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Katara, with Zuko's help, confronts the man who killed her mother.

"I'll never forgive him. But I am ready to forgive you."
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Our heroes are woken explosively by the arrival of a fleet of Fire Nation airships, with Azula at their head. Zuko buys time by facing her one-on-one, completing his integration into The Gaang, who now seem to have no further reservations about his presence; he even jokes about chasing Aang around for old time's sake. Only Katara continues to resist, explaining that she won't forgive him and the Fire Nation for all they've done.

That night, Zuko goes to Sokka for advice and is treated to a Flashback of how their mother Kya was killed during a Fire Nation attack on the Southern Water Tribe. The next morning, Zuko offers to help Katara hunt down those who slew her mother. Sokka and Aang are hesitant, the Avatar in particular stressing that forgiveness and not violence will bring peace, but when Aang discovers Katara preparing to steal Appa if necessary, he relents and lets them go.

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Using Zuko's knowledge of Fire Nation communication channels, they identify the division which was responsible for Kya's murder, The Southern Raiders. From there, they track down the group's retired captain, Yon Rha, who now lives with his overbearing mother. Upon being confronted with this vengeful Waterbender, he expresses incredulity: he was dispatched to the Southern Water Tribe to kill their only living Waterbender, which Kya claimed to be. Katara prepares the killing blow... only to stop at the last moment, deciding that this shriveled, pitiful man doesn't even deserve death.

Back at the camp, Katara admits that she couldn't bring herself to kill Yon Rha to Aang with him telling her how proud he is that she was able to forgive and that it will help her heal. However she shakes her head, saying coldly "I didn't forgive him. I'll never forgive him." Katara then turns to Zuko and says "But I am ready to forgive you" before hugging him finally allowing the two to become friends. Zuko tells Aang that he was right and violence wasn't the answer for Katara and the Avatar tells him that it never is.

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However Zuko has only one question to that: what is Aang going to do when it's time to face the Fire Lord?


Tropes:

