‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’: Did Fire Lord Banish Zuko For an Ulterior Motive?

If someone asked you to name a show that follows subterfuge of powerful families feuding for power across generations and features giant flying mythical creatures, you might think Game of Thrones was the show they’re describing, but the description also fits a much more family-friendly series that has gained tons of attention for its complexity and heart. Avatar: The Last Airbender recently came to Netflix, and the streaming platform has given new life to the Nickelodeon children’s show that first premiered in 2005. 

It has also provided fans a new audience for their favorite theories about the show, and one of them is an interesting explanation for Prince Zuko’s mysterious banishment. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Great Divide"
Avatar: The Last Airbender “The Great Divide” | Nickelodeon

‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ follows themes of power and corruption

It may be a show for kids, but Avatar: The Last Airbender tackles some pretty serious topics. The story revolves around a young monk-in-training named Aang who is frozen for a century after learning that he’s the Avatar, a powerful figure who can harness all four elements and is supposed to bring peace to the planet.

During Aang’s long absence from the globe, war has ravaged the land, and the deadliest force has been from the feared and loathsome Fire Nation. 

Aang is discovered by a pair of teen siblings who live with a remote Water Nation tribe, but one of them — Katara — is a young water bender who is desperate to see the world, learn to harness her own powers, and help end the war that has kept her people separated and her own father away from his tribe.

Together, the trio sets out on Aang’s giant flying bison — who was also frozen with the hero — to learn all they can about their own powers and help bring an end to the war

The Fire Nation features a murderous family 

RELATED: ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’: Original Finale Plan Would Have Been a Disastrous Ending

Like many epic tales, Avatar: The Last Airbender explores the strength of family bonds in the face of corruption and greed. The family that rules the Fire Nation is filled with these kinds of ethical dilemmas, and the complexity with which the ideas are explored serves as a central feature of the show — one that has made it very popular with adult and child viewers alike. 

The Fire Nation is led by Fire Lord Ozai, a cruel and bloodthirsty man who will stop at nothing to gain control over the entire world. His ruthless army marches the globe hunting down any sign of dissent and snuffing out those who dare to stand in the way.

As the show unfolds, viewers learn that Ozai’s cruelty runs even deeper than they suspected. He banished his own son, Prince Zuko, after permanently scarring him with a powerful blast of fire bending. 

A fan theory suggests Fire Lord Ozai is even crueler


While Fire Lord Ozai is certainly shown to be ruthless beyond words, a fan theory suggests he’s even crueler. The circumstances of Prince Zuko’s banishment have never made complete sense to viewers, and the fact that Prince Zuko’s mother, Ursa, vanished mysteriously around the same time added more questions. As Inverse reports, there’s a fan theory that makes it all come together. 

The story in the show is that Prince Zuko was banished for daring to speak disrespectfully to a general, but it seems like an extreme punishment that doesn’t fit the crime. Instead, fans believe that Ozai was always looking for a way to get rid of his son because he wanted to hand the throne to his ruthless and cunning daughter, Azula.

The fan theory goes even deeper by looking at the comics that help fill in some gaps left in the show. There, fans learn that Ozai’s father and previous Fire Lord, Azulon, had ordered Ozai to kill Zuko as punishment for conspiring against his own brother — and rightful heir — Iroh. 

In the show, viewers know only that Azulon dies shortly after the command and that Ursa has vanished. The comics reveal that Ursa negotiated her son’s survival by creating a powerful poison with which Ozai could murder his own father.

Fans see the line of power as running clearly from Azulon to Ozai to Azula, all ruthless and bloodthirsty killers with no regard for morality — or family ties. Zuko’s banishment was not about upholding honor, the fans believe. It was simply about securing the power of the most corrupt leaders.