Avatar: The Last Airbender – The 15 Worst Things Zuko Ever Did

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The 15 Worst Things Zuko Ever Did

It can be said that Avatar: The Last Airbender is more than just one of the greatest animated shows of all time. It has heart, fantastic visuals, an epic story that even a live-action movie couldn’t replicate. It also has one of the best character arcs of the series and all-time in Prince Zuko, the son of the fire lord whose quest for the Avatar becomes a friendship with the Gaang.

Related: The 10 Most Serious Topics Avatar The Last Airbender Ever Explored

Yet, before Zuko could be seen as one of the Gaang and loved by fans, he had to go through a journey. And before that, Zuko did some pretty terrible things.

Updated April 1st, by Lukas Shayo: Avatar: The Last Airbender was a show that utilized heavy storylines and themes to establish the stakes of the world in which it took place. One of the protagonists who was most obviously embroiled in those dark themes was Zuko. While it is regularly regarded as one of the greatest redemption arcs in media, the fact that Zuko needed a redemption arc implies that there is something he had to be redeemed from. Indeed, Zuko did horrible things and backtracked several times on his journey to heroism.

15 Abandoned Mai By Leaving A Note

After returning to the Fire Nation following his exile, Zuko began a relationship with a fellow highborn, Mai. But, after leaving to join Team Avatar, Zuko left her behind with nothing more than a note. Constant regression was one of Zuko’s worst traits, and Mai, unfortunately, suffered the brunt of it.

Having built their relationship out of a mutual feeling of an inability to live up to their parents’ expectations, is it any wonder it hurt Mai so much when Zuko left without warning? At the very least, he could have told her to her face. Instead, even in the heart of his redemption, he performed another terrible act and broke his girlfriend’s heart.

14 Cruelty To His Crew

In the middle of his initial hunt for the Avatar, Zuko’s ship stumbled into the path of a massive storm. Though Iroh warned him of the dangers, Zuko insisted that the Avatar was more important than any individual’s safety.

Related: 10 Quotes About Zuko’s Honor In Avatar The Last Airbender

This instance goes to show just how much of a poor influence Ozai was on Zuko. His lack of empathy for his crew was imprinted on Zuko early, creating intense selfishness that only eased after Zuko meditated on his past. Though he did prove his high esteem for his crew and their lives by the end of that very same episode, it’s undeniable that he initially insisted that their lives were worthless in the face of capturing the Avatar.

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13 Stole Song’s Ostrich Horse

After meeting a young woman named Song who helped care for his uncle, Zuko grew close with her, and the two were soon love interests. Song empathized with Zuko’s scar, as she too was attacked by a Firebender, and the two bonded over their shared histories. Still, as he left, Zuko stole her family’s ostrich horse and took it with them.

It’s a testament to just how far Zuko had fallen: from a proud Prince of the Fire Nation to a liar stealing ostrich horses from families in besieged kingdoms. He could have worked for the family in exchange for the animal, or he could have made the journey on foot. Even Iroh was disgusted by his behavior, but Zuko didn’t care and stole the animal anyway.

12 Destroyed Kyoshi Island

While hunting down the Avatar, Zuko came across Kyoshi Island, home of the Kyoshi Warriors. He and his crew proceeded to burn down the village in their efforts to search for Aang. Innocent civilians lost their homes just so Zuko could fruitlessly attempt to regain his honor.

At the moment, Zuko didn’t even seem to express any regret for having burned the village. It was simply collateral damage in his fight against Aang. Even children were shown to be in the path of the destruction, but Zuko continued to burn it down. It goes to show how far he grew, but also what a low point he started at.

11 Loyal To An Army That Committed Atrocities

At the start of the series, Zuko was well aware of the atrocities at the Air Temples and was incredibly loyal to the Fire Nation. Desperate to prove himself to his father, he was happy to help capture and kill the last hope of the Air Nomads, which would have meant the completion of what his people started.

Related: 10 Best Parents & Parental Figures In Avatar The Last Airbender

To make matters worse, prior to his redemption, he is never shown to express remorse for aiding the Fire Nation army, given the atrocities it committed. In fact, he was more than willing to attack the Northern Water Tribe. Though he did redeem himself, it’s hard to forget his original loyalties.

10 Chased and Tormented the Gaang

Zuko takes on Aang

Probably the most obvious of Zuko’s crimes is how he spent the first season of ATLA: chasing down and tormenting the Gaang. Granted, every series needs an antagonist, and along with Admiral Zhao, Zuko fits the role perfectly.

From the far reaches of the Southern Water Tribe to the vastness of the Northern tribe, Zuko’s quest to reclaim his honor meant doing whatever it took. Firing on the Gaang, keeping them on their toes every step of the way was just a few of the many crimes of Prince Zuko.

9 Worked With Pirates

Zuko takes on the Pirates

Now, along his quest to reclaim his honor, Zuko worked alongside some pretty shady people. From the nefarious Admiral Zhao to bounty hunter June, Zuko always seemed comfortable around evil-doers, especially when it came to the pirates.

