Zuko was a sensitive, sweet kid. He wasn’t cruel, he wasn’t
power-hungry, and he wasn’t capricious. And Ursa was able to nurture
him–she could protect him from the worst of his father’s cruelty, and
be something of a mediator when it came to Azula. She encouraged him to
be vulnerable, because she knew that that is a true source of strength.
Vulnerability makes you kind, thoughtful, humble, and willing to learn
from your mistakes. Vulnerability allows you to keep going, even when you’ve failed, because you have the resilience to embrace those negative emotions, let them process, and ultimately move past them.
Do you know what drives people like Ozai and Azula crazy? Vulnerability. To people like them, it’s a hideous and embarrassing display of weakness.
But while Ursa was around, they had to deal with it. She was a buffer. She nurtured him.
When Ursa left, Zuko was at the mercy of two sociopaths who found him repulsive. And she knew that. She knew what she was going to be doing to him, but it was either this, or watch her only son be murdered because of Ozai’s scheming. Ursa’s banishment meant that she was leaving Zuko in the hands of the people who would try to utterly destroy the sweet son she knew. But she did it, because it would save his life. And she tried to warn him, knowing it would be in vain:
Zuko knew, too, though he didn’t know the extent of how bad it would ultimately be. Look at his face:
He knew it was all about to go very wrong.
And then he was alone.