  • Adult Fear: Hakoda's situation when Kya died. He's fending off invaders to his home, and little Katara comes. She's calling for help and explaining that a strange man is in their home. Hakoda goes Oh, Crap! and runs to find Kya, only to find her body.
  • Ambiguous Situation: In-Universe. Katara herself doesn't know for certain if her sparing Yon Rha was a sign of weakness or strength.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The episode ends with one courtesy of Zuko.
    Zuko: You were right about what Katara needed. Violence wasn't the answer.
    Aang: It never is.
    Zuko: So I have a question for you: what are you going to do when you face my father?
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: Zuko has a visible Oh, Crap! reaction when Katara demonstrates that she can bend people's bodily fluids to control their bodies. And considering that a few episodes Katara was threatening to kill him if he ever betrayed Aang, he realizes she was holding back on how she could do it.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Katara, despite having previously vowed never to use bloodbending again, uses it against the current leader of the Southern Raiders, believing him to be the man who murdered her mother. This technique even momentarily catches Zuko off-guard, before he regains his focus and continues to question the man.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: When enraged, Katara's waterbending is so powerful and so precise that she can halt individual raindrops mid-fall and then turn them into a swarm of deadly ice-daggers.
  • Blade Brake: Azula does this with her hairpin.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: On one hand, Aang warns Katara that revenge will destroy her personally if she pursues it. On the other hand, Zuko does not sugar-coat how unrealistic it is to forgive a murderer, especially when the murderer in question kills a loved one in cold blood. In the end, Katara accepts both points. She decides to not allow revenge to consume her and not kill Yon Rha because she knows that it won’t bring her mother back; at the same time, she doesn’t forgive Yon Rha (and makes it clear she will never forgive him) because he still murdered her mother.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While she spares him, Katara admits she will never forgive Yon Rha, meaning her pain will never entirely go away. On the other hand, the episode’s adventure helps her finally forgive Zuko, now that she can heal from her past scars. Meanwhile, Zuko wonders that if violence isn't the answer, then how will Aang face Ozai?
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Played with. Initially, Yon Rha doesn't recognize Katara from anywhere. But when she coerces him to remember, he does have a strong enough recollection to recognize her as the meek little daughter of the woman he killed years ago.
  • Cain and Abel: Now that they're on opposite sides, the need for subtlety is gone (and the start of Azula's mental deterioration in the previous episode certainly didn't help matters).
    Zuko: What are you doing here?
    Azula: Isn't it obvious yet? I am about to celebrate becoming an only child!
  • Call-Back:
    • Aang references "The Desert" when he tells Katara he knows better than anyone what it's like to be consumed with grief and vengeance at losing a loved one.
    • Katara doesn't trust Zuko because he made her father leave again just after they reunited, and that last time he led Azula to them was back in Ba Sing Se.
  • Call to Agriculture: Subverted by Yon Rha, who is living a miserable life with a shrew of a mother.
  • Character Development: Zuko and Katara get this the most.
    • Unlike his previous Never My Fault Hot-Blooded mode, Zuko uses his head to find out what was really bothering Katara rather than try to complete either Impossible Task that she sets for him. He knows that Ba Sing Se was his fault, but liberating it would be impossible; he goes with plan B, to help Katara find closure about her mother's death.
    • Katara allies with Zuko to find her mother's killer, talking with Aang that she needs to go on this quest to find closure. She's horrified on learning that she blood-bended the wrong man, and gives Yon Rha a chance to explain himself before terrifying him. Katara realizes that he's too pathetic to kill and leaves him to cry in the rain, while forgiving Zuko for his past misdeeds.
    • In the least, Aang does get one such moment. While he normally tries to shoehorn people to see the light, he allows Katara to borrow Appa, understanding that she needs to confront her mother's killer in order to find closure.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Katara is not amused and tells him to Please Get Off Me when Zuko lies on top of her after he performed a Diving Save to save her life.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Katara is still pretty upset towards Zuko and his decisions prior to the episode (especially breaking her trust back at Ba Sing Se). Thanks to Sokka, Zuko figures out why she's upset and offers to join her in fulfilling her vengeance on the man who killed her (and Sokka's) mother. After they confront him and Katara finds herself unable to bring herself to exacting her revenge, she finally forgives Zuko and hugs him at the end.
  • Dirty Coward: Yon Rha, and how! Oh sure, he's all high and mighty when he has a helpless (non-bending) Water Tribe mother at his mercy to murder, and he has no problem acting mean and nasty towards the scared eight-year-old Katara at the time. But when faced with that "same little girl" older, angrier and at the peak of her water-bending prowess, he's sprawled out on the ground begging for mercy. Not to mention he offers up his own elderly (if abusive) mother to save his own skin. This is at the core of why Katara finds him all too pathetic to kill.
  • Disturbed Doves: These alert Aang to the first of the incoming bombs.
  • Diving Save: Zuko knocks Katara out of the path of some falling debris.
  • Dramatic Irony: Kya told Yon Rha she was the last waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe, but Katara (and the audience) knows that could not be further from the truth.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Rolls when Katara confronts Yon Rha.
  • Easily Forgiven: Aang tries to invoke this by 'forgiving' Katara for trying to steal Appa, in vain hope it will set an example for her. It doesn't work on her.
    • In fact, it's notably averted in the end when Katara, despite sparing him, does not forgive Yon Rha (nor will she ever).
  • Empathic Environment: An ominous thunderstorm rolls over the hills as Yon Rha walks back from the market.
