Prince Zuko became Fire Lord Zuko at the end of the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series.

The Fire Nation was in tatters. Responsible for the enormous damages from the Hundred Year War, there was so much to make amends for. Fire Lord Zuko’s job, then, was no easy task!

Given the fact that he had undergone an epic redemption arc throughout the series, it would be reasonable to presume that he would go on to be an excellent, morally upright Fire Lord. Well, it certainly wasn’t the “happy-ever-after” that you might expect.

Zuko’s character arc took some more twists and turns before he eventually passed Fire Lord duties onto his daughter, Izumi.

In fact, Zuko flirted with villainousness a few more times before his reign came to a close. He made some notable mistakes and bad choices while in power.

But did that make him a bad Fire Lord? Let’s explore that question…

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Good Ruler: Fire Lord Zuko Revolutionized the Fire Nation

Clearly, Zuko’s greatest challenge as Fire Lord was to save the reputation of his nation. The damage left by his predecessors would take at least a couple of generations to repair – he had a lot of work to do.

His first actions as Fire Lord included removing all of Ozai’s previously loyal officials in government from their positions and replacing them with progressive-minded individuals.

Next, he agreed to help usher in the Harmony Restoration Movement. This movement set out to remove all the Fire Nation colonies from the Earth Kingdom (and beyond). It’s purpose was to give those communities back to the people they belonged to before the Fire Nation empire of the previous 100 years.

Funko Pop Avatar The Last Airbender Zuko with Lightning Glow

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Fiore Lord Zuko The Good Ruler: He Recognized His Own Flaws

Fire Lord Zuko, despite having clearly good intentions, harbored a serious anxiety about himself. He saw potential within himself to become something like his father.

Fire Lord Zuko told Avatar Aang:

“If you ever see me turning into my father, I want you to … I want you to end me!”

Zuko to Aang, Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise (graphic novel).

Aang agreed. Prior to being Fire Lord, Zuko had been obsessed with regaining his honor … now, he was obsessed with retaining it!

The Harmony Restoration Movement (Not So Harmonious!!)

One of the Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom, Yu Dao, resisted the Harmony Restoration Movement. When Zuko visited, he saw that the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom people had actually been living together harmoniously for many years.

In fact, some Earth and Fire people had bred and made families together.

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Good Ruler: Fire Lord Zuko Acted Based on Truth

Fire Lord Zuko, then, seeing folly in the idealistic Harmony Restoration Movement decided to revoke it.

This surprised Aang and Katara, who started a bit of a conflict with Zuko. But when Aang visited Yu Dao, he began to see the point that Zuko was making.

Bad Ruler: He Led the Fire Nation to War … again

Fire Lord Zuko became angry when the Earth Kingdom marched an army to Yu Dao in order to reclaim it. In response, he marched a Fire Nation army of his own to protect Yu Dao – threatening the possibility of another all-out with with the Earth Kingdom.

Fortunately, Avatar Aang intervened before the battle got too far out of hand.

Fire Lord Zuko turned to Aang, expecting him to fulfill the promise to “end” him if he became like his father. Leading an army to war, after all, was pretty Ozai-like!!

But Aang forgave Zuko, believing that he still had good intentions.

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Sidenote: He Found His Mother!

Fire Lord Zuko got back to his old ways and decided to undergo the search for his mother that he had wanted to undergo a long time before.

He permitted his sister, Azula, to come along with him. She blackmailed him with letters from their mother. In response, Fire Lord Zuko released her from the mental institution.

They found their mother in the village Hira’a. Zuko prevented the mentally unstable Azula from murdering her. After that, Azula escaped and disappeared for a while.

Fire Lord Zuko then took his mother and her new family home with him.

Challenges: The New Ozai Society

On the way home, the Fire Lord was ambushed by the New Ozai Society. Headed by Mai’s (Zuko’s girlfriend) father, Ukano, the society included Ozai’s old loyalists. They wanted to restore their old Fire Lord to the throne. Capturing Zuko was the first part of that plan.

Zuko escaped, but was faced with a number of assassination attempts in the following weeks/months.

Challenges: The Kemurikage

While the fire of the New Ozai Society raged, another problem arose for Zuko: the Kemurikage.

The Kemurikage was actually an old myth used by Fire Nation parents to scare misbehaving children. The story went that dark spirits – the Kemurikage – would kidnap and take away naughty kids.

After a series of kidnapping throughout the Fire Nation, the outlaws took Mai’s younger brother Tom-Tom … and Mai herself claimed to see the kidnappers. She said they looked like the Kemurikage.

As it turned out, Azula had banded together a team to help in her own mission. They had dressed up as the Kemurikage and started kidnapping kids.

Bad Ruler: He Forced the City into Lockdown

Zuko was growing extremely angry with the response of people in his kingdom to these events, and forcefully locked down the Nation.

In another confrontation with Azula, he was faced with some more harsh truths.

He expected that Azula wanted thr throne for herself; as it turned out, she wanted to change Zuko’s approach as Fire Lord.

She told him that she’d accepted that he destiny was not to become Fire Lord. So she had decided instead to influence Zuko into becoming a Fire Lord that ruled by fear. And judging by his behaviour recently, she felt she had succeeded in her mission.

Fire Lord Zuko succeeded in removing Azula’s Kemurikage threat and found the missing children. Then he reflected hard and eventually apologised to his nation for his poor behaviour of late. He promised to change his ways, once more.

Later Reign

Fire Lord Zuko’s decision to revoke the Harmony Restoration Movement turned out to be one of his best decisions as Fire Lord.

The example set by Yu Dao sowed the seeds for the future Republic City. That city would become the trading hub of the entire world, made up of people from all over the world. A monumental achievement, firmly in the contents of Zuko’s legacy.

Furthermore, Avatar Aang would regularly come to Fire Lord Zuko of Avatar-style advice. Zuko, it seems, became a wise soul akin to his Uncle Iroh!

Later on, Avatar Korra would also come to Zuko for advice. Of course, he obliged.

Abdicating the Throne

Zuko decided to pass the throne onto his daughter, Izumi. Decades of power was more than enough for him – especially since he didn’t actually want the throne in the first place.

Instead, Zuko took a role of simply ‘Lord’, in which he advocated world balance and protected the Avatar.

Legacy: Was Zuko a Good Fire Lord?

The answer is quite certainly yes. For sure.

Zuko made some mistakes – like heading to war with the Earth Kingdom, locking down the city in response to the Kemurikage. But what leader is ever void of mistakes?

Zuko was the perfect candidate for such a position of power, because he didn’t desire power. Azula desired power, and she would have made a vicious, horrible leader. The fact that Zuko had such a fear and wariness of what power can do to a person made him an excellent Fire Lord.

In the fictional Avatar universe, Zuko would certainly be remembered as an excellent Fire Lord. And to us fans, watching and reading the stories, I find it difficult to imagine that anybody would disagree with such an observation.

Zuko was a great Fire Lord! Let’s hope Izumi turns out just as good 😀

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