The actor Mako, original voice of Iroh, passed away between seasons two and three. The role was recast with an actor who sounded somewhat like Mako, but this is the first episode I’ve seen where I actually got to hear him speak and…it’s not bad. It’s obviously not the original voice, but it’s close enough.
In the meantime, let’s learn a bit about the start of the war the Fire Nation started with, oh, everybody else.
It’s the summer solstice, and that means it’s time for Aang and Zuko to both learn some lessons. Zuko gets a mysterious message telling him to go down to the Fire Nation’s catacombs and learn about his great-grandfather. That was Fire Lord Sozin, the man who started the century-long war for conquest of the other three countries.
Aang, meanwhile, is told in a dream to visit Roku’s island and learn something important about Roku.
And the long and the short of it is, as Zuko reads a scroll and Aang chats with Roku in the spirit world, they get essentially the same story. Zuko learns Sozin’s side while Aang hears it directly from Roku’s mouth.
And, it turns out, the two men a century prior had been friends. Roku got called away one day to become the Avatar while Sozin eventually became the Fire Lord. Roku’s training was extensive, and he learned to not be so into possessions and to value balance as he grew in power.
So, he was a bit against it when Sozin, on Roku’s wedding day, proposed expanding the Fire Nation. Sozin saw his country was full of peace and prosperity and wanted to spread that. Roku said the four countries had to stay in balance with each other.
You know, there’s never a good reason to start a war, but Sozin’s is about as close as someone can come to having one.
Point is, the two parted, and years later, when a volcano erupted on Roku’s island, as the Avatar did everything he could to keep the volcano from destroying, oh, a whole lot of things as the people who lived on the island, including Roku’s wife, made a run for it. Sozin actually showed up to help, but then, as Roku started to die from the poisonous fumes, Sozin just left him there as the last obstacle to his plans. Sozin knew the next Avatar would be an Air Nomad and sent people to find the baby that was Aang.
And from there, we see the two young men essentially get very different lessons. Aang realizes that everyone, even the current Fire Lord, is worthy of forgiveness and acceptance if that person wants to try. He gets his friends to agree.
Zuko, though, doesn’t quite see the significance. He does realize Iroh somehow sent the message and goes to see his uncle. And that would be when Iroh drops the other piece of information.
See, Zuko knows he’s descended from Sozin on his father’s side. He doesn’t know he’s descended from Roku on his mother side, and Iroh says that’s why Zuko is the way he is. He is symbolic of the need to restore balance to the world.
Isn’t Azula also descended from Roku then, or is she too awful to count?
Point is, Zuko may have just gotten a bit of a push to be a better man. Works for me.