So, here’s a theory that I’ve seen thrown around that I think makes a lot of sense when you think about it. It goes a little something like this:
Both “Zuko Alone,” and “The Firebending Masters” show us Zuko being very bad at firebending. As Zuko mentions in the latter episode, this is likely due to him not relying on anger and hatred for his firebending anymore.
Using this logic, and given what Zuko was like prior to his banishment, it could be possible that the reason Zuko was unable to firebend well, or match his sister’s skill when he was a child is because he was unable to use the sort of anger-fueled firebending that marked Sozin’s era.
I read a Reddit thread that really made me feel so devastated about Monk Gyatso and Aang. x
“When the gaang goes to the Southern Air temple only Monk Gyatso body was found around a lot of fire nation weapons and armour. Why is Monk Gyatsos body the only body to be found in the Southern Air Temple as well as the Northern, Eastern and Western Air Temples.
Because Monk Gyatso was the only air nomad not killed by the Fire Nation. He fought and beat all the fire benders that opposed him. The reason being Aang. Aang showed ferocious power when Appa was lost, Monk Gyatso showed the exact same if more when the Fire Nation came because of the loss of Aang.
By the time the Fire Nation had exterminated the rest of the Air Nomads and Sozins comet was over, the Fire Nation knew that he was not the Avatar and did not bother to eliminate him.
So Monk Gyatso waited for Aang because if he was alive, where would the first place Aang would go? The Southern Air Temple.
TLDR: Monk Gyatso didn’t die by the Fire Nation, he died waiting for Aang.”
When I watched Avatar for the first time, I did it totally out of order. The first episode I saw was Cave of Two Lovers, I watched the finale before Western Air Temple, and the first episode was one of the last I saw. I was mostly at the mercy of the whims of Nickelodeon’s Saturday morning marathons.
So I knew from almost the beginning that Zuko (spoiler alert) was going to grow his hair out and switch sides, and I knew it happened mid book 3. Watching Crossroads of Destiny, then, was a totally different experience. When Azula gave him the ultimatum, I knew which side he’d choose, and I was so frustrated and angry. I wanted Zuko to be good already, dammit. After all of the development and the “metamorphosis” he’d gone through only a few episodes ago, I was convinced that his mistake in CoD was in there purely for shock value (and for me, knowing how it ended, I didn’t even get to experience that) and to draw out the angst. I was bitter because I felt cheated out of a half season’s worth of Redeemed!Zuko hanging out with the gaang. (It’s also worth mentioning that I was like 12.)
But now I know I was completely wrong. Whenever I try to think about what would have happened with the rest of the series if Zuko had sided with Aang instead of Azula, it just doesn’t work.Zuko needed to make that mistake in the crystal catacombs, and I can’t imagine his story without it.
Zuko developed a lot as a character through his travels in the Earth Kingdom up until his moment of truth under Ba Sing Se. He was rejected by his father, who sent Azula to imprison him and put out wanted posters that permitted anyone to kill him on site. He experienced true poverty and saw first-hand the horrible effects of the Fire Nation’s war. He’s been on his own. And, at last, he even gave up his search for the Avatar for a little while– not because realized it was wrong, but because realized it was hopeless.
But let’s think for a minute about what it would have meant for Zuko to side with the Avatar and fight Azula in Ba Sing Se. It would have made him a traitor. To side with Aang would be not only to acknowledge that the war was unjust and the fire nation the oppressor, but it would also be to actively fight against his own nation. And, implicitly, it would mean acknowledging the truth that his father did not and would never want him back. Zuko, at the end of Book 2, has had many experiences that point directly to these truths and in light of them, Zuko siding with the Avatar doesn’t seem that far-fetched. In fact, it was what a lot of people watching for the first time expected.
Here’s the catch: even though Zuko had had all of these experiences, he hadn’t yet processed them and fit them all together to form their logical conclusions. Sure, he knew the horrors the Fire Nation had committed in its war for prosperity, but he still wouldn’t have denounced his nation ; he knew that his father had declared him a traitor and sent Azula to lock him up, but he wouldn’t have admitted at that point that his father would never love or accept him and preferred him dead. Zuko pre-redemption is the king of cognitive dissonance. He has a lot at stake with the processing of all of these experiences—basically, his entire world-view. Somewhere in his mind, he knew that trying to reconcile what he saw in the Earth Kingdom with his current world-view could easily bring everything he knew and considered sacred crashing down around him. And there was one thing in particular that Zuko would protect at all costs; one truth that has been at the center of his world and forefront of his mind ever since his banishment — that he had a home to return to and there was a place for him within it, that if he just didn’t screw up for once everything would be okay again. This is the one thing Zuko clings to throughout his entire banishment, despite all the evidence and logic to the contrary, because if this one truth falls away what does he have left?
