• Zuko’s redemption arc in Avatar: The Last Airbender reveals dark truths about his abusive relationship with Fire Lord Ozai.
  • Fire Lord Ozai’s cruel treatment of Zuko was rooted in his desire to punish Zuko’s mother through his son’s suffering.
  • Zuko’s exile and harsh treatment by his father were all part of a twisted plan by Fire Lord Ozai to hurt his mother, Ursa.



Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s tortured Prince Zuko blamed his own weakness for his father’s harsh treatment of him, but the Nickeloden show’s sequel comics revealed the real reason why Fire Lord Ozai was so cruel to his only son. Nickelodeon’s The Last Airbender series centers on Aang, the titular character who is responsible for restoring balance to the world. He also makes it his mission to defeat Fire Lord Ozai, the leader of the Fire Nation, who plans to make sure the Fire Nation becomes the most powerful nation in the world.

First introduced as the main antagonist of the animated series – an exiled young royal from the conquering Fire Nation, sworn to hunt down the Avatar – Zuko went through a fascinating redemption arc that ultimately led to him joining Aang in stopping Fire Lord Ozai and ending the Hundred Year War. Zuko’s arc is one of the most praised of the show. He’s initially seen as a typical bad guy until his treatment by his father is revealed as well as why he’s banished from the Fire Nation. The sequel comic books go even further into Zuko’s backstory.


Netflix’s Huge Avatar: The Last Airbender Villain Change Makes Zuko & Ozai’s Dynamic More Complicated

Netflix makes a huge change to one of Avatar: The Last Airbender’s villains, which, in turn, reshapes the complicated dynamic between Zuko and Ozai.

Fire Lord Ozai Banished Zuko After Treating Him Poorly Most Of His Life

The story behind Zuko’s exile, as well as the terrible burn scar over his eye, was told by Uncle Iroh in the Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1 episode “The Storm.” A few years before the series began, an enthusiastic young Zuko asked Iroh if he could join in on a war council meeting, and Iroh took his nephew in with him with instructions to remain silent.

Failing to heed this warning, Zuko protested when a general proposed strategically sacrificing a unit of Fire Nation soldiers. Fire Lord Ozai punished his son by demanding that he take part in an Agni Kai, a firebending trial by combat. Zuko agreed, but when the trial began and he realized his opponent was his father, he dropped to his knees and begged forgiveness. As punishment for this moment of weakness, Ozai burned Zuko’s face and exiled him from the Fire Nation unless he could complete a seemingly impossible mission – locate the Avatar, who hadn’t been seen in 100 years.

Netflix’s live-action
Avatar: The Last Airbender
takes this idea from the animated series one step further as the crew of Zuko’s ship during his exile is made up of the soldiers he didn’t want his father to sacrifice, making both his scar and his crew a reminder of defying his father.

While the Agni Kai may have been the catalyst for Zuko’s exile, the real reason for the Fire Lord treating his son (but not his daughter, Azula) so horribly wasn’t Zuko’s fault at all. In the Avatar: The Last Airbender comic The Search, Zuko’s quest to find his missing mother, Ursa, reveals some dark truths about why his father seems to hate him so much.

Fire Lord Ozai Punished Zuko To Hurt His Mother

Ozai telling Ursa how he will punish their son a flashback in the Avatar: The Last Airbender sequel comic The Search

At the end of the first issue of The Search, Zuko makes a shocking discovery: a letter in which Ursa states that Ozai is not his real father, and that Zuko is actually the son of her true love, a man called Ikem. If true, this piece of information would mean that Zuko isn’t the heir to the throne of the Fire Nation – Azula is. The contents of the letter hang over Zuko as he searches for Ursa to ask her the truth, but in the final issue, it’s revealed that Ozai really is Zuko’s father.



Avatar: What Happened To Zuko’s Mother In The Last Airbender

Zuko’s mom was banished from the Fire Nation in Avatar: The Last Airbender and never seen in the show, but canon Avatar comics revealed Ursa’s fate.

Fire Lord Ozai knew that Ikem couldn’t possibly be Zuko’s real father, since he’d had spies following his wife ever since they got married. In a flashback, Ozai confronts Ursa and demands to know why she lied. She tells Ozai that it was a test to see if he was intercepting her letters, but also that she fervently wishes what she’d written was true: that Zuko was Ikem’s son instead of Ozai’s, so that there would be no chance of Zuko becoming like Ozai.

Instead of punishing Ursa directly, Ozai did something far worse. He made her wish come true by treating Zuko as though he was an illegitimate heir and told Ursa that every harsh word and injury inflicted on Zuko would therefore be her own fault. Though the Agni Kai offered a convenient excuse, this was the real reason why Zuko was exiled at the age of 13.

Not only had Ozai come to regard Zuko as a symbol of his wife’s defiance, he knew that by publicly mutilating his son and casting him out, word of what had happened to Zuko would find Ursa no matter where she had gone after fleeing the Fire Nation Palace. Even years after his wife left, Ozai never stopped punishing Zuko in order to hurt her. This reveal in the comics only made Ozai’s cruelty in Avatar: The Last Airbender even more apparent.

Avatar The Last Airbender Show Poster

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender is an Animated Fantasy and Adventure series that appeared on Nickelodeon and was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The series featured voices from Zach Tyler Eisen, Jack DeSena, Dante Basco, and Mae Whitman. The premise follows a young boy named Aang, an Air Bender who is set to be the next Avatar, master of all elements, in a bit to unite the nations together and bring peace.

Mako , Dee Bradley Baker , Jack De Sena , Michaela Jill Murphy , Zach Tyler , Dante Basco , Mae Whitman

Release Date
February 21, 2005


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