when he spares Zhao, when he helps Song, when he helps Lee and his family, when he opens up his heart to Katara, when his true, repressed nature comes to light when he frees Appa, when he overcomes his social anxiety from his abuse and palace sheltering and comes out with kindness to Jin- all of it. 

And, Zuko finally speaks his mind to this man who cast him aside like he was nothing. This is the most difficult thing for an abuse victim to do. And, Zuko comes to a full realization through his abuse and struggles. He now realizes that he had been brainwashed by his culture- his father. His father hurt him, Zuko realizes he mustn’t blame himself. It’s his father, and it is his people who are hurting the world. This is a revelation wise beyond Zuko’s years, and not oft-noted enough the amount of intelligence, maturity, courage, and of course: honor this took. Zuko took out his father, not with a lightning bolt, but with swift eloquence and concise truths of humanity Zuko has, deep down, known all along. 

Zuko deserves more credit. He overcame so much. He won, in the end. He overcame all his hardships, and got love. He gained back his confidence, and blossomed socially, gaining friends, something Azula never could do, and he accepted himself, something Azula too, could never do, and he regained his sense of hope for the world and optimism, something Azula could never hold. These parallels were so fascinating, showing two sides of what abuse can do, and how you can choose your own fate with your own actions, in spite of your maltreatment. 

Zuko deserves more credit. 

which is why the comics infuriate me for regressing on this, and the other characters arcs HUH HEMM, but this is a positive meta

8

Get to know me: 5 Male Characters ( 4/5 ) → Zuko

“You’ve always thrown everything you could at me! Well, I can take it, and now I can give it back!”

Can I ask why everyone thinks that Azula is Zuko’s little sister?

Because unless it was stated somewhere that Azula is 14 in the show, I’m kind of leaning towards her being older than Zuko. And I do actually have a few reasons for thinking this. 

1. It was stated by Ozai in the episode Zuko Alone that Azula was named after her grandfather Azulon

And usually, it is the first born child that is named after a grandparent or parent. And if Zuko was the first born why wouldn’t he be named Azulon? (And I know some of you are thinking, uh duh, because Ozai hated Zuko) But Zuko would have been a newborn baby, there was no way for Ozai to know he would dislike Zuko and thus save the name for his second child. That doesn’t make sense.

2. Now, this might seem off point but stay with me here. So you guys remember Tom-Tom? 

Yeah, Mai’s little brother. We know that he is 2 years old, and then later in the show, it is said that Mai is fifteen years older than her brother. Making Mai 17. And I just always assumed that Azula would be around her friend’s age. She is the same size and looks no younger than Mai. 

Of course, that is more my opinion than fact, but I still feel that Azula would be close to Mai’s age. And she can’t be sixteen because we all know that Zuko is sixteen, so unless they are twins, that can’t be. 

And we do in fact know that Zuko is sixteen because even though that was never said outright, when Zuko confronted his father he said “My father, who challenged me a thirteen-year-old boy, to an Agni Kai,”

 And in the first season, while yelling at Zhao, Zuko says, “I’ve been searching for the Avatar for three years now,” 

Proving to us that Zuko is sixteen. Meaning that if Azula is older she would have to be at least 17 if not older. 

3. Now, this is more my opinion again. But throughout the whole show Azula refers to Zuko as ‘Zuzu’, and I feel like that is something an older sibling would do rather than a younger. 

Of course, we’re talking about Azula here. So really she is probably doing this just to get under Zuko’s skin, and to make him feel inferior because we all know she is a huge manipulator. 

4. Okay, now this is the one that always had me thinking that Azula was the older sibling. So like I said before we know Zuko was 13 when his father burned and banished him. 

This is what Zuko looked like at thirteen. And he does look a lot younger. You can tell this was years ago. 

Now, look at Azula in the crowd watching. 

