The Zuko/Azula Shipper’s Guide To/Optimistic Interpretation of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER – a.k.a. Contentbending In Pursuit Of Flamin’-Hot Incestuous Love, a.k.a. Delusions Of Zucest – Part III Of V: Episodes 41-45

First order of business: Avatar: The Last Airbender has been my recent obsession, so I’ve written plenty on it already. If you’re interested, you should check out the posts I already did on 1) the movie, 2) a movie/cartoon comparison, 3) and most especially my Zuko/ Azula analysis for the first two seasons – Part I and Part II. I will be operating under the assumption that you already know the basics about the show…information which is available in these other posts.

Second order of business: if you don’t want to read any spoilers, then you SHOULD NOT be here. I will be covering the entire season in (sometimes excessive) detail and possibly out of order. And take it from one who knows: this is a good show, and if you think you might be at all interested in watching it, then you DO NOT want to be spoiled.

Third order of business: I’ve decided to refer to what I’m doing here – my “optimistic interpretation” – as contentbending. I mean, it’s just so appropriate to use that term, and I think it’s an effective description: I’m taking what I see and hear onscreen and bending it to my interests. There are facts, and then there are indicators, and indicators are up to interpretation. I contentbend around the facts, never contradicting them. They are trees, and the indicators are reeds, and I am a great wind. (Did you like that?)

“I’m going to kill you. Or I might be lying.”

Examples? Let’s say Azula tells Zuko that she is going to kill him. This doesn’t have to mean that she’s actually going to kill him – we don’t have to accept that even if it seems like she’s trying. She could be lying, trying to intimidate him or get a rise out of him. Or say she shoots fire at him. That’s a fact. But if she misses, I could always say that she missed on purpose. So, basically, that’s what I’m doing here. If you read the other guide, then you already know. I don’t even know why I felt like explaining myself. I guess I wanted a little justification, because some of these later episodes are going to require my best contentbending skills. And speaking of justification:

Fourth order of business: getting philosophical. You could laugh at me or call me psycho for even trying to make a case for Zuko and Azula because there’s nothing concrete in the show to rest my case on, and there’s the even more important fact that this is a children’s show on a children’s network, and it would never “go there”, even in joking or deeply buried subtext.

My response? First of all, there is such a thing as getting something under the radar, which means that the writers could have intended it but couldn’t make it too obvious. Secondly, I’ve done lot of creative writing myself, and one thing that I’ve learned is that stories have a habit of writing themselves. That flow can’t be forced – it’s cosmic. The best tales (like Avatar: The Last Airbender) have a certain amount of construction and planning involved, and certainly on a TV show there are going to be drafts upon drafts, multi-pronged input and editing, and final say by executive producers and head writers, but that doesn’t really change the fact that when you create a universe and the characters in it, the story sort of tells itself. For every conscious decision meditated upon, there are ten small details that simply come to you. And you know, somehow, when something is right. It feels right. So maybe the writers never intended for anything incestuous to be read between Zuko and Azula, maybe that part just wrote itself. These two characters and their story with each other took on a bit of a life of its own. All I want to say is that that could be.

-“And what do you see?” -“I see two people with darkness inside of them firebending lightning, also they’re brother and sister and in love with each other. And she’s not really crazy.” -“You see a lot.”

And lastly, and most importantly: watching a cartoon on your TV may not be like traveling to Paris and going to the Louvre and spending hours in front of a famous painting, but it’s still art. The beauty of art is our prerogative to interpret it, to see what we see in it, to be affected by what affects us personally. It becomes ours. That’s all I’m doing here.

Well, I finished watching the third season only moments ago. I’m still queasy – that’s how recent and how intense my experience was. I tried to stretch the third season out – to make it last – but when I realized that I was bound to be disappointed simply due to the fact that I was over-invested if nothing else, I decided it would be best to do it quick like ripping off a Band Aid, and so I watched the last eight chapters/episodes back to back. What a rollercoaster!

Ignorance is bliss, I often say. I was so happy with the way things ended in the second season finale that I was reluctant to proceed. It certainly couldn’t have been accepted as an ending ending – it was very clearly a midpoint – but I could have made up my own way for it to end in my head and been blissfully ignorant of what actually happened.

Unfortunately this wasn’t an option because I had already stumbled across a spoiler telling me that Azula went crazy after Mai and Ty Lee betrayed her. That’s almost verbatim what I had read. It was very little information, and way too much information at the same time. I couldn’t know only that much, and not know more.

Plus, I had already been exposed to this: a video which I have mentioned before, and which I knew took place early into the third season. All it shows is Zuko going into Azula’s bedroom and them having a conversation, but put to Let’s Get It On, it became rather suggestive. Even though it was a joke, how could I not at least proceed far enough to see the scene in its natural habitat? I didn’t even know what their conversation was about!

Well, ignorance is no longer an option because I now know it all. My initial reaction is exactly what I predicted it would be the second I decided I liked the show enough to keep watching it: could have been a lot better, could have been a lot worse.

While I like the show as a whole – the general concept, all of the characters, its humor, its impressive continuity, its style and form, most of its espoused values, etc. – what has kept me obsessed (if you hadn’t figured it out from the post title) was Zuko, Azula, and their relationship. Which really all boils down to my imagining them having and my desire for them to have an incestuous relationship.

So, when I say “could have been a lot better, could have been a lot worse” that’s largely what I’m referring to, and that’s really the best way to sum it up. In some ways I feel totally robbed, but they could have taken even more from me. It’s time for me to bring up another axiom: as long as they’re both alive, there is still hope. There is no greater comfort than that, is there? As long as they’ve got their lives, and we’ve got our imagination, there’s nothing that can’t be.

Of course, I’ve dealt with similar situations before: Angele killed Raymond in Cadavres.

Jackie O killed Marty in The House Of Yes.

Nuala killed Nuada and herself in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. These endings weren’t ideal, but they were hardly devastating. However, in this case, I think the death of Zuko or Azula (particularly the latter) really would have crushed me. So, I’m thanking my lucky stars that I don’t have to console myself for any such loss.

All right, enough diary crap. I know you don’t care this much about what I think or feel.

The most organized way to go about this is episode by episode, as I did before. However, it’s difficult to ignore what I now know, having reached the end. I think it’d be best to lay out a quick Zuko/Azula summary of the entire season, and then operate with that as a basis.

So, season two ended with Azula overthrowing the Earth King and taking Ba Sing Se (the last enemy stronghold) for the Fire Nation. She captured Uncle Iroh as a traitor, but gave Zuko another chance to prove his loyalty, promising him everything he’s always wanted. Zuko decided to help Azula catch the Avatar. Azula ended up shooting the Avatar with lightning, but Katara was able to heal him.

Iroh is put in jail, while Zuko heads back to the Fire Nation with Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee. We skip a couple of weeks, during which Mai and Zuko apparently wind up in a romantic relationship. Although everyone believes the Avatar to be dead, Azula senses from Zuko that maybe that’s not the case, so she tells her father that Zuko was the one who shot the Avatar in order to protect herself. Zuko grows disillusioned in the Fire Nation (even though he is enjoying Mai and his princeliness), and tries to speak to his uncle in jail, but his uncle ignores him. Azula warns him against such a thing. Zuko hires an assassin to kill Aang so that no one will ever know that the Avatar didn’t die.

Daddy Ozai sends his kids to Ember Island (a place where they used to go for family vacations), and they are accompanied by Mai and Ty Lee. Each character, in talking about their childhood, reveals part of why they’re so messed up. Zuko and Mai argue and break-up, but then they get back together. Zuko realizes that he’s very angry with himself. He grows paranoid when he isn’t invited to a war council meeting, but it was all in his head. He learns that the previous incarnation of the Avatar – Roku – of the Fire Nation, is his ancestor on his mother’s side.

He decides that he hates his father, and that he wants to be good, so he leaves a Dear John letter for Mai, says some hurtful things to his father, goes to bust Iroh out of jail but Iroh had already busted himself out, and heads off to join the Aang gang. But not before learning the truth about his mother: she made a deal with Ozai to kill Azulon in exchange for Zuko’s life (called it!).

Team Avatar is reluctant to accept him after all that he’s put them through, but they eventually do, and Zuko becomes Aang’s firebending teacher. Zuko at first is unable to muster up much fire, so he and Aang go and learn about the first firebenders, and realize that fire is life. In a rescue attempt from a prison, Zuko is caught and Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee show up. Azula and Zuko have a firebending showdown on top of a sky gondola, but Azula has the gondola wires cut and retreats. Mai got to chew out Zuko earlier, but she defies Azula in order to save Zuko when the gondola is about to go down. Azula attempts to punish her after Mai gets sassy, but Ty Lee intervenes, paralyzing Azula with her chi-blocking skills. Azula has them both sent to jail to “rot”.

Azula and Zuko have another showdown, which results in them both falling through the air. Zuko is caught on Appa, and Azula saves herself on the cliff. Ozai’s plan is to invade/burn down basically everything and everywhere when the comet comes. He leaves Azula to guard the fire nation and tells her that she is going to be made Fire Lord while he becomes the Phoenix King. As she prepares, she ends up banishing all of her servants, finding some way in which they have failed and betrayed her (“like Mai and Ty Lee”). She has a vision of her mom and a mini breakdown, but it doesn’t hold her back.

Aang faces off against Ozai and defeats him, but instead of killing him he steals his ability to firebend. Zuko reunites with Iroh. Iroh stays in Ba Sing Se to help take it back from the Fire Nation, while Zuko and Katara head to the Fire Nation to take the palace. Azula’s coronation is interrupted right before she is crowned.

Azula challenges Zuko to an Agni Kai, and he agrees because he can see that she’s off her game. She gets crazier and crazier as they fight with no clear winner, until he challenges her to shoot lightning, and she shoots it at Katara. He dives in front to take the lightning. So Katara and Azula face off against each other. Katara is able to bind Azula in chains, and she heals Zuko. Zuko becomes the new Fire Lord, and he and Aang usher in a new era of peace. He reunites with Mai. Ty Lee becomes a Kyoshi warrior. Aang and Katara kiss at the end.

