One of the (many) things I love about AtLA is the multiplicity of relationships, and how all the characters bond over shared experiences and histories. For that reason, I’m going to disagree with the comments here. This is not a Kataang OR Zutara episode specifically. It’s both of those and more. Here’s why.
Firstly, this episode is about Katara; her history, her loss, her trauma. Her mother’s death changed Katara’s life forever and cemented her determination to learn Waterbending. So neither Zuko or Aang are the prominent figures here: it’s Katara who’s making tough decisions about closure, revenge, agency and forgiveness. So by pigeon-holing the relationship into a Kataang vs. Zutara analysis, we’re kind of diminishing Katara’s importance here.
Secondly, if in fact TPTB did characterize Aang as a guardian angel and Zuko as a devil in respect to Katara here, I’m going to side-eye them a bit because this is a very reductive way of positioning their own complex characters as well as antithetical to the Buddhist ideas of balance and multiplicity that permeate this whole show.
Aang’s perspective on revenge and forgiveness stem from his beliefs, his experiences and his sense of spiritual duty as the Avatar. I’m irritated when people dismiss Aang as “self righteous” and talked about how he’s only doing his duty as the Avatar and as Katara’s friend.
Similarly, Zuko’s perspectives come from his own experiences (which are radically different from Aang’s but also parallels them) his personal experience with losing his mother and his determination to redeem himself to each member of the Gaang.
Both of these are important, because both of these characters are important.
If Zuko and Aang’s friendship signals the beginning of peace and the restoration of balance, Katara is the connection between them. Katara takes Aang out of the iceberg, Katara protects Aang from Zuko at the Siege of the North, Katara is the first member of the Gaang with whom Zuko has conversation of mutuality (Ba Sing Se and the loss of their mothers), Katara helps Zuko become Firelord by deposing his sister just like she helps Aang realize his full potential by continuing to believe in him, and Katara is the one who heals both Zuko and Aang after Azula shoots them with lightning.
Katara, who’s motherly and fussy and compassionate and cries easily, is also a fiercely protective bender who threatens to kill Zuko if he harms Aang. Katara loves Aang with all her heart but she wasn’t about to let him stop her from taking Appa and facing the man who killed her mother. Katara bloodbends the ship’s captain with pleasure, but ultimately spares the man who killed Kya. She needed to face the parts of herself that are like Zuko - angry, vengeful, hurt - and the parts of herself that are like Aang - compassionate, spiritual, giving - and find out where she, Katara of the Southern Tribe, emerges. WHICH SHE DID. She faced Yon Rah and scared the living daylights out of him, she stripped him of all dignity and made him crawl and beg for his life. AND SHE DIDN’T FORGIVE HIM.
But she forgave Zuko, because she recognized his sincerity and his effort. She thanked Aang, for understanding why she needed to make this journey.
In the end, she did what SHE felt was right, and she made a choice that was neither Zuko’s or Aang’s but hers alone.
This episode IS a zutara episode because it’s about Zuko making amends for his past actions, and that’s pretty dang important. It’s also a Kataang episode because Aang, though he disagrees, understands what Katara needs to do. Both of these relationships have their own functionality and power, both of them draw out different qualities and different emotions in Katara, but ultimately neither of them define or influence her to the degree of being an “angel” or “devil” (ugh i HATE that), because Katara forges her own choice out of the multiple influences in her life.
I love that she said she’ll never forgive him, because it’s important that we understand how yes, some actions are beyond the pale of forgiveness.
I love that she thanked Aang for understanding.
I love that she forgave Zuko, and that their shared history of losing their mothers to the Fire Nation was given a nod.
I wasn’t present at the height of this fandom’s ship wars, so I won’t police people over how they interpret these things and why. I understand how ugly ship wars can get. But I do want to urge us to look at this episode from a perspective of multiplicity, and acknowledge that there are many different ways to love, to grieve, to heal, to redeem.
[ Description: Two images of a teenage woman with long hair dark hair in Fire Nation attire of bodysuit, tunic and knee high boots. Her topknot is adorned with the imperial insignia, and in the second image she is bending electricity in a dramatic pose. ]
Because I am dying to know how Zuko’s daughter actually looks like, what’s her name and aaaaaaaaaaalll the Zuko-relative stuff.
Seriously, guys, can you even imagine how amazing and badass and perfect and gorgeously infuriating(at moments) Zuko and Mai’s(I guess) daughter can be??? CAN YOU?
O MY GOD. ALSO, IMAGINE HOW HOT SHE MAY BE.
I tried my hand on drawing her, and designing her, but I am not very good in it. But at least I satisfied myself, pretty much. THOUGH SHE IS MORE HOT I KNOW I COULDN’T CAPTURE ALL HER BEAUTY AND HONOR
I KNOW SHE IS VERY HONORABLE.
[ Description: An image set of concept art from Avatar: the Last Airbender featuring Toph Bei Fong, a blind 12 year old girl wearing a variety of green and yellow clothes. ]
Avatar: The Last Airbender — Concept Art Spam
“During the bible development, Bryan and I conceived of Toph as a tough, brash, blind teenage boy who would become Aang’s Earthbending teacher. As we began the writing for season two, Aaron Ehasz suggested making Toph a girl. Bryan and I resisted the idea at first, but the more we talked about it, the more we loved the idea of taking all of Toph’s original personality traits and putting them in the body of an adorable twelve-year-old girl. Now, I can’t imagine Toph any other way.
“Despite people’s doubts early on in development, Mike and I always thought the show would connect with a female audience, and we felt pleasantly vindicated when the first season did just that. The thing that surprised us about the second season was how many tough-looking teenage boys told us their favorite character was Toph! Sometimes it feels as good or better to be wrong as it does to be right.”
taken from the “Art of the Animated Series” pre-production artbookClick here for more
images were scanned in by kartikeya200; I’m just spreading the magic around