Avatar: The Last Airbender Fans Are Sharing Their Love For Iroh

Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image via Nickelodeon Animation Studio

When Avatar: The Last Airbender hit Netflix it immediately jumped to the top of the service’s top-ranked shows list, both due to existing fans revisiting it after enjoying it in their younger years, and other people discovering it for the first time and realizing what they’d missed. The core of the series features the young Avatar Aang traveling the world to learn all he needs to tap into the potential of his elemental power and bring balance to a turbulent time, but fans are now truly appreciating how indispensable Iroh is.

His early portrayal is often seen through the eyes of Zuko, who perceives his uncle as a doddering old fool spouting pseudo-philosophical gibberish when he’s trying to focus his determination to hunt down Aang to regain the family honor stripped from him. However, over time it becomes apparent that Iroh’s calm and quiet strength is the kind of influence the prince needs, and is a large factor in Zuko turning away from his existence of resentment and bitterness and embracing a more hopeful outlook that sets him on the path to redemption.

Iroh’s choices are afforded even greater depth when it’s later revealed they’re the result of the boundless depths of his shame at the atrocities he was previously a part of as the General of the Fire Nation’s army, which perpetrated imperialistic brutality across the world, but is now doing what he can to prevent the angry young man in whom he sees so much of himself from repeating his mistakes that can only bring more pain and destruction to the world.

Circling back to fan reactions, though, and below you can see just a sample of what folks are saying:

Avatar: The Last Airbender

The depth of his remorse is at its most emotionally crippling in “Tales of Ba Sing Se,” which despite being a narratively tangential anthology episode of short vignettes focusing on various characters, is generally recognized as one of the best in the entire series. Iroh’s scenes consist of him doling out small kindnesses to impoverished people living in the Earth Kingdom capital, before finding a place to mark his son’s birthday, who had been killed many years previously in the siege of the city. His tearful rendition of a song about a young soldier coming home is one of the only times he allows his emotions to come to the fore. If you can watch it without getting at least a little choked up, you’re not human.

Especially right now, when many people have more than a little idea about what it’s like to live under the rule of an uncaring sociopath who sees human life as an obstacle to his erratic whims, Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s Iroh is exactly the kind of hero we need. Someone who can offer wisdom without judgment and compassion without expectation, and just tries to make people feel less alone in this black hole of a world, not for recognition or praise, but merely because it’s the right thing to do.