She looks almost the exact same. Zuko is clearly younger in this flashback, but Azula looks fully grown, and that was three years ago

And as a kid watching the show, that proved to me that she was the older sibling. And up until recently I still thought that. But now I am seeing all these posts about Azula being a 14yo. Which, is of course freakin awesome, because that means she was that cunning and evil at just 14

But it took away a lot of the aspects of her that made me really fear Azula as a character. 

As an older sibling myself, I found it really cruel and scary that Azula would hunt down and try to kill her little brother. (It is horrible whether she is younger or older) but it hit me harder thinking that she was going after a younger sibling rather than an older. 

If you are an older sibling than you know even if you don’t get along with your younger sibs, you still feel protective and want them to strive. And so the fact that Azula was always so cruel towards Zuko made her seem more evil to me. 

She also always knew how to manipulate and push Zuko’s buttons. And I always felt that for Zuko that would be a scary and uncomfortable thing to deal with. And if Azula is older, then there would be that want to impress her in some ways, and feeling less than her in other ways. Making him even easier to manipulate. 

And that was a main part of why I found Azula so evil. Because she should have felt protective towards her brother, but to her, everything was just striving towards power, it showed that she really didn’t have a lot of humanity in her. And I think that point was shown in her breakdown. 

And not only did this make Azula seem even crueler as a character to me. But it made Zuko’s choices more clear as well. 

If Azula is older, Zuko would still want to impress her. Just like he strived to impress his father. Maybe he didn’t want her love. But he would want her respect. And as a younger sibling, I can see him trying to also achieve this. He would feel that he had more to prove. 

And to me, this showed even more character in Zuko when he did leave everything behind. Because he knew that he would be leaving his sister and father behind (not that he cared about their love at this point) but I think that must have been a terrifying thing to do on his part. Because now he will be on the opposite side again. And even if Zuko didn’t think he would be facing his father again, I bet you he knew he would be facing his manipulative sister again.

And it would have been much easier for him to just leave it be, or to even just go hide somewhere where he wouldn’t be found. Because facing Azula again and again would be hard, especially when she knew right where to hit him to make it really hurt.   

And that is why the last Agni Kai felt like the final step for Zuko in redeeming himself. (At least for me) Because he was standing up to someone that must have been scary for him to face, he was putting it to an end, and it a way saying ‘I don’t need to bow down or be scared of you’, because at this point Azula probably didn’t seem as scary to Zuko as she had always seemed while growing up. 

So Azula being the the older sibling not only made her seem eviler, in my opinion, it made Zuko seem even braver. 

So unless proven otherwise, I think I’ll stick to my headcanons.

the right to remain silent

Okay so I recently hit a follower and a fic milestone, and my immediate reaction was just to go, “oh, nice!” and eat some ice-cream - but then my sister, who is my conscience in human form, said, “Why on earth are you congratulating yourself? You should be doing something nice for the people who made this possible!” so in the end I went “Alright alright alright have this terrible ficlet I wrote in like 20 minutes”. Thanks for everything, guys!

“my dad is a cop and i just called him and he was like “hey i have a 17 year old boy in the back of my cop car right now that i’m running him to the station” and i asked if he was cute and my dad said “Hey, my daughter wants to know if you’re cute” and the guy said “i want to say yes, sir” and my dad started laughing so hard” AU based on this post . (It was supposed to be Zutara, but honestly? It’s basically Hakoda deciding to adopt Zuko)

the right to remain silent 

“Are you okay with this, or do you want me to change the station?” Hakoda says. Silence greets him, so he glances into the rear view mirror at the boy sitting behind him, who is looking back at him with anger and apprehension and uncertainty written over his face. It’s actually a pretty impressive range of emotions he’s displaying, given the fact that the kid really only has one eye.

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Hide and Seek

Eek okay, first Avatar story, first story told with almost an entirely one person cast, first story that deals with some nasty child treatment that made me feel a bit ick writing it. But the thought came to me and it just exploded out over a few days. So here it is, please let me know what you think and how I can improve!

Warnings: Child torture/abuse, mild blood and gore, Zuko is very, very unhappy



“You will learn to firebend, Prince Zuko,” Ozai said with a smile. “Your life depends on it.”


