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The Most Confusing Moments In Avatar: The Way Of Water Explained

Coming 13 years after the original film, "Avatar: The Way of Water" needed to accomplish multiple things. It had to deliver on the hype that's built up since the first "Avatar" became the highest grossing film of all time, address lingering plot threads from its predecessor, set up "Avatar 3," and work as a satisfying story in its own right.

It's safe to say that "The Way of Water" satisfies its many goals. Catching up with Jake Sully, now a full-fledged Na'vi, more than a decade after the events of "Avatar," the movie follows his growing family as they struggle against fresh threats from invading human enemies. Along the way, the Sully family travels to a distant region of Pandora and learns the practices of a new tribe of Na'vi people. The thrilling ending of "The Way of Water" left some pretty big unanswered questions that will help propel the franchise into one sequel and possibly many more.

"The Way of Water" might be three hours and 12 minutes long, but at times the film seems to be rushing through the story. The bombardment of sci-fi concepts, Na'vi cultures, and mind-blowing visual effects might have left some fans in a whirlwind, but now it's safe to slow down and have the movie's most confusing moments explained.

This article contains spoilers for "Avatar: The Way of Water."

Did the humans land their ships on Pandora?

"Avatar: The Way of Water" starts with a look at the 13 years of peace that Jake, Neytiri, and the rest of the Omatikaya clan got to experience after the end of the first movie. The tribe works on repairing some of the destruction the Resources Development Administration (RDA) caused during its tenure on Pandora, while Jake and Neytiri start a family and end up raising four children. After just a few minutes of runtime, however, that peace is disrupted when humans, via the RDA, return to the moon.

Humanity's return happens so quickly that it's easy to be confused on what exactly goes down when they arrive. To some, it looks like the massive spacefaring vessels that people use to travel the stars land on Pandora, destroying huge swaths of the ecosystem in the process. What actually happens is much darker.

The starships that humanity uses to get to Pandora can't actually land on the surface of the planet. Humans need to use smaller shuttles to get to the ground, but when they return to Pandora they momentarily dip their larger ships into the moon's atmosphere. By doing that, they're able to use their engines to burn away the forest and establish a new mining colony directly over a large deposit of unobtainium.

Why do the Sullys leave the forest?

After humans come back to Pandora, the film skips ahead one year. Now Jake and Neytiri lead the Omatikaya people in open rebellion against the human invaders. The tribe has moved their base of operation into the floating mountains, and they come down to make strikes on human settlements, train lines, and mining projects.

Early in the movie, the team of Na'vi avatars led by Colonel Miles Quaritch — whose consciousness was uploaded into a Na'vi body after his death in the first film — captures Spider, a young human who's lived on Pandora his entire life and is close friends with the Sully family. When Jake realizes that his old enemy has returned and that someone who knows all their secrets has been compromised, he convinces Neytiri that they need to leave the Omatikaya to protect their family and their tribe.

Obviously, getting as far away from Quaritch and the RDA as possible will help keep the Sully family safe, but it's not exactly clear why Jake thinks leaving will help the Omatikaya. For the time being, the Sullys are the RDA's top priority, but one way or another all the Na'vi on Pandora are going to have to fight back against the human invasion. Of course, by the end of the film Jake comes around to the idea that there's nowhere to run and decides that he and his family will once again join the fight.

Who is Spider's mother?

Spider, whose real name is Miles, is one of the most influential new characters in "Avatar: The Way of Water." He's just a baby when the Omatikaya force the humans to leave Pandora, but there's no safe way for a baby to be put in cryosleep. The baby stays behind with the few human scientists who remain on the moon, and he grows up with a foot in two worlds. While he may physically be a human, Spider loves the culture of the Na'vi, and he spends a majority of his time with the Sully children.

It doesn't take long for the film to reveal that Spider's father was actually Quaritch from the first "Avatar." Spider later gets captured by Quaritch's Na'vi clone, so in a way the events of the movie actually let him meet his father. Unfortunately, his father is a bloodthirsty Marine who's out to kill the people that Spider views as his real family.

The film never explains who Spider's mother is. Fans might walk out of the theater thinking that Spider's mother left Pandora with the other humans, abandoning her son on the moon, but that isn't the case at all. Spider's first introduction to the "Avatar" universe came in the comic "The High Ground," where it was revealed that his mother was a pilot working on Pandora who died during the fight with the Omatikaya. It turns out that both of his parents were working to kill the people who would end up raising their son.

How did Quaritch come back?

