Zuko has the most character development in Avatar: The Last Airbender. As such, each episode that features his story carries a lot of weight. Zuko goes through much turmoil and inner angst throughout the show, and the conflict within himself is often highlighted to see which path he will ultimately choose.
Zuko’s character growth says a lot not only about himself but the state of the world. He begins by being ruled by the Fire Lord but ends up doing what he thinks is right to help repair the damage his childhood caused – just as the world eventually heals from the Fire Nation’s attacks. Zuko is a conduit for the plot, meaning that the best plot movement and backstory information come from the best Zuko-featured episodes.
10 Tales of Ba Sing Se
“Tales of Ba Sing Se” features side stories for each of the major characters. Zuko’s plotline in particular highlights a previously unseen side of him. When a returning customer seems to show an interest in Zuko, Uncle Iroh pushes the two into going on a date. Zuko reluctantly acquiesces.
This mini-episode helps audiences see that Zuko is still just a teenager. He is awkward and clumsy, and deep down, he hopes to make a connection with someone special. It’s hard to picture Zuko as a kid in Avatar: The Last Airbender due to his many crimes and constant pursuit of Aang. But this episode shows that a lost teenager is all Zuko really is.
9 The Avatar and the Firelord
This episode isn’t specifically about Zuko, but fans get a lot of context about his past as they learn about the relationship between Fire Lord Sozin and Avatar Roku. In this story, fans learn that Zuko is descended from both men, and viewers gain insight into the paradigm shift that started in Sozin and Roku’s time.
Although it focuses on his ancestors, this story also says a lot about Zuko. Just like the Fire Lord and the Avatar, Zuko feels a conflict within himself to either follow in his family’s destructive footsteps or to choose the more moral path. It’s only fitting that Zuko is descended from such a tumultuous pair of friends since Zuko is still grappling with his inner demons himself.
8 The Western Air Temple
“The Western Air Temple” is a momentous episode because it marks when Zuko finally asks to be a part of the Gaang. Without pretext or ill will, Zuko attempts to talk to Team Avatar to convince them that he truly does want to join forces now after all this time.
At last, Zuko finally makes the choice about which side he will fight for in the coming conflict. Although he isn’t necessarily welcomed with open arms, Zuko finally discovers his place in the world – with friends who support him despite his past indiscretions.
7 The Blue Spirit
The Blue Spirit is an enigmatic figure that has been plaguing the Fire Nation. However, their biggest grievance with him is when he frees Avatar Aang after he is finally in Fire Nation custody. Aang and fans learn that the Blue Spirit is really Zuko, making Aang’s rescue all the more confusing.
This episode marks the first time fans see that Zuko has some redeemable qualities after all. Although he freed Aang for the ultimately selfish reason of wanting to catch Aang himself, Zuko lets Aang free, rather than keeping him hostage. This is the first sign that Zuko may not agree with (or want to participate in) everything the Fire Nation is doing.
6 The Southern Raiders
The Southern Raiders were a naval contingent sent to exterminate all Waterbenders from the Southern Water Tribe to ensure that another Avatar would not be born. One of the many suspected Waterbenders they killed was Katara and Sokka’s Mom, Kya. Katara vows to take vengeance against them and enlists Zuko to help her. Zuko joins her, wanting to prove to Katara that he can be trustworthy.
Zuko has had to deal with a lot from his troubled past and recognizes that Katara needs a catharsis. Although he does want to impress her, he also agrees to go with her to help her realize that blind rage and vengeance aren’t as satisfying an answer as people think it is. This episode solidifies Katara and Zuko’s relationship and shows that they aren’t as different as they thought.
5 Crossroads of Destiny
“Crossroads of Destiny” is true to its name in terms of Zuko’s development. After living in Ba Sing Se for a while and reuniting with his sister, Azula, Zuko is now faced with the choice to follow the Fire Nation or follow the Avatar.
Ultimately, Zuko chooses the Fire Nation and betrays his Uncle Iroh in the process. This episode is the halfway point of sorts for Zuko’s character and shows that the familiar can be appealing, even if people know it’s bad for them.
4 Zuko Alone
“Zuko Alone” follows Zuko as he tries to live in exile without his Uncle. As he lives and helps a little boy and his village, Zuko reminisces on his past, especially regarding his parents.
This episode shows many great flashbacks from Zuko’s childhood and gives audiences their first look at Zuko’s mother, Ursa. However, it also depicts the villagers turning on Zuko in the present day when they realize who he is. This further emphasizes that, at this moment, Zuko is truly alone.
3 The Storm
“The Storm” delves into Aang and Zuko’s backstories, showing how they got to where they are now. While the plot shows how timid Aang was, it shows Zuko to be an outspoken kid with dreams of ruling one day.
This episode shows what happened to Zuko’s eye and discusses Zuko’s banishment as well. The scenes of him pleading with his father not to fight him are hard to watch, but they give context to why Zuko is so adamant about wanting to capture the Avatar.
2 The Day of Black Sun
In this episode, the Fire Nation is at a disadvantage since the sun is hiding behind the moon, making it the perfect opportunity for the Gaang and their allies to take down the Fire Lord. Unfortunately, Fire Lord Ozai has plans in place to protect him and those closest to him during this time of weakness.
However, the bunker isn’t impervious to everyone, and Zuko gets into his father’s chambers to discuss what he plans to do next. Zuko explains that he isn’t his father and that he wants to walk a better path. It is the first time Zuko stands up to his father and rejects his lineage, as well as the first time he redirects his father’s lightning.
1 Sozin’s Comet
The beginning of the four-part episode shows Zuko reuniting with his Uncle Iroh after betraying him. Zuko apologizes, but Iroh welcomes him back lovingly, knowing that Zuko is finally on the right path. In later parts, the ultimate battle is raging and Zuko and Katara find themselves pitted against Azula. Azula is angry, confused, and delirious, which makes her all the more dangerous.
In the epic fight that follows, Zuko once again spars with his sister. The Agni Kai that rages pits their flames against one another in their final showdown. Although Zuko is taken down when he protects Katara from Azula’s lightning, it ultimately shows Zuko’s dedication to his new friends.
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