I finally got a chance to watch the Avatar finale, having not had the opportunity to do so the entire day. I have to say, I had mixed feelings knowing this was the conclusion of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I was dreading it, not only because I knew the pairings I love so much will most likely be proven non-canon, but also because I feared the fate of Princess Azula, who is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing characters I've ever come across in cartoons, anime, and books.
It's hard to put into words what it was like, after having watched the trailers leading up to the event, after getting spoiled by the untimely release of the children's book: "Sozin's Comet". Though I knew in advance that she would not die, it was not a complete insurance, as the book glosses over the more thrilling details.
To say that watching this character go down was hard, would be an understatement. It was heart-wrenching, seeing someone fall so high from grace, and moreso, bound in chains by someone who had no right to interfere in a matter that was strictly family business. Though there will be those that say she deserved such an ending, tied and caged, and struggling to be free; her actions mimicking those of an animal trying to escape from an inevitable demise, there will be others that claim she is nothing more than what she summed herself up to be: A monster.
It's a funny thing when you watch Avatar. The characters seem to jump out at you, they come to life until you almost believe they're real. Maybe they are. Their experiences, their trials, their pain, isn't something new or unheard of. You see things that happened to them happen every single day. Children who lost a mother, an orphan who lost his family, a girl who was caged all her life, a boy who could never gain his father's love, and a girl who could never gain her mother's.
There are a number of lessons that could be taken from Avatar, but I think the most important one of all, is to remember what a parent means to a child. There is no one who can ever replace a mother. There is no one who can give unconditional love and warmth such as a mom. It's sometimes easy to forget that; more often than not, it's taken for granted. You think your child knows you love them, it goes without saying that you do, but that is where parents often err. To assume a child knows that you love them is expecting too much. You have to constantly tell them, constantly show them, because if you don't, your child will end up thinking the opposite, and it will not bode well for either party.
To those who say Azula deserved her end, I'd like to say that there's a fine line between pain and illness. For a character such as her, I'd like to add that there's also a fine line between repression and sociopathic. That she got what she deserved is certainly true. Her actions were not kind ones, her motives were selfish and cruel, but to blame it all on her, saying she is a monster and psychotic is merely a way of dismissing the layers that make up the human psyche. It's impossible to say, had someone else been in her shoes, they would have reacted differently. There is no more truth to that than saying she never cared for her mother's feelings about her.
Our actions define who we are, but our actions are also influenced by what happens in our lives. And to assume that she is solely responsible for everything she's done is to negate everything that has happened to her up until this point.
In her defense, I will only say: She didn't deserve to go down the way she did, in the hands of a stranger who knew nothing about her.