I think that covers it.

I read online that the Word Of God (a.k.a. the showmakers) have said that Azula spends the rest of her days in an asylum. I wish I had never read it. While that future for her is not the end of my world, I think it’s stupid and overly simple and if it didn’t happen on the show then I don’t have to buy it. None of the other characters got futures within the show; I don’t see why Azula should have to get one. To make matters worse, they’re making a sequel that takes place during the lifetime of the next Avatar, and may have some details relating to what happened in the past. Personally, I’m not going to consider that canon. I don’t even know if they would mention Azula on that show, but it certainly has the potential to limit what might have happened to her. For example, we’re probably going to know that Azula didn’t break out and take over the Fire Nation and resume her father’s plans for world domination. As far as I’m concerned, that’s still a possibility.

Anyway, to make a long story short, anything that wasn’t in the finale can go where the sun don’t shine because I’m not considering it canon, no matter who said it. I probably won’t be watching this new Korra show, so I’m going to ignore it what it might reveal about Zuko and Azula.

Anyway, let’s go episode by episode.

Book 3 – Chapter 1 – Awakening

Scene 1: Zuko is alone on the deck of the ship at night, staring at the full moon. Mai comes along, and they kiss.

He wonders how home has changed, and how he has changed. She tells him not worry so much and scolds him for telling her his whole life story when she only asked if he was cold.

It’s my job to break down Mai and Zuko’s relationship now that I know they end up together. Before, when all we had was Mai’s crush, it was amusing. But seeing them as a stable couple – as a couple when the show ends? Unacceptable. So I’m sharpening my nails, because I’m clawing their liaison to shreds.

First of all, Zuko may have saved Mai from the burning apple on her head, but he obviously had zero interest in her. He didn’t want to play with them in the first place and he stormed away. The entire event was orchestrated by Azula for her own reasons. Because Mai had a crush on him for years they are always going to have that inequality in their relationship. Which is a bad thing.

Second of all, Mai is a terrible person. She changed the terms of the hostage negotiation for her brother mid-exchange! And she left town with Azula while he was still kidnapped – her own brother! She takes a joy in her fighting, but never seems to question who she is fighting or why. She is lazy, and spoiled (remember the drill?). Etc. I’ll touch on this again later. But for now: What about this episode? Zuko clearly has a lot of mixed feelings, a lot of fears and insecurities, and Mai couldn’t care less. She gives him a kiss and tells him not to worry and that’s that? Talk about no support. She can’t be there for him when he needs her. She’s incapable of being there for another person.

We join up with them a couple of weeks later and all of the sudden they’re boyfriend and girlfriend? How are we supposed to care about their relationship when they get together off screen? It’s boring and alienating. What I see is a very predatory Mai taking advantage of a very confused and troubled Zuko.

And this is very shallow, but Mai is ugly. I like the voice, but the character is ugly. In fact, has there been a female character on the show who has been less pretty than Mai? I’m not saying that Zuko couldn’t be with her because she’s not very pretty – I’m saying he shouldn’t. This is a cartoon – everyone could be pretty. What I see is Mai’s inside on her outside.

Scene 2: The creepy old ladies that we saw at the beginning of season two are back. They have names, too: Li and Lo. We still never learn who they are, though. They tell the story of Zuko and Azula’s victories in the Earth Kingdom, and the part of me that thrives on triumph totally savors every second. What is wrong with this child?

Azula and Zuko present themselves at the palace in front of their people – their victorious return.

“I think I’m supposed to find this curiously unfulfilling…”

Zuko doesn’t smile.

“Oh, are we feeding the turtle ducks? Let me go grab some rocks.”

Scene 3: Big surprise here (not): Zuko sits by the pond and feeds the turtle ducks. Note the lovely lack of Mai. And note the lovely appearance of Azula! She scares the ducks away, but Zuko doesn’t flinch.

Azula: “You seem so downcast. Has Mai gotten to you already?”

Even Azula thinks that Mai will be a bad influence on Zuko! Azula turns around after she says this, as if the subject displeases her. Almost as if its an awkward topic.

“They’re definitely doing ‘it’.”

“Actually, Mai has been in a strangely good mood lately,” Azula remarks to herself. It’s all of the sex with Zuko, of course. But is it Zuko? Or is it just the sex? Because I’m positing the idea that Mai just needed to get laid, and it didn’t really matter who. Azula has always been good at reading people, but it’s still nice to see her acknowledging her friends moods. She’s not so self-absorbed.

Zuko: “I haven’t seen Dad yet. I haven’t seen him in three years, since I was banished.”

“So what?”

Well, notice how Azula immediately begins talking to Zuko about his love life? Why so interested, Azula? And notice how Zuko changes the subject? Also notice how Zuko here has the conversation with Azula that he wanted to have before, when Mai shut him down.

“So what?” Azula asks. She’s not shutting him down, she simply doesn’t understand why he’s so blue.

Bitch!

“So, I didn’t capture the Avatar,” he responds. And despite his state of introspection, it’s clear that he listened carefully to what she had said because he repeats her “so” in his answer.

“Who cares?’ Azula asks. “The Avatar is dead.”

Zuko looks away. Uh-oh. This guy still doesn’t know how to cover himself. (In the lying sort of way. He seems to have mastered the clothing sort of way, unfortunately.) Azula, being as sharp as she is (sharp enough to sink an empire class battleship), picks up on his caginess immediately. “Unless you think he somehow miraculously survived…” she coaxes.

This is a good time for me to mention my displeasure. While I am pleased on the one hand that Azula finally did send a killing blow Aang’s way, I think I would almost prefer it if the lightning was never fatal in only one strike. And I figured that Aang didn’t actually die, because I thought that Katara healing him back from the dead was a little too insane, even if she did have water from the spirit oasis. But Aang tells us that he was “gone”, so apparently that’s exactly what happened. Zuko knows about the water, and he also knows how slippery Aang is, plus he seems to have some sort of strange psychic connection to Aang, perhaps the very thing that allowed them to fight in tandem so well in The Blue Spirit, so this is why he has a nagging feeling that Aang isn’t dead.

“No, there’s no way he could have survived,” Zuko says assuredly to Azula. Silly boy! Azula sees straight through your lies.

“Well, then I’m sure you have nothing to worry about,” Azula responds after they have a little stare down. He holds his own against her in that, but he’s already shown his hand, unfortunately for him. This is a warning for him, but he doesn’t pick up on it.

She leaves.

That girl can read him so well!

Scene 4: Zuko goes to visit his father. Daddy welcomes him warmly, and we finally get to see his face. He’s hot and terrifying at the same time! Zuko had nothing to worry about – Ozai restores his honor and gives him his love right away.

Ozai: “I am proud of you, Prince Zuko. I am proud because you and your sister conquered Ba Sing Se. I am proud because when your loyalty was tested by your treacherous uncle, you did the right thing and captured the traitor. And I am proudest of all of your most legendary accomplishment: you slayed the Avatar.” Uh, “slew” Mr. Fire Lord, Sir.

Zuko: “What did you hear?” I heard bad grammar.

Ozai: “Azula told me everything. She said she was amazed and impressed with your power and ferocity at the moment of truth.”

I do not need firebending. I will melt you with my gorgeous amber eyes.

Ozai is pretty warm during this scene, not the scary man we’ve seen before. It’s hard to remember that he’s not just a sorta bad guy, he’s megalomaniacally evil. He’s a very handsome, very evil man.

We know that Azula isn’t nice enough to give Zuko the glory out of the goodness of her heart, but we don’t know what she’s up to, just like he doesn’t know. We of course find out that she was protecting herself, so she wouldn’t be shamed if it ever came out that the Avatar wasn’t really dead. But she could have told Ozai that Zuko killed the Avatar without mentioning his “power” and “ferocity”. Those words sound like sexual compliments (especially coming from her, who would expect/demand such attributes in a bedmate), if you ask me. Azula did do a lot of smiling during that battle. She also emphasizes a separation between Zuko and Iroh, with Iroh as the traitor, and Zuko as the loyalist who proved himself. That much had to have been for Zuko’s benefit.

Why? Why did she lie? Why does she have to make everything about her?

Even though this is Zuko’s reunion meeting with his father, it ends up being entirely about Azula. Very interesting, no? Not only because Ozai keeps bringing her up, but also because the entire time Zuko is thinking about her and why she lied.

Scene 5: Zuko goes to see Azula to learn why she lied. We see her lying in bed, and then light falls across her as Zuko opens the door, and then his shadow is on top of her. On. Top. Of. Her! OK, so their heads don’t exactly match up, but his shadow would cover her completely as he moved closer to her.

I love it that he doesn’t knock, he simply walks right in. Just like he has the right to. Maybe he wanted to catch her vulnerable and asleep, to see her that way.

And there’s this incredible entitlement as well to the way he begins their conversation without any formalities: “Why’d you do it?” he demands right as he steps in. He doesn’t even bother to try to wake her first.

And it’s not during the day, either. It’s nighttime. It’s one thing to stroll right in while she’s probably reading or having her hairbrushed, but it’s a whole different type of intrusion to do it when she’s supposed to be asleep It was completely dark in her room, which means he knew that she had already gone to bed, and he went in anyway. This conversation could have taken place anywhere at anytime, but they chose Azula’s bedroom, at night?!! While she’s lying in bed!

We see her face, and is it just me or is she smiling? She’s amused that he’s there, and pleased. She doesn’t even open her eyes. This shows that she’s not afraid of him, but even more than that, I dare suggest it shows that this isn’t necessarily unusual. Granted, she was 11 when he left – they were still children so that sort of thing wouldn’t be all that suggestive. But there was all that time on the ship sailing home…It was long enough for Mai and Zuko to develop a relationship. Zuko and Azula certainly went quickly back to behaving as brother and sister, as they did in Zuko’s flashbacks.

This forces me to talk about the movie Against the Wind, or Contra El Viento, a Spanish film with Antonio Banderas. His little sister (two years younger, remind you of anyone?) is in love with him. And she tells him (while they’re having sex) that she was 11 when she first figured it out, and I don’t recall exactly what she says, but her description is rather physical, about their blood and whatnot. We all know that Azula is advanced beyond her years, so who knows what kind of 11 year old she was. I know what kind of 11 year old I was…and I’m not going to finish that sentence.

