“Zuko Alone” is a masterpiece. We get to explore the Earth Kingdom, see corruption in the Earth Kingdom…come to understand Zuko and his motivations better and to see that many times there isn’t a good answer to what’s going on and you simply have to endure the struggle. Zuko is that endurance.
The episode was directed by Lauren MacMullan and written by Elizabeth Welch Ehasz.
The story involves Zuko’s search inward and part of what happens on his adventure alone as he stands up to corrupt Earth Kingdom soldiers who Lee through an egg at. Lee takes him into his family and he becomes a bit of an older brother as Lee’s older brother is on the front. Things soon come to a head though when he has to fight the Earth Kingdom soldiers and face the fallout from the fight. During this time alone he explores the time he spent with his mother and his relationship to his family.
The Pros: The Village – The village is oppressed by corrupt Earth Kingdom soldiers and doesn’t have much, we see that they are a farm village as well as having a decent sized town square for trade. They also are willing to take in anyone who isn’t Fire Nation as Zuko is well liked by all until his reveal in the battle with the Earth Kingdom soldiers.
Azulan – Azulan is a cruel Fire Lord but shows that he is a better man than Ozai when he refuses to give up Iroh’s birthright to being heir to the throne because he failed the Seige of Ba Sing Se. He also greatly respects Azula’s abilities and is shown to be distant from that all, though still feels for Iroh and the loss of his son in the battle to the point of threatening to punish Ozai.
Ursa – Ursa is the kindest member of Zuko’s family and we see much of who he is came from her. She was his best friend growing up and her leaving is part of what ruins Zuko and puts him on his track of being lost as she was the one who reminded him to be kind to all.
Ozai – Ozai is nakedly ambitious and cruel and we see that Azula is most like him. Everything is about power with him and he takes advantage of Iroh’s failure and loss to promote himself and even from what we can get from this episode, that he probably played a part in Azulan’s death.
Azula – Azula is cruel to everyone around him and much like her father where to her power is everything. She sees Iroh as weird and weak and destroys his gift. Part of this is due to her not being interested in dolls, but also her lack of interest in her Uncle as a good person. She is very much her father’s daughter. She bullies Zuko and her friends Mai and Ty Lee.
Azula’s Game – Azula’s game reveals that Mai and Zuko have a crush on one another as Zuko jumps on her into the water to put out the burning apple that Azula had put on her head. Ty Lee notices it too.
Iroh – Iroh is a Fire Nation patriot and even laughs about there being nothing left of Ba Sing Se when the siege is done. You see the Imperialist mindset that really isn’t broken until the loss of his son and the full realization of what he is a part of as a member of the Fire Nation.
Lee – Lee’s father honor’s Zuko’s silence of his past and Lee treats Zuko like a brother. It is only when he is revealed to be a member of the Fire Nation that Lee’s admiration turns to hate and the last we see of him is him looking at Zuko with hatred. The reason for this is his brother and now his father are on the front lines fighting Zuko’s people, that is too much for Lee, who is a young kid, to take.
Zuko – Zuko’s struggle is the theme of this episode and just how alone he is in the world because of his blood. Everyone he loves has rejected him (his father and sister) left him (his mother) or he has left them (Iroh). This leads to him becoming a protector of the village from the corrupt as he is in his element and at his core is just, but he cannot continue doing so as when he reveals who he is the village hates him, even though he protected them from the corrupt bullies of their own village. He is aware of how struggle has made him strong, but he hurts all the more because of his loneliness.
The Message – War can make monsters of all. From the corrupt Earth Kingdom soldiers preying off their own, Iroh’s mocking of the city joking about the death and destruction of it, Ozai and Azula’s sociopathy and what the war has driven Zuko to do to earn the respect of the monster who is his father. It is a shadow he cannot escape from, and at this point still drives him and his actions.
This episode is a favorite. We get to see what motivates Zuko, the dilemma’s he faces for survival and for his legacy of being son of the Fire Lord and we get to see complex areas of this rich world. Corrupt Earth Kingdom soldiers are the main enemies this episode, not any member of the Fire Nation minus the antagonism towards Zuko that has always existed towards him from his father and sister.
Final Score: 10 / 10