Iroh spends most of the first season playing the minion with an F in evil role to the hilt, up until the season finale when he

unsuccessfully attempts to stop Admiral Zhao from killing the Moon.

Then in season two,

he and Zuko are on the run and don't have many opportunities to do bad things.

In season three, he's

initially imprisoned by the Fire Lord, and then participates in the final battle on the side of Team Avatar.

I can only recall one specific instance in which he does something evil: Towards the end of the pilot, he and Zuko attempt to shoot down Appa with firebending, but Aang redirects it (and their ship ends up buried in the snow). Are there any other examples?

For an act to qualify as "evil," I expect it to meet these criteria:

  • Iroh is directly and personally participating in the proximate act (e.g. "Iroh served Zuko tea on several occasions, and Zuko was a villain, so Iroh was aiding and abetting" -> no).
  • The action is both intended and likely to harm a protagonist, innocent civilian, or otherwise "good" character (as Katara would put it, stealing from pirates doesn't count).
  • The action is not in self-defense (escaping from and attacking the Earth Kingdom soldiers in "Winter Solstice" does not count).
  • The action happens on-screen. His failed siege of Ba Sing Se does not count because we never saw it.

I can think of a few:

S1E07: The Spirit World

  • Exposing himself to a minor, who is also his nephew.

S1E15: Bato of the Water Tribe

  • Pretending he's paralyzed so that he can keep a paralyzed woman about a third his age lying on top of him.

S2E01: The Avatar State

  • Littering by throwing his cut-off hair into a river.

S2E02: The Cave of Two Lovers

  • Not preventing the theft of an ostrich horse from civilians.

S2E15: The Tales of Ba Sing Se

  • Running away from the scene of vandalism instead of aiding the local law enforcement.
  • Inflicting emotional distress upon the viewer.

S3E20: Into the Inferno

  • Vandalizing the inner wall of Ba Sing Se, which now has to be rebuilt on Ba Sing Se tax money after the war. Given the fact that they have a master Earthbender on their side, the vandalism was not required.

And that's discounting all the various things that are crimes in the eyes of the Fire Nation: treason, escaping imprisonment, assaulting the princess, and so on.

  • 7
    Littering is evil? I think you're confusing this show with Captain Planet (which is also about teenagers who control the elements). – Thunderforge May 23 '17 at 23:40
  • 2
    Upvoting for "Inflicting emotional distress upon the viewer". – F1Krazy Jan 7 at 9:46

Iroh isn't very evil. The only "evil" thing we can say he did was lay siege to Ba Sing Se for 600 days, but when his son, Lu Ten, was killed, he was filled with grief. Grief can lead one to a spiritual awakening, and Iroh probably understood a lot more deeply his connection to spirit and the need for 4 nations. He went on to study the other 3 nations and even used the waterbending techniques to develop a way to redirect lightning.

Iroh also tried to stop General Zhao from killing the moon spirit, but his failure doesn't make him evil. If he had made an attempt to shoot fire at Zhao, I believe that Zhao would have used the moon spirit as a defense, so not only would it block the fire blast, but it would have killed the moon spirit.

As far as Zuko and Uncle Iroh being on the run, they had MANY chances to be evil. They had many chances to do very horrible things. Being on the run doesn't make them incapable of bad things. They had the chance to do evil things, but they just didn't do it.


You've laid out all the ambiguous events of his life. Since these are not to be construed as evil per-se, as they shouldn't be, I think Iroh was more of a moderating factor in Zuko's life - only attacking the odd guard when in personal danger or posing a threat to Zuko. He was attempting to keep the Prince in check as I see it, remaining calm in all conditions possible and even urging his protege to learn and assess situations with a level head - not that it worked all the time.

So no, Iroh didn't actually end up doing anything evil and nor do I believe he intended to wilfully.

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