How did Jake Sully become a Toruk Makto in ‘Avatar?’ Does he carry the title into ‘The Way of Water?’

Sam Worthington as Jake Sully in 'Avatar'
via 20th Century Studios

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Avatar: The Way of Water

When Avatar first came out in 2009 it changed the state of the Hollywood movie scene. Not only did it become the highest-grossing movie of all time, but it forever changed the standard of CGI in cinema. That being said, the movie’s plot was never as groundbreaking as its success. 

One man, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), infiltrates a foreign tribe in order to gain inside information, but instead of following through on his plan he falls in love with a woman, Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), and befriends her clan, eventually turning his back on his people and becoming one of “The People.” Of course, that’s describing it in the simplest terms; Avatar breaks away from the mold with certain sci-fi nuances that differentiate it from the pack. 

For starters, it takes place on an alien planet known as Pandora set hundreds of years in the future. The foreign tribe Jake infiltrates is a special humanoid type species known as Na’vi. Their culture is both similar and unique to many found in traditional human customs but because of its futuristic and sci-fi elements, the creatures and customs the Na’vi people interact with are far from what we’re used to seeing on Earth. 

One such custom is the reverence of a special type of warrior known as the Toruk Makto, or Rider of the Last Shadow. There have only been six Toruk Makto in Pandora’s long history. Becoming one requires a warrior to bond with one of the planet’s most ferocious creators known as the Toruk. Few have done so and lived to tell the tail. Neytiri’s great-great-grandfather was the fifth and most recent Toruk Makto. Jake Sully became the sixth.

How did Jake Sully become the sixth Toruk Makto in Pandora’s history?

After being forced by her mother Mo’at to take Jake under her wing, Neytiri begins the long and arduous journey of teaching Jake Sully the way of the Na’vi people. She teaches him how to ride the Pandora direhorse, how to easily swing through the forest trees, and eventually takes him up to Hallelujah Mountains and teaches him how to bond with and ride the dragon-like mountain banshees known as Ikran. 

Jake’s innate ability to ride an Ikran compared to the direhorse foreshadowed what would become his historic achievement of becoming the next Toruk Makto. After falling out of the Omaticaya Clan’s good graces for exposing himself as a spy for the Sky People, Jake learns that Colonel Quaritch plans to blow the Tree of Souls into smithereens in a “shock and awe” campaign propelled by Quaritch’s anger that Jake and Norm escaped their imprisonment. Jake does the only thing he can think of and tries to win over the Omaticaya Clan by becoming the next Toruk Makto. 

He mounts his Ikran, takes to the sky, and goes out in search of a Toruk. He successfully bonds with the Toruk and returns to the Omaticaya Clan as the sixth Na’vi in history to ever bond with the enormous and ferocious creature, effectively becoming the next Toruk Makto. 

Is Jake Sully still the Toruk Makto in Avatar: The Way of Water

'Avatar: The Way of Water' has massive opening weekend but falls short of expectations
Image: 20th Century

When we meet Jake Sully in Avatar: The Way of Water, nearly 15 years have passed since the Assault on the Tree of Souls and the death of Colonel Quaritch. He is not only the Toruk Makto, but he is also the leader of the Omaticaya Clan; Neytiri’s brother, Tsu’tey gave him the title in a deleted scene following his death in the first Avatar movie. 

Even though he is the Toruk Makto in Avatar: The Way of Water, Jake did not keep his Toruk from the first movie. In fact, we never even see the Toruk. That’s because following the Assault on the Tree of Souls in the first film, Jake released his Toruk back into the wild. Bet he wishes he hadn’t done that after learning that Colonel Quaritch has returned. 

Thankfully, his skill for riding flying creatures comes in handy after Jake and his family are made to flee the Omaticaya Clan — and subsequently relinquish the title of leader — in order to seek sanctuary with the Metkayina Clan following Colonel Quaritch’s return. There, Jake learns to ride the water Skimwing animal known as the Tsurak. The water animal was no Toruk but we think Payakan, the massive Tulkun who made friends with Jake’s son Lo’ak, made up for Toruk’s loss.

Avatar: The Way of Water is now showing in theaters.