With three more Avatar sequels on the way, it goes without saying the major characters will be back. Jake Sully, Neytiri, their kids, the evil Quaritch, etc. But one character introduced in the latest film didn’t have such a clear path. We’re talking of course about Payakan, the exiled Tulkun (the space whale) who befriends Jake and Neytiri’s middle child Lo’ak and helps save the day in the end.

“Payakan will be back,” Jon Landau, a producer on the Avatar films, told the Wrap. He’d already confirmed this back in January but what’s interesting here is that Landau reveals during production on Avatar: The Way of Water, not everyone thought Payakan would be the fan favorite he instantly became.

“I always viewed Payakan a little bit like Lassie,” Landau told the trade. “And I would say this is a story like a boy and his dog, and they’re both outcasts and they need each other. And I thought that Payakan was going to be a character [that has a strong connection with the audience]. People wouldn’t see that at first. And we had to keep saying Payakan is a character. And when we would ask people about characters, Payakan was always on that list and included them, which was unusual.”

Unusual until you see the movie and realize Payakan is not only a link to this larger world that exists between the Metkayina and the Tulkun, but a way for Lo’ak to break out of his shell. He also has those unforgettable heroic moments where he jumps onto the poacher’s ship, redirects their cables, etc. If you think about it, Jake, Neytiri, and the rest of the Navi probably would not have survived if not for good old Payakan.

So when will we see him again? Probably in the third Avatar film, which will be in theaters in December 2024. After all, Payakan’s bestie Lo’ak apparently narrates the third film, so he’ll definitely be around to hang with his friend. That’ll be followed by the fourth film in 2026 and the fifth in 2028.

Avatar: The Way of Water is still in theaters and hits digital download March 28. There’s no word yet on when it’ll be on streaming.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.


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