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The Worst Choice Zuko Ever Made On Avatar The Last Airbender

Redemption is often a motivating factor for characters, but you would be hard-pressed to find a redeeming arc as elegant as Prince Zuko's (Dante Basco). Introduced as the villain in Nickelodeon's classic "Avatar: The Last Airbender," Zuko's course is laid out from the beginning. Creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino had plans for Zuko that always included him going from villain to teacher (via Entertainment Weekly). But there is no redemption without backsliding. Being raised by an authoritative and abusive father, Zuko, in many ways, has no chance. Firelord Ozai (Mark Hamill) consistently belittles him and chips away at his self-esteem, so all Zuko has to hold on to is the goal of capturing the Avatar.

This is made worse by Zuko's interactions with his hard-lined sister Azula (Grey Griffin). A firebending prodigy, Azula never questions her decisions and always sides with their father. She is intent on becoming Firelord herself and fully accepts Ozai's fascism. Because of Zuko's surroundings, it is hard for him to make the right choices. Though he has always been good at heart, his path to redemption is full of obstacles. Zuko makes many mistakes throughout "Avatar: The Last Airbender," but one choice almost destroys his goodness once and for all.

Zuko delays his redemption by siding with Azula

The biggest setback to Zuko's story is in the Season 2 finale, titled "The Crossroads of Destiny." The characters face many crossroads in the episode, including Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen) coming to terms with his power and the sacrifices he must make for the greater good, but he isn't the only one. Zuko is also at a crossroads, put perfectly into words by his Uncle Iroh (Mako/Greg Baldwin) in the episode. For two seasons, Zuko struggles to become a better person while suffering abuse from his father. But under Iroh's tutelage, he comes to realize that he can be better. Zuko's emotional journey is beautifully documented, especially in the earlier Season 2 episode "Zuko Alone." But when faced with this choice in the season finale, Zuko chooses wrong.

After Zuko plans to confront Azula and defeat her in an Agni Kai firebender duel, Azula throws him a curveball. As a master manipulator, his sister knows the only way to get Zuko to join her is to say that he will get his honor back. Azula even goes as far as to tell Zuko that he is free to decide which side to pick. Though this is a clear manipulation, Zuko is given a choice. At the last moment, Zuko turns against Iroh and sides with Azula against Aang and the rest of Team Avatar. Despite a full season of character development and learning right from wrong from Iroh, Zuko makes a grave mistake that has repercussions down the line.

Zuko betrays the only person who truly loves him

By making this decision, Zuko thinks he is fulfilling his destiny. Finally, he will have his father's respect and his story will come full circle. But in turning against the Avatar for his father, Zuko betrays the only person who ever truly loves him. Ozai has no paternal feelings for Zuko. The entire time Zuko acts on his father's orders, there is only one person who is there for him — his uncle. Iroh is wounded at Zuko's decision, knowing that he is going down the wrong path. This is an impediment not only to his relationship with Iroh but to his ultimate redemption in Season 3.

Zuko eventually realizes that he has made a terrible mistake by betraying his support system. His true destiny is to join the Avatar and destroy his father's regime. But after Team Avatar sees Zuko continue his old ways and return to the Fire Nation, it's now that much harder to gain their trust and join their ranks. When Zuko attempts to build a bridge with them in Season 3, they are all on guard. It takes Zuko proving himself many times over to finally be accepted by the group.