One of the biggest surprises in "Avatar: The Way of Water" is Stephen Lang's return as Quaritch, the aggressively militaristic leader of the RDA encampment in the first movie. He happily destroyed Hometree and dreamed of crushing the Omatikaya completely. Then he and Jake Sully squared off, and Neytiri ended his life with a well-timed arrow.

In "The Way of Water" not only is Quaritch back, but he's also blue. Quaritch wakes up on a spaceship bound for Pandora and realizes that he's inside an avatar body. The movie breezes by the explanation for his return with a speed that is science fiction-speak for "don't worry about it," but Quaritch's new Na'vi body is actually pretty easy to explain.

Essentially, at some point during the events of the original "Avatar," the RDA made a scan of Quaritch's brain. His experience on Pandora was so valuable that the RDA wanted to preserve it for a worst-case scenario that resulted in Quaritch's death. When the Omatikaya booted the humans off Pandora, the scan got sent back to Earth, and there the RDA inserted Quaritch's memories and personalities into a vat-grown Na'vi body, so they could send him back to the moon with a whole new range of abilities unavailable to humans. Quaritch in "The Way of Water" is basically a clone of his former self, but there's no telling what effect his new physiology will ultimately have on his personality and views on Pandora.

What is the RDA's mission now?

In "Avatar" the RDA came to Pandora because it appeared to be a lush repository for life in a cold, uninviting universe. After arriving on Pandora, the RDA discovered unobtainium, an immensely powerful energy source worth a fortune. The main conflict of the film centered on the RDA's desire for the unobtainium buried beneath Hometree.

"The Way of Water" makes some significant changes to the RDA's original mission. When humans return to Pandora, they use their ship engines to burn massive sections of forest to the ground. With plants and animals out of the way, setting up a mining depot that can dig up as much unobtainium as possible becomes a trivial matter. Now the humans have two new primary objectives on Pandora.

First is the hunting of underwater creatures called Tulkun. Though the Tulkun are every bit as intelligent and empathetic as human beings, their brains produce an oil that's capable of stopping human aging, so the RDA begins hunting them into extinction. The bigger mission, however, is preparing Pandora to receive even more humans. General Ardmore tells Quaritch that because the Earth is undergoing environmental collapse, she's been tasked with overpowering the Na'vi in order to make Pandora the new home for humanity.

Do the Na'vi all speak the same language?

When Jake and his family leave the Omatikaya, they flee the forest in search of a new home. They ride their ikran across the oceans of Pandora, eventually making their way to a new tribe who might agree to shelter them.

The Metkayina live along the edge of the ocean, and they spend a majority of their time underwater, swimming along the reef, communicating with creatures like the Tulkun, and gathering resources to survive. With green skin and fin-like appendages, the Metkayina look distinctly different from the Omatikaya, and they have cultural practices that help them to adapt to life in the water.

Despite all the differences between the two tribes, when the Sullys arrive at the Metkayina's home, they have no trouble communicating with their would-be protectors. How can two tribes from different parts of the world, with wildly different cultures, speak the same language? It might be easy to consider this shared language a typical movie cheat moment, but there's actually something more complex going on here. All life on Pandora is linked, spiritually and physically, through Eywa. By connecting themselves to sacred objects like the Spirit Tree, the Na'vi can commune with all of nature, and even with their ancestors. It's thanks to this global network that all the Na'vi are able to communicate with each other freely.

How can the Tulkun communicate with the Na'vi?

The Tulkun might look like Pandora's version of whales, but mentally they're much closer to humans than any other animal on Earth. Tulkun have massive brains that actually have more capacity for emotion, empathy, and spiritual connection than humans do. They form relationships and raise families, just like any sentient species seems to do.

Tulkun hold a special place in Metkayina society. Individual Metkayina form a kind of soul bond with a Tulkun that makes the Tulkun part of the family from the tribe's perspective. While the Tulkun spend much of their time in the open ocean, every year they return to the Metkayina to reconnect with their Na'vi siblings and share stories of everything that's happened in their time apart from each other.

The Metkayina and the Tulkun don't speak the same language, but they do manage to communicate with each other effectively. For the most part, the Metkayina talk to their soul siblings with a kind of sign language that lets them form words while staying underwater. The Tulkun speak with their own language and communicate as much as they can through their actions. The fact that the Metkayina and the Tulkun understand each other probably has a little to do with their connection through Eywa, but it also speaks to the incredible intelligence of the Tulkun and the length of time the two groups have been connected to each other.

Who is Kiri's father?

Kiri is one of the most mysterious characters in "Avatar: The Way of Water." Near the end of the original "Avatar," Jake and the Omatikaya attempt to save the life of Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) by permanently transferring her consciousness into her avatar. Unfortunately Grace doesn't survive the process, but her avatar remains physically alive and gives birth to Kiri sometime after the film ends. Jake and Neytiri adopt Kiri into their family.

