Avatar: The Last Airbender fans will know that Azula, the Fire Nation Princess, is one of the series’ best characters. Azula is the perfect foil for Zuko, her brother, and she brings a powerful yet vulnerable antagonist to the table. In the cartoon version of the show, though, Azula barely popped up in season one, or Book One: Water. Happily, Netflix’s live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series took advantage of knowing exactly where its story is going and introduced Azula from the start. But what did Azula do with all her extra screen time in the live-action Avatar? Here’s a breakdown of what Princess Azula got up to in season one and what new things we learned about the fearsome princess.

Spoiler Alert

What Was Princess Azula Doing in Season One of Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender Live-Action Series?


Azula’s Secret Missions to Root Out Fire Nation Resistance Movements

While the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series doesn’t disrupt cartoon canon to bring Azula directly into the action of season one too much, it does give us a deep look at what Azula was up to behind the scenes. We learn in the live-action that Fire Lord Ozai is testing Azula in several ways while Zuko is in exile hunting the Avatar. Early in the season, we see her go undercover as a spy for the Fire Lord. Azula infiltrates resistance movements in the Fire Nation, setting traps for them and bringing them to the Fire Lord for punishment. Azula has no qualms about watching these “traitors” burned by her father, and her deep sadistic tendencies and hunger for power are immediately on full display in the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action. It is implied that Azula regularly goes on these missions for her father.


Azula and Commander Zhao in the Avatar Live-Action

However, once hearing Zuko has found the Avatar, Azula realizes she needs to up her game. She indirectly intercedes in the “big game” by writing to Commander Zhao and making him her pawn in the fray. Although Zhao has secret ambitions to become Fire Lord, he acquiesces to Azula’s request and informs her of her brother’s actions. In exchange, Azula arranges for money and resources, including the Yuyan archers, to be sent to Zhao by her father. She even has Zhao promoted to Admiral.


In the finale of the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series, Zhao also claims that Azula helped identify Zuko as the Blue Spirit, a.k.a. a traitor to the Fire Nation. None of this Azula and Zhao interaction was in the cartoon version of Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon, and we’ll have to see how it plays into future seasons of the live-action series.

Azula Confronts Fire Lord Ozai

Despite her brutal efficiency and great power, Azula is clearly very young. She doesn’t quite know when she’s tipping her hand too much and occasionally missteps. Compared to Zuko, she’s a downright savant at the intricacies of court and power plays, but in front of her father, she’s just a child. Still, in season one of the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series, we see Azula do what Zuko never successfully could and defy her father.


Fire Lord Ozai has Azula continuously training and fighting prisoners from other nations in constant bids to prove herself. Although Azula performs powerfully, Ozai always denies her his approval. Toward the end of the season, though, Azula has had enough. She refuses her father’s demands that she fight or fail and bends lightning/her blue fire in a show of power, insisting that Ozai let her loose and give her a chance to prove herself.

In the series’ final scenes, we learn Azula has conquered the Earth Kingdom of Omashu. In the cartoon, the Fire Nation conquers Omashu, but it is not Azula who leads the charge. Clearly, the live-action Avatar series made this change in Azula’s storyline to highlight her great competency and her true thirst to be a player in the political game. It’s an effective addition.

Azula’s Appearance Also Brought Us Mai and Ty Lee Early


Thanks to Azula’s early inclusion, her best friends, Mai and Ty Lee, are also characters who appear in the live-action earlier than they do in the cartoon. Although Mai and Ty Lee don’t have too much to do in season one of the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series, their personalities already pop out. And we’re glad to see them. Ty Lee is positive and gushing, while Mai is already over it and ready to get out there and be anywhere but where she is.

Should we get season two of the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series, we hope to see Mai and Ty Lee fighting beside Azula. Mai is an expert with throwing knives, while Tai-Lee’s chi-blocking nerve pinches put even the best benders out of commission.

What the Live-Action Avatar: The Last Airbender Series Reveals About Azula’s Ultimate Goals


So what does all this extra screen time in the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action series reveal about Azula? One very big thing. In the live-action series, Azula overtly wants to be Fire Lord, and she wants Fire Lord Ozai to declare her next in line to the throne. While this might seem like an obvious revelation, it’s actually kind of radical. While the Avatar cartoon version of Azula was power-hungry and clearly sought to prove herself in the eyes of her father, she never outright declared that she wanted to be Fire Lord.

Of course, it’s possible that in the cartoon, unlike in the live-action, Azula was already named heir after Zuko’s banishment. But in the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series, Zuko remains heir to the Fire Nation throne despite his exile. And this is a huge thorn in Azula’s side. “I’ll burn everyone in the world until he [Fire Lord Ozai] admits the truth… That I’m the one,” Azula says in episode seven.

It’s clear Fire Lord Ozai retained Zuko as his heir to play his children against one another. For Zuko, not losing his place as heir gives hope of redemption. And for Azula, Zuko remaining heir over her forces her to fight for what she believes is her rightful place. Adding this element of conflict between Zuko and Azula creates a sharper reason for them to be at odds in the show. And it gets us excited for their eventual meeting. But to see that and to learn where else Azula’s journey takes her, we’ll have to wait for more of Netflix’s live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender. Fingers crossed for season two.

Nerdist Editor Rotem Rusak has been an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan for nearly two decades. You can learn all about her love of Zuko’s story on Nerdist’s Laser Focus Podcast.