What do we do when our goals come with a few casualties at war? Our minds have a crazy way of allowing the little things to be the thoughts that drive us off the deep end. Those memories never fade away even when the present shows us that those times are far behind us.
In this episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko has Slain The Avatar finally gaining his father’s approval after being banished for speaking out of term and losing an Agni Kai against his dad. Zuko’s only way to be welcomed back into the fire nation was to either come back with the avatar captured or come back once he’s dead.
Neither of these is true because Zuko knows that Aang has survived and it’s only a matter of time before this “happiness” he’s been searching for for so long is nowhere, but this is what he wanted… Right?
As everyone gathers around the campsite, we get back around to Zuko to see he’s burning his family images to start the fire on the beach. As Tai-Lee makes a comment about it Zuko lashes out at her expressing how she acts like a circus freak mocking her by standing on his hands. She rebuttals by telling him the real reason she is the way she is was that she had 6 sisters that looked exactly like her and that the only way she could stand out from the bunch was to be different. Because Tai-Lee normally gets a lot of attention from males from her looks, Mai makes the comment that it makes sense why she does that because she lacked attention as a child.
This makes Tai-Lee turn the attention to Mai detailing that she was an only child for 15 years and her Aura is still just “meh”. Mai in her typical monotone voice replies that she doesn’t believe in Auras which makes Zuko reply that she doesn’t believe in anything. Mai replying that she apologizes for not being high strong and crazy like the others makes Zuko open up and say how he wishes she would express what she is feeling more often. Mai goes on to explain that yes, she had a great childhood, but it came with the silencing of her. She wasn’t allowed to act out of term to keep her dad’s political career in good standing, or else it came with consequences. This makes Azula realize that the reason Mai is nonchalant is that she had a controlling mother with certain expectations and if she strayed from them it would cause Mai to shut down hence why she rarely shows emotions now.
This causes Mai to lash out telling Azula to leave her alone, which makes Zuko try to comfort Mai for finally expressing herself which eventually turns her rage toward him. Tai-Lee expresses that all the negative energy being expressed will cause bad skin, forcing Zuko to remind her that his face is an example of bad skin since his father left a lesson taught to Zuko on the left side of his face. He goes on to express how he felt that for so long he just wanted his dad to accept him and now that he’s back home and his dad speaks to him and even thinks of Zuko as a hero, but still, he isn’t happy… He expresses that he’s angrier than ever now and as the gang questions him to figure out why he reveals that he is angry at himself… His confusion and lack of discerning between right and wrong have left him in his own turmoil of his mind.
Zuko uses this episode to express what has been on his mind since a child. I’ve always thought it was a crazy realization that most of us walk around with our childhood trauma being reflected in our actions mostly, but Zuko walks around with the reminder of his trauma on his face daily… Each day he must see the scar that his own father placed on his face from his childish mistake. The irony in this episode was that not only is Zuko forced to relive his trauma, but being at this beach brings Zuko back to the days of a happy, whole family. Yin & Yang.
This episode breaks down how we can have the answers in our minds all along and hide the reveal of them because of our fear of not being accepted, heard, or understood. So many of us have a lot of unpacking to do from things that have hurt us and each day we push it off only makes the pain sink deeper and deeper into our subconscious causing us to only become hardened versions of who we once were until one day we’ll be a version that can’t be saved anymore… I love this episode because it embodies Arkham Thoughts. This platform was created based on vulnerability. That is what starts the healing process, without being vulnerable conversations can only go so far and you can only grow so much. It is essential for us to open up with a trusted friend or family member and just allow ourselves to be a kid again and let it all out. It’s ok to not be ok.