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Avatar: The Way of Water’s ending explained

After a long 13-year wait, the sequel to James Cameron’s Avatar has finally premiered in theaters, and it was worth the wait. Taking place more than a decade after the original film, Jake Sully continues to battle the RDA on Pandora as a member of the alien Na’vi. He and his mate, Neytir,i have started their family — they have two sons, Neteyam and Lo’ak; a daughter, Tuk; an adoptive daughter, Kiri; and an adoptive human son, “Spider” (so yeah, they’ve been very busy parents).

While the many years of waiting may have seen audiences’ enthusiasm for the sequel dwindle, this new film is sure to bring them all back to Pandora with groundbreaking visuals, more worldbuilding, and a heartfelt story that sets up an epic future for the franchise. There’s so much packed into the film’s whopping 192-minute runtime, and it only lays the foundation for a much bigger story by the time it all ends.

Return to Pandora

Jake and his family flying on banshees in "Avatar: The Way of Water."

While the Na’vi have had many peaceful years on Pandora, everything changes when the RDA returns to Pandora and drives them out of their forest home and into the Hallelujah mountains. Fighting with the invading army is Col. Miles Quaritch, the human who led the RDA’s mining of Pandora and humanity’s war with the Na’vi. Though he had died in the first film, the RDA took a copy of Quaritch’s memories before his death and implanted them into an avatar known as a Recombinant.

After Quaritch arrives on Pandora, he learns that the RDA now intends to wipe out the Na’vi so humanity can leave the now-dying Earth and colonize Pandora. He and his squad later ambush Sully and his family in the forest and kidnap Spider, who is revealed to be the colonel’s son. Though Spider hates his father for the many atrocities he’s committed, the new Quaritch forces him to travel alongside him as an interpreter as he hunts for Sully.

Meet the Metkayina

Ronal and the Metkayina in "Avatar: The Way of Water."

Fearing that Quaritch will track him and his family down and endanger their clan, Sully and Neytiri take their kids and go into hiding. They take up residence among the Metkayina sea people, whose fin-like arms and tails allow them to swim exceptionally well underwater. Though the family is welcomed into the tribe and they adapt to their culture, Sully’s kids are bullied by the local children because of their status as “forest people” and the offensive term “half-breeds” (the latter signified by their extra fingers).

Meanwhile, Quaritch and his team learn the ways of the Na’vi in order to hunt down Sully, making for a dark reflection of the latter’s journey in the original film. Quaritch even tames his own flying “banshee.” Spider eventually learns that the RDA is now hunting the whale-like “tulkuns” to harvest a valuable fluid in their brains that can stop aging, essentially making this the sequel’s version of unobtanium. But since the tulkuns are considered an intelligent sister species to the Metkayina, the RDA’s efforts to hunt for them sends the whole tribe into a rage.

The final battle

Jake and Neytiri in "Avatar: The Way of Water."

As Sully’s kids and their friends rescue one of the tulkuns, Quaritch and his soldiers capture Lo’ak and Tuk to lure their mother and father out of hiding. This leads to a climactic battle between the Metkayina tribe and the RDA, during which Neteyam dies helping Lo’ak escape captivity. When Quaritch holds Tuk and Kiri hostage, Sully faces the colonel in a final battle on the latter’s sinking ship.

Though Sully is victorious in his fight against Quaritch, he nearly drowns before his family saves him. At the same time, Spider reluctantly saves Quaritch from drowning after finding his still-living body. Despite this, Spider refuses to go with Quaritch back the RDA, and so he reunites with the Sullys.

Following Neteyam’s funeral, Jake says he and his family will leave the Metkayina clan to protect them from the RDA. However, the chief accepts them as a part of his clan, and the Sullys choose to continue living among them. In the film’s final moments, Sully and Neytiri bond with the Metkayina’s spirit tree and communicate with Neteyam’s spirit, showing that he has become one with Eywa.

What the future holds

Kiri underwater in "Avatar: The Way of Water."

The Sullys may have won this battle against the RDA, but they still haven’t won the war. Quaritch survived his rematch with Sully and Neytiri, so he will surely come back for revenge in one of the sequels. But since the colonel has grown to care for Spider, despite not technically being his father, Quaritch may become conflicted about where his allegiance lies when he confronts his son again. All in all, the film’s ending is very open-ended, as it sets up more battles between the Na’vi and the humans.

The film did leave a big mystery involving Kiri’s true parentage unanswered. The film’s prologue revealed that Grace’s avatar somehow gave birth to Kiri after she died, and the identity of Kiri’s father, if she even has one, isn’t revealed. Since Grace and her avatar were connected to the Tree of Souls in the first film, it is possible the Na’vi goddess Eywa might have impregnated the latter in some “virgin birth.” This would explain Kiri’s strong spiritual connection to Eywa, which she learned to use to control the wildlife of Pandora. Since she might have inherited some of the goddess’s power, Kiri may become the Na’vi’s messiah in future films and be crucial in defeating the fiendish RDA.

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Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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