Azula: “You’re going to have to be a little more specific.”

Zuko walks into the room, and we’re given a different view but his shadow is all over her now. “Why did you tell Father that I was the one who killed the Avatar?”

Azula: “Can’t this wait until morning?” Yes, it can, Azula. Yes it can. But I don’t think you want to postpone, and I don’t think Zuko wants to leave… So Azula pretends like she’s being bothered, but we know what Azula sounds like when she’s annoyed, and it’s not this.

Zuko: “No. It can’t.” It sounds like he’s trying to act all tough, but the way he phrases his answer is laughably weak. He should have yelled “NO” like he did when Katara tried to help him with Iroh In The Chase.

Azula sighs, opens her eyes, and possibly rolls them at the same time. “Fine.”

She sits up, facing him. “You seemed so worried about how Father would treat you because you hadn’t captured the Avatar. I thought that if I gave you the credit you’d have nothing to worry about.”

“Maybe instead of talking about this, we should just get it on.”

Zuko should know better, but his voice noticeably softens. “Why?”

Azula crawls out of bed. “Call it a generous gesture. I wanted to thank you for your help. I was happy to share the glory.”

Azula LOVES bedposts, and she moves towards hers, also towards Zuko. She’s wearing a robe – an interesting choice for sleepwear because they are notorious for getting twisted and moving out of place. They really only hang right when you’re standing. That robe could have quite the plunging neckline and quite the slit if it wanted. It’s rather modest here, although we’ve never seen so much of Azula’s shape before. Also, her hair is more down than we’ve ever seen, but it’s still in a ponytail.

Zuko finally clues in: “You’re lying.” I’m not going to give him too much credit, because “Azula always lies” is his survival mantra, and because Azula didn’t work too hard to make it sound like she was telling the truth. We heard her sincere tone in Crossroads Of Destiny (and now that we’ve seen this episode that follows we know that she was, indeed, sincere), and this isn’t it. It’s like she gives Zuko a handicap in her manipulation game.

I feel like Azula’s animation is a little off in this scene. It won’t be the only time this season.

Azula’s response: “If you say so.” She walks past him, so close that they could touch although they don’t, and then she goes to stand in the middle of her room.

“You have another motive for doing this,” Zuko accuses. “I just haven’t figured out what it is.”

This is when Azula stops in the middle of the room. “Please, Zuko…”

Here is the most tantalizing part: Azula stretches. Stretching is an extremely physical action which draws attention to the body and highlights certain parts of the body. She shakes her fanny a lot during that stretch. Her back is to him. (Sort of like what she did earlier at the turtle-duck pond), like she’s trying to seduce him but doesn’t want to look him in the eyes while she does it. She’s also speaking much more slowly and roundabout than she usually does, which tells me that her mind is on other things, and perhaps another task.

Since Zuko is trying to wrest the truth out of her, he’s watching her every movement very closely…

“What ulterior motive could I have?” she asks. It’s like she’s purposefully guiding him towards the truth. “What could I possibly gain by letting you get all of the glory for defeating the Avatar?

She turns around, takes the couple of steps towards him, stops next to him, and puts her hand on his shoulder.

His eyes have been following her, he turned his head to watch her and probably didn’t expect her to stop and touch him, so their faces are quite close here.

He averts his eyes from her. Undoubtedly, he’s trying to answer the rhetorical question that she’s asking, so he’s thinking. But this eye aversion is also redolent of a mthod of self-restraint: his new survival mantra becomes “Don’t look at her. Don’t look at her. Don’t look at her.”

“…Unless, somehow, the Avatar was still alive,” she finally says. See: she told him the truth. It’s not as if he had her cornered – she chose to tell him the truth, probably to help him out a little. Now, she might have thrown him under the bus a little here, but he sort of had it coming: she asked him if it was possible that the Avatar was still alive, and he denied it. We’ll never know what might have happened if he had told the truth at the pond. And he could have told the truth when he was with his father, but he didn’t. And maybe Azula did him a favor, because it’s possible that Ozai would not have accepted Zuko back if he did not think that Zuko had been the one to take care of the Avatar problem. We can’t know that either.

“All that glory would suddenly turn to shame and foolishness,” she points out with menace, taking her hand off of his shoulder and walking back to her bed.

Zuko is facing towards the door, and she is walking behind him towards her bed. He turns his head, but not far enough around to look at her. This is another motion (like the eye aversion) that can represent restraint, but what it primarily represents is the captivation of your attention by something behind you, but your desire for whatever reason not to look at it. I wish I could think of another example but I’m drawing blanks. Then he slowly turns around to watch her climb into bed.

There’s something really sexy about the way she slinks away from him, and walks into the shadows, and he watches. She sits on the edge of the bed, and this would have been a great time for her slit to go sky high, but there’s too much darkness.

Zuko is a little shocked at first, but then he turns angry instantly, kind of like when he was a kid. I would have expected a combination of awe and fear – that was my response.

“But you said yourself that was impossible,” Azula points out thereby justifying herself.

Check out this pose! Her body is the only part in the light – it would be that much more obvious to Zuko. Her slit goes all the way up her thigh, but somehow still doesn’t reveal anything. Her neck has finally dropped lower, but we don’t actually see any cleavage. It’s there, the animators just didn’t want us to see it. Zuko can see it.

Her bed is enormous, so no matter where she’s laying there’s always room for him.

Zuko’s face is hard to read. He’s still angry at her duplicity, but he certainly realizes that he got himself into this position, and he’s trying to figure out how he can fix things.

Why the hell did Azula even stand up if not to show off herself and do a little dance with him. In fact, Azula would have had more power in the conversation if she had stayed in bed, it would have shown confidence and nonchalance. She was giving Zuko attention by rising. And she was getting attention, if you know what I mean. There’s not really any explanation for her to get out of bed in order to converse with him, for her to walk to the center of the room and stretch, except for what fits in with my theories.

“Sleep well, Zuzu,” Azula taunts in a sleepy way. I love it every time she uses Zuzu, but this is probably the cruelest instance.

She lays her head down on the pillow and smiles evilly at him as he walks out of the room. Is the evil smile because she outplayed him and managed to protect herself? Or is the evil smile because she had an encounter with him and came out on top? What’s the difference? The difference is that in the latter case, her primary concern is her relationship with Zuko. Her manipulative games may seem mean, or it may be her way of displaying love: she loves Zuko, therefore she wants to control Zuko. In order to control Zuko she always has to have the upperhand. Because of her firebending, she’s used to that.

The final shot of Zuko leaving the room is from across Azula’s body. She has already closed her eyes, but it’s nevertheless from her perspective. Almost like instead of seeing it, she’s feeling it.

What a great scene, right? Totally worth at least embarking upon the third season, even if meant dealing with that earlier scene with Mai. When I first saw this, I thought Zuko still had romantic potential with Katara, so I wasn’t really looking at him and Mai and expecting it to last. Turns out the whole Zuko/Katara thing was one major tease. I’ve decided that no one at Nickelodeon can be trusted with a ship.

Fortunately, I’ve actually been finding myself shipping movie Zuko and movie Katara (Dev Patel and Nicola Peltz, respectively) more than animated Zuko and animated Katara. The animated characters do not look good together (Katara’s too anime). Of course, I’m so stuck on Zuko/Azula that even the littlest threat creates great waves in me. I do sympathetic jealousy on Azula’s behalf.

So, moving on to Chapter 2: The Headband. I liked this episode a lot, all of it. Maybe it was because Sokka and Katara pretend to be Aang’s parents when he decides to enroll in a local school. Also, Aang tries to use fire slang, and it’s hilarious.

Katara, Toph, Aang, and Sokka all look way better in their Fire Nation disguises. I did resent it a little bit: while the Fire Nation is certainly wrong to be conquering the rest of the world, they have every right to their rigid but polished culture.

So, Zuko secretly goes to visit Iroh. Iroh turns his back to him, and doesn’t say a word.

“You brought this on yourself, you know. We could have come home together. You could have been a hero. You have no right to judge me, Uncle. I did what I had to do in Ba Sing Se, and you’re a fool for not joining me. You’re not going to say anything?” He angrily kicks wooden chair and burns it. “You’re a crazy old man. You’re crazy. And if you weren’t in jail, you’d be sleeping in a gutter!”

Next we get a scene of Mai and Zuko. I loved this scene way more before I realized they were going to be together in the end. They are sitting up on a cliff, watching the sunset and having a little picnic.

Mai: “Orange is such an awful color.” She’s so negative! Zuko definitely doesn’t need somebody so negative in his life, he’s already negative enough himself!

Then Zuko laughs.

Yes. He laughs.

Truly, the End Times are here.

It’s kind of lovely, and kind of horrifying to see him laugh. I already mentioned that I prefer my Zuko damaged, troubled, suffering, and doing wrong. And celibate, it would seem. But he looks so cute when he laughs at her.

Zuko: “You’re so beautiful when you hate the world.”

Where do I start? There are so many things wrong with that sentence. First of all, Mai will never be beautiful. Second of all, it’s not beautiful to hate the world. Thirdly, why are you on a date? That’s so lame!

I was not supportive of Iroh’s attempts to get Zuko laid during the first two seasons because I knew it was rooted in a desire to get him to settle down in the Earth kingdom, but now I find myself wishing that Zuko had been around the block once or twice so he wouldn’t become a giggling idiot around the first girl he spends some time with.

Mai: “I don’t hate you.”

Zuko: “I don’t hate you too.” Ugh, gag me with a spoon. Oh, wait, you don’t need to, because I’m upchucking all on my own. But at least they’re not actually saying “I love you.”

And they kiss. These guys have such a physical relationship, and we’re only getting started.

Thank God for Azula: she shows up almost instantly and clears her throat. This garners dirty looks from her horny brother and friend.

My question: how did Azula know where to find them? My guess: she always knows what’s going and where everyone is. Particularly Zuko.

