Avatar: The Last Airbender is celebrated for its nuanced writing and complex characters, with much praise going toward the show's skillful execution of Zuko's redemption arc. His sister Azula has captured the imagination of fans to an equal degree, and she is often lauded for being a genuinely terrifying yet compelling villain. The show ends with Azula utterly defeated by Katara and Zuko and in the throes of a total mental breakdown. Although it's clear that her days of glory are over, her ultimate fate is left undecided.
The sequel comics released by Dark Horse expand on Azula's arc, introducing a new storyline in which Zuko frees her so they can search for their mother Ursa. While she cooperates with the team for a while, Azula quickly returns to her villainous ways, engaging in various schemes to regain power. These ultimately end in failure, but she manages to disappear and escape justice, leaving her next moves open-ended once again.
However, one theory has been floating around for some time that may hold the answer to the long-pondered question of Azula's possible future path, as detailed in this video by Screen Rant. A certain firebender appears at a key juncture in the sequel series The Legend of Korra, and some have wondered if this character might actually be Azula after many years of growth and change.
The Legend of Korra is set decades after Avatar: The Last Airbender and features appearances from older versions of some of the original cast. These returning characters include Aang, Toph, Zuko and Katara, but the older version of Azula is never explicitly shown. However, the unnamed firebender shaman who heals Korra in Book Two bears a more than passing resemblance to the erstwhile Fire Nation princess. She appears to be around the same age as the other Avatar characters who reappear in Legend of Korra, and she even sports a remarkably similar hairstyle to Azula's. Thus, some have theorized that this person is an older and wiser Azula who has had time to spiritually develop and learn to use her gifts for others.
This shaman is greatly skilled in firebending and specializes in a kind of healing art similar to reiki, allowing her to read her patients' energy and exorcise dark spirits. These techniques are highly specialized and demonstrate a deep spiritual understanding of bending. Considering that Azula was a preternaturally gifted firebender who mastered the art at an early age, it's not a stretch to imagine her gaining this level of expertise and pushing the boundaries of firebending in such a way. It's certainly interesting that such a powerful, important and unique character never even tells Korra her name. Could it be that Azula has grown ashamed of her past self, shedding her old identity and hiding from her dark reputation?
The question of Azula's future and whether she might ever find peace or redemption has been a frequent point of discussion in the fandom in the years since the original show ended. Series writer Aaron Ehasz once tweeted that he'd always wanted to write a redemption arc for her, although the fact that he posted this on April Fool's Day means it may simply have been a joke.
Still, many find the idea compelling. Like Zuko, Azula is a tragic character with issues stemming from childhood trauma and abusive parenting. Her deeply held belief that her mother didn't love her, combined with her father's narcissism and unyielding expectations of perfection, gave Azula mental complexes and warped her development. While her actions are heinous, it's hard not to feel empathy for her mental and emotional suffering. Additionally, the extreme nature of her villainy would make a potential redemption all the more satisfying.
There are holes in this theory, of course. One obvious snag is that Azula's eyes are brown, while the shaman character's eyes are gray, although this could be explained by the effects of aging or even simply chalked up to art inconsistencies. More damning is the shaman's assertion that she has been raising sky bison "since the Hundred Year War," which would conflict with the canon events shown in the comics. It's unlikely that the creators intended for this character to literally be Azula, but it's a lovely idea, especially for fans who have longed for more meaningful closure for this singularly magnetic and unforgettable character.