Fire Lord Ozai is not a nice guy. Not only is he an imperialist and the perpetrator of several war crimes, but he’s also a shitty father who literally burned his son’s eye and exiled him. If that wasn’t enough, he then sent his daughter spiraling into a mental breakdown. The guy’s a total scumbag! And the original animated series made him look just like a guy, with a shitty little beard and malevolence in his eyes. Perfect!
But y’all had to go cast the great Daniel Dae Kim, with his chiseled jawline, soulful eyes, and cheekbones that could slice through metal. He makes that little beard look good, somehow! How am I supposed to be normal about this?
I don’t mean to shame anybody who’s hot for villains. I get it. I wrote a whole essay about Namor. I understand the appeal of characters like Anakin Skywalker, the Darkling, and Jareth the Goblin King. Heck, Zuko was a foundational crush for many young viewers back when the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon was airing. I get it.
But Fire Lord Ozai is not that type of villain! He’s specifically designed to be irredeemable in order to juxtapose Zuko’s redemption arc and Azula’s tragedy. Even if you’re the type who can handwave fantasy imperialism (looking at you, Kylo Ren girlies) there is still the fact that he’s the world’s worst father to the more relatable villain characters. With other villain crushes, I can twirl my hair and whisper I can fix you. But I don’t even want to fix Ozai. I want to give Azula and Zuko the big hug they clearly need, stand between them and their father, and then spray Ozai with a little water bottle and shout NO, STAY AWAY.
Daniel Dae Kim, though? I’m fighting the urge to fix him.
I do have full faith in his acting chops. After all, this isn’t his first visit to the Avatar world. He voiced Hiroshi Sato, Asami’s corrupt industrialist father, in The Legend of Korra. That character was also an asshole, and I was fully sold on it. If anyone can transcend the allure of Daniel Dae Kim, it’s Daniel Dae Kim himself. Don’t let me down, man.
Avatar: The Last Airbender premieres on Netflix on Feb. 22.