With my hands I fight for Lord Zuko and our forefathers before him
One of the most popular routes for an Azula redemption arc is for her to be an ally of Zuko. Whether to be an advisor or some kind of high-ranking official that handles the dirty business of running the Fire Nation while Zuko handles the more public stuff like handling reformations and rebuilding the Earth Kingdom that was devastated during the war. I can certainly understand how this can work since Azula is given a say in the future of the Fire Nation and is allowed to serve its best interests in a post-war setting.
There's just one problem: often Azula is made to be subservient to Zuko. That now that she's serving him, she's a good guy now that Zuko acts as a sort of morality leash that keeps her from going too far.
This...doesn't actually solve her problems.
Part of her issues in canon stems from her blind loyalty and faith to the only person who ever showed her some form of kindness: Ozai. Something that meant she didn't dare question any of his actions and poisoned her relationship with Zuko. And inevitably (and tragically), that something that led to her downfall since her loyalty meant she couldn't be swayed by series end.
Having her swear fealty to Zuko, the new Fire Lord, is not solving the problem. She's just exchanging one master for another. None of the issues which caused her breakdown are not addressed. It's that blind loyalty aspect except for another leader. Considering that part of the reason for the Fire Nation's indoctrination is swearing absolute loyalty to the Fire Lord as seen in their anthem:
"My life I give to my country. With my hands I fight for Lord Ozai and our forefathers before him. With my mind I seek ways to better my country. And with my feet may our March of Civilization continue."
...could you imagine how it would look when one of the Fire Nation's old guard falls into this mindset with Zuko? That's not reformation. That's just placing a new and better ruler in charge without fixing anything.
Not to mention how...pretty damn sexist this whole thing is that Azula being good equals submitting to the authority of her brother on the basis that she should've known better than to defy him being the eldest song. Forgive for asking, but doesn't that seem problematic to the umpteenth degree. Especially since in canon Zuko was a pretty crappy brother? I'm sorry, but Azula redeeming herself by putting her brother's needs before hers is incredibly offensive for those that actually do sympathize and see her plight.
Can Azula being an ally of Zuko work? Absolutely. But these potholes are something that a lot of writers (including Bryke and Yang) keep falling into without realizing the implications behind them. If Azula is to be properly redeemed and for this storyline to work, she needs to come to this position of her own volition. No strings attached. No conditions. It needs to be her decision and her decision alone.
Azula's ultimate tragedy is that she never had much free will. Taking that away from her to serve someone else's will is not the way. Give her choice though, the choice to forge her own path, and now she's in a position to truly heal herself.
Another Avatar fashion post! Indonesian clothing has always given me bigtime Fire Nation vibes, so here’s Azula in payas madya!