This is an essay I did a while back, but I thought I’d upload it here on tumblr just for kicks. :P
We all remember this moment from the finale, after Katara had chained up Azula and went over to heal Zuko. At this point, Katara’s extrememly concerned for Zuko, wondering if he’ll even survive.
But as she heals Zuko, she hears him stir back to life underneath her. Knowing that her healing did indeed save Zuko’s life, she looks up at Zuko’s face with an over-joyed smile.
Through his numbing pain, Zuko manages to murmur, “Thank you, Katara.”
Katara closes her eyes, reminding herself of the huge risk Zuko took just to save her life from Azula’s lightning.
She thinks of everything she’s gone through in the time she’s known Zuko:
When they first met, they were nothing more than sworn enemies, fighting for what they believed in. They felt no sympathy or any kind of friendship for the other. With each encounter, their hatred for the other grew, further freezing their heart to any kind of amiable contact that would lead them to revise their beliefs and perceptions of the “enemy”.
When they were imprisoned in Ba Sing Se, things were slightly different: Katara’s hatred towards Zuko was still absolute, blaming him and his whole nation for the death of her beloved mother, weeping her broken heart out as she touched her mother’s necklace.
Zuko, however, had changed: he no longer felt angry at the world, no longer strove to regain his honor by capturing the Avatar. All he wanted was a simple life in which he would be fully accepted by the Uncle who loves him. He wanted to help other people, to be accepted by them as the person he is, not who he used to be, which is why he felt sorry for Katara losing her mother, for he too had lost his own mother (though not to death, like Katara’s mother was)
That day, Katara felt something for Zuko that she never thought possible: empathy. She actually felt sorry for the enemy, and for the Prince of the Fire Nation no less! That day, she saw that there was a real boy with real feelings and real regrets behind that awful scar, a person who deserved life as much as her. She offered to heal his scar, an act of kindness that she believed would help the young Prince see the light, to see that there were people out there who actually cared about him.
Sadly, Fate had different plans: Aang and Iroh rescued Katara and Zuko from their prison; Zuko joined with Azula, helping his sister to bring down both Aang and Katara; and Aang was mercilessly and brutally killed by a lightning blast from Azula.
Katara’s heart shattered as she watched Aang fall from the sky, his limp body illuminated by the jade crystals around them. Her entire world seemed to end in a flash of lightning, leaving only the same, desolate emptiness behind that had engulfed her when her mother died.
By the miraculous powers of the Spirit Water from the Oasis, she was able to save Aang’s life, preserving both him and the Avatar Spirit to fight another day.
She thought Zuko would have changed after she had shown him kindness…
She was wrong.
From that day on, her hatred for the Firebender grew in its intensity with each day, even if she never showed it to her friends.
The day Zuko joined their team at the Western Air Temple, her hatred began to overwhelm her, leading her to make that infamous death threat to Zuko that if he even thought of hurting Aang, she would kill him without even batting an eye.
She despised his very presence, scorning him whenever she could, making snide, bitter remarks here and there, clearly showing her distrust of Zuko. She never forgot his fatal choice in Ba Sing Se, the choice that led to her best friend being viciously killed in front of her own eyes.
When Zuko told her that he knew who killed her mother, however, her hatred became redirected towards Yon Rha, though her hardness of heart towards Zuko still remained.
In the final moment when she was about to take Yon Rha’s life, Aang’s words rang clear in her mind:
“Let your anger out, and then let it go. Forgive him.”
She spared Yon Rha, though she could never forgive him for what he had done to her mother.
But Zuko…he had changed. He had become much closer to their small group, never once betraying their trust and confidence in him, even helping Aang to learn Firebending and aiding Sokka in rescuing his father and girlfriend from the Boiling Rock.
On Ember Island, as she sat out on that dock, looking up at the setting crimson sun with mournful eyes as her feet lazily kicked the water below, Aang’s words again rang clear in her mind:
“Let your anger out, and then let it go. Forgive him.”
Zuko didn’t deserve her hatred or her bitterness anymore, for he had indeed changed himself for the better.
On that fateful day, she made peace with her once hated enemy, embracing him and forgiving him, accepting him for who he was now and not what he used to be.