Azula: “Zuko, may I have a word with you.”

Zuko: “Can’t you see that we’re busy?”

What goes around comes around, apparently. You bother your sister while she’s trying to sleep, and she’ll bother you when you’re trying to make out with your girlfriend. Thank God!

This does bring up the point that Azula could have had this conversation with Zuko at another time and in another place, but she chose to interrupt Zuko on his date, and she effectively ends the date as well. Jealous much? She also didn’t approach cautiously, or slowly, she came right up and stopped them while they were kissing.

Zuko turns right back to Mai and begins kissing her again, right in front of Azula. He knows she hasn’t left and isn’t going to, which means he’s trying to piss her off. We know that he’s got grounds for being a little angry with her (though, again, he sort of had it coming), but this sort of provocation is a specific kind: to cause jealousy. Now Azula probably is jealous that she doesn’t have a boyfriend of her own, but I’m sure she’s also jealousy that Zuko and Mai are spending time with each other instead of with her. And, of course, (in my mind), with a specific focus on Zuko, whom she worked so hard to bring home and now can’t seem to get to herself.

Someone get me the brain bleach

“Get out here before I make you get out of here.”

Azula makes something of a horrified face, and then tells Mai that Ty Lee has gotten her hair into a knot and needs help untangling it.

I kind of like the way Mai responds: “Sounds serious,” she says.

Bitch.

She leaves Zuko immediately but makes a dirty face at Azula behind her back. Well, we can’t really blame her, can we? But knowing what I knew when I first saw this, I did not like that first sign that Mai would be betraying Azula one day.

This goes back to what I was saying before about the flashback in which Azula sort of forces Zuko and Mai into the fountain: Azula wants Zuko with someone that she can control. This is a perfect example of Azula asserting that control.

“So glad she’s gone, am I right?”

Also, Azula sending Mai away signifies the fact that she and Zuko have secrets between them. Mai is being excluded. Azula and Zuko have a relationship that Mai has no part in.

Zuko doesn’t seem surprised that Mai is leaving, and he doesn’t try to stop her, either. Azula has about a billion different servants who work on her hair, so I’m sure that no one actually believes that Ty Lee needed help with her hair. So even though Azula lies here, it’s still very likely that she had just been with Ty Lee. Which means that Azula didn’t break up the date because she was alone, or lonely…she made a conscious decision to go and separate Zuko from Mai. She wasn’t just looking for company.

Azula: “So I hear you’ve been to visit your Uncle Fatso in the prison tower.”

I like that Iroh is being kept in a prison that is so close to the Palace. It’s not a nice prison, but at least it’s close to the palace, where he rightfully belongs. I can only hope that Azula gets institutionalized nearby as well. If I ever get around to writing a post-finale fanfic, my  Zukey will insist upon it.

Now, this is the first time that Azula has referred to Iroh while speaking to Zuko as anything other than “Uncle.” I don’t know why she decided to all of the sudden say “your uncle.” But I do know that the tasteless “fatso” insult is actually to contrast with the transformation that Iroh undergoes while in prison, working out, as people in prison do.

Zuko: “That guard told you!”

Azula: “No. But you did, just now.” Damn that girl is good. She thought it likely that he would go to see Iroh – she knows him that well – and she managed to get the truth out of him without even trying. She didn’t even need to go to the prison and interrogate anybody (although she no doubt would have been successful that way as well).

Zuko sits down, turns his face away from hers (shame!) and rests his arms on his elbows. “OK, you caught me.” He actually softens and opens up here, which is interesting because he should have become defensive. Visiting Iroh is almost treasonous. But he’s not afraid of Azula, even after what she had just done (the lie about the Avatar). In fact, his position suggests that he’s preparing himself for her counsel.

“What is it that you want, Azula?” he demands. That’s a lot of temerity for someone who was just caught doing something very bad by the second scariest person the planet. He and Azula have really left behind their fighting…for now.

Azula: “Actually, nothing. Believe it or not, I’m looking out for you. If people find out you’ve been to see Uncle, they’ll think you’re plotting with him. Just be careful, dum-dum.”

Wow, right? Even though Azula has just done a major manipulation (the Avatar thing), she still expects him to believe in her good intentions here. That’s the kind of relationship that she thinks they have – the type that can come back from anything. That’s the type she’s giving him, at this point.

What’s even more surprising is that she does have good intentions. We never learn anything to contradict anything that she says here. It’s also interesting to note that she doesn’t even tell Zuko not to see Iroh anymore, she warns him to “be careful” and tells him the consequences of getting caught (by someone other than her, apparently). The best part is the change of tone at the very end of her little speech – the genuine affection she lets us hear, and the return to the nickname/insult dum-dum which we heard her use in a flashback. Its use here isn’t insulting, but rather another way of establishing intimacy and trust between them by referring to a time when they were closer and more harmonious.

What a great scene!

Zuko goes to visit Iroh again. He brings him chicken, which is nice.

Zuko: “I admit it. I have everything I’ve always wanted, but it’s not at all how I thought it would be. The truth is I need your advice. I think the Avatar is still alive. I know he’s out there. I’m losing my mind. Please, Uncle, I’m so confused, I need your help. Forget it: I’ll solve this myself. Waste away in here for all I care.” Zuko storms out.

Iroh sheds a silent tear, his back still to the door.

“And end him!”

At the end of the episode, Zuko hires an assassin to find the Avatar and “end” him.

So, trouble in paradise for Zuko. But what’s revealed here is that Zuko is going crazy because he “knows” the Avatar is alive, and when that’s revealed he’s going to be in deep shit. He’s afraid of the truth coming out – that’s why he’s in such turmoil. His rupture with his uncle is clearly also eating away at him. But these are his troubles, not his decision not to “choose good” and help the Avatar. Zuko didn’t romanticize home while exiled for three years and then came home to realize it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – he’s terrified of losing it again.  That’s what’s driving him crazy.

Chapter 5 – The Beach is the next time that we see Zuko and Azula. This was a most unusual episode. I could hardly believe it while I was watching it.

It kind of reminded me of The Girl In Question episode of Angel (fifth season), which was hilarious but also insulting to hardcore shippers of Buffy and Spike, and Buffy and Angel (but I don’t care so much about that last one). In order to be funny, it had to sacrifice the seriousness of the characters and their relationships. That’s not really the case of The Beach, which sacrifices nothing, but is also funny in a way which sort of feels out of place. I did not enjoy the heavy emphasis on Zuko and Mai’s relationship, but that was worth all of the other good stuff that we got.

Scene 1: It begins on a ship as Zuko, Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee are sailing to Ember Island.

Ty Lee is excited about relaxing on the beach, but Zuko snaps: “Doing nothing is a waste of time. We’re being sent away on a forced vacation. I feel like a child.”

This is not the first or the last time that Zuko denigrates the idea of doing nothing or relaxing in favor of action. While that’ll make him a good Fire Lord, it won’t make him a good match of Mai who is notoriously lazy and doesn’t care enough about anything to do anything.

“Lighten up,” Azula responds. Unlike Mai’s unhelpful “Don’t worry so much” in the season premiere, Azula actually continues speaking. She alleviates Zuko’s paranoia and tries to comfort him. Wow, their next scene together and we get another instance of her being nice and considerate towards him. So, Zuko is paranoid here and in a later episode. Paranoia is Azula’s fundamental psychosis in the final episodes. Maybe it runs in the family. Maybe Zuko is a ticking time bomb.

Ty Lee remembers that the royal family used to have a house on Ember Island.

Azula: “We used to come every summer when we were kids.” Somebody clearly considers herself grown up.

Zuko: “That was a long time ago.”

I think it might be time for a trip to the barber.

Li and Lo are the ones who receive them – to the kids’ chagrin. They end up staying at the creepy old ladies’ house, which is odd, I think. I don’t understand why they didn’t stay at the royal vacation home.

The accommodations seem pretty nice to me, but according to Zuko they smell like old lady. Actually, the beginning of this episode is incredibly offensive towards the elderly.

Li and Lo explain that Ember Island is sort of a magical place: “It can help you understand yourselves and each other. The beach has a special way of smoothing even the most ragged edges.” They hold up a cobble stone that has been polished by the sea.

Then they take off their robes to reveal revealing swimsuits underneath, and declare that it’s time to go to the beach.

Mai covers up Zuko’s face. I’m sure Zuko is grateful. I know I wish I could have done it in time. I’ve included a picture for your viewing pleasure.

Scene 2: The Beach.

There’s something very anime about the part where they all walk out onto the beach. The music is curious, too. Maybe they had to make up a new theme for Fire Nation leisure, and so far they only had Fire Nation dread.

“I don’t think that we’re meant to be.”

Azula destroys some kids’ sandcastle and forces them to leave so that she can have their spot. Bitchy, but not evil. I’m sure she had her reasons.

It’s Zuko’s lucky day, because he gets to see more of Azula’s skin than he did in his little impromptu visit to her bedroom during sleepy time.

Ty Lee quickly collects a male harem. Her laughter and positive attitude are apparently beacons for males. She certainly doesn’t look any prettier than Azula, and she isn’t wearing a skimpier bathing suit than Azula either.

Azula is jealous of Ty Lee’s willing slaves. Ty Lee is not ashamed about using these gentlemen to do her bidding, though she’s nice when she gives orders.

Zuko and Mai take cover underneath an umbrella. Mai’s kind of a vampire (she seriously looks dead sometimes), but I’m not sure what Zuko’s reasoning is. Though if there was ozone depletion anywhere, it would be in the Fire Nation.

He finds a shell on the beach and hands it to her. I say “finds” loosely, because it was sitting right next to him. He really needs a haircut, by the way If he’s going to wear it down, then he needs to trim it.

Anyway, Zuko says: “Here, this is for you,” with a slight smile.

Mai: “Why would I want that?”

Zuko: “I saw it and I thought it was pretty. Don’t girls like stuff like this?” This reminds me of the season two premiere when Iroh collects shells. Zuko doesn’t have a lot of original ideas. He is clearly making no attempt to please Mai specifically, to understand her specific desires. Probably because he just doesn’t care that much.

