|“||I used to think this scar marked me - the mark of the banished prince, cursed to chase the Avatar forever. But lately, I've realized I'm free to determine my own destiny, even if I'll never be free of my mark.||„|
|~ Zuko to Katara|
|“||For so long, all I wanted was for you to love me, to accept me. I thought it was my honor that I wanted, but really, I was just trying to please you. You, my father, who banished me just for talking out of turn! My father, who challenged me, a thirteen-year-old boy, to an Agni Kai! How can you possibly justify a duel with a child?||„|
|~ Zuko confronting his father.|
Prince Zuko (later known as Fire Lord Zuko) is one of the two deuteragonists (alongside Katara) of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender. He is the secondary antagonist of Book One: Water and an anti-hero in Book Two: Earth, before eventually redeeming himself and joining Aang and his friends, becoming the deuteragonist of Book Three: Fire, and a supporting character in the sequel series The Legend of Korra.
He was voiced by Dante Basco in the original series who also played Scorpion in the second season of Ultimate Spider-Man and was voiced by Bruce Davison in The Legend of Korra, and was physically portrayed by Dev Patel in the 2010 film adaptation The Last Airbender.
Zuko starts off as having the expected attitude of a firebender; he is a violent, impatient and destructive individual.
However, there are times where even fellow stereotypical firebenders see him as being different, be it for better or worse.
For the better, Zuko seems to have a higher conscience and can tell the difference between right and wrong at a young age, something elder firebenders were incapable of doing, which is exactly what earned Zuko good trust, as well as much woe in his life.
He can also be very passive compared to others, taking it when an entire city that originally adored him, turned on him completely after realizing he was a firebender.
For the worse, Zuko is quite rude and argumentative, his words often offend or even hurt others. Zuko is also very impulsive and headstrong, so he has a tendency to not think things through, as shown many time in the series, ranging from before when he volunteered to show a firebending move to his grandfather without even mastering the move, or during the series, when he finally managed to kidnap Aang, but had no place to take him after being trapped in a blizzard.
After his revelation to where he defected over to Aang's side, he learns to be much calmer and relaxed, and is able to serve as Aang's firebending teacher and while he wanted Aang to kill his father to end his tyranny, he is just as satisfied when Aang strips Ozai of his firebending power in the end.
In his older age, Zuko came to peace with his inner demons, not showing any of his previous anger issues and remaining calm and respectful most of the time. His social skills, however, did not improve much, as he still makes awkward remarks such as casually mentioning that he once hired an assassin to kill the Avatar before then replying that his plan didn't work followed by an awkward silence.
Powers and Abilities
Zuko is a very skilled firebender who controls his fire quite well, though not at the same level as his gifted sister, Azula, who can create both blue fire and lightning.
When challenged to Agni Kai by Admiral Zhao, Zuko was able to beat him fairly easily, thanks to all his training. Zuko's fire was fueled by rage and anger, which he had plenty of, but when he redeemed himself and joined Team Avatar, his rage lowered and his firebending weakened. It was later when he realized that Firebending was not fueled by anger, but determination, where his fire bending grew once again due to his determination to take his spot at the throne and help Aang defeat his father.
Zuko attempted to learn lightning bending from Iroh after his and Iroh's lives were threatened by Azula. He failed to master it at every attempt, however, as he had not faced his "inner turmoil", as a lightning bender must know precisely what they truly want, and Zuko had always been borderline between his father's expectations and his own free will. When he finally seemed to decide on free will, Zuko took a shocking turn back into his father's expectations when he was given the ultimate chance to kill the avatar.
In the end, Zuko never learned how to bend lightning. Instead, Iroh taught him how to absorb and redirect lightning, something neither Azula nor Ozai was knowledgeable of. He later employed this technique against his father (when he left the Nation) and Azula (to protect Katara). In the latter engagement, Zuko redirected the blast in an improper stance, as he had jumped into the lightning's path, and so failed to redirect it completely and resulted in serious injury. Though he seems to have overcome his inner turmoil, he does not create lightning for the remainder of the series.
In addition to his firebending, Zuko is highly skilled in unarmed combat, able to break apart oncoming spears with his hands and legs, and disarm, subdue or defeat opponents. He is also equally masterful with his dual dao blades, the latter skill he picked up after being trained by the swordmaster Piandao.
He would use these two skills as his primary tactics whenever he was in his Blue Spirit disguise, unable to firebend, or when he needed to fight but also needed to conceal his firebending. He was able to defeat multiple foes using only his swords.
He also dueled evenly with Jet and his dual hook swords until the fight was broken up by the Dai Li and Jet was arrested. Zuko defeated several Earth Kingdom soldiers with his Dao swords and minimum effort, only resorting to firebending when faced with a powerful earthbender; even then he was able to hold off the earthbender's attacks for several moments with only his blades. His skill was such that his father, Fire Lord Ozai, opted not to face him during an eclipse when neither of them could firebend.
Zuko is very physically capable, able to almost nonchalantly launch a person with a single hand and smash through iron shackles with a single kick. He is also quite fast and agile, able to perform great acrobatic feats, such as running across walls, doing mid-air twirls, scaling vertical faces with great efficiency and climbing speed, and jumping large distances to avoid enemy attacks with noticeable agility and free-running skills.
Zuko is skilled at infiltration and stealth; able to sneak into heavily-defended fortresses and conceal himself effectively for long periods of time. All of these skills would serve him while he was disguised as the Blue Spirit.
Zuko was also a skilled tracker, able to track the airborne Avatar all around the world, something that his friends later acknowledged in hopes of finding Aang when he disappeared.
While not as naturally adept at strategy and academics as his sister, Zuko is quite intelligent. Throughout the series, he demonstrated himself to be a skilled strategist, able to exploit any situation to his advantage. Zuko used his ship's damages as a smokescreen to conceal his movements from Zhao. He is also able to form alliances with people with special skills, such as June, and use them to his advantage.
However, Zuko tended to have a hot-headed nature that caused him to never fully think his actions through. For example, he was able to exploit advantages in the Northern Water Tribe, and get into the Spirit Oasis to capture Aang, but he did not figure a way back out ahead of time which caused him to almost freeze to death. Zuko began to think things out more toward the end of the series, and he started to plan things out and think ahead to solve problems more often.
When he and Aang needed to get in a specific room in the Sun Warrior ruins, Zuko was able to outsmart the Celestial Calendar, as it would only allow the room to open during a solstice. Zuko is also mentioned twice to be a gifted tsungi horn player, although it is clear that it is not his favorite instrument.