Avatar: The Last Airbender may have ended in 2008, but the characters and stories of that world live on in popularity and fandom to this day. While the show concluded with happiness and sunshine, many disagree with the coupling of Avatar Aang and Katara. Sure, it seems natural to have the leading lady end up with the hero, right? Not always, and many Avatar fans would argue that the real couple we should have been Zuko and Katara, collectively called Zutara. The series catered to this idea on more than one occasion, and factions of the fan-base love the idea immensely. Many of those fans will be celebrating the annual “Zutara Week” from August 14 to the 20, making this a perfect time to look at eight reasons Zuko and Katara should have ended up together.
1. The Show Has Suggested The Idea
References to Zuko and Katara being a couple were a reoccurrence in the show. Whether it was June the bounty hunter or the Ember Island Players, many people in the world of the Avatar made note of the potential Zutara had. The Ember Island Players not only portrayed Zuko and Katara to be in love during their production of "The Boy in the Iceberg," they also showed Katara likening her love for Aang as that of one towards a brother. The idea that others would assume or suggest Katara and Zuko are together is not surprising. Not only do the two have mixed like-hate tension between them, but they are also about the same age and they look good together.
2. It Would Have Made For A More Interesting Story For Katara
Imagine Zuko, now the Fire Lord, establishing his reign in a new era of peace with the love of his life — the waterbending peasant and BFF of the Avatar — Katara. That is right, the hero saves the day but doesn’t get the girl, the antagonist with a newly-turned-over leaf does. It would have been a more interesting and unprecedented direction to go in. It also would have demonstrated how much Zuko and Katara had developed and how drastically things had changed in their world. For many, this would have been preferable to having Katara just sort of give up and settle for being with Aang. Not only was this expected, but also it didn’t play well. Katara all but threw her hands up, said a few lines of the “right thing” and endured a kiss without visibly flinching, unlike last time. If that wasn’t enough for you, she went on to raise children with an all but completely absent Avatar hubby.
If Katara and Zuko had coupled up, Aang would have been free early on to explore the world and his role as the Avatar. Granted, there would have been some new tension back home when the three of them collaborate to create a more peaceful, post-war world. This would have allowed Aang to develop without relying on Katara all the time, and that would have relieved Katara of a lot of unnecessary loneliness later on.
3. That Last Point Goes For Zuko, Too
That’s right, Katara wasn’t the only one who seemed to surrender to the fate of a relentless would-be lover at the series’ end — Zuko and Mai shared a similar fate. When last we saw, Mai was in prison and Zuko had forgotten about her. She shows up at the end and he just accepts the impending commitment, much like Katara. This further highlights the potential that Katara and Zuko had, especially in the wake of the battle they had just fought together against Azula. It would have been less surprising to see Zutara come to fruition than to see the two of them getting together with Aang and Mai. It could be inferred that Zuko understood Katara was going to shack up with Aang now that he saved the world, so he hedged his bets and slapped on a smile for his recently incarcerated Mai.
4. Katara Likes Bad Boys
Katara certainly has a type, and it is not young Avatars. Early on we noticed that this particular waterbender fancies bad boys, especially ones that come with a hint of impending betrayal. Often considered a prelude to Zutara, “Jetara” was Katara’s first relationship and the start of her bad boy trend. Unlike Zuko, Jet showed his best traits first, luring in Katara with his charm and rebellious nature. He soon fell out of her good graces with his sociopathic-like willingness to harm innocent people in an effort to combat the Fire Nation. Katara’s interest in Jet was arguably the kickoff point for fan recognition of her taste in men and the behavior she exhibits when she is in love.
5. They See Each Other As Equals
Katara is the mother figure of the “Gaang.” This is recognized by the group, as illustrated when Sokka explains the dynamics of the team to Toph in The Blind Bandit. Zuko, an outsider to this group, comes into the fold late enough that he does not fall under the umbrella of characters that Katara mothers. Their relationship consists of a new, different, and complex dynamic. It is one that allows for the two of them to see each other as equals.
