Is Admiral Zhao Dead or Alive in Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 1? Theories

There are a lot of despicable characters in Netflix’s ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender,’ but barely any of them comes close to being as hateable as Commander Zhao. An officer in Fire Nation’s naval force, he is the kind of person who doesn’t care about anything but power. He is so blinded by his lust that he is ready to take things to the extreme, no matter how many lives are lost in the process.

If there is one lesson to be learned from all the stories about evil people, it is that they all eventually get their due. For Zhao, too, a painful end awaits in the Season 1 finale. However, he is not the kind of person to go down easily. What does the final episode mean for him? Is he really gone for good? SPOILERS AHEAD

Zhao’s Arc in Avatar Might Not be Done Just Yet

Commander Zhao is introduced in ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ as an opportunist, but soon, he proves himself to be much more than that. He is shrewd and calculating, knowing exactly which cards to play to get what he wants. In the final episode of Season 1, he even goes as far as to try to kill the Moon spirit, even when he is strongly warned not to.

Image Credit: Robert Falconer/Netflix

Apart from the Moon spirit, the other person who feels having been severely wronged by Zhao is Prince Zuko. When they come face to face, a fight ensues in which Zuko almost kills Zhao until the latter pushes his buttons. Zhao tells Zuko that his father sent him on the quest to find the Avatar because he never expected Zuko to come back. Zhao claims that Ozai was simply using Zuko as a way to motivate his daughter, Azula, the one he really wants to make his heir.

Heartbroken by the revelation, Zuko fails to kill Zhao, which is reminiscent of him holding back on Ozai during the Agni Kai trial. The prince should have learned his lesson during the trial because his holding back is taken as a sign of weakness by his enemy. Once Zuko turns his back on him, Zhao tries to take advantage of the situation and is about to attack Zuko when Uncle Iroh shows up and stops him just in time. He pulls Zhao away and throws him into the water.

While we see Zhao falling into the water after being burned, there still remains some shred of possibility that suggests that he might not yet be dead. A brief shot of him shows him falling face-first into the water, but whether Uncle Iroh aimed to kill or just injure is not clear. Even if Iroh did hit him with lethal firebending, we don’t exactly see Zhao breathe his last. He falls into the water, but what happens to his body after that?

Image Credit: Robert Falconer/Netflix

Apart from the general rule that no one is dead in a fantasy series until absolutely confirmed, there are other things that make us believe that Zhao’s arc isn’t done just yet. For starters, his end in the Netflix series is much different than the one he meets in the original show. In the parent series, after Zhao kills the Moon Spirit, the Ocean Spirit gets angry. Channeling Aang, the spirit takes a deadly form and destroys all of Fire Nation’s armada that was sent to help Zhao conquer Agna Qel’a. It also directs its anger on Zhao, grabbing him and drowning him in the water. Zhao allows himself to be killed by the spirit even though Prince Zuko tries to rescue him. While it’s clear that his mortal body perishes following the wrath of the Ocean Spirit, his spirit remains and is doomed forever to be in the Fog of Lost Souls.

Because the Netflix series takes a different approach to Zhao’s end in Season 1, it shows that the series might be open to bringing him back and not disposing of him just yet. Considering that the following season will expand upon the rivalry between Zuko and Azula, Zhao’s presence might become instrumental in Azula’s trying to gain the upper hand on her brother. However, Avatar Aang is still out of Fire Nation’s reach, and after his failure in Agna Qel’a, Zhao might become even more aggressive about catching Aang to gain back favor with Ozai.

While many challenges await Aang and his friends on their path, the presence of someone like Zhao, who has established himself as a ruthless enemy who is ready to do whatever it takes, even if it means killing the Moon spirit and upending the balance of the world, is crucial. His continued presence would also mean establishing a nemesis for Zuko, lending more weight to his character arc. Even if he is dead in the mortal world, there is still a chance for his return in the Fog of Lost Souls, confirming that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Zhao.

Read More: Why did Zhao Want to Kill the Moon Spirit? Why Didn’t He Kill the Ocean Spirit?