Aang: No, I agree with you. Fire Lord Ozai is a horrible person and the World will probably be better off without him. There’s gotta be another way.
Zuko: Like what?
Aang: I don’t know. Maybe we can make some big pots of glue and then I can use gluebending to stick his arms and legs together so he can’t bend anymore!
Zuko: Yeah. Then you can show him his baby pictures and all those happy memories will make him good again!
Aang: Do you really think that would work?
There were so many times in the show I just wanted to punch Aang repeatedly in the face.
oh that’s funny, because Zuko’s attitude during these scene, along with Southern Raiders when he mocked Aang’s pacifist culture and…probably most of season 1 and some of season 2 made me want to slap him pretty hard in the face…and he’s one of my favorite characters.
Honestly though, I was angry that everyone (except Katara) thinks this is something to be mocked while Aang is facing one of the hardest decisions in his life. One that goes against his beliefs and culture. It’s obviously bothering him and no one gives a fuck. Just “do it, Aang! You’re the Avatar after all. We don’t have the same burden.” Not a really good moment for these characters.
Aang > everyone else
Zuko is my favorite character and I snort with laughter during this part but at the same time I feel awful for laughing because Aang is a 12 year old kid with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He is a 12 year old who is expected to kill a man and save the entire world, and he has been taught that murder is bad. He’s even a vegetarian because he believes so strongly in this. No one would’ve acted any differently in his shoes. And as funny as Zuko is in this scene he’s being a huge ass.
necessary disclaimer in this fandom: I love me some Zuko
this scene sort of makes me hate Zuko a teeny tiny bit
look, we can all argue until we’re blue in the face over whether or not it was right or wrong for Aang to evade his duty, but jfc, you do a better job at the age of twelve. he was experiencing a tremendous amount of pressure at this point in the series, and while I get where Zuko was coming from (he and I deal with stressful situations like this very similarly), that was still a jackass thing to say.
here, you’ve got this kid — guys, he’s twelve. he’s done amazing things, but he’s still a kid who if given the option wouldn’t do anything more stressful than play air ball all day. contrast him to Toph, who’s his same age — Toph LOVES to fight. that’s just not who Aang is, though, and faulting him for that is awful. you’ve got this kid, I say, who has this heartbreakingly optimistic outlook on life, who completely had the rug pulled out from under him.
“Oh, you’re not a confrontational person? You’d rather not fight? You err towards non-violence? Well, here — we’re going to push the duty of being the Avatar, which you shouldn’t have to deal with for another four years, on you at an early age — oh, you’re running away. Okay. Well in that case, you’re going to inherit the burden of a 100 year war triggered by your predecessor and his relationship with the Fire Lord. You have to end it. You might have to go against everything you believe in to do so. You also have less than a year to do what other Avatars take a lifetime to accomplish. And you’re going to be hounded and hunted all the while. Good luck with that.”
Yes, truly, how dare Aang grasp at straws here at the end, grope around desperately for a wisp of hope that his duty won’t crush him. How dare he wish for a way out of this last, final, horrible duty that’s being thrust upon him. How dare he ask for a reprise.
I know and you know and Aang knows that at the end he’s going to have to do whatever it takes to stop Ozai. Can you not see that in his desperation to find another way? It’s heartbreaking. This scene honestly makes me want to cry. He is so lost and so scared and the world is telling him that he’s not allowed to do that. He’s not allowed to feel what he’s feeling because there’s bigger things than him to worry about. Who cares about the feelings of a twelve-year-old boy when the world hangs in the balance? Not the world, certainly. Everything he’s been told since be woke up has pointed to a level of self-sacrifice on his part that grown-ass people in that world aren’t expected to take on. That’s a lot to deal with, and people don’t give him enough credit for dealing with it for as long as he did without breaking down completely.
And when he goes to his friends for a bit of solace — I mean, do you REALLY think that Aang expected this to work? He was, like I said, terrified and desperate and alone, throwing out any and every option he had, and what do his friends do — work with him? Of course not. They mock his compassion. They belittle his fear. They echo the sentiments that the rest of the world has been pounding into him — “Nothing about you matters anymore.” And suddenly, that last little sliver of hope and solace, the last thing keeping him anchored down in a sea of overwhelming self-sacrifice, is ripped away from him.
I say again, this scene honestly makes me cry. Aang is completely alone right here. Maybe it’s not fair to completely blame his friends, because they’re scared, too. They know what’s going to happen if Aang doesn’t do what he has to do. But the fact remains that they’re taking away everything that Aang had left in the world, and leaving him bare and alone to face the Fire Lord.
And what does he do? He crawls out of that and he does what he has to do. He defies their doubts and ends the war on his terms. People vastly underestimate Aang’s strength at the end of the series. He took everything that the world had told him, that his friends had told him, since he woke up, and he did it one better. Every sign pointed to Aang having to sacrifice everything he had left in him to stop the war and balance the world, but Aang had the strength and the wherewithal to find another way — to fix things and to hold onto what he had left at the same time.
Great commentary. Plus, I mean, the duty of the avatar is not “kill people”, it’s keep the elements in balance. Aang’s not avoiding his duties: he’s trying to fulfill them in a way consistent with his personal morality. Aang didn’t, in the end, have to kill Ozai to achieve that, and it’s shortsighted to me to say that wanting to avoid death in the pursuit of his duties is to be mocked or disparaged.