In ATLA S03E16 The Southern Raiders, Zuko, Katara & Aang deliberate on which of the ff to do re Yon Rha:

  1. Find and then get revenge eg by killing. (Zuko)
  2. Find and then don't get revenge by simply leaving Yon Rha. (Katara/Aang)
  3. Don't try to find at all. (Aang)

I didn't understand why they didn't have this 4th option

  1. Find and then don't get revenge but get justice by arresting Yon Rha as a prisoner-of-war to be tried for war crimes. Obviously, they don't necessarily bring Yon Rha with them. They can just bring Yon Rha to an earth kingdom POW camp. Kinda like what was done to Iroh in S01E07 Winter Solstice, Part 1: The Spirit World.

It sounds like they're teaching kids a moral lesson and so we can brush it off with 'oh it's a kid's show.' But you could still learn a lesson anyway by that Aang, Katara & Zuko agree on finding Yon Rha but disagree on what is to be done upon finding Yon Rha. In fact, I think the moral lesson they did teach was wrong anyway like forgiveness means not holding Yon Rha accountable.

But well, if there's some precedent in the real world to not arrest someone who admits to doing a war crime, then please share. Maybe if the war is over, then they might not be arrested. But there are Nazi's who were arrested several decades after WW2 was over eg Josef Schütz.

Or if there's something in the comics that explains this, then please share.

  • Prisoners of war are not arrested, they are captured or surrender. If a prisoner of war is accused of war crimes, they are arrested. Commented Mar 22 at 5:44

2 Answers 2


It wouldn't have been as simple as calling in the local authorities—Yon Rha retired to his hometown in the Fire Nation, far from Earth Kingdom influence. By this point in time, the Fire Nation also had taken several Earth Kingdom cities (Omashu, Ba Sing Se, the colonies). And while Yon Rha's been living peacefully for several years, he's still a dangerous person who would certainly fight back when a good opportunity presented itself, either on the trip over or while in prison—as shown in several episodes (even the previous one, the Boiling Rock), dangerous benders must be put in specially designed prisons. We don't even see any prisons designed for firebenders that are under Earth Kingdom control during the first series, so Zuko and Katara may not even know of any. They also have precious little time given that the comet is mere days away.

Altogether, making him a POW would mean transporting a dangerous man hours (or more likely days) away to another continent, to a location they can only hope is ready to receive and house a dangerous firebender. It would have been time consuming and dangerous, especially considering that they needed all their strength for their final plan—countering the Fire Lord and his people during the comet.

  • 1- And so what if Yon Rha weren't retired and were on the ship that Zuko & Katara initially attacked? 2- And how were they planning on taking POWs during the eclipse?
    – BCLC
    Commented Mar 21 at 19:26

I think the answer is mostly but not just that it's a kid's show.


Actually in another Nickelodeon series Hey Arnold! (which originally ended a year before the ATLA premiere), there's an episode Full Moon which is much worse.

See this reddit post which links to another reddit post.

Arguably an implicit moral lesson is that you shouldn't snitch because Arnold's grandparents never asked Arnold 'Why you have been staying at school more for the last few weeks?' which would lead to a discussion where they tell Arnold that Arnold's sense of morality is correct but misguided or something.


But then again ATLA is not JUST a kid's show. ATLA and its sequel TLOK are like those in-between's. Something like 'We're trying to introduce more adult concepts, but it's a kid's show, and we do want to aim this at kids in having our main characters be kids/teenagers.' I suppose the overall plot doesn't change, if we have in our head canon that that scene is rewritten to be that Yon Rha really was brought to POW camp or Yon Rha's mom pleads for mercy.


But again if anyone has any precedent, then please by all means share.

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