6. They Have An Interesting And Believable Love Story
When Zuko and Katara were imprisoned in the catacombs in The Crossroads of Destiny, Katara was initially, and rightfully, hostile. Soon, the two bonded over the realization that they both lost their mothers to the Fire Nation. This allowed Katara to start seeing Zuko as something more than the enemy — she saw him as a person, hurt and alone. In an intimate moment, Zuko allowed Katara to touch his scar. Now seeing her enemy as someone she can relate to, Katara offered to heal the scar with spirit water. Before things could progress, Aang and Iroh crashed the party. As Katara exits with Aang, she looks back over her shoulder at Zuko, seemingly hurt. Zuko, also in anguish, betrayed Katara and Iroh by joining forces with Azula. Katara held onto her anger, struggling over Zuko’s deception and the emotional vulnerability he elicited from her. Her contempt for him continued through to his joining the Gaang in Season 3, when it eventually dissipated in the wake of their new, closer relationship.
Opposite to this, Aang has developed feelings for Katara, and there is good reason for that. Katara was the first woman Aang saw when he was freed from the iceberg. Much like a baby turtle-duck, he imprinted on Katara instantly. During their adventures he was childish and often carefree, with Katara frequently holding his hand and keeping him focused on his journey. Unlike Zuko and Katara’s potential for love, which grew over time and through experiences good and bad, Aang’s love for Katara was really misplaced love and affection for a mother figure. The love that Aang keeps pressing on Katara comes from a place of misunderstanding of what love actually is, which is not his fault.
7. Zuko Learns To Respect Katara, Aang Should Try It
Respect and trust are huge aspects of any relationship. Over the course of the three Avatar books, Zuko and Katara developed these things mutually. Aang, on the other hand, often acted childish in how he treated Katara. This can be seen when Zuko offers to take Katara to find her mother’s killer. He offers to do this because he wants to right a wrong, help her gain closure, and he trusts her to make the right choice. Aang demands that Katara not go, attempting to take away her right to make her own choice because he does not trust her. Zuko, like Aang, seemed to yearn for closeness to Katara, though he sought to get that through less inappropriate and entitled ways.
Zuko does not seek to validate his need to be with her through physical means, rather he listens to her and respects what she says. Aang rarely listens to Katara, which is why he has little understanding of the appropriate ways to approach her. A glaring example of this is the unwanted kiss he forced on Katara on Ember Island. While Aang can’t seem to put Katara’s feelings ahead of his own, Zuko takes what Katara says to heart more often than not. When Katara shows up in his room when he first joins the Gaang, she threatens him. He cares enough to listen to her, not just hear her and then do what he wants. He makes a noticeable effort to integrate into the group and, more specifically, earn back Katara’s trust without being overbearing. The growth of trust and respect that Zuko and Katara develop through unforced trial-and-error is what makes up the love that Zutara is born out of.
8. They Share A Mutual Understanding Of Each Other’s Dark Sides
If the law of opposites attract holds true, then Katara and Zuko are brought together by their power over the opposing elements of water and fire, respectively (Watch the two battle it out in the live-actin movie scene beow). Later in the series, they proved to fight well together in battle, whether they were fighting Melon Lord or Azula. They also understand the darker sides of their elements, and are not so quick to judge each other. A prime example of this is when Zuko watches Katara bloodbending in a fit of vengeance. He is surprised, but he also lets her work it out. He knows where she is — he has been there himself. They share this understanding of their mutual potential for darkness, a side of themselves that is perhaps harder for Katara to confront as she is often the voice of reason and a “goody two shoes.” With Zuko, she can be her more honest self because she is in the company of a kindred spirit.
The tale of Avatar: The Last Airbender is not just a love story, it is about saving the world, responsibility, growing up, and following your path. Romantic elements in Avatar, while not the primary theme, are part of what fans identify with and love. Looking beyond the Avatar canon, you will find clear depictions of what fans acknowledge as their own canon, like Zutara love stories. Many fans are genuinely disgusted by the idea of Aang and Katara getting together. Some cite their age difference as a reason, while others note the aforementioned mother-son relationship. While it is true that the creators planned on Aang and Katara falling in love, there is a whole fan-made world where Zuko and Katara have the relationship that they should have had in the official canon of Avatar: The Last Airbender.