How could people watch the Ember Island Players, where one of the main “jokes” of the play is the idea that Katara would fall in love with Zuko as she is hunting her and team avatar down, and still think Zutara should have been canon? She absolutely has agency in that relationship. It’s clear that, to Aang, this is no joking matter - and that means it’s quickly going to become more serious for the audience as well, as we soon move into what might be the episode’s most controversial scene, and certainly the one that has the largest dramatic impact on the actual narrative of the show. Obviously we can’t have any actual Kataang resolution in this episode - we have to save that for the finale. 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Even early on, though, he exhibited some hesitation. If the Zuko/Katara/Aang triangle is just a product of silly fans and doesn’t actually exist in the show, then there’s no need to make such a big deal of it. As the storyteller, The Ember Island Players have all the power to portray Team Avatar as evil (it could've incorporated the cabbage merchant's bias for instance), but it doesn't. And then, when the gaang returns to the theater for the final act of the play with the seating arrangements now reshuffled, we get one last awkward reaction shot of Aang and Katara when their stage counterparts declare their platonic affection for each other. According to the play, Zuko captured Aang, who was later freed by the Blue Spirit. This is the chance for these characters to have a frank conversation about where they stand and what the nature of their relationship should be. Puan Tin wanted to make the Avatar's adventures easier to consume, entertain the audience and let them form a positive bond with the team. When Katara goes to find Aang, he confronts her about what her actress counterpart said, and we finally, after fifty-six episodes, get a scene where Aang and Katara directly talk about their relationship. This was especially evident by Aang finding an alternate way to defeat Fire Lord Ozai, rather than take his life (which most people in the world would've found justified). I’m not going to use this post to make claims about secret Zutara subtext, or even argue the merits of Zutara as a ship, really. That made them enemies. It’s just…Aang: (rudely interrupts) Just what, Katara?! Pictured: Artist’s reconstruction of Zutara fan fic c. December 1, 2006. Katara dismisses what her actress counterpart said in the play, but admits she’s confused about her own feelings. But despite Zuko's charge, he was never fully committed to the idea of taking down the Avatar. In fact, arguably this scene is a better casual dismissal of Zutara than it is a setup of the last-minute Kataang endgame. The Ember Island Players may be performing Fire Nation propaganda, but its intentions are more in favor of Team Avatar. Fair enough. (Or: The best time for a Zutara Rant™ is all the time.). Related: Avatar: The Last Airbender Timeline Explained (Including Legend of Korra). His sources include singing nomads, pirates, prisoners of war and a surprisingly knowledgeable merchant of cabbage.” Counterintuitive to propaganda research, the playwright travelled the world, interviewing an array of people who interacted with the Avatar instead of pulling from a single or fabricated source. Katara: Aang, don’t walk away from this. (Let it never be said that Zutara has the monopoly on silly tropes.) The silliest of enemies-to-lovers tropes have always had their place in Zutara fandom. Aang relents, and sits on the other side of Zuko. When Aang returned to Katara and Sokka later on, he refrained from telling them what he found out. Aside from the fact that I was rooting for Zutara (we were all rooting for you! Share. The Ember Island Players empathize with Team Avatar; it shares our fandoms and ships; it compels the team to reflect because of its performance. The Ember Island Players may be performing Fire Nation propaganda, but its intentions are more in favor of Team Avatar. RELATED: Avatar: The Most Overlooked Bending Art Is Actually The Most Powerful. Then again, there is a little part of me wondering how much of it was calculated. On the contrary, the play portrays Fire Lord Ozai as a prime example of caricatured evil. In the episode, the titular acting troupe put on a fairly accurate rendition of Team Avatar's major adventures in its play, The Boy in the Iceberg. The Blue Spirit was a force for good; Zuko never used firebending while in costume, instead choosing to wield two swords (after being taught who to fight with swords by Master Piandao). Rather than a throwaway gag, the seating shenanigans and dramatic weight given to Aang’s insecurities make the on-stage Zutara romance a central feature of the episode. Heck, Zuko even takes on a sort of a partner caretaker role in the group. If the idea of this subplot wasn’t explicitly to give Zutara shippers false hope and set them up for disappointment, it may yet have been the last effort to throw kerosene on the fire of the ship wars before the show’s finale. I would chalk it up to bad writing and character development, but that’s not how they’ve treated Katara (or really, any of their female characters) in the past. A one-stop shop for all things video games. According to Zuko, the Ember Island actors are notorious for butchering its plays. In such an episode, it would be almost impossible to avoid at least alluding to the ship wars, which for those of you not part of the fandom back then, were absolutely massive. According to the poster, Puan Tin gathered information on the Avatar “from the South Pole to the heart of Ba Sing Se. The first is that subsequent moments in the episode where the characters comment on the play involve both Katara and Zuko interacting with each other, and Zuko and Aang interacting with each other, making it most effective for Zuko to be seated between Katara and Aang for blocking purposes. The other reason is that this moment of making a fuss over seating arrangements sets up early on what is actually going to be a significant theme addressed in the episode - the question of whether Zuko is going to figuratively come between Aang and Katara the way he literally does here. When Commander Zhao captured Aang and held him at Pohuai Stronghold, Zuko broke into the compound disguised as the Blue Spirit and freed Aang. This isn’t a shy kiss-or-die scenario. This was something he struggled with for the entirety of the series, before he ultimately made his choice and sided with Team Avatar. The actors have developed a connection with the team and become part of a meta-fandom. Zuko gets jealous seeing Jet and Katara on stage, leading to an argument in the interval after THAT crystal catacombs scene. They did not have a reputation for quality acting, but they took themselves seriously and almost always packed the house. In practical terms, there are two things that justify this gag beyond a bit of awkward humor. She puts her English degree to work by over-analyzing themes and literary devices in everything she watches or reads. With his Joker-like makeup and sinister evil laugh, the Fire Lord actor makes his egomaniacal motives for world domination clear. I definitely feel that EIP fits into the Bryke-school of writing romance, where they try to make it a “plot-twist” that comes out of nowhere, rather than develop it properly and have it make sense (because that’s difficult). As for just why the play would be more comedic than serious and avoid adopting the tone of Avatar: The Last Airbender in key areas, one practical explanation is that Puan Tin is a foreign writer with Fire Nation sponsorship; he wouldn't exactly want to bite the hand that feeds him. On My Way to Steal Yo…Seat: Ember Island Players & Zutara Shipbaiting (Or: The best time for a Zutara Rant™ is all the time.) They support each other emotionally and in battle. This is the first and last time we ever see Katara address the possibility of her romantic feelings for Aang, until they kiss in the final seconds of the very last episode, her confusion apparently resolved off-screen. However, an explosion went off near them during their escape, which knocked Zuko unconscious - and Aang took this opportunity to unmask his savior, revealing Zuko was the Blue Spirit.