  • Everyone Has Standards: From the very beginning, Sokka has hated the Fire Nation. Even around the start of the third season, he says he and the Gaang are now in enemy territory. However, he sees no benefit in getting revenge on Yon Rha, even though the man killed his and Katara’s mother.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: Katara gains some when flying Appa overnight. Zuko was concerned that she should get some sleep, but she doesn't want to as she was too angry.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: Unsurprisingly, the world that has platypus-bears, wolfbats, and flying bison also has "tomato-carrots."
  • Flashback: Sokka, and later Katara telling Zuko about the fateful day when they lost their mother during a Fire Nation raid.
  • Foreshadowing: Azula's brief appearance in the start has her slightly more psychotic and uncontrolled that normal in the wake of Mai and Ty Lee's betrayal, foreshadowing the events of the finale.
  • Forgiveness: Played with; while Katara does decide not to get revenge on Yon Rha for the death of her mother, she doesn't forgive him and makes it clear she will never forgive him. However, the whole adventure finally allows her to forgive Zuko and accept him as a member of Team Avatar.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Zuko goes to Sokka for advice, the latter's evidently preparing for some sort of meeting with Suki. At night. In the privacy of his own tent. With candles and flower petals. With no pants on. In a tableau that used to be the trope picture for "Ready for Lovemaking" (in case we needed to spell it out any further).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: It is revealed that Kya turned herself in as the last waterbender to save her daughter's life.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Katara comes very close to crossing this line, but holds herself back at literally the last second.
  • Impossible Task: When Zuko asks Katara what he can do to make up his earlier betrayal to her, she gives him two options: recapture Ba Sing Se in the name of the Earth King, or bring her mother back to life. He decides to Take a Third Option and figures out what really is bothering her— her mother's death— to give Katara closure.
  • Irony:
    • Katara keeps referencing "The Crossroads of Destiny," where Zuko betrayed her in favor of saving Azula and overthrowing Ba Sing Se. Fittingly, this episode is where Azula declares she wants to murder Zuko for the previous episode's humiliation and Zuko works to earn back Katara's trust.
    • On the fateful day he killed Kya, Yon Rha was out to kill the last waterbender in the southern tribe. But unknown to him at the time, the last waterbender left just moments ago, whilst he ended up killing the wrong one.
  • It's Personal: Katara steals the Gaang's ride and flies off after the Southern Raiders, despite Sokka pointing out that they're on a deadline, and actually tells Sokka to his face that he didn't love their mother as much as she did because he's not willing to take a huge detour to pursue a grudge. She gets over it by episode's end though.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Katara when pointing out to Zuko that the one time she trusted him, he betrayed her in Ba Sing Se; she doesn't even have to mention that Aang nearly died as a result. Zuko is stunned and actually can't contest that.
    • Aang notes that Katara is starting to sound like Jet when she wants to find Yon Rha and get revenge on him. Katara immediately retorts that she’s nothing like Jet because he attacked several innocent people who had nothing to do with his parents’ deaths while she only wants to go after the one man who’s guilty of her mother’s death.
    • While Zuko does mock Aang's pacifistic beliefs, he's not wrong to point out how hard and unrealistic it is to forgive a murderer, especially when they kill a loved one in cold blood. While he does concede that Aang was right that Katara getting revenge on Yon Rha wasn't the answer to her making peace with her mother's death, the episode ends with him asking Aang how he plans to defeat Ozai if he doesn't believe violence is the way to defeat him.
  • Kick the Dog: It's one thing for Katara to be venomous towards Zuko, but it's another thing when she accuses Sokka of not caring about their mother when he objects to her looking for their mother's murderer.
  • Lampshade Hanging: There's a bit of this when Katara marches up to Aang and requests the usage of Appa. Aang, noticing Zuko standing behind her, is quick to jokingly ask if it's her turn to "take a little field trip" with him, just as Aang and Sokka did in the preceding episodesnote . Katara's answer is a Blunt "Yes", which leaves Aang momentarily startled.
  • Large Ham: Azula's sheer joy at getting to "celebrate becoming an only child" makes her release her usual self-control a bit. While it's true she might have needed to shout to be heard at that distance anyway, it is quite clear that's not the reason for her hamminess at this point. It's clear that she's starting to go a bit crazy.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Katara discovers that karma beat her to Yon Rha a long time ago: his life is completely miserable and he's stuck farming with his overbearing, hateful mother. She points out he's nothing but a pathetic, empty person.
  • Let's Get Out of Here: Sokka tells Aang that they gotta get out of there when Azula arrives.
  • Moment of Weakness: Katara considers her trusting Zuko in Ba Sing Se this, where they bonded over not growing up with their mothers. She tells him if he wants to make up his betrayal to her, then either recapture Ba Sing Se since it was his fault it was overthrown, or bring her mother back to life. Zuko then understands that Katara hated how he took advantage of her vulnerability and works to show he can be trusted.
  • My Beloved Smother: Yon Rha's mother is so overbearing that he offers to let Katara kill her so she can claim Revenge by Proxy.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Katara is a pretty shaken when she realizes the Southern Raider who she just blood-bended is not the man who murdered her mother. Notably, she doesn't try blood-bending again even after affirming that the next man they confront is indeed her mother's killer.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Zuko and Sokka busting Hakoda and Suki out of the Boiling Rock meant that Azula wasted no time in tracking them down. She shows up before they have any time to properly evacuate.
