Avatar: The Way Of Water Ending Explained: Everything is connected

Spoilers for Avatar: The Way of Water follow.

Ever since “Avatar” was released in 2009, creator and director James Cameron has promised (or threatened, depending on one’s opinion of the film) that more sequels would follow. As the last 13 years rolled on, Cameron’s insistence that the sequels would be realized began to sound more like boast than promise. However, just like George Lucas before him, Cameron played the long game when it came to his vision for the future of the planet Pandora and its inhabitants, and the second film (titled “The Way of Water”) has finally arrived.

But while Cameron’s commitment to the series is now crystal clear, exactly what will happen in the sequels has remained a mystery until the release of the new installment. It’s wild to realize in today’s landscape of movies and series saturated by pre-existing IP, but there are no previous “Avatar” novels, comics or video games serving as antecedents that could have provided a hint. It’s brand new territory, which one suspects the real-life explorer Cameron prefers.

As “The Way of Water” demonstrates, “Avatar” is about much more than what critics of the first film have described as a mere rip-off of “Dances With Wolves,” “Ferngully” or “Dune.” The new film establishes that this will not be a galactic saga of many planets, but a multifaceted story about one planet, Pandora, and the struggle for its destiny. “The Way of Water” is a film about evolution, adaptation and most of all balance, where the characters realize their place in larger systems (be it a society or an ecosystem) and understand that the deepest strength lies in harmony, family, and love.

Growing up with Sullys

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“The Way of Water” begins shortly after the end of the first “Avatar,” with the now fully Na’vi Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) having attained the title of Toruk Makto and mated for life with Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). The couple enjoy a peaceful existence on Pandora while having several children: Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) and Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). Additionally, they have adopted the biological daughter of the Na’vi avatar of the late Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), Kiri (also Weaver), whose father remains unknown.

In a montage at the top of the film, Cameron and his co-writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (along with story contributors Josh Friedman and Shane Salerno) not only hook the audience up with the characters, but allow real time between the first “Avatar” and this sequel to become a factor in story, giving a good deal of emotional weight to the Sully family as we the viewers grow up with them.

Quaritch and Son

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Those emotional stakes are heightened as people return to Pandora in droves. Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who died at the hands of Jake and Neytiri at the end of the first film, has had his consciousness and memories implanted into an avatar body known as a recom (short for recombinant) along with several of his teammates. Quaritch’s new mission, given to him by General Ardmore (Edie Falco), is to seek out Jake Sully and eliminate him, thus allowing humanity to easily take Pandora by force and colonize it to evacuate humans from the dying planet Earth to Pandora.

However, Quaritch’s mission is not going to be easy: it turns out that before his death as a human years earlier, he fathered a son, Miles, who was forced to remain on Pandora when the human powers were banished due to babies not could be put into cryosleep. That baby has now grown into a strong-willed teenage boy named Spider (Jack Champion), and he is considered by the Sullys to be part of their Omatikaya clan.

When the river meets the sea

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The interconnected, blended family of the Sullys becomes even more complex when Jake, upon discovering the existence of Quaritch’s recom team, decides that it would be in the best interest of the greater Omatikaya clan for him to relinquish his title of Toruk Makto and flee with his family to a remote place. That place ends up being the sea fox village of the Metkayina clan, ruled by Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis).

As “jungle people” now trying to become “sea people”, the Sullys discover resilience and adaptability that they initially didn’t realize they had. They also find their presence in Metkayina village disruptive – not in a bad way, but a noticeable way, with their children having ripple effects on the environment around them. Lo’ak not only begins a relationship with Ronal and Tonowari’s daughter, Tsireya (Bailey Bass), but also befriends a tulkun (a sentient whale-like creature) named Payakan, who is seen as an outcast among his people thanks to his attempt to fight back against human rebels.

Meanwhile, Kiri discovers that her relationship with the flora and fauna of Pandora is mysterious and special. In the jungle, she found wood spirits gathering around her (much like they prophetically did to Jake in the first film), and in the sea she can apparently attract and command all manner of sea life to do her bidding.

The fountain of youth

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As Sullys discovers, the Metkayina have a relationship with the tulkun that goes deeper than mere respect – the two species consider the other a kind of extended family, able to talk to each other and share thoughts and feelings. This relationship is threatened by human hunters operating on the seas beyond the borders of Metkayina territory, harpooning and slaughtering the tulkun for a substance the creatures contain even more valuable than Unobtanium, one that halts all human aging.

“Avatar” has the conflict between nature and technology baked into the very premise, and that ambiguity comes from the creator, since Cameron himself is not so easily defined as either a tree hugger or a tech bro. A symbiosis exists between technology and nature in the film, where technology can do amazing things like implant a person’s mind into the body of an entirely different species, and the more natural way Pandora’s creatures work together involves “bonding” that can be seen on as connecting one piece of hardware to another. Still, the temptation to abuse these abilities and powers is always a factor, and Quaritch and the other recommendations are a walking, talking example of that.

As such, it’s no surprise that Quaritch decides to use tulkun to draw Sully and his family out of hiding, enlisting the whaling ship The Sea Dragon to begin hunting the creatures in the Metkayina waters.

Blood is thicker than water

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Using a wounded Payakan as bait, Quaritch successfully captures Lo’ak, Tuk, and Tsireya, drawing Jake and Neytiri as well as the people of Metkayina into battle. The Na’vi succeed in driving off the humans and paralyzing the sea dragon, but in the middle of the battle, the bonds of kinship are strained: during a fight where Quaritch threatens to kill Kiri, Neytiri does the same to the Spider, who goes mad. with hatred for recom and love for the adopted daughter.

While neither Kiri nor Spider are murdered, Neteyam catches a bullet and the sinking Sea Dragon threatens to drown Neytiri, Tuk, Jake and Quaritch. Kiri uses her abilities to guide her mother and sister to safety, while Lo’ak proves her mettle by helping her father escape death. Spider, feeling the bonds of family despite his emotions, helps Quaritch survive, but angrily refuses him when recom asks the child to join him.

Although the Sullys survive through their combined familial strength, their fortress does not emerge intact, as Neteyam succumbs to his wounds. In keeping with Metkayina’s philosophy, the boy’s body is given to the sea, a symbolic gesture of giving back to the environment and the spirits that is thematically rooted in the laws of thermodynamics.

The way of the water

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As Tsireya explains to Sully, “the path of water connects all things. Before your birth and after your death.” It’s a mantra Metkayina lives by, and it’s indicative of how the Sullys see Pandora and its mother spirit, Eywa, not as a separate entity, but one that is within a larger system of beings.

Water is a substance capable of transforming into other natural states as well as being malleable – it can evaporate and move into another part of the ecosystem, and it can also shape itself to fit any container one holds places it in. It is a substance so quietly resilient and strong that no less a figure than Bruce Lee has praised, calling it a state to strive to emulate.

With “The Way of Water,” Cameron and his collaborators have shown that the world of “Avatar” contains a lot of complexity that does not require travel to other planets or the appearance of other alien species. It is about the relationship between beings, whether through blood, affection or strife. The drama unfolds in one world, full of life, while the relationship between technology and nature struggles to find an equilibrium. The intriguing irony is that the “Avatar” films themselves are eco-conscious parables made with the latest technology money can buy, and speak to how such concepts need not be mutually exclusive.

As Jake Sully bonds with Metkayina’s Spirit Tree in their underwater cove at the end of the film, he realizes that living in exile, even if peaceful, is not enough to stop the encroaching greed of the human forces. The clans must unite, the violence must cease, the exploiters must be cleansed, because ultimately everything is connected.

Read this next: Everything you need to remember about Avatar

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