Mai: “Maybe stupid girls.” Ouch! Actually, I’m kind of on her side. But that’s not the way to treat anybody, let alone your boyfriend, let alone the crown prince.

“Forget it!” Zuko shouts, throwing the shell away. I know he’s got a short temper, but even for him that was pretty angry pretty fast.

He brings her an ice cream cone – “I thought since it’s so hot” – but spills it on her skirt: “Thanks. This is really…refreshing.” She’s funny, but she’s mean. Zuko needs someone who can support him positively.

Azula spots a volleyball game in progress. “Beach bums,” she calls out. “We’re playing next.”  Maybe she was afraid that Zuko and Mai were about to start kissing. But I don’t think she was in any danger of that.

She particularly calls for Ty Lee to get over to her “RIGHT NOW!”

They all gather around her. No one offers an argument. In fact, they all seem quite willing to play. I’m guessing that even though Azula didn’t seem to mind being shipped off, lying around on the beach really isn’t her thing either, and she quickly grows bored. That’s exactly the sort of thing that a couple should have in common. (I’m reaching my elbow through my computer screen to nudge both you and Zuko).

So, hilariously, Zuko rips off his shirt…

…disturbs doves…

I’m in there. Do you see me?

…and creates a fan club.

It’s kind of a glorious moment. The animation is really well done – the comedy is just right. Well, that answers one question that I had: Zuko is supposed to be hot. I guess Jin wasn’t the saint I tried to turn her into. June (the bounty hunter with the mole who smells people out) must be a lesbian to call him too ugly for Katara.

Azula has already studied the opposing team and deciphered its weaknesses. She tells the others who to target and how – “We’ll destroy her and the rest of her team”.

They all play pretty hard, and kick ass, of course. In fact, Azula didn’t even need to be strategic – the four of them are exceptional athletes.

I’m not sure that this move is legal.

Even Mai, somehow. I kind of forget about her dagger shooting because she just doesn’t seem the type to have learned how to do anything.

I don’t know how I missed this the first time around, but Azula runs up behind Zuko, jumps on to his back, leaps up into the air, kicks the ball, and it sets the net on fire, landing as a smoking ball of rubbish on the other side after blowing sand and players out of its path. Did they talk this plan out? Or did they instinctively know how to work together to pull a move like that. It wasn’t Mai running up his back, no, it was Azula. And this was the most awesome move of the game, and the move which also won the game. Hmmm. Maybe the universe is telling us something.

So, Azula declares, “Yes, we have defeated you for all time. You will never rise from the ashes of your shame and humiliation.” Hilarious! On the one hand, it’s sad that she has to view it in those terms, on the other hand, it’s hilarious. Even though she sees this militarily, there’s also a vision here of an Azula capable of doing something other than fighting: sports. It’s like fighting, just without the death.

“Well, that was fun,” she then says. At least she knows how to have fun. Zuko and Mai don’t seem to know much about it.

Two guys walk over and invite Ty Lee to a party, and they say that Mai can come too. But all four of them are clearly together, and they’re all standing right there in a line. The only logical explanation for why these guys would be so rude as to not invite all four of them is because they automatically assumed that Azula and Zuko were a couple! See what I did there? Wasn’t that lovely?

All the cool kids cross their arms. Didn’t you know?

Azula walks over to the two two guys. “Uh, what about me and my brother? Aren’t you going to invite us?” Maybe Azula felt the need to clarify that she and Zuko were not a couple by specifying “brother”? I’d just like to say that Azula should shut up and let Ty Lee and Mai go to the party, while she and Zuko can hang out together, maybe at the old cabin.

“You don’t know who we are, do you?” Azula asks.

“Don’t you know who we are?” responds of the guys. “We’re Chan and Ruon Jian.”

Zuko is seriously cheesed: growling, he begins marching over.

But Azula stops him without even looking at him, simply by putting up an arm to stop him. They make full contact. That’s right, her bare arm across his bare chest. *sighs*

Chan agrees to invite them.

Scene 4: Dinner

Zuko: Why didn’t you tell those guys who we were?”

Azula: “I guess I was intrigued. I’m so used to people worshipping us.”

Ty Lee: “They should.”

Azula: “Yes, I know. And I love it. But for once I just wanted to see how people would treat us if they didn’t know who we were.”

This is brave of Azula. She’s smart. She knows that it’s probably not going to go well – she’s already experienced her day of anonymity at the beach. But she still wants to know. It shows the potential for character growth.

Ty Lee brownnoses Azula again. But I love her sincerity. And I agree with her: people should worship the royal Fire family. Ozai, Ursa, Iroh, Zuko, and Azula are all people I wouldn’t mind bowing to. Not because they’re good, but because they’re great.

Li (or Lo): “Like waves washing away the footprints on the sand Ember Island gives everyone a clean slate. Ember Island reveals the true you.”

So, after she says “clean slate”, Zuko and Mai both turn to look at each other. They want to break up!

Notice that even though Zuko and Mai are pressed up against each other, they are facing away from each other. Zuko is sitting across from Azula, which means that she’s the one he’s looking at. And vice verse.

I like this business about the “true you”, because if that is true, then the Azula that we see isn’t just a fluke.

Scene 5: The Party.

Azula heard someone say that they would be partying from “dusk ‘til dawn” so she has everyone arrive at dusk, but they’re early.

Azula looks gorgeous. She’s wearing her hair almost completely down, with a tube top thing, all sorts of accessories, and a skirt. A skirt! I like Zuko’s outfit too. I always hate Mai’s clothes and her hair. Notice how Zuko and Mai are facing away from each other.

Azula: “We are the perfect party guests. We arrive right on time because we are very punctual.” That’s another good thing to have in common with your significant other: punctuality, or its opposite. Zuko seems like the punctual type. Yes, I am actually trying to state that Zuko and Azula should be together because they both like to be on time.

Chan shrugs and lets them in. He’s a self-important little douche, but these guys are not too bad looking, I have to say. Azula agrees. She tries to flirt with him.

She says he looks very sharp: “That’s a sharp outfit, Chan. Careful, you could puncture the hull of an empire class Fire Nation battleship leaving thousands to drown at sea. Because it’s so sharp.” You really have to hear Grey DeLisle deliver that line to truly appreciate it.

“Uh, thanks,” he says. He could be more flattered, couldn’t he?

And how beautiful does she look here? She’s gorgeous.

I also like her concern for the thousands drowning at sea.

She might be a little inept, but at least she’s smart enough to realize that it didn’t go so well.

And it doesn’t seem like anyone else saw what happened, even though they were all standing right behind her. I’m surprised that Azula would be prepared to make a complete fool out of herself in front of Zuko, but she was willing to stick her neck out even though he was there.

Ruon-Jian says hello to the group, although it seems like he notices Azula first.

Zuko thinks he’s a joke, but he asks Mai what she thinks of him. She says she hardly knows him which is sort of just an excuse not to say anything because everybody gets first impressions. “You like him, don’t you?” Zuko asks. His jealous boyfriend side is totally adorable, but I don’t really like to see him caring so much about Mai. Or maybe he realizes that their relationship is so flimsy that he could lose her to some guy at a party while they’re on vacation. I kind of think that Zuko just wants to pick a fight. He’s like Azula – there’s always got to be a battle.

Ty Lee ends up surrounded by guys and chi-blocks them all so that she doesn’t have to choose. It’s hilarious, and kind of sweet. Considering all the moves she tried to put on Sokka, she’s surprisingly uninterested in all of the guys at this party.

She runs over to Azula who is alone, leaning against at column. Poor Azula. If Mai and Zuko weren’t already together, I doubt they’d be faring too well either, Maybe if Zuko took off his shirt in proper fashion. But otherwise I would think his dour looks and angry scar would be enough to put everyone off.

Ty Lee: “Oh, I’m glad you’re here. Those boys won’t leave me alone. I guess they all just like me too much.” So, I like Ty Lee, probably more than any other female character on the show (even though I have aligned myself with Azula), but that girl deserves to get slapped, hard. Of course, she’s just ingenuous.

Azula, for once not choosing violence when I would have, says, “Oh come on, Ty Lee. You can’t be this ignorant. Those boys only like you because you make it so easy for them. You aren’t a challenge. You’re a tease. It’s not like they actually care who you are.”

So, Azula might have been a little blunt here, but she actually pretty much tells the truth, and not even all that harshly. Ty Lee doesn’t lead boys on in a cruel sort of way, but she’s buxom and flirtatious with all of them. Of course, Azula likes to think of herself as a challenge, when really she just can’t get a guy to come over and talk to her.

Ty Lee bursts into tears. She’s such a sweet and sensitive soul.

This is one of Azula’s best moments. She sees Ty Lee crying, and feels bad. You read me right: she feels bad. She puts her hands on Ty Lee’s and says, “OK, OK. Calm down. I didn’t mean what I said.” Have we ever heard such a thing out of Azula’s mouth? Have we ever heard her do something tantamount to apologizing? I don’t think so. –

But then it gets even better! She continues: “Maybe I just said it because I was a little…jealous.” She whispers the last word, but loud enough for Ty Lee to hear.

Um…. She’s a pod person. She has to be. Or Uncle Iroh snuck out of prison and gave her some of his “special (brainwashing) tea”, or she caught that disease that Jin spreads.

But seriously, this is a huge moment for Azula. For her to admit that she’s jealous is incredible.

Ty Lee is taken aback, about as far aback as someone can be taken: “You’re jealous of me?” So, either Ty Lee has incredibly low self-esteem, and I really don’t think that’s true, or Azula’s got it going on. But we already knew that, didn’t we? Ty Lee says: “But you’re the most beautiful, smartest, perfect girl in the world.” Now, we know that Ty Lee likes to lay it on thick, but she did list beautiful first.

Azula: “Well, you’re right about all those things. But for some reason when I meet boys they act as if I’m going to do something horrible to them.”

Ty Lee laughs. “But you probably would do something horrible to them.” Ty Lee’s laughter here makes me wonder about her morality. “I’m sure they’re just intimidated by you. OK, look, if you want a boy to like you, just look at him and smile a lot and laugh at everything he says, even if it’s not funny.”