Zuko knew today was going to be a good day.

It started with Father asking them if they would play a game with him. Father never spent time with them, never showed any desire to see them unless necessary. Azula saw him more than he did since Father was currently supervising her firebending training while they looked for another teacher. She’d run off the last one and the one before that. Zuko thinks she’s doing it on purpose, because she enjoys hurting people, because it makes their father proud, maybe both. Since Zuko wasn’t firebending yet, Father never wants to see him. It seems every time he does, Father spends all his time glaring at him, as if that would make him any less worthless. Seven was a little late for someone to start bending but it wasn’t impossible because he had to be a bender, Father and Grandfather said so.

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“You rise with the moon, I rise with the sun.” (Star Wars TFA/Avatar AU)

Happy birthday to my beloved @matereya!! ♥ ♥ I’m sorry for the lateness of this gift, but I hope you enjoy Zuko and Katara as lightsaber-wielding badasses in the final TFA duel (BECAUSE OF REASONS OK ;D)

Also a tribute/thank you for always inspiring me with your beautiful SW and ATLA art, and for being such an epic friend in the trash compactor across these two fandoms!! _(:з」∠)_

Here are some Domestic Boyfriend/Girlfriend!Zutara headcanons because I’m trash
  • The two are literally the cuddliest couple you will ever meet. When most people who’d known Zuko before Katara see the two together, they’re shocked. Zuko has never seemed like someone who enjoys physical contact, but with Katara, it’s like they’re joined at the hip. If you turn around, they’re always holding hands, or linked at the arms, or hugging. 
  • BUT they don’t throw it in your face. They aren’t one of those gross couples who can’t keep their hands to themselves. In fact, for the longest time, no one had ever actually seen them kiss. Besides cheek kisses, of course. Cheek kisses are a common occurrence. You’d think with all the motherly kisses Katara gave Aang, she’d give more than she receives. You’d be wrong. Cheek kisses are almost always given by Zuko to Katara. 
  • One day though, Sokka caught them making out behind a pillar at the royal palace, and they were both so embarrassed they couldn’t look him in the eyes for a week. He has NEVER let them live it down. 
  • Even as teenagers, the two were the mom and dad couple. Everyone KNEW they were going to get married. They act like grandparents. When Katara visits from the SWT, they take daily walks through the gardens and feed turtleducks. 
  • Everyone in the Fire Nation hardcore ships the two. Ever since Katara saved Zuko’s life, the people have loved her. Zuko’s council didn’t like her at first, and hated the idea that a waterbender was invited to join meetings as an ambassador. Katara didn’t take any of their crap, and eventually won them over. When the two finally start dating, the Nation FLIPPED OUT. Towns and villages everywhere celebrated. 
  • Once, at the start of their relationship, Katara confessed to Zuko that she always secretly loved the idea of running to hug someone and having them spin you in their arms. Ever since then, WITHOUT FAIL, Zuko makes sure to pick her up and spin her when they are reunited. 
  • While Katara and Zuko have been jealous people in the past, the two are weirdly never jealous of the other… At least, not in the angry way most people are. When one sees the other talking to someone who may or may not be flirting, they don’t run over and start slapping them. The two just gravitate towards one another. So say if Katara is talking to a nobleman at a party and the nobleman starts sweet talking her, Zuko will magically appear behind her, wrap his arms around her, and join the conversation. If some Fire Nation fangirl starting giggling too much around their Fire Lord, Katara will be right next to them, giggling just slightly louder. The two are so in love with each other and oblivious to other advances, however, that they don’t realize that the other has come to rescue them from a flirty pursuer. They’re just happy that the other turned up. 
  • They both have only had ONE angry jealous moment each, both at the start of their relationship. An adviser’s daughter somehow slipped on a piece of ice (which is so weird, since it was a FIRE NATION party) and into a servers tray of wine, and a poor, unsuspecting busboy who tended to flirt with anything and anyone stood too close to one of the torches in the room, and his pants burned clean off, leaving him in his underwear in front of everyone. 
  • Zuko would never, ever, in a million years admit this, but he loves having his hair played with. Katara discovered this fact on accident. He was running late for a meeting and asked her to help him put his hair up. As she started to gather it up, she noticed he instinctually leaned in slightly at her touch. Curious, she continued running her fingers through it, and Agni as her witness, he closed his eyes and sighed happily
  • Lucky for him, Katara loves playing with Zuko’s hair. It’s just so soft! During cuddles, she will always absentmindedly run her fingers through it and twirl it. Once it got to around his shoulders, she even started braiding it. 
  • For all their cuteness, however, the couple has one fatal flaw: They’re competitive as fuck. It started with just Katara. Everyone was on a vacation at Ember Island, and the two were challenged to a beach volleyball game. They both got really into it, but Katara got too into it. When the opposing team won with a foul move, Katara lost it and started yelling at them. Zuko had to throw Katara over his shoulder and drag her away as she kept yelling. But then the opposing player insulted Katara, and Zuko flipped. The two went back for a rematch and obliterated them into the ground. They were sore winners, too. 
  • Katara and Zuko are not allowed to play beach volleyball. 
“You’re a store clerk and oh shit I just spotted my ex please let me hide behind your desk-thing” AU