In the 13 years between the two films, no one steps forward as Kiri's father. Kiri obviously loves being a member of the Sully family, but she still wonders who her real father could be. While communing with the Spirit Tree, Kiri gets the opportunity to speak with Grace's consciousness. She asks about her father, but before Grace can answer, Kiri begins having a seizure, severing her connection to the Spirit Tree. The story behind Kiri's conception left more than one fan confused, but it's clearly a mystery that's being set up for a future movie to explore.

How did Jake call Norm and Max?

When Kiri has a seizure during her visit to the Spirit Tree, she nearly drowns. The other children pull Kiri to the surface, but after that she's unconscious and in critical condition. In the very next scene, Norm and Max arrive to the Metkayina village via helicopter to treat Kiri. Ultimately it's Ronal's healing practices that save Kiri for some unknown reason, but Norm tells Jake about Kiri's seizure and warns him not to let his adopted daughter return to the Spirit Tree.

Considering that the Sullys traveled all the way to the Metkayina village to separate themselves from the resistance fight happening back in the forest, it seems strange that Jake has a way to communicate with his human friends. The movie doesn't show how he's able to reach out to Norm and Max, but it's possible that his regular wearable comms device has a range that reaches all the way back home. The helicopter flight to the village ends up clueing Quaritch and his team into the Sullys' location, so hopefully Jake learns to operate a little more under the radar in the future.

Does Neytiri hate Spider?

Spider and Kiri are best friends, and the human boy also has a close relationship with all the other Sully children. In the beginning of the film, Jake talks about Spider as though he's just another member of the family, but Neytiri doesn't appear to see things the same way.

At least early on, Neytiri's attitude toward Spider could be called dismissive at best. She doesn't pay him much mind when life is peaceful, but when humans return to Pandora and put the whole family in danger, Neytiri doesn't waste any time helping Spider. Neytiri prioritizes the safety of the Na'vi children to the point that she allows Spider to get captured by Quaritch and his team.

During the movie's climax, Neytiri threatens Spider's life to convince Quaritch to let her family go. It would be comforting to think that Neytiri is bluffing about slicing Spider's throat, but she certainly gives off the sense that she's willing to go through with it, and she doesn't apologize to Spider afterward. Neytiri doesn't necessarily have any ill will toward the boy, but she sees him as just another sky person getting in the way of her world being free.

How does Kiri control plants and animals?

Throughout the movie, Kiri demonstrates a connection to Eywa that goes beyond what the other Na'vi experience. In the Metkayina village, Kiri tells Jake that she can feel Eywa around her. More than once Kiri shows that she's able to somehow influence the natural life around her, whether through some kind of telepathic communication or outright mind control. All of this has led some fans to believe that Kiri may have been created by Eywa herself, but only future movies may hold the answers.

What's especially interesting is that Kiri doesn't always influence the plants and animals around her in the same way. When she lies down in the forest, the grass pulses and ripples outward from her body. Later, in the Metkayina village, Kiri moves her hands and a school of fish mimics her. But at the movie's climax, Kiri needs to physically connect to a group of plants before using them to ensnare the people chasing her.

One way or another, Kiri's intense connection to Eywa allows her to influence the living things in her environment. The exact rules of her influences are going to have to be sussed out by another "Avatar" movie.

Why does Spider save Quaritch?

Though Spider grew up with the Sully children, he spends most of "The Way of Water" with Quaritch, who just so happens to be the Na'vi clone of Spider's real father. Growing up, Spider knew that his dad was the man who destroyed Hometree and killed countless Na'vi, so when he meets Quaritch he has no real interest in spending time with him. Quaritch, on the other hand, seems almost immediately pulled toward Spider.

Quaritch makes Spider act as his Na'vi interpreter and all-around guide to Pandora. As a tradeoff, Quaritch won't let the RDA torture Spider for information about the Sullys. It might be understandable if Spider becomes attached to his pseudo-father during their time together, but over and over again Spider challenges Quaritch's actions and tries to get him to stop destroying lives.

At the end of the film, Quaritch lets the Sully children get away in order to save Spider's life. Not long after that, Spider sees Quaritch drowning and pulls him onto land. Quaritch asks Spider to come back with him to the RDA, but Spider tells him that the Sullys are his real family and leaves. Spider might have saved Quaritch as a way of returning the favor or just because he, like the Tulkun, is committed to the idea of not killing, but either way his choice is sure to have repercussions on the future of the "Avatar" story.