Azula: “Well that sounds really shallow and stupid. Let’s try it.”

So, Ty Lee pretends to hit on Azula, and Azula tries to laugh, and if there were doves around they would have been disturbed. As it is, the entire room goes silent. That means that wherever Zuko is, he heard. The party is mostly contained in this one room, but he’s never in the background.

Then we cut to Zuko and Mai. The way he’s sitting is hilarious. There’s definitely something not right about him at this point. He has been corrupted.

Mai: “I’m bored.”

Zuko: “I know.”

He either means that he’s bored too, or he knows that she’s bored because she’s acting like she’s bored, or because she has already told him (probably more than once) that she’s bored. My money’s on the latter.

Mai: “I’m hungry.”

Zuko: “So what?” Somebody sounds like little sis, eh? Also, I realize that she’s a complainer, and a downer, but that’s not the right response. The right response is “I’m Zuko. Nice to meet you.” No, bad joke. Sorry. I’m no Sokka.

Mai: “So, find me some food.”

Zuko: “Sure.”

Wow. I thought for sure their relationship was doomed after this scene. I mean, have you ever seen a relationship come back from an exchange like that? The party actually seemed kind of cool, so they’re so miserable with each other that they can’t even have fun. And Zuko has a lot going on, but what’s Mai’s excuse? Don’t tell me it’s the island, because Ty Lee is acting as she always does, and Azula may be acting a little different, but not so much, and in a good way.

So, Azula goes and interrupts Chan, who is talking with another girl. “I’m ready for a tour of the house.” Well, she is a princess, you can’t take away her sense of entitlement no matter how much anonymity you give her.

For some reason, Chan gives it to her. Not really though, he just seems to take her out onto the deck. Zuko has risen from the couch in search of food (after having been on that couch the entire time, as far as I can tell), so it’s possible that he rose just in time to see Azula out there with Chan. The deck that Chan takes her to is visible from a row of windows that appear to be in the main room, so its entirely possible.

They make small talk about the island, and he makes a joke about the abundance of sand and she laughs.

She compliments his arms, and then they kiss. So, actually, she’s really good at this. Then he tells her that she’s really pretty (and sometimes that can be better compliment than “beautiful” because it usually refers to conventional and symmetrical facial beauty). And she must be. I mean here is the proof, because what guy would still be interested in an unattractive girl who invited herself to his party, showed up ridiculously early, made an extremely awkward compliment-joke, and then interrupted him while he was courting another?

Well, she loses it here: all of the hormones go straight to her head: “Together you and I will be the strongest couple in the entire world. We will dominate the Earth.” She shoots blue fire out of her hands just to make it clear. I’m guessing he’s not a firebender, so I don’t think she’s really in her right mind if she thinks that the two of them will be able to contend for that position. If being the strongest couple in the entire world is what she really wants, then I’m recommending her father, Aang, or Zuko. Preferably Zuko. Aang and Katara would make for good competition, but Azula and Zuko might stand a chance due to their ridiculously high combined intelligence and Azula’s devious mind.

Chan politely runs for his life. At first it seems like Azula is angry, but then she makes a face like she realized she might have misstepped, and now she’ll know now to hold back.

So, some guy accidentally knocks the plate of food out of Zuko’s hands. Zuko realizes that it’s an accident, but he still chews the guy out. So yes, definitely, he’s looking for a fight. “Hey, watch it! That food was for my cranky girlfriend.” She is cranky. But I guess he’s kind of cranky too. Except that’s also both of their perpetual states. They’re too similar and too different at the same time – this is what I’ve been saying from the start. They’ve got all of the wrong things in common, and all of the wrong things not in common.

So, while Zuko is up, some guy has come over to talk to Mai, and she seems to be engaged in the conversation. Zuko throws him aside and tells him to stop talking to Mai. Some guy tells him to cool down – “It’s just a party” – and Zuko pushes him and he flies into the opposite wall.

Mai: “Zuko what’s wrong with you?”

Zuko: “What’s wrong with me?”

Mai tells Zuko that his temper is out of control, that he blows up over every little thing. That he’s impatient, and hot-headed, and angry. And he says, “Well, at least I feel something, as opposed to you – you have no passion for anything.” This calls back to “I don’t hate you.” I guess Zuko would have liked to have heard something a little more intense. “You’re just a big blah,” he adds at the end. Zuko’s never had a way with words.

Mai turns her back to him: “It’s over, Zuko. We’re done.”

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Zuko crosses his arms, but doesn’t disagree or protest. He is ordered out of the party.

He walks along the beach, and then winds up at his old family house. We see the now infamous grassy hill, the setting for our running children flashback, dating all the way back to The Storm. He could have had any flashback, a new one, but we get this one again, with Azula.

And then we do get another flashback. A new one. And honestly, I couldn’t say for sure what it’s of. There’s a little boy building a sandcastle, there’s an older man holding a baby in the air. Everyone is laughing. My best guess is that Zuko is the little boy, Uncle Iroh is the man, and the baby is Azula. I’m pretty sure about the children – I considered Lu Ten for a while, but if Zuko was the baby he would never have remembered this moment, and Lu Ten probably would have been even older. The man could possibly be Ozai, but he looks like Iroh. It’s nice to see Azula and Iroh having such a good time. It’s even better to see Zuko picking another happy memory with Azula in it. He breaks inside and  looks at some of the stuff in there. There’s a picture of the family on the wall. It’s like the one from the movie, except Azula and Zuko have switched places. He has another flashback of his mother with a child. The laughing in the background sounds more like a toddler, whereas the laughing in the background of the other image definitely signified baby, so my identifications could still be correct, although it’d be nice if they would make things a little bit clearer.

Scene 6: The Beach.

So much happens in this frakkin’ episode – I’ve been writing about it for hours!

So, the following little moment is perhaps the single greatest Zuko/Azula moment of the entire series. Azula comes walking up the pathway in this gorgeous, totally epic image. Remember how amazing she looked? Well, the wind does wonders.

Zuko is sitting on the porch, leaning against a column, and she comes up to him.

Both she and Zuko were sort of driven out of the party. Mai and Ty Lee – not so much.

Azula: “I thought I’d find you here.”

Awwww. She knew where to find him. OK, it’s not that big of an accomplishment, because I probably would have looked there first too, but it’s still sweet. It’s sweet that she even came looking for him.

Zuko is holding a handprint that he made when he was little. “Those summers we spent here seem so long ago.”

Are you seeing Azula? She’s a vision, a goddess. Lift up your effing eyes, Zuko, and take a look at her!

“So much has changed,” he adds, leaning back against the column and setting down the handprint. And lifting up his eyes. He listened! Except no, he’s looking straight ahead and she’s at his 9 O’Clock.

I wonder what all he means by this. I think he means that his mother is gone, but I think he mostly means his father. He’s starting to realize that the father he remembers from when he was a boy is not the man who is the Fire Lord.

“Come down to the beach with me,” Azula invites. She normally tries to comfort him, but I think she’s too broken herself for it this time.

The invitation sounds a little suggestive, doesn’t it?

“Come on,” she urges. “This place is depressing.”

Azula is a human being! She can’t be depressed by that place unless she has feelings about that place. If she finds it depressing, then it’s likely that she also considers her memories there to be happy ones.

Zuko turns and looks at her. Unfortunately she’s already turned around. There’s nothing wrong with her backside, certainly, and we already know that Zuko knows how to appreciate it from their little interaction in her bedroom, but I really wanted him to see Azula: Queen of the Windy Sands. He watches her walk away for a split second (not indecisive or hesitant, simply watching her), and then he hops up to his feet and follows.

Unfortunately, and to my massive disappointment the first time around, Ty Lee and Mai are down on the beach. Will those two girls ever go away? It’s not clear how far their little log enclosure is from the porch of the royal vacation house, but Zuko and Azula are side by side as they arrive, and it’s possible that they’ve spent a few minutes walking that way. Companionable silence. Or maybe they ducked into the brush to make out for a while. No? A girl can dream.

Mai greets Zuko with a “hey”, but he hasn’t cooled down yet: “Where’s your new boyfriend?” he demands. But then he sits down next to her and asks if she’s cold. And he tries to put his arm around her.

Damn it!

Azula is watching the whole thing unfold with her hand on her hip. Zules, honey, you brought this on yourself!

Mai slaps his hand off.

Ty Lee, on the other hand, is “freezing”. Love triangle? Is anyone welcome to those arms? Because Azula is looking a little cold, Zuko.

Zuko smiles at Ty Lee and offers to make a fire.

I guess he’s not an arm slut.

Then he looks up at the house: “There’s plenty of stuff to burn in there.”

Bad Zuko! The last thing you want to do is burn your happy memories! Besides, why do we even need something to turn? Can’t you just make a fire on your own?

He burns the picture of their family. I can’t believe it. What about his mother?

Ty Lee calls him out on it. I knew I liked her.

“You think I care?” Zuko demands.

“I think you do,” Ty Lee replies, rather bravely I might add.

“You don’t know me,” Zuko counters. Oh, Zuko *shakes head* – everyone knows you. We may not be able to predict your every decision, but I think we’ve all got a pretty good grasp of who you are in general. “Why don’t you mind your own business?” Zuko says. I guess he’s still bitter about the apple trick from half a decade ago.

“I know you,” Ty Lee says quietly. Triangle! It’s official – everyone on that beach wants a piece of Zuko’s ass. If Zuko was with Ty Lee, you wouldn’t hear a peep out of me. I would be totally OK with it. In fact, I’m still holding out for them. She’s the perfect opposite of Azula. I wouldn’t consider Zuko being with Ty Lee – loving her, even – to be to the exclusion of Azula in the same way that his tie to Mai is. Even if the sky gondola business went down the same way.

I do realize it’s a little hypocritical of me to say that Zuko looks weird with the anime-looking Katara, and then to be fine with him and the anime-looking Ty Lee. I don’t know – it just works somehow.

Zuko’s in a mood, so he doesn’t let that slide: “No, you don’t. You’re stuck in your little Ty Lee world where everything is great all of the time.”