I saw this prompt earlier and I HAD to do it for Zutara!


The thing about hearing your name being called out is that it’s almost automatic to look around, even if - like Katara - you knew the voice calling it and didn’t want to. The thing about having a name like Katara’s was that ignoring it wasn’t much of an option, either - how many other Kataras were likely to be walking around? The shock of dark brown hair heading her way was, even from this distance, unmistakeable.

Crap,” she hissed, jerking her head back around and quickening her pace, even as she knew it would do no good - Jet was on the track team. This isn’t hiding, she thought to herself as she slipped into the nearest store, some tiny teashop. This is a tactical retreat.

The empty shop was small and quaint and - most importantly - completely devoid of places to hide: it was all tiny tables and squashy chairs. The only possible place was the desk at the back where the cash register was, and she hurried across to it, ducking under the door flap to find, to her dismay, a mess of cardboard boxes on the floor behind the desk. It seemed there was only room for one person to stand, so, grimacing, she started clearing the boxes away when she heard someone clear his throat.

“Is this… a robbery?” asked the guy looking at her, who must have just emerged from a door she hadn’t noticed before - a store room, probably. “Because if it is, it’s a really bad one. I could hear you all the way from the back.”

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anonymous asked:

I'm curious to know what you think about Zuko's character arc, like did you like him betraying Katara and Iroh at the end of Book 2 or did you find it OOC? Did you like how he wanted throughout Book 3, cause to me he looked like a douchebag yelling at Iroh, hiring an assassin etc, really looked like Bryke was trying to make him as bad as possible and pair him up with Mai, to cancel him as a love interest for Katara.

I believe his betrayal of Katara and Iroh at the end of Book 2 was entirely necessary for his character arc. Zuko always showed himself as one who needed to make his own decisions and mistakes before he learned from them. His uncle could preach at him all he wanted, but Zuko only ever recognized Iroh’s truth after he’d pursued a goal to no avail. 

For example, the greatest turning point in Zuko’s story during Book 2 was when he let Appa go. Now, he wasn’t planning to do so. He only released Appa after much urging from Iroh, and Iroh’s explanation of Zuko’s past failings: 

Iroh: So, the Blue Spirit. I wonder who could be behind that mask …
Zuko: [Sighs and takes off the mask.] What are you doing here?
Iroh: I was just about to ask you the same thing. What do you plan to do now that you’ve found the Avatar’s bison? Keep him locked in our new apartment? Should I go put on a pot of tea for him?
Zuko: First I have to get it out of here.
Iroh: And then what!? You never think these things through! [Points at him.] This is exactly what happened when you captured the Avatar at the North Pole! You had him, and then you had nowhere to go!
Zuko: I would have figured something out!
Iroh: [Starts yelling.] No! If his friends hadn’t found you, you would have frozen to death!

