I really find it funny that people actually think Mai genuinely loves Zuko, and they point out the Zuko alone episode and their moments in Book 3, Zuko alone doesn't show anything really and Book 3 Mai doesn't care at all what Zuko thinks or feels and Zuko isn't happy with her either, yet these people think Zuko and Mai are perfect for each other...
Yeah, Zuko Alone shows that Mai had a crush on Zuko, but that doesn’t mean she was in love with him. They were little kids. It seemed like he barely knew her. I saw nothing that indicated that Zuko had a crush on her, anyways. He never blushed at her or even noticed her until Azula made him play with them.
And that is the thing with Maiko that annoys me so damn much. Their relationship was obviously not intended to be like it was in canon. The first episode is called The Awakening. This refers to Zuko’s kundalini/spiritual awakening as well as Aang awakening from his unconscious state. Zuko begins the scene standing all by himself staring at the full moon. When Mai approaches, he points out that he’s changed and Mai yawns at him. He has been banished for years and she does not want to hear about his feelings.
He looks extremely offended with her, and turns away from her and then she has to grab him to kiss him. She has no concern that she hurt his feelings. While she turns his head, the scarred side is shown to the audience. When she leaves, he looks miserable and he ends the scene exactly as he started. All alone and staring at the full moon, a symbol of tension and polarity. This is SO telling at how we were originally supposed to view this relationship. The episode is clearly trying to send the audience the message that Mai does NOT genuinely care about him. The message could not have been more clear.
This shows that Ehasz wanted to do something with his spiritual awakening and how it has changed him emotionally, and this makes him unable to relate to people like Mai. An awakening opens the Heart Chakra, increases your empathy and makes you desire genuine bonds. Because of the rise in consciousness, people who have an awakening often have difficulty relating to others, especially people who lack empathy. This is not an accident and there is no way in hell that this was how Aaron Ehasz wanted to introduce her relationship with Zuko if he wanted them to have a normal relationship the way Bryke did. This was their very first on-screen interaction and it was so awful.
Then after this episode, BAM! They are portrayed as a regular couple and we are supposed to accept that they are so in love and support them together. It is just so damn lazy and the relationship so clearly clashes with Zuko’s character arc, and it just irritates me how they just changed things on the drop of a dime like that. Horrible storytelling. They had to drop the whole concept of his awakening after this episode in order to put Zuko in that awful toxic relationship. The story wanted to just pretend like it never happened. That is why I think they only decided to throw Zuko into that relationship after they decided to make him randomly go evil.