What happens to Azula and Fire Lord Ozai after ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender,’ and does Zuko’s mother appear in the sequel comics?

Azula and Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar The Last Airbender
Screengrab via Netflix/Nickelodeon

The ending of Avatar: The Last Airbender saw Aang able to reconcile his need to defeat Fire Lord Ozai with his belief that all life — even that of a genocidal imperialist dictator — is sacred. While the Avatar was taking away Ozai’s bending ability at the edge of the Earth Kingdom, Prince Zuko had returned to the Fire Nation to battle his sibling, the firebending prodigy Princess Azula, eventually defeating her with the help of Katara.

While the television series mostly wrapped up nicely, with the world beginning to rebuild and enter a new age of peace, there was still the question of what would happen to Ozai and Azula. Ozai, now powerless, still knew where Zuko’s banished mother might be. And Azula, although ruthless and evil, was just a teen, beholden to her family’s history and the demands placed on her. Thankfully, ATLA creators weren’t done with the story, meaning us lucky audience members only had to wait a short while for sequel comics to arrive and banish all that mystery.

If you watched the series and have been wondering what happened to Ozai and Azula after ATLA finished, then it’s your lucky day!

What happens to the Fire Lord after Avatar: The Last Airbender?

Screengrab via Netflix/Nickelodeon

After Aang took Ozai’s bending away, the former Fire Lord was placed in prison in the Fire Nation, set to live out his days in anonymity. However, the once-powerful ruler still had a few tricks up his sleeve, most notably his razor-sharp psychological weaponry.

We saw this uncanny ability to control and manipulate throughout the television series. The audience didn’t even glimpse the Fire Lord until the end of season two, and before that, most of his power was felt through his two children: the banished Zuko, desperate to please him, and the talented but wicked Azula, who’d been groomed to be just as merciless as her dad. His hold on the siblings, as well as the Fire Nation in general, was clear. The last time we see Ozai in ATLA is in his cell, when a newly crowned Fire Lord Zuko asks his incarcerated father where his former wife and Zuko’s mother is, showing us that even though he’s in prison, he still has some element of power over his son’s life.

The first time we see Ozai after the show really hammers this notion home. In a trilogy of comics called The Promise, we follow Zuko as he battles with what it means to be the Fire Lord. Once again, the internal fight between Zuko’s maternal and paternal lineage rears its head as he struggles between fixing the damage the Fire Nation did during the Hundred Year War while also making sure his people are treated fairly. Utterly confused and on the verge of helplessness, he goes to visit the only person who knows what it’s like to shoulder the weight of being Fire Lord: Ozai.

Ever the snake, Ozai seizes this opportunity to try and turn his son into his agent once more. He tells Zuko that as Fire Lord, his decision is correct and final regardless of what it is, ending with a harrowing bit of advice: “You are the Fire Lord. What you choose is, by definition, right.” Although this nearly tips Zuko and the Fire Nation back into war, the new Fire Lord is able to battle against his worst instincts and avoid rehashing his father’s mistakes.

We next run into Ozai during the comic series The Search. These follow Zuko’s search for his mother, Ursa, which itself is a story worthy of an entire article. During this time, we learn Ozai incorrectly believed Zuko wasn’t his biological son, which is why the former Fire Lord found it so easy to banish his teenage child from the Fire Nation.

Zuko does manage to track down Ursa and discovers he now has a half-sister named Kiyi. Eventually, he asks his mother to return to the Fire Nation — although this takes place in another comic named Smoke and Shadow. However, in a vivid and moving depiction of PTSD, the traumatized Ursa finds returning to the nation she was banished from brings back terrible memories she thought she’d managed to erase during her time away. Her fears are compounded when Azula kidnaps Kiyi and a group of other kids, but thankfully, Zuko manages to save the day.

After all of this, Ursa finally decides to face her fears and goes to see Ozai in prison. At first, the former Fire Lord is his usual disdainful self, but this quickly morphs into him throwing a tantrum, trying to launch around a power he no longer has. Finally seeing her ex-husband as impotent and caged allows her to let go of much of the fear she’d been holding since her return. In a powerful final glimpse of Ozai, we see the former despot screaming from inside his cell, while Ursa walks away. We can only imagine the ex-Fire Lord is left to rot in his cell, his legacy disappearing as his power once did.

What happens to Azula after Avatar: The Last Airbender?

Screengrab via Netflix/Nickelodeon

While Ozai was universally considered to be irredeemably evil, his daughter and Zuko’s sister Princess Azula was a more interesting case. She’d shown a vindictive and narcissistic streak, as well as the capacity to commit great evil, but how much of that was in her nature vs. the evil nurturing of her father? And would she have turned out differently had she not been convinced her mother despised her? Plus, there was no doubt that by the end of ATLA, she’d had a full-on mental breakdown, so ethically speaking, were her crimes even worthy of the most severe punishment?

In The Search, newly crowned Fire Lord Zuko doesn’t imprison his sister like their father, instead opting to send her to a mental institution for a year. However, this doesn’t last as Zuko realizes he needs her help to discover more about the whereabouts of their mother. He sends her to go and see their father, in the hope she would be able to pry some information out of him, but she instead sees this as an opportunity to escape.

During her meeting with Ozai, the former Fire Lord reveals to his daughter he has secret chambers that contain a number of important items, most notably old letters from Ursa. She heads to the hidden room and reads the letters, before burning them to a crisp. Ever the manipulator, Azula then convinces her brother he’ll only be able to find their mom with her help. Hoping he’s coaxed out her better nature, Zuko agrees to let her come with him and the rest of Team Avatar in a quest to find Ursa.

Despite her uncanny ability to get her way, Azula is still plagued by mental issues, most notably horrific visions of her mother. She comes to believe Ursa is behind everything bad that’s ever happened to her, from Mai and Ty Lee’s betrayal to the fact Zuko became Fire Lord. Things only get worse when Azula realizes she now has a step-sister. She confronts her mother and accuses Ursa of trying to replace her with a new daughter, before trying to murder Ursa.

However, Ursa shows a capacity for love and reflection often missing in the Fire Lord bloodline, and apologizes to Azula for not showering her with enough care. The usually emotionless princess bursts into tears, giving Zuko enough time to intervene and make sure his mother and half-sister are safe. The siblings once again do battle, with Azula letting Zuko know she could have killed him at any point during their search for Ursa. Zuko, getting to grips with his responsibilities and power, takes the high road. He tells Azula that they will always be siblings. The show of emotion is enough to stop the talented princess from fighting, but it isn’t all roses: she flees, ignoring Zuko’s pleas to stay and let him help her get better.

Azula makes an important comeback in Smoke and Shadow as the leader of a group of rogue firebenders from the mental institution Zuko placed her in. This group pretends to be the Kemurikage, famous Fire Nation spirits, and while in disguise, tries to convince Mai’s father Ukano, who’s still loyal to Ozai, to overthrow Zuko. After he fails, Azula and her followers begin abducting children from the Fire Nation in an attempt to destabilize her brother’s reign. They eventually incite a riot, which leads to a final battle between the two siblings.

Azula manages to overpower Zuko, who uses what he thinks are his last words to tell her she’ll never be Fire Lord. In a shocking turn of events, Azula lets her brother go and informs him she’s aware that her destiny isn’t to be the ruler of the Fire Nation, but instead to mold Zuko into becoming a more ruthless and fear-mongering leader, who rules with an iron fist. She then disappears in smoke, leaving her ambiguous and terrifying legacy intact.