Ooooh, tension! If Zuko can fight with Ty Lee, then he can fight with anybody. Even more than that, he must feel a certain amount of intimacy with her in order to continue to engage in such a conversation with her. They’re not just disagreeing – they’re disagreeing about each other.

Mai tells him to leave her alone.

Zuko ignores her. Instead he does an impression of Ty Lee: “I’m so pretty. Look at me, I can walk on my hands.” Zuko does great impressions. He does impressions of Azula and Iroh later. All of them have me in stitches.

So, it’s pretty clear that Zuko and Azula have another thing in common: they’re both jealous of Ty Lee, just not for the same reasons. Azula is jealous of her feminine wiles, and Zuko is jealous of her happiness.

Now, I would say that Zuko was continuing to pick on Ty Lee just to piss of Mai, except that he makes eye contact with Ty Lee again (while doing a handstand).

He falls into the sand as if overcome with guilt, but then he calls her a circus freak.

It’s actually an extremely complicated exchange that happens here between the two of them which suggests a lot of familiarity with each other, and a lot of resentment on Zuko’s part.

Circus freak isn’t much of insult for Ty Lee, who is beautiful and talented. But Azula laughs. It’s nice to see Azula laughing at something that Zuko said, and for that laugh not to precede a blow of lightning.

Well, Ty Lee shouldn’t be offended by the insult itself (which she isn’t, really), but I can see her getting a little ticked at Zuko’s nerve. And Azula laughing at her was just mean. It’s nice to see that Azula isn’t totally out of character – it makes the whole thing more believable.

Ty Lee gives us her life story. “Not again,” Azula complains. Azula can’t be such a bad friend if she remembers it. Apparently Ty Lee was the youngest of many daughters, all very similar looking. She never felt as if she had much of an identity. She’s proud to be a circus freak.

You know, the way Zuko is lying down with the girls around him, the way he’s comfortably got his arms folded underneath his head – well it really evokes a kind of comfort and familiarity. Like this is something they’ve done before, except with less acrimony. He’s extremely unguarded.

Mai decides to tie Ty Lee’s male entourage into her life story. I’m not sure where this came from. Mai must not be very happy with Zuko if she’s jealous of Ty Lee’s following. Mai sort of nails it on the head: attention issues. But honestly, except for a little exposure in the chest area, Ty Lee doesn’t really ask for attention that much.

Ty Lee calls Mai’s aura dingy, pasty, and grey. Mai and Ty Lee haven’t had a single bad word between them since we’ve met them, so I can only assume that Ty Lee’s assessment is accurate, and Mai is all of those things. Zuko deserves better than dingy, pasty, and grey.

Mai’s argument? “I don’t believe in auras.”

Zuko and Ty Lee get to be on the same side for a minute. Zuko jumps up: “Yeah, you don’t believe in anything.”

Mai really doesn’t believe in anything. Zuko is very much a believer. Believers and nonbelievers are rarely compatible. It doesn’t even really matter what the belief is.

Now, I wouldn’t exactly say that Zuko and Azula believe in the same things. I think she would have slain the moon spirit herself. I think she would have laughed when Zuko left Ozai to be killed by Aang because it wasn’t his destiny to do the deed. But Azula is a believer in certain things: in power, in her Nation, in her family.

“Well, I’m sorry I can’t be as high-strung and crazy as the rest of you.”

“I’m sorry too,” Zuko says. “I wish you would be high-strung and crazy for once instead of keeping all of your feelings bottled up inside.” Zuko, she doesn’t have any feelings.

You know your relationship is doomed if you want your partner to be a different person.

Did you ever see that episode of Modern Family called Fifteen Percent. It basically stated that we are all who are, but we’ve got about 15% of us that we change if we really want to. Well, Zuko wants a little bit more than Mai’s 15%, and I’m not even sure she would commit to changing that much.

Azula’s 15%? I would want her to be exactly the same in every way – we’ve just got to cut down on the homicide and the burning down of cities and villages.

So, next we get Mai’s horrible-past confession. Not so bad. She wasn’t really allowed to express herself, because of her family’s political ambitions she always had to be the good little girl. It seems me that with all of Mai’s complaining that she really has overcome all of that. Plus she learned to fight with daggers – I mean, I’m sure that was all of the outlet that she needed.

Zuko doesn’t even seem that sympathetic while he’s listening. You’d think he’d understand – he spoke his mind once and was banished for three years.

Azula is the one who interprets the connection between Mai’s past and present. I would have worded it differently. It’s interesting to hear Azula do a psychological evaluation, particularly since she sort of loses her marbles for a while at the end there. But the way she says “that’s why you’re afraid to care about anything” seems to exclude the possibility that she, herself, suffers from something similar, implying that she does care about things.

“You want me to express myself? Leave me alone!” Mai says. Zuko gets turned on by her angry outburst. Hey, Zuko – I’ve got a girl for you who can do angry outburst like you wouldn’t believe. Here’s a hint: her name is Azula. Iroh gives her a reputation for not feeling anything, but that’s bullsh!t. And towards the end, I think anger is a good description for some of what she feels.

Also, who would want a couple together who fights like Zuko and Mai do here? Half the kids watching this show are probably having traumatizing flashbacks to listening to their parents fight in the kitchen thinking their kids were asleep, the divorce slowly creeping in. I mean, in order to be healthy, couples have to communicate, and its only normal that they should sometimes disagree, but Zuko and Mai should be calling their lawyers.

So, check out Azula’s legs here. Zuko is totally the only one who could see what she’s showing off. He’s got the perfect view.

It’s Zuko’s turn. A comment about skin from Ty Lee (not a sexy comment, unfortunately) sets him off: “For so long I thought that if my Dad accepted me I’d be happy. I’m back home now, my Dad talks to me. Ha! He even thinks I’m a hero.”

Notice the framing here: Zuko is facing us, but Azula and only Azula is very clearly in the background. This was deliberate. When Mai and Ty Lee vented, it was just them. But Zuko and Azula’s issues are tied to each other. Inextricably.

We cut to Azula here, and see her smile while Zuko continues to talk. Her smile is not nefarious in any way. This isn’t her evil smirk. So I’m at a loss. Ozai only thinks that Zuko is a hero because of what Azula told him. Azula could be happy that she helped Zuko to be accepted by their father again, but Zuko is expressing dissatisfaction, so that hardly makes much sense. I’m really at a loss, and judging by the length of this “essay”, that doesn’t happen much.

“Everything should be perfect, right?” Zuko continues. “I should be happy now. But I’m not. I’m angrier than ever and I don’t know why.”

“I am on vacation! I refuse to sit like a lady.”

Azula continues to ironically be the best psychologist around: “There’s a simple question you need to answer then: who are you angry at?”

“No one!” Zuko answers her. “I’m just angry.”

Mai: “Yeah, who are you angry at, Zuko?” What a copycat Mai is. Azula’s on the right track to helping Zuko, so Mai just has to sneak in there so it looks like she was involved in the breakthrough.

“Everyone!” Zuko answers this time. “I don’t know.”

“Dad?” Azula asks.

“No, no,” Zuko replies, desperate to deny it. I don’t know why. The guy’s a tool. In the end, this is what it turns out to be. Zuko has made some bad decisions, but it really all comes down to the badness of Dad.

“Your Uncle?” Ty Lee asks. Unlike Mai, it’s nice to see her diving in there. Of course, she’s way off base. How can you be mad at uncle Iroh? On the other hand, it’s through remembering his love for Uncle Iroh that Zuko can really come to realize the truth.

“Me?” Azula asks. It’s hard to read her tone. The casual way she presents the suggestion indicates that she doesn’t believe it to be the case, but at the same time there’s this hint that she wants it to be her. She wants to make him crazy. She wants to be that important to him.

Zuko says “no” several times, denying emphatically that it’s anyone who has been suggested.

“Then who?” Mai asks. “Who are you angry at?” Shut up, Mai. He knows what the question is.

“Answer the question, Zuko,” Azula presses. She gives him an order to answer. That’s actually useful. She really wants to know.

“Talk to us,” Ty Lee says helpfully in the background, though her face isn’t shown. That’s probably the most encouraging thing that’s been said yet.

“I’m angry at myself!” he finally says, and the bonfire erupts.

Well, duh!

Now, I realize that Zuko is very clearly angry, and very clearly not happy. And I think it all comes down to Uncle Iroh. He betrayed him, and he had to break ties with him. He is now separated from the one person who was always there, and who always loved him and encouraged him. I don’t think Zuko’s issues actually have anything to do with right or wrong, Fire Nation or Earth Kingdom, Crown Prince or Banished Prince. I think the deep dissatisfaction he’s feeling right is due to his rupture with his Uncle, and his unease about the future due to Aang still being alive. I also think that Zuko has his father’s love, but his father’s love isn’t what he thought it was. What he wanted was what he had all along: Iroh’s love. But now he feels like he’s lost that, so he’s right back where he was.

Of course, there’s also the issue of the mysteriously missing Mommy, and Azula. Even if Zuko realizes that he no longer wants Ozai’s love, I think that he’s still seriously messed up because of Azula. That intertwining of cruelty and hate that reaches back to some of his earliest memories. He and Azula are counterparts, and even as he struggles within himself, she’ll always represent the bad part of him, as she did in his dream. But maybe he can represent the good part of her.

“Why?” Azula asks slowly. I don’t think we’ve ever heard her so confused and so desperate to know before. She really wants to understand Zuko. You can hear it all in that one little word.

Mai and Ty Lee might have played a part in getting him so revved up that he could finally admit the truth, but now we’re back to Zuko facing us, with an inquiring and intimately involved Azula in the background.

“Because I’m confused,” he answers her honestly. “Because I’m not sure I know the difference between right and wrong anymore.”

Anymore?

This comes out of nowhere. And I’m not sure I quite buy it. I think Zuko is even more confused than he thinks. His moral compass has never been very good. What he’s really missing is Iroh. Zuko has yet to be truly challenged morally.

