December 7, 2023

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Avatar: The Last Airbender Book Three “Chapter Sixteen: The Southern Raiders”

Zuko helps Katara find the man who killed her mother.

So, we’ve seen Zuko bond and forge an alliance with Sokka and Aang so far.  That leaves just one member of the original Aang Gang to win over, and given their history, Katara might be the hardest.

Then again, seeing Katara hate on anybody seems odd.  Mothering, sure.  Smothering?  Yeah, that too.  But hate?  Not really.  By this point in the narrative, it looks as if Zuko has not only won over Aang and Sokka, but also Suki (whose village he once tried to burn down) and Toph (who, well, never really had an issue with him, truth be told).  He’s one of the gang.

Except with Katara.  She still remembers how they almost bonded in Ba Sing Se before he ultimately sided with Azula, but there’s something else of course.  Something she mentioned to Zuko before, and something which Sokka remembers when asked.

That’s the death of her mother at the hands of an anonymous Fire Nation soldier.

That Zuko can help with.  Maybe a good case of vengeance will solve that problem and he and Katara can be friends.  If she’s still mad after he nearly died defending the group from Azula (who conveniently showed up with a fleet of airships, splitting everyone up with Hakoda taking the lesser characters one way while Aang, Sokka, Suki, Toph, Katara, and Momo ride Appa away in a different direction, catching Zuko along the way).

See, Sokka can describe the Fire Nation unit’s symbol, and Zuko knows it belongs to the Southern Raiders, and the man that killed Sokka and Katara’s mother is their commanding officer.

Now, this is a kid’s show, and Katara is first and foremost a healer for the group.  Yes, she kicks ass and can fight with the best of them, but her overall nature is nurturing and hopeful.  Zuko makes sense.  Aang, learning where they are going, counsels she vent her feelings at the man but instead of death, give him forgiveness which is much harder.  Granted, he doesn’t stop them from “borrowing” Appa, but that also leads to Sokka asking to borrow Momo for a week for unknown reasons.

I am not sure we’ve seen Katara this angry.  She’s angry enough to use bloodbending again, and that thought sickened her before.  There are some unexpected moments though, such that when the pair find the Southern Raiders, the man they want retired a few years earlier.

And then they find the guy, a pathetic old man with an angry wife who looks like he’s going to wet his pants over the confrontation from two masked people, one of whom welds water and the other fire.  This is the guy Katara has hated and feared for much of her life.  She was the last to see her mother alive (and we finally see the woman’s face on the show), and her mother died to protect Katara from the Raiders.  And…she can’t kill this man.  He’s too pathetic and sad, and she’s not really a killer.  She gives the forgiveness.  Zuko seems to get it too after showing some skepticism over Aang’s philosophy earlier, but more importantly, Katara can forgive Zuko too and make friends with her one time enemy.

Aang can’t help but approve of that.

So, is the next episode Zuko bonds with Toph because that seems to be the pattern we’ve been getting?