I just wanted to say that Uncle Iroh is by far my favorite character in this show. I love all the characters but honestly Iroh is just the best. He has so much power in side him but he knows to not let it go to his head. He’s so openminded and forgiving and happy even in the worst situations. I have such appreciation for him.
I don't think a lot of people get this. Iroh's problem was that he lost his son. So he helped Zuko, who had been banished by his father, get his life back. The right life. By doing this Iroh got a second chance at being a father.
Okay so even if you don’t ship it, what I am about to say will be undeniably true.
First and foremost, katara treats everyone, EVERYONE in the group like a child that she mothers EXCEPT for Zuko.
When they were on ember island at the play, the phrase ‘avatar’s girl’ is spoken on stage and Aang nods proudly like he owns Katara, it’s possessive. When Katara tells him she needs time to think, because she doesn’t know what she wants, instead of respecting her wishes Aang kisses her out of no where because he thinks it’s his rite.
When Katara and Zuko go to see the southern raiders, he watches her blood bend a man without batting an eye. He doesn’t judge her when she can’t kill the murderer either, and after on the dock she basically ignores Aang and jumps into Zuko’s arms for a real affectionate hug.
When she hugs Aang it’s always rather hesitantly as if she is hugging a close friend, not a lover. When he goes into the avatar state after aapa is stolen, she hugs him because he needed it.
Her and Zuko have a hateful relationship up until the point of the cave in ba sing se, where she finally realizes he is hurting just as much as she is. She is even allowed to touch his scar which no one has done so far in the series. Even as she leaves with Aang, her eyes travel back to Zuko. Her heart breaks when she sees him fighting along side Azula, and that is why she is so guarded when he finally makes the right desicion and tries to join up. She doesn’t want to be hurt again because she has genuine affection for him.
When she meets Aang in the iceberg, he is just a goofy kid who likes to laugh. Once she realizes he is the avatar things change and the friendship begins. They travel the world together and become life long friends, but no where in any of the episodes does it show true attraction. Even in the cave of two lovers it was just coincidence that they got stick together, and even then Katara is only blushing awkwardly because it’s a first kiss, plus she only offered as an escape from the cave. When they first kiss on the invasion day it was almost an instinctual reaction. Aang didn’t know if he was going to die, and katara didn’t know if she’s ever see him again so they shared a special moment ‘just in case’ but that was it.
This show is all about balance, ying and yang, tui and la, light and dark, fire and water. Everything leading up to the final agni kai was all supposed to end differently. How Zuko attacked katara village and her multiple times. How he saved Aang as the blue spirit and freed aapa. How he betrayed her again at ba sing se and almost killed Aang, only to save them all from combustion man 'who he hired.’ How he helped her grieve her mother’s death in a way that no one else in the group could. Finally when he is beating Azula and sees blue sparks head towards katara, all that he has worked for, his honor, his throne, his nation, his life. He was willing to give all that up as he dove in front of the lightning. Yes he was trying to redirect it, but being in the air he was not grounded, and could have easily died. And in the end when he finally sees her face all he can say is 'thank you’ because for a moment he hasn’t decided if he is dead or not and if he is he is grateful that the first face he sees is her. And she should have pulled him into a hug before kissing him, and then she would fumble around awkwardly until she felt him brush her cheek, and pull her in for a slow warm kiss. They would have achieved balance, yin and yang, anger and kindness, introvert and extrovert, guarded and stoic vs open and cheerful, light and dark, fire and water.
To her Aang will always be that goofy kid in the iceberg, and maybe she does love him but it would be a fist love. The kind you get when you are 14 and meet a strange boy who isn’t from the tribe you have lived in your whole life and offers to take you away from your home to see the world. A love that never had any conflict, no hate and arguments or bad thoughts, the love of a perfect friend.
Then you have the love that has grown and molded and been shaped by both of your hand as both you and he seek redemption. Zuko was the enemy and everything she hated about the fire nation. In her eyes he was the reason her mother had to die, for people like him and then he redeems himself and she starts to feel her heart pulled to him by some unknown force, until she is touching his face in an affectionate way. And then all at once the tug is broken by and flash of lightning and she has to save the day, but as she flew away the tug may be gone but she can still feel the sensation in your heart. She hates him so much it feels like she could fire bend herself and then he’s there. All at once as he was standing before her she felt the tug again and quickly had to cut it herself, refusing to believe that he had changed. And then he gave her peace and all at once she stopped fighting it and let the tug pull her straight into his arms on the dock. And as she say him dive in front of lightning for her her heart stopped and didn’t beat until he was thanking her, and she pulled him into a kiss and the world finally found balance in 100 years.
Even going past the last air bender to legend of korra, we see that Aang favors his only air bending son Tenzin for his own selfish reasons, and when Zuko in all of his flaws and short comings hears that Izumi may be in trouble his first and only thought is to be by his daughters side to protect her. Loyalty vs selfish gains. You can argue that Aang would be excited to finally be the person who restarts the air benders so to speak, but at the sake of making your other children feel neglected just doesn’t seem like a fair trade.
Even if you don’t ship it, the show was originally supposed to end in zutara, and literally the ONLY reason they changed it, was because the “hero” should get the girl. They missed out on such a great opportunity to make it something completely different than any other story, and place the two that actually ment something together. But instead they gave Aang his 'prize’ which again, possessive.