How was this key ‘Avatar’ character’s return possible in ‘The Way of Water?’

Quaritch as a recom in 'Avatar: The Way of Water'
Image via 20th Century Studios

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

Avatar: The Way of Water was much more than a mere sequel to James Cameron’s original 2009 film. The sequel managed to introduce many new elements into the world of Pandora and the franchise as a whole, setting up numerous different plot threads which will probably pop up in Avatar 3 and beyond. The film also managed to introduce multiple new characters, while bringing a large number of characters from the first film back.

One of these characters is Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who was thought to have been killed after being shot with two of Neytiri’s (Zoe Saldaña) arrows at the end of Avatar. But we see him alive as the main antagonist of Avatar: The Way of Water, so let’s unpack the film and tell you exactly how he managed to come back. 

How is Colonel Quaritch in Avatar: The Way of Water?

Quaritch in 'Avatar'
Photo via 20th Century Fox

At the end of the first Avatar, Colonel Quaritch and some of the Marines who make up the RDA’s Security Operations division confront Jake Sully and the Na’vi only to die at their hands. The humans who did not die were escorted back to their ships and off Pandora. Colonel Quaritch was one of the humans to die but it does not stop him from coming back as a Na’vi at the beginning of Avatar: The Way of Water.

However, it was not as if Colonel Quaritch had an avatar waiting in the wings for him, he was truly dead. Instead, far from Pandora, after the RDA had been escorted from the planet, Quaritch and his friends came back as recombinants. Recombinants are technically a form of avatar, but one which does not require a human host. 

In Avatar, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) both controlled their avatars by isolating themselves in a machine, and once removed from the machine their connection to the Na’vi body would be separated. Norm (Joel David Moore) is one of the only humans who still utilizes this method of becoming a Na’vi as Grace died in the first film and Jake’s consciousness was successfully transferred into his brother’s avatar at the end of Avatar

Quaritch's death scene in 'Avatar'
Photo via 20th Century Fox

The recombinant, or recom for short, is a Na’vi body that does not need to connect to a host. Instead, the user has their memories implanted in the body, which does mean that a user cannot remember anything after they have had their memories implanted. For example, Colonel Quaritch underwent the process before he left to confront Jake, meaning that in Avatar: The Way of Water he did not know who killed him until he found out for himself. Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) and Quaritch appeared in a video recording to explain the situation to the disoriented recom, but that was also recorded before he left. 

One thing that the movie does make clear is that the person whose memories are implanted into the Na’vi and the resulting recom are not the same people. Even Quaritch makes reference to this in the movie, and he has character development in the film, but you are not sure whether that is due to his character growing or the fact that he has become a Na’vi. Either way, making Quaritch a recom allowed us to see an antagonistic version of Jake’s journey from the first film while re-establishing the lore and rules of the Avatar universe.

One major benefit of the recom system is that they can essentially have any human in the film come back to life when they have died. Even though it is unclear if this process can happen more than once, if the person is important enough to the RDA, it could probably happen. Another benefit is that it essentially guarantees that any human in the series can also have a Na’vi counterpart, which is an interesting idea for the franchise and probably a great idea for merchandise. 

Trudy in 'Avatar'
Photo via 20th Century Fox

It is unclear whether they will bring the recom process back for the third movie, or even if they will bring it back for one of the other sequels. After all, both Dr. Augustine and Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez) died in the first movie, so there could be a chance that they could both return but only as Na’vi. Weirdly, the recom process is not even the only process of lengthening the life of human beings that was introduced in Avatar: The Way of Water.

They introduce a substance called Amrita in the film. Amrita is a yellow substance that can be stolen from the inside of a tulkun, which is a whale-like creature that is introduced in the movie. The tulkun are very smart and quite hard to kill, but the Amrita, once taken by a human, negates aging, effectively rendering the user immortal. Because of this and the rarity of the substance, it is highly valuable.

For some reason Avatar: The Way of Water does introduce a couple of ways for its characters to survive longer in one way or another. You have to wonder whether they’ll introduce another one in Avatar 3. It would be interesting if they did use the recom process for characters who are already dead, but you have to wonder about the Na’vi side of the situation. 

At the end of Avatar: The Way of Water they bury Jake and Neytiri’s son, Neteyam after he dies earlier in the movie. But they manage to experience memories of Neteyam when he was younger by connecting to Eywa. It is not stated in the movie, but they could have somehow studied that aspect of the Na’vi and made their own version of it to create the recoms. It creates a more interesting idea either way. Could Jake and Neytiri somehow harvest the recom technology with the memories contained in Eywa to create their own recom version of Neteyam?

This could easily serve as a plot point for a future film, splitting Jake and Neytiri as one of them might want their son back at any cost, and the other might not want to corrupt Eywa by harvesting the memories. Or it could turn out to be nothing, but it seems weird to introduce a method of rebirth with memory extraction while also introducing that the Na’vi can see memories through Eywa. Either way, we should learn more in the sequels.

Experience Avatar: The Way of Water while it is in theaters now.