Iroh is quick to tell Zuko that his lack of planning will ultimately lead to his downfall. He was never successful in the past because he never thought his schemes through. What did he really hope to accomplish by capturing Appa? What was his end goal? How exactly did he think revealing his identity in the Earth Kingdom’s only stronghold was going to play out? And this was after he went on a date with Jin, after his uncle had found some success in Ba Sing Se, and after Zuko had a taste of what a normal, peaceful life could be if he’d just let his destiny go. 

Zuko: I know my own destiny, Uncle!
Iroh: Is it your own destiny, or is it a destiny someone else has tried to force on you?

He was happy in Ba Sing Se, but largely so, because he had no other choice. His life no longer followed the trajectory he had planned— he couldn’t hunt the Avatar because doing so would mean revealing his location in Ba Sing Se and he couldn’t return home because he couldn’t hunt the Avatar.

Jump back up to Iroh’s last line listed above: Is it a destiny someone else has tried to force on you? That can easily be applied to his hunt for the Avatar, but look how easily can that also be applied to Zuko’s newfound life in Ba Sing Se! His actions — pursuing Appa the second he knew the bison was in the city, even after experiencing peace and success — prove that his life in Ba Sing Se was another destiny being forced on him. 

Now, I know you may be arguing in your head that Zuko’s metamorphosis proves that he had changed— but I don’t think so. I think Zuko’s metamorphosis proved he hadn’t, foreshadowed by this exchange: 

Zuko: Stop it, Uncle! I have to do this!
Iroh: I’m begging you, Prince Zuko! It’s time for you to look inward and begin asking yourself the big questions. Who are you, and what do you want?

His transformation in Book 2 was his wrestling with this question: What do I want? Zuko didn’t know. He had no idea. Everything was conflicting in his head. Did he want the Avatar? Did he want peace? Did he want to go home? Did he want this new life? This is particularly evident in the warring dragons in his dreams: 

Blue dragon: It’s getting late. Are you planning to retire soon, my lord?
Zuko: I’m not tired.
Blue dragon: Relax, Fire Lord Zuko. Just let go. Give in to it. Shut your eyes for a while.
Zuko slowly starts to shut his eyes but widely opens them upon hearing the other dragon.
Red dragon: No, Fire Lord Zuko! Do not listen to the blue dragon. You should get out of here right now. Go! Before it’s too late!
Blue dragon: Sleep now, Fire Lord Zuko.
The dragons disappear, and the room they’re in, as well as the guards watching Zuko, crumble to nothing. The blue dragon reappears in front of him. Two golden eyes appear, followed by the face of the blue dragon, which closes rapidly.
Blue dragon: Sleep. Just like mother!
Charges at Zuko and opens its mouth. Inside the dragon’s mouth, Zuko sees his mother, Ursa. Within that darkness, the camera draws closer to Ursa, who drops her hood.
Ursa: Zuko! Help me! 
Zuko disappears through the floor.

Later when Zuko awakens:

Zuko: What’s happening?
Iroh: Your critical decision. What you did beneath that lake. It was in such conflict with your image of yourself that you are now at war within your own mind and body.
Zuko: What’s that mean? 
Iroh: You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew. It will not be a pleasant experience, but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be.

I think a lot of viewers take Iroh’s final comment as the end all and be all sign that Zuko was supposed to fully transform here and join the Avatar’s side, however, I do not believe this is the case. I believe Iroh’s comment wasn’t exactly wrong… it’s just interpreted incorrectly. Zuko did change when he woke from his coma: He didn’t change sides or soften or discern all of Azula’s lies, but as became evident in Book 3, Zuko woke from his coma and was able to finally recognize the truth in Iroh’s words