Their friendship grew from that day onward, culminating on the climatic day of Sozin’s Comet when Zuko threw himself in front of Azula’s lightning bolt to save Katara.
He had nearly given his own life just to save her, the Water Tribe girl who was once his enemy, the Waterbender who for the longest time wanted to make him pay for his mistake in Ba Sing Se. In an act of unbelievable valor and courage, he sacrificed himself to save her life, so that she would hopefully live on in a peaceful world.
This very fact alone was what brought tears to Katara’s dazzling sapphire eyes, unafraid as the droplets slid down her face.
She wasn’t afraid to cry in front of Zuko now, for he had done more than earn her trust: he had gained her undying friendship, the right to know that she was touched by his actions, grateful for what he had done. She trusted him with her life, and now she had returned the favor by saving his.
As she opened her eyes, she sincerely said, “I think I’m the one who should be thanking you.”
And she meant what she said with all of her heart.
Katara and Zuko: the truest of friends, born from the worst of enemies.
This scene right here nearly made me lose it. I’m not even kidding, my chest was hurting and I could feel myself about to cry.
Korra is trying so hard to do her duty as the Avatar, but each new day presents yet another challenge for her to overcome. Not only is she trying to master Airbending, but she’s also trying to stop the Equalist Revolution, constantly dealing with Tarrlok and his nefarious schemes, and trying to find her own path as the Avatar, all while trying to keep the few friends she has and just trying to be a teenager.
With Republic City at war, Korra feels that she’s failed as an Avatar. She feels that if she could only master Airbending and become a fully-realized Avatar, she could bring an end to Amon and the Equalist Revolution. The problem is, she can’t master Airbending because of this persistent block she’s been having with her Airbending, a part of who she is as the Avatar. With a part of her essentially missing, she doesn’t feel like a true Avatar.
Not only that, but the situation in Republic City keeps deteriorating, both with the Equalists and with Tarrlok. In her mind, the things she’s dealing with now don’t even hold a candlelight to what Aang did when he defeated Ozai and ended the Hundred Year War. Aang mastered the four elements before he was even 13; here she is, 17 years old, and still unable to master Airbending. She’s frustrated and she’s angry that she can’t master Airbending, and she feels like she’s failing all of the past Avatars because of that. Korra feels overwhelmed by the things Aang did in his life, and she feels that she’ll never be able to live up to his incredible legacy.
But even more than that, she feels alone.
Even with her living with Tenzin and his family, she feels alone.
Even with her friends now living with her, she feels alone.
Even with the possibility of contacting her past lives, she feels alone.
Korra knows that there’s no way her friends could understand what she’s going through, both personally and as the Avatar. Pema and the kids certainly wouldn’t know what to do to help her, and even Tenzin can’t tell her how to be the Avatar; only her past lives can tell her how to be the Avatar, but she can’t contact them. At all.
She’s always trying to put on such a brave face, always trying to inspire confidence in others that she really knows what she’s doing. Deep down inside, however, she feels lost and confused. Why can’t she master Airbending? Why can’t she contact her past lives? Why is Aang’s spirit trying to contact her? How can she possibly deal with both the Equalist Revolution and with Tarrlok? How can she possibly find her own path as the Avatar when nothing but darkness lies ahead of her?
She has so many questions running through her mind, and she desperately wants answers to those questions. Sadly, however, there’s no one to answer those questions for her. The advice and counsel of her past lives are unavailable to her; her mentor, while familiar with the spiritual side of the Avatar, can’t possibly give her the answers she needs; Tenzin’s family, practically her adopted family, couldn’t possibly find a way to console and comfort her; even her friends, the only friends she’s ever had, wouldn’t know what to say to help her be a better Avatar.
She tries so hard to be strong, to not crack in front of others. However, that façade breaks into a veil of sadness and despair when she goes off to stare at Aang’s statue. Even though she’s cried in front of Tenzin before, she refuses to cry in front of anyone else. She feels that she can only express her true feelings when she’s alone, isolated from the madness of the world around her. The weight of her Avatar responsibilities is bearing down so hard on her young shoulders, and it was only a matter of time before she broke.
Even when she’s surrounded by friends and allies, she feels completely and utterly alone in her struggle.
Even the mightiest mountain must crumble, and Korra certainly did crumble in this heartbreaking moment.