Why I believe Katara canonically had romantic feelings for Zuko
I’ve been reading and posting a lot of ATLA meta recently and I think it’s time I write y’all a post on this subject, because I noticed this when rewatching season two and haven’t really seen anyone else mention it yet.
In this insanely old post, a lot of valid and interesting points are made, but there is one point made in the original ask that I don’t agree with at all. In it, both the anon and the poster agree that Katara shows no romantic interest in Zuko within canon. I completely disagree.
Now you can speculate their interactions all you want, especially the scene in the catacombs in ‘The Crossroads of Destiny’. But I think what confirms her attraction isn’t how she treats him during the catacombs scene, but after.
I don’t think it’s the kindness and the vulnerability she shows him in that scene confirms anything. Katara is a very trusting and open person, you could make very easy and solid arguments against her having romantic feelings or attraction towards Zuko in that scene. It’s how she reacts to him AFTER his betrayal that I think is the biggest and most damning tell of them all.
In the answer to anon’s ask, OP says that they believe Katara is only truly confirmed to have shown romantic attraction to Jet in the show.
Her treatment of Zuko and her reaction to him opening up to her and then returning after his betrayal run parallel to Katara’s relationship with Jet almost exactly. Jet, a person who canon has confirmed that Katara was romantically attracted to.
Let’s look at Katara’s reaction and treatment towards Jet in ‘Lake Laogai’ in comparison to her treatment of Zuko in ‘The Western Air Temple’ and ‘The Southern Raiders’.
Katara: We can’t trust anything Jet says. Sokka: But we don’t even know why he’s here. Katara: I don’t care why he’s here. Whatever the reason is, it can’t be good.
Katara absolutely refuses to believe Jet, and has no interest in hearing his reasoning. He hurt her once, she never wants to see him again.
Katara: You need to get out of here, now. Zuko: I’m trying to explain that I’m not that person anymore. Sokka: Either you leave, or we attack. Zuko: If you won’t accept me as a friend, then maybe you’ll take me as a prisoner. Katara: No, we won’t!
(Don’t forget she douses both pretty heavily with water, but that’s neither here nor there)
Now Katara’s anger at Zuko in The Western Air Temple isn’t isolated from the rest of the group, like it is towards Jet in Lake Laogai. In Lake Laogai, everyone but Katara is willing to trust him, whereas in The Western Air Temple no one trusts him. HOWEVER, we DO see her anger and hatred continue on into ‘The Southern Raiders’, long after the rest of the group readily trusted and accepted Zuko.
Aang: Katara, we have to give him a chance. Jet: I swear, I’ve changed. I was a troubled person, and I let my anger get out of control. But I don’t even have the gang now. I’ve put all that behind me. Katara: You’re lying!
Zuko: This isn’t fair. Everyone else seems to trust me now. What is it with you? Katara: Oh, everyone trust you now? I was the first person to trust you, remember Back in Ba Sing Se. And you turned around and betrayed me. Betrayed all of us.
Just like how everyone was ready to trust Jet and let him help them find Appa in Lake Laogai, everyone had accepted and welcomed Zuko into their group except Katara. She held onto her anger much longer than everyone else in both scenarios.
Let’s also not forget that not only are her TREATMENTS of their betrayals insanely similar, the betrayals themselves are almost identical.
In both situations, Katara opened up to Jet/Zuko about her mother and what she lost to the Fire Nation. In turn, Jet and Zuko ALSO opened up about the loss of THEIR parent(s) at the hands of the Fire Nation. After a mutual understanding and connection, Katara promises both of them that she will help them. And in both situations, they turn on Katara and they part ways after fighting as enemies.
Jet: Fire Nation killed my parents. I was only eight years old. That day changed me forever. Katara: Sokka and I lost our mother to the Fire Nation. Jet: I’m so sorry, Katara.
Katara: I don’t?! How dare you! You have no idea what this war has put me through. Me personally. The Fire Nation took my mother away from me.
Zuko: I’m sorry. That’s something we have in common.
Katara canonically had a large crush on Jet. And the similarities between her interactions with Jet and her interactions with Zuko are glaringly obvious.
There are a lot of other things in canon I could use to argue Katara’s attraction to Zuko (*cough* her being confused during ‘Ember Island Players’ *cough*), but a lot of those have already been discussed, and I maintain that I think this is the most conclusive and solid piece of evidence towards it.