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

Image Credit: Robert Falconer/Netflix

Netflix’s ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ brings forth a variety of complex characters, all of whom are driven by motivations that define their characters. One of these characters is Commander Zhao, who is ambitious but has been confined by the powers above him to a meager role. So, when he gets the opportunity to change things for himself, he jumps at it with a vigor that pushes him to do things that no one in their right mind would decide to do. The extent of his ruthlessness and blind ambition comes to the fore in the final episode of the season when he decides to reach beyond his human capabilities and challenge the powers that are so much more powerful than him. Why does he do that? SPOILERS AHEAD

Zhao’s Idea to Kill the Moon Spirit Displays His Ruthless Ambition

Commander Zhao was a naval officer who never got the chance to be something more. He thought he was meant for bigger things, but Fire Lord Ozai never paid him much heed. The king considered Zhao too menial a person to pay attention to, which is why, perhaps, Zhao was posted at a place that was of little to no consequence for the Fire Nation. However, this only made Zhao even more dedicated to proving himself once the opportunity presented itself.

Everyone knew that Prince Zuko had been banished from the kingdom and was told not to return until he found and captured the Avatar. No one thought the prince would be able to do that because everyone thought that all the Airbenders were dead, and wasn’t an Airbender supposed to be the next Avatar? It is the unexpectedness of an Avatar’s arrival that catches Zhao’s attention. He knows how important finding the Avatar would be for Fire Nation. So, completely disregarding that Zuko had spent the past three years of his life looking for the Airbender, Zhao decides to work on his own.

Zhao receives support not just from Ozai but also finds an unexpected ally in Princess Azula, who wants her brother to fail so her father would make her his heir. This gives a boost to Zhao’s confidence, and he starts thinking beyond his means. By the end, he becomes so confident in his victory that he starts dreaming of becoming the next Fire Lord. He thinks that if he can achieve a feat that no one else could, he will prove himself more powerful than even Ozai and take the throne of Fire Nation and the rest of the world for himself.

It is this delusion of grandeur that leads Zhao to make a terrible decision, one that Uncle Iroh claims not even Ozai would make. When he discovers that the Avatar has found refuge in Agna Qel’a and is in the protection of the Waterbenders, he knows that even with the might of the armada sent by Ozai as backup, he might not be able to conquer the fortress that has remained outside of Fire Nation’s reach for so long. However, there is one way he can turn the tide around in his favor.

Image Credit: Robert Falconer/Netflix

Zhao knows that Ozai and Fire Nation’s goal is to rule the world, but that cannot be done as long as there are powerful benders in other nations. They will always put up a fight and keep Fire Nation from reaching its glory. But what if someone were to render the other benders powerless? What if the Waterbenders were to lose their ability to bend? How would they then fight against the might of the powerful Fire Nation?

In his research, Zhao found that the Waterbenders get their power from the Moon spirit and their life from the Ocean spirit. He also found that each year, for one day, the spirits took mortal form and appeared on Earth. All he had to do was find the spirits and kill them. If he killed the Moon spirit, the Waterbenders would lose their power. If he killed the Ocean spirit, all Waterbenders on the Earth would die. He didn’t want the latter because it wouldn’t make sense to kill one-quarter of the world, especially if you were planning to rule them.

It was already done with the Airbenders, and even Zhao thought it was a step too far. However, he thought there was no harm in taking away the power of the Waterbenders. They could live without it and be so powerless that they’d never even think about rising against Firebenders. If Zhao could achieve this feat, then he would be seen as much more powerful than Ozai and could even claim the throne for himself. This motivates him to take a step that threatens to throw the world out of balance, but a power-hungry Zhao doesn’t care at all.

Read More: Avatar: What Is Kuruk’s Knife? What Does it Do?