James Cameron’s Avatar movies are not exactly complicated. But considering that The Way of Water comes in at over three hours long, this epic Pandora adventure might need a recap once the ending arrives and the credits have rolled.
After 13 years, Avatar: The Way of Water continues the story of Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster Avatar. Back on Pandora, the greedy Resources Development Administration (RDA) return to mine more resources while seeking to stop the traitorous Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) from being a thorn in their operations. The hunt for the Sullys compels them to flee to a new corner of Pandora that is home to the Metkayina, a clan of Na’vi whose biology and culture are more attuned to the sea.
The Way of Water is a blockbuster epic that pays homage to classic cinema genres, from Westerns to pulp sci-fi, in its tale about an underdog native civilization against a heavily-armed imperial army. But at its core, Avatar: The Way of Water is about a family trying to stick together in the face of adversity. And a lot happens to this family, with even more to come in the already-filmed Avatar 3.
For those in need of a quick recap on the ending of Avatar: The Way of Water, we’ve got you covered.
Warning: Spoilers for Avatar: The Way of Water ahead.
Avatar: The Way of Water ending explained
The end of Avatar: The Way of Water isn’t too unlike how the original ended. The climax of the movie still features Jake Sully on opposite ends of the battlefield from former mentor and series villain Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), whose mind and memories are cloned and uploaded into his own Avatar body.
Quaritch tracks the Sullys to the oceans of the Metkayina, even hijacking a whaler ship hunting the Metkayina’s beloved beasts for their valuable brain juice. After an explosive battle that sees casualties on all sides — including the demise of Jake’s eldest son Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) — the drama boils down to Jake and Quaritch in a very personal, one-versus-one knife fight on a sinking ship.
This tense standoff sees several story threads collide. Mostly, it highlights the shaky relationship between Quaritch and Spider (Jake Champion), Quaritch’s biological son who was born on Pandora. Though Spider was raised by both humans and Na’vi, he was never fully loved by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who maintained suspicion due to his human nature. When Neytiri holds Spider hostage, Quaritch pretends to not care about him while Neytiri reveals how hard it actually is for her to use Spider as leverage.
What happens to Spider and Quaritch in Avatar: The Way of Water?
Although Jake “wins” the battle, there’s still more fighting to be had. After a wounded Quaritch falls below, Spider finds his body and reluctantly brings him to the surface. When Quaritch leaves, he asks Spider to come with him. Spider refuses and returns to the Sullys, but without tipping them off that Quaritch is alive. Though Spider has no love for his “father,” the mere fact he rescued the villain will haunt him. When Quaritch returns in Avatar 3, Spider may lose the trust of the Sullys, not to mention cause more problems for Na’vi everywhere.
What happens to Kiri in Avatar: The Way of Water?
Meanwhile, introspective Kiri (Sigourney Weaver, playing a teenager) fully harnesses her strange connection to Eywa, the planet’s psychic energy the Na’vi revere as a deity. So much of Kiri’s entire story is still a mystery, including the identity of her father and the circumstances of her birth from Dr. Grace Augustine’s Avatar. But the very title of The Way of Water more or less alludes to Kiri’s arc as she learns to connect to Pandora’s essence. It’s because of Kiri maturing into her “superpower” throughout the film that allows her to summon a source of light — a school of bioluminescent fish — to find the others and lead them to safety out of the RDA’s sinking ship.
In the end, the Sullys are welcomed into the Metkayina clan and given permission to stay. Because Neteyam is buried on their grounds, the Sullys are now part of their community. The final scene of The Way of Water has the Sullys use Eywa to revisit their fallen son, where Jake fully accepts his place on Pandora more than ever, and more sworn to defend it at all costs.
Although it took over a decade before James Cameron could bring audiences back to Pandora, we won’t have to wait as long to see how The Way of Water will influence Avatar 3. With the tentative title Avatar: The Seed Bearer, the movie completed principal photography two years ago in December 2020 and is set for release on December 20, 2024. In addition to most of the cast returning, newcomers Michelle Yeoh, Oona Chaplin, and David Thewlis will play new characters.
It’s too early to speculate what’s in store for Avatar 4 and Avatar 5, which will only happen based on the box office performances of both The Way of Water and Avatar 3 (though James Cameron has revealed at least one detail). But as Way of Water leaves audiences dangling for more, it’s all but certain they’ll be back for Avatar 3.
Avatar: The Way of Water is now playing in theaters.