Let’s delve into the imagery of the metamorphosis… not only is he plagued by weird visions such as taking on Aang’s body, the dragons in Zuko’s dreams symbolize the two dueling sides of him. One part of him wants to enjoy the life he’s found in Ba Sing Se, evidenced by the red dragon warning him to get away from the influence of the blue dragon— 

[SIDE NOTE: Zuko may know that Azula always lies… but he always seems to fall for it i.e. that time she said father wanted him home. that time she said he’d be welcomed home. that time she gave him credit for killing Aang as a favor. that time she said the Agni Kai would be one-on-one]

—while the blue dragon represents his desires lying in the Fire Nation. He nearly succumbs to the blue dragon’s suggestion that he sleep, until the red dragon appears and warns him off. However, in the end, Zuko is charged by the blue dragon: He is swallowed by the blue dragon, and in the blue dragon’s mouth, Zuko sees his mother (representing his long-lost childhood desires— to protect those in need and be gentle/kind/innocent) calling for help, before sinking into the floor. 

What does this mean? Well, I believe it means that Zuko gave in to the blue dragon, and it was meant to foreshadow him giving in to Azula’s seduction in the Crystal Catacombs, rather than foreshadowing him saving sides. It also foreshadowed his recognition of his mistake and his distraught emotional state following his choice to betray the red dragon (Iroh (and Katara)). 

Again, to break it down even more so: 

Zuko wants to give in to the Blue Dragon’s request to sleep. 
In the real world, Zuko falls prey to Azula’s bait, challenging her to an Agni Kai and being imprisoned. 

Zuko is warned by the Red Dragon of his choices. 
In the real world, Iroh pleads with Zuko not to listen to Azula. Twice, actually. Once when Iroh flees the palace and Zuko says he’s done running, and again, below the city, when Iroh pleads with Zuko to make the decision he knows is right.

Zuko is swallowed whole by the Blue Dragon.
In the real world, Zuko falls into Azula’s scheme. Unbeknownst to him, Azula is using him— she knows she cannot defeat Aang and Katara alone, so she entices him with the promise of being welcomed home a hero. 

Zuko panics over the vision of his mother (innocence), but is ultimately lost to the Blue Dragon.
In the real world, Zuko is completely absorbed in the version of himself he thinks he needs to be. He is angry. He is violent. He is a betrayer. He has lost all connection to the innocence of his childhood and the image of himself that he nearly reconnected with during his metamorphosis. 

Furthermore, being lost to the Blue Dragon symbolized Zuko’s emotional and mental spiral in Book 3. He was incredibly unhappy, even after he sold his soul to come home. He’d lost it all. He had no one to blame but himself but he didn’t want to blame himself— he wanted to blame Iroh for being right all along. Zuko’s behavior towards Iroh was unacceptable, yes, but it was in character when you consider Zuko’s complete and utter implosion and the destruction of his soul in his decision to betray everyone. 

I fully believe the betrayal was Aaron Ehasz’s idea. In my opinion, it was fundamental to Zuko’s character. As long as he had the support and guidance of his uncle, Zuko would never transform on his own. He needed to hit rockbottom. He needed to realign himself with what he wanted, and the only way to do so, was to have everything he wanted and nothing at all at the same time. 

I do not believe it was a ploy by Bryke to destroy Zutara, as the pair came back together in Book 3 and were closer/stronger than ever. 

What Avatar struggled with the most was the timing of Zuko’s arc. Book 3 spent too much time focusing on useless episodes that could have been utilized to showcase Zuko’s actions in the Fire Nation and his resulting decision to leave his place there. His treason could have taken place earlier and, as a result, we could’ve spent more time with the transformed Zuko and the Gaang.

I also think Avatar suffered greatly by cancelling Book 4. If we’d had a chance to see Zuko rule as Fire Lord, I believe his transformation would’ve felt complete. 

a zutara parallel i rarely see discussed is that, at the beginning of the series, neither zuko nor katara are skilled in their elements; katara can’t even catch a fish, while iroh is still teaching zuko the basics. but by the end of the series, they are both esteemed masters in their own right through tumultuous work and perseverance