  • No One Could Survive That!: lampshaded when Azula gets knocked into an apparently-bottomless pit: "She's not gonna make it," Zuko exclaims in equal parts apprehension and relief. She then uses a Blade Brake against a cliff wall and saves herself; "Of course she made it," Zuko says in equal parts disbelief and relief.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We don't see exactly what Yon Rha did to kill Kya. Poor little Katara did, though.
  • Not Worth Killing: Katara is unable to take revenge on such a pathetic person.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Zuko has this reaction when Katara demonstrates what blood-bending is on the man they assume is the killer.
    • Yon Rha audibly gulps when he recognizes Katara as the little girl whose mother he killed.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Katara still hasn't forgiven Zuko for betraying her in Ba Sing Se. While she's mad that he led Azula to their hiding place, separating her and Sokka from their father, she's visibly traumatized by how Aang nearly died and the Fire Nation won the war. Zuko realizes that she has a point — they did bond and she was vulnerable towards him — and decides to fix his mistake.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Katara hated the fact that she was tricked into learning bloodbending. The fact that she uses it here shows just how serious she is about possibly killing the man responsible for her mother's murder.
    • Azula's fighting style becomes slightly different. Not only is she using fists to swing her fire around (as opposed to two fingers to concentrate the blasts), she's also a fair bit sloppier than normal against Zuko.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Katara's motivation for this episode. She even cites this trope as the reason that she isn't like Jet, as the person she's after is anything but innocent.
  • Punch Parry: A pretty damn epic one between Zuko and Azula, as they're just about to shoot fire at each other. This results in a rather huge explosion.
  • Ready for Lovemaking: See Getting Crap Past the Radar above.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Katara gives a very potent one to Yon Rha. No more than he deserves.
  • Rejected Apology: Yon Rha acts remorseful for what he did to Katara's mother, but one can interpret he's only "sorry" because Katara was about to impale him. On the basis he won't regret it of his own accord, Katara will never ever forgive him.
  • Retired Monster: Yon Rha lives quietly (albeit miserably) with his mother after retiring from the Southern Raiders. It is clear that he does not regret his past at all.
  • Revenge by Proxy:
    • Yon Rha eagerly offers Katara this opportunity, but she turns it down after realizing how "pathetic" he is.
    • This is likely the reason why Yon Rha went against procedure and murdered Kya. Having such an abusive and hateful mother of his own, discovering that the "last waterbender" was a loving mother likely spurred him to vent his anger on Kya.
  • Spared, but Not Forgiven: What Katara ultimately decides to do to Yon Rha.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Happens to Azula during her fight with her brother.
  • Snow Means Death: A variant; while it presumably snows quite often in the south pole, it started snowing black snow—snow mixed with soot from the Fire Nation ships—on the day that Kya was killed.
  • Surprise Vehicle: Twice during the confrontation with Azula. First, it's Azula's surprise appearance on her airship and a little later it's Zuko pulling the same trick on her emerging on his Zeppelin behind her. Zeppelins produce little noise so these are justified examples.
  • Sword Drag: Azula stops her falling from the Zeppelin by sticking a dagger into the rock face.
  • Sword over Head: Katara has her mother's killer at her mercy but stops the finishing move because she cannot bring herself to commit this crime.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: After they are both blown off the blimp, Zuko is rescued by his friends while Azula is left to her fate tumbling into the endless ravine below. Zuko laments that Azula will not survive the plunge, only to stand corrected when Azula manages to break her fall.
  • This Is Reality: Aang tries to reason Katara not to pursue revenge using an allegory about handling a two-headed rat viper. Zuko has this to say:
    Zuko: That's cute, but this isn't Air Temple Preschool. It's the real world.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Maybe not by herself, but same thing. Aang may be opposed to Katara's quest for vengeance. Nonetheless, he relents and allows Katara to use Appa for it, seeing she needs to face her mother's killer in order to find closure.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Katara ends the episode without having forgiven her mother's murderer and emphatically stating that she never will.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Katara following Azula's ambush, a sign of her going down the path of He Who Fights Monsters; it's implied that she's angry at Zuko since he indirectly caused her father to leave again and blaming him for leading Azula to the Gaang to ambush them in the first place. She then deliberately goads Zuko to be modest about helping the Gaang when the others cheer him, calls out Zuko for expecting her to trust him given what happened in Ba Sing Se, and accuses Sokka of not loving their mother enough. Ouch... Fortunately, she finally calms down after finding closure, and being able to forgive Zuko.
  • Ungrateful Bitch: Katara is still being awful towards Zuko, even though he just helped to rescue her father and saved her from the falling rock.
    Zuko: I'll take that as a thank you.
  • Villains Want Mercy: The murderer begs Katara to spare him.
  • Visual Pun: The morning after, Sokka is fiddling with a necklace of flowers. To indicate that, you know, he got lei'd and/or that Suki was de-flowered.
  • We Are Not Going Through That Again: Katara gets hit with this twice thanks to Azula's attack:
    • First is that she knows Zuko and Sokka busted her father out of prison, and presumably that was explained during their reunion. Then Azula shows up and breaks up the happy family. Katara after they all escape gets furious with herself for trusting Zuko and remains cold to him, remembering that he and Azula are not a good combination.
    • Hakoda decides that the team needs to split up so that Azula can't recapture them. Katara protests this because she and Sokka just got their father back. She reluctantly agrees on realizing there is no choice.
  • You Killed My Father: Yon Rha was responsible for Kya's death. Because of this, Katara seems him out to get revenge for her mother’s death.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Zuko takes on his sister alone so that the others can escape.

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