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Since being added to Netflix’s library and quickly becoming a top title, Avatar: The Last Airbender is still killing it in viewership and I for one will never tire of finding excuses to write about it. The series is full of memorable and quotable moments, from the high quality of their writing and the emotional impact they’re designed to have. One in particular has picked up a lot of traction, where Zuko visits Iroh in his prison cell after a mysterious message encourages him to investigate the death of his great-grandfather.
As the tweet points out, the scene is lit to reflect the characters’ mental states rather than physical autonomy, continuing the themes of psychological and emotional development being just as important as the growth in power of wielding primal elemental forces, if not more so.
One of the greatest reveals/ scenes of all time. Down to the cinematography where Zuko is always shown in the dark and behind bars while Iroh is shown in the light and free. Even though Iroh is in jail, Zuko is the one who is mentally trapped pic.twitter.com/A4l0kx48XP
— Zuko 🔥 (@RogueZuko) June 4, 2020
The scene takes place in season 3 episode “The Avatar and the Fire Lord,” revealing the history between Fire Lord Sozin, Zuko’s great-grandfather and the one who began the war that plunged the world into chaos, and his childhood friend Avatar Roku, the holder of the mantle before Aang and who was betrayed and left to die by his old ally after averting a natural disaster. Iroh reveals to Zuko that Roku was his maternal great-grandfather, and while he might have accepted his legacy as the descendent of a megalomaniacal imperialist, he also has the potential to restore balance to the world.
At this point, the struggle between good and evil within Zuko is one yet to be determined, and only he can decide the path he will ultimately take. Iroh is a continual font of wisdom throughout the entire series, but this is a pivotal moment where his words plant a seed in Zuko’s mind that lead to him realizing he can break his family’s cycle of abuse and atone for his past misdeeds.
Zuko’s redemption arc is one of the most engaging pieces of such personal development ever put to screen and made him one of the show’s most compelling characters, and the moment that both visually and aurally laid bare the source of the turmoil that rages within him is constructed perfectly, such meticulous attention to detail being part of what makes Avatar: The Last Airbender such a modern classic.