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At the end of Book 2, Azula zaps Aang with lightning, apparently killing him. We know he survived thanks to Katara's healing. Azula gives Zuko the credit for killing the Avatar, somehow aware he has survived. I get that Zuko suspected it, because he knew Katara had the water from the koi pond at the north pole, and I get that Azula could have noticed Zuko's doubts, but what if his doubts were unfounded? What if the healing didn't work? If Aang really had died, Azula would have just given Zuko credit for personally defeating the greatest bender on earth and the main threat to the Fire Nation. To me, this seems like a huge risk, she's betting everything on a teenager's understanding of the spirit world. It seems like she must have more evidence than just Zuko's doubts that would make her more sure. So what is that evidence?

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  • "It seems like she must have more evidence than just Zuko's doubts that would make her more sure." Why not? She believes she is an excellent reader of people, is very calculating, and doesn't seem to take risks. In this case, you win big but you can also lose big
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 28 at 19:00
  • @DKNguyen because Zuko might've been wrong. Sure, she can be positive Zuko is doubtful, but just because he's doubtful doesn't mean those doubts are correct.
    – Ryan_L
    Jul 28 at 19:10
  • Tell me, what big risk is she actually taking by giving him credit? What big loss will she incur if by giving Zuko getting credit if the Airbender was actually dead? It's not nearly as big as if she took credit and the Airbender was alive.
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 28 at 19:28
  • DKNguyen The status and prestige of having defeated the Avatar and winning the decisive battle of the war, and the benefits in terms of internal fire nation politics she would receive as a result of that status, meanwhile her chief rival gains all of these things.
    – Ryan_L
    Jul 28 at 19:31
  • Did she ever even see Zuko as a political rival? It certainly did not seem that way to me. It never seemed like she thought he was a threat in the entire show. Even after she lost her mind.
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 28 at 19:32
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It may not be as big a risk as you think. It's likely that she doesn't know for certain whether Aang is actually dead, but by pinning the deed to Zuko, she gets benefits either way:

  • If it turns out Aang is not dead, as she begins to suspect, then Zuko takes the blame for the supposed incompetence and will be blamed for anything that results. Discovering the Avatar is not actually dead would almost certainly result in Zuko being dishonored and exiled again, and it would remove him from the line of secession to the title of Fire Lord (to which Zuko is first and Azula is second). End Result: She has successfully maneuvered her major rival for power out of position, and she becomes Fire Lord by default when Ozai passes it down.
  • If Aang is actually dead, then by allowing Zuko to take credit for it, she has effectively blackmailed him into loyalty. And even if Zuko does eventually attain the title of Fire Lord, she would presume to have the skill, in both charisma and martial arts, to scheme against him and take the title from him at a later time. Aang's actual death will also greatly weaken any opposition to the Fire Nation. End Result: The Fire Nation becomes a world power, largely without her continued assistance. She then has blackmail over the next Fire Lord (Zuko) and believes she can otherwise take the throne from him at a later time (easier than she would trying to take it from Ozai, anyways).

TVTropes calls this sort of planning a Xanatos Gambit - a maneuver by someone where any result still moves their plans forwards, and this exact scene is provided as one such example (under Western Animation) with some of the points above.

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    The other thing to bear in mind: Neither Azula nor Zuko had any idea that Ozai was going to pull the "Phoenix King" title out of thin air and bestow it on himself. She was probably plotting under the assumption that Ozai would remain the Fire Lord for an extended period of time, during which she could engage in all sorts of political machinations, possibly even getting Zuko exiled again, or at least talking Ozai into disinheriting him from the throne ("Sure, he killed the Avatar, but you know, he would be much better as a general than the next Fire Lord...").
    – Kevin
    Jul 28 at 21:00

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