Early on in season one, Zuko made a deal with a group of pirates to hunt down Aang, Katara, and Sokka. Working alongside pirates may not have been the worst thing Zuko ever did but it still shows how far Zuko would go to reclaim his honor and capture the Avatar.

8 Stole Katara’s Necklace

Zuko kidnaps Katara

On the list of reprehensible acts that Zuko committed, stealing a necklace isn’t high on the docket. After kidnapping Katara with help from the pirates, Zuko stole Katara’s necklace and held onto it for some time before Aang stole it back.

RELATED: Avatar: The Last Airbender – Each Main Character’s Biggest Strength

While it may not seem important at glance, the necklace had far more meaning to Katara than to anyone else. Serving as the last link to her mother, stealing the necklace served as a terrible deed in the eyes of Katara that separated her, in a way, her mother.

7 Kidnapped Aang While In The Avatar State

Zuko runs off with Aang

After chasing the Gaang all over the world, Zuko finally caught up with them in season one’s finale, one of seasons best episodes, as Admiral Zhao was laying siege to the Northern Water Tribe. Following a fierce battle with Katara, Zuko managed to get ahold of an immobilized Aang while he was in the Avatar state and runoff.

Besides kidnapping Aang, attacking Katara, and racing off into a perilous storm, taking the Avatar while he wasn’t even aware of it was a cheap move on Zuko’s part, even for a fire-bender.

6 Almost Stole Appa

Zuko finds Appa

Who doesn’t like Appa? Appa, Aangs sky bison, is an adorable creature that earned himself a name in the world of ATLA. When he was kidnapped by sand benders in season two, fans were expectantly awaiting for him and Aang to be reunited and not expecting for Zuko to almost steal him.

Finding Appa beneath Lake Lagoi and a prisoner of the military force, the Da Li, Zuko contemplates kidnapping Appa to get at Aang, a heinous act on its own that he thankfully doesn’t make a reality.

5 Betrayed The Gaang

Zuko fights Aang with Azula

A storyteller’s job is to create a tale that will captivate viewers, introduce them to likable characters and crush their souls. That last detail happens more often than people think, especially with Zuko at the end of season two.

RELATED: Avatar: The Last Airbender – Each Main Character’s Biggest Weakness

Just when it seems like Zuko is finally ready to fully side with the Gaang, Azula pops up and convinces her brother to side with her. What follows is a betrayal of the worst kind, with Zuko battling the Katara and Aang beneath Ba Sing Se after almost redeeming himself.

4 Led With His Rage In Charge

Zuko's rage unleashed

Despite the insane amount of development Zuko went through over the course of three seasons, there was always one thing that remained constant: his anger. Even by the end of the series, when Zuko had controlled his rage, he still had plenty of it coursing through him and he let it be his primary motivating factor, which often led to less than steller outcomes.

RELATED: Avatar: The Last Airbender – The 10 Worst Things Aang Ever Did

The rage is what drove Zuko forward, what made him feel the need to reacquirer his honor and pushed him to commit all those acts. Without that rage, without the anger pushing and driving him, would Zuko have been the same person?

3 Turned His Back On Iroh

Zuko visits Iron in prison

Every fan has a favorite character in a series and for many ATLA fans, their favorite character was the kindhearted Uncle Iroh. Seen as the only person beyond the Gaang and Mai who treated Zuko with respect, fans were horrified when Zuko turned on Iroh.

It was more than betraying Iroh. By the end of season two and the start of three, Zuko had sided with Azula and despite his best efforts, pushed his Uncle away by his betrayal. It’s a miracle Zuko was able to find redemption after that.

2 Honored His Father

Firelord Ozai welcomes Zuko back home

Throughout the entirety of ATLA, Zuko constantly is trying to get his honor back and return to the Fire Nation. He believes that he did something wrong and needs to redeem himself in his father, Fire Lord Ozai’s eyes, despite the years of mistreatment and neglect, a little strange thing about the Avatar series.

Returning to the Fire Nation after helping Azula, who unlike her brother only got worse, combat Katara and Aang is Zuko respecting his father, getting his “honor” back. Despite him turning his back on his father in the end, Zuko’s actions are still jaded given all the terrible deeds Ozai’s committed.

1 Tried To Kill Aang

Zuko hires Combustion Man

Nowadays, fans tend to associate Aang with Zuko and see them as the best of friends despite their differences and constant clashes throughout their journies. Yet, many audiences seem to forget that Zuko did more than just hunt down Aang but at one point, almost killed him.

Sending Combustion Man/Sparky Sparky Boom Man who happens to be some fan’s favorite villain after Aang after returning to the Fire Nation in season three, Zuko fully meant for Combustion Man to kill Aang and finish the Avatar once and for all. Even a renewed friendship can’t cover that little fiasco up.

NEXT: Avatar: The Last Airbender – The 10 Best Things Sokka Ever Did

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About The Author

Drew Atchison
(264 Articles Published)

Drew Atchison is a writer, reader, and avid movie goer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He’s gone from being a line cook to a trading post employee to an actual zip line attendant and now a list writer for screen rant. Currently enrolled as a film production major at Azusa Pacific University.

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