Azula’s response is very Azula: “You’re pathetic.” She laughs a little, though not really. And she’s kind of right. Zuko is very weak. Azula isn’t weak in the same way. But she’s not perfect, like she and Ty Lee think she is.

Mai stands up and walks over to him. “I know one thing I care about: I care about you.” Lady, can’t you see that Zuko and Azula are trying to have a conversation here? They kiss, and my sympathy-jealousy kicks into high gear.

But Azula can handle herself. She begins a slow clap, and Zuko might have just ignored her, but he can’t. He opens one angry eye like he did when she interrupted their date, and then he pulls away to turn and look at his sister.

“Well those were wonderful performances everyone,” she says. And she might have waited until Zuko and Mai’s make-up kiss was over, but she didn’t. Does that tell you anything? Like she didn’t want them kissing?

Zuko: “I guess you wouldn’t understand, would you, Azula? Because you’re just so perfect.” He pulls Mai into his arms – ostentatious, much? I think he’s mad at her, and he’s using Mai to make her angry.

See: Zuko is still messed up because of Azula’s perfection.

Azula: “Well, yes, I guess you’re right. I don’t have sob stories like all of you. I could sit here and complain how our mom liked Zuko more than me. But I don’t really care.” –

Liar! She stares into the fire, and gets drawn into her own thoughts. “My own mother thought I was a monster.”

We cut to Zuko and Mai – they’re watching intently. Zuko looks interested. Ty Lee is also engrossed.

The dramatic music stops and Azula lifts her head: “She was right of course, but it still hurt.” It’s played off comically, but then the serious, dramatic music resumes again, and we know that it more than “hurt”. And this comes back in the finale. And I even remarked upon it way back when I talked about Zuko Alone. I wanted to give Ursa a pretty harsh talking to. I guess I should have.

Azula stands up and puts her hands together. “You know what would make this trip really memorable?”

And I laugh every time, because My God if that doesn’t sound like it could be dirty. Now that they’ve all been mentally polished, maybe it’s time for some physical polishing. Right? They’ll have to take turns with Zuko. They can wear all of the anger out of him.

But that’s not what Azula had in mind. Or at least that’s not what ended up happening. Instead they go and trash Chan’s house. He really didn’t deserve it. See, none of these people know right from wrong. It’s what I love about them.

They knock on the door.
Azula: “We’ve got some bad news, Chan.”

Zuko: “Party’s over.”

And then at the end we get a very strange image of the four of them. I think that perhaps its meant to be in the style of the flashback images. Like they’ve created a new happy memory. Zuko may have his arm around Mai, but it sure seems like he’s looking right at Azula. She could be looking at him, although in the interest of objectivity I feel I should mention that it seems a bit more like she’s looking just to the side of him, but he’s definitely in her scope of vision.

This episode was written by Katie Mattila. It’s the only episode that she wrote, except that she wrote Zuko’s story from Tales Of Ba Sing Se. It’s pretty funny how you can parallel Zuko’s awkwardness in that episode with Azula’s in this one.

If what Li and Lo said is true, then what we saw here were the “real” Azula, Zuko, Mai, and Ty Lee. The real Azula. That is incredibly significant.

And here are the links for Part 4 and Part 5.

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9 Responses to The Zuko/Azula Shipper’s Guide To/Optimistic Interpretation of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER – a.k.a. Contentbending In Pursuit Of Flamin’-Hot Incestuous Love, a.k.a. Delusions Of Zucest – Part III Of V: Episodes 41-45

  1. Anonymous says:

    i know i hate mai no affence

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Now Azula probably is jealous that she doesn’t have a boyfriend of her own”

    She could be just as jealous that she doesn’t have a girlfriend. Unlike all the other main characters, Azula has never had a canonical love interest to define her sexuality. (Chan was never her boyfriend because kissing someone does not necessarily equate to being involved with someone; you could kiss a random stranger on the street for a dare and it certainly wouldn’t make you INVOLVED with them — and one can easily argue she only pursued him to one-up Ty Lee to satisfy her attention issues.) She could very easily be gay — just as you claim to see subtext for Zucest, so, too, can one support a claim of attraction to Ty Lee, Mai, Suki, etc. Just saying.

    • Anonymous 2.0 says:

      To be honest, by A:TLA logic, if a character displays signs of attraction to the opposite sex, that generally means they are straight. And as Azula not having a canonical love interest – the same is true for Ty Lee, who still flirts with a lot of boys, and Toph, who is only shown to have a crush on Sokka through subtle hints (although I hear, according to rumours from Legend of Korra, that she later got married). The way I see it, Azula displaying a somewhat interest in Chan and boys in general confirms that she was attracted to males. Just about the only claim that would be fathomable in that she was bisexual, because that she was gay would required leaps of Freudian logic equivalent to claiming that Aang is latently gay, and his attraction to Katara is merely the result of having been denied a proper mother figure in his life. Just about the only character I can remember now that could be easily assumed as gay is the bounty hunter, June.

  3. Himitsu says:

    I like your content bending ☺. Do not fret too much about Azula spending the reminder of her life in an asylum. I’ve never read that, but I did read where Bryan Konietzko said, “Zuko and Katara spared her life, and who knows she might have a chance to heal”. I chose to believe she’d heal.

    I have to agree with all you said about Mai. She seems not interested in Zuko, but interested in being with Zuko. It sounds weird I know, but Mai seemed to like a Zuko she made up. She doesn’t share Zuko’s passion and seemed annoyed with his issues and talking about anything important to him. She seemed only interested kissing. It was almost if she would kiss him to shut him up. I believe Maiko was created to kill Zutara, which is why we see Mai liking Zuko early on in a flashback. It’s the she saw him first rule. Technically Azula saw him first but this is Nick.

    Azula and Zuko have the sexiest scene ATLA history. Actions speak louder than words. It’s one of my favorite scenes. It also inspired some awesome posters http://s235.photobucket.com/user/Zucest/library/Motivational%20posters?sort=3&page=1

    I liked seeing the softer side of Azula in the Beach episode. The creators said she had a soft side buried deep within it was nice of them to show it. I wonder if she’s like that on her downtime. She wasn’t after Aang or commanding a fleet. Plus, she didn’t have to manipulate or scare anyone. The Kaui ball scene was great. Loved that she and Zuko worked together for the best play of the game. Love your take on why Chan and Ruon-Jian didn’t invite Azula and Zuko. I already had a Kuai ball game in my fic, and now I have to add an appearance by Chan and Ruon-Jian in a future chapter. They are Azuko shippers.

    I never paid attention to the creepy picture at the end until you mentioned it. You’re right he is looking at Azula. Mai is looking like seriously I am standing right here. Could you be more obvious Zuko, at least Azula’s trying to play it off.

    • Himitsu says:

      The sexiest scene in ATLA was the Azula and Zuko bedroom scene, just in case the link above doesn’t work or is confusing. See it even has the sexiest description :). Zucest: http://i235.photobucket.com/albums/ee139/Zucest/Motivational%20posters/Zucest9.jpg

      • Shipcestuous says:

        Haha. That’s a great cap and caption. I think once a viewer has been given the idea that that scene could come off as suggestive/incestuous, they can never see it innocently again. Definitely the sexiest scene in the show.

    • Shipcestuous says:

      Thank you for bringing in so many remarks from the creators. I always love insightful commentary from the writers even though I firmly believe that we should be free to interpret the work in our own way based solely on what we see onscreen. I think I made it pretty clear that I hated the idea that Azula would be imprisoned in an asylum for the rest of the days, but I do like the potential of her healing. We saw her softer side, her caring side, her vulnerable side – that’s all inside of her somewhere. And a lot of the bad things she did were in service of someone else’s goals. I’m not saying she isn’t to blame for what she did, but maybe under a more benevolent ruler she could put her skills towards the common good instead.

      I can’t remember if I ever considered that Zuko/Mai was created in order to quash Zuko/Katara. It’s an interesting theory. Zuko is one of the main characters, so it makes sense that he would have a love interest of his own, but he really didn’t need one. It was never relevant to the plot. So I could see Maiko being something they sort of grafted on top. Though some of the shippiest Zuko/Katara scenes didn’t come until the end of book 2 and then book 3.

      I agree about Mai. I don’t think it was necessarily suggested by the narrative that she motivated by the idea of being with Zuko – a Zuko of her own creation, and a Zuko who is most important the Fire Lord or the soon-to-be Fire Lord – but I think she is easily interpreted that way. But I find it impossible to be impartial about Maiko. I know it’s my NOTP mostly because of Zuko/Azula. But as I mentioned several times in this commentary, I did ship Zuko and Ty Lee. I just never warmed to Zuko and Mai.

      I love Chan and Ruon-Jian as Zuko/Azula shippers.

      Thank you for your comments. You have no idea how great it has been to be refreshed about Zuko and Azula and to discuss them once again, and also how much it means to be me to get some thoughtful comments, especially on these entries in particular.

      • Himitsu says:

        I am glad you enjoyed my comments. I agree, Azula, is a product of her environment. Ozai is no Cliff Huxtable. Years with him as the main influence would bring out the worst in anyone. Who she is not 100% based on nurture, nature has played a role. However, I think if Iroh instead of Ozai raised her, she would not be the same, even if her biological parents were the same.

        If Maiko was supposed to stop the Zutara fandom it did not work very well. The creators kept teasing with Zutara until the very end. Katara was the girl of many ships starting in season one. Almost no one shipped Maiko until the “great betrayal” episode.

        Azuko is my ALTA OTP, but I ship many Avatar combos, including Azula x Sokka and Zuko x Toph. Like you I never warmed to Maiko. I don’t hate the ship or fault anyone for liking it. I never believed Mai loved the real Zuko. She didn’t seem to care about anything he cared about, be very supportive, or attempt to understand him. Plus, I agree with all the things you said about Mai.

        • Shipcestuous says:

          I agree about Azula. I think if she had been raised by Iroh (for example) in a different environment then she would have been a different person. I don’t want to take all of the blame off of her and I think she’s always had a bit of evil streak – so to speak – but I do think that in many ways she was raised by Ozai and others in the Fire Nation to become who she became.

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