Avatar: 10 Ways Zuko Ruined His Sympathy


Prince Zuko, the disgraced former heir to the Fire Nation throne, is a character well known for his incredible and well-written redemption arc. As he began his journey to good, he was shot into the hearts of viewers and quickly became a fan favorite.

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However, there are plenty of occasions that upon reflection make audiences question whether or not Zuko deserves the love he is receiving. While most fans agree that Zuko is a redeemed character, there are times that made viewers guess at Zuko’s sympathy.

ten He spent the entire first book hunting down and trying to capture the team’s avatar.

Zuko leads his ship to the South Pole

Zuko didn’t generate much sympathy during his first attempts to capture Aang and his friends. He was arrogant, empowered, and would stop at nothing to achieve his goal. During the first part of the series, he was actually quite hated as a character and he worked with other villains who were hated by fans as well.

While his obsession with capturing the Avatar was understandable, considering he only wanted to return home and had only been banished because his father was violent in the first place, he wasn’t necessarily sympathetic to its misdeeds.

9 He hired pirates to help him capture children

Zuko's hired pirate captain with parrot-like creature on shoulder

Zuko lost many of his allies along the way due to his unbearable attitude throughout the first part of Avatar: The Last Airbender. On one occasion, he had to resort to hiring pirates to capture Aang and his friends.

Unfortunately, this does not work. The Avatar team escaped and had one more reason to hate Prince Zuko and the Fire Nation. Zuko’s attitude didn’t appeal to him with pirates, and his hiring of pirates didn’t make him look good to fans of the show.

8 He burned down the island of Kyoshi, among others

Suki fights as Kyoshi Island burns down

When Aang, Sokka, and Katara traveled to Kyoshi Island, they were greeted like heroes. However, this goodwill was put to the test when it was revealed that the Avatar team was being followed and Zuko attacked the village. Zuko and her subordinates were greeted by the Kyoshi Warriors, a group of highly skilled female fighters, and they narrowly failed to capture Aang.

The Avatar team were forced to leave Kyoshi Island, but Suki, the leader of the Kyoshi Warriors, returned several times during the series to help the Avatar and his friends. Suki is another fan favorite, and fans weren’t too happy to see Zuko destroy his village.

7 He threw childish tantrums in front of Zhao

Zhao firebending during Agni Kai with Zuko

Zuko raged against Commander Zhao, who also wanted to capture the Avatar. Since Zhao capturing Aang would ruin any chance Zuko would have of being welcomed home, Zuko jumped at any opportunity to sabotage Zhao’s efforts. While fans certainly didn’t want Zhao to succeed, the clash of the two arrogant personalities brought out Zuko’s childishness.

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Zhao himself was not at all sympathetic, and when Zuko thwarted his plans, viewers were relieved. However, Zuko’s one-sided rivalry, hissing fits, and attempts at chatter made him seem less than cool.

6 He almost died trying to capture Aang at the North Pole because he had no plan

Zuko carries unconscious Aang across the North Pole tundra

When Iroh confronted Zuko under Lake Laogai, his biggest criticism of his beloved nephew was that he had not given thought to his plans. This is best illustrated in Zuko’s attempt to capture Aang at the North Pole during Zhao’s siege.

Aang, who left his physical body behind as he traveled to the Spirit Realm, was unconscious and vulnerable, leaving Zuko open to take him. Unfortunately, Zuko did not have a clear escape route planned, and so he and Aang were trapped in the freezing cold of the North Pole wilderness until they were rescued from freezing death, foiling Zuko’s plot.

5 He constantly lashed out at benevolent uncle Iroh

Zuko and Iroh joke in Iroh's tearoom

Uncle Iroh is easily one of the most beloved characters in the Avatar franchise. He is wise, thoughtful, a loving father figure and has even helped the Avatar team on several occasions. So when fans saw Zuko’s mistreatment of his uncle, they weren’t convinced of Zuko’s sympathy.

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It took a while for Zuko to recognize his uncle and what his uncle did for him – far too long for many fans. Whether it was his outbursts, his downcast gaze on Iroh, or his betrayals, Zuko was doing himself no favors in his treatment of Uncle Iroh.

4 He betrayed the team’s avatar under Ba Sing Se and tried to kill Aang

Azula and Zuko team up

Speaking of betrayals, Zuko made a few of them. The first is when he betrayed the Avatar team in the depths of Ba Sing Se. Although he had other options, he decided to side with the smart-mouthed Azula, who had the support of Dai Li, and attack Aang. For a moment, everyone thought Aang was dead. Zuko was allowed to return home with Azula and join his family in the Fire Nation. While he may have gotten what he asked for, fans weren’t happy for him.

3 He lied to everyone, including his family, about Aang’s death

Azula kneels reporting to Ozai

Zuko knew full well that Aang was not dead when he returned to the Fire Nation. However, he was so fascinated to be accepted back into his family and to be recognized by the Fire Lord Ozai that he chose to experience this farce.

Fans could easily tell that Zuko was consumed with guilt, but Zuko had dug his own grave. His uncle was not there for him, he had returned to a violent home and he knew he had made the wrong choice. While viewers were eager to see a redemption arc from Zuko, his angst at the moment was well deserved.

2 He hired a combustion man to do his dirty work so his lie wouldn’t be discovered

Burning man reads a letter with a hawk on his shoulder

Zuko’s habit of hiring shady characters to capture and kill the Avatar didn’t stop when he returned to the Fire Nation. Knowing that Aang was likely still on the run, Zuko hired another Fire Nation mercenary, a man known as Combustion Man.

Combustion Man proved to be a challenge for the Avatar team, as his powers were new to the group. Fans weren’t happy with this, as they wanted to see Zuko realize the mistake of his manners after getting so close. Instead, he reverted to his old ways, and it would come back to haunt him when he tried to apologize to the Avatar team.

1 He betrayed Uncle Iroh and sent him to jail

Zuko visits Iroh in prison

One of Zuko’s most serious transgressions was his betrayal of Uncle Iroh, the man who had loved him like a father and supported him when Ozai, his real father, did not want him. By this point, Iroh had already solidified his position as a fan favorite, and Zuko’s betrayal of Iroh was not to the fans’ liking.

Ultimately, this bad choice helped Zuko understand why he needed to change and help the Avatar instead of the Fire Lord. It took a while for the two to reconcile, but they finally did. However, Zuko’s betrayal of Iroh and his departure to be jailed is still a sore point among fans.

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