James Cameron’s Avatar ushered in a new era for 3D cinema, but the filmmaker aims to outdo himself by shooting no less than three sequels to his sci-fi behemoth back-to-back-to-back, starting in October 2014. Wisely, Cameron has decided against taking on such a monumental task on his own, having recruited no less than four additional screenwriters to help him on Avatar 2-4. This, in turn, will free Cameron up to spend more time on perfecting the digital tools that he will require in order to further explore the extraterrestrial paradise that is Pandora.

Cast-wise, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are ready to reprise as human Na’Vi Jake Sully and Neytiri, while it seems that Sigourney Weaver will return as former human scientist-turned permanent ethereal resident of Pandora, Dr. Grace Augustine. However, it turns out that Weaver’s character won’t be the only human featured in Avatar who’s (seemingly) coming back from the dead for the sequels.

20th Century Fox has confirmed that Stephen Lang will return as the ruthless Colonel Miles Quaritch in the three Avatar sequels, even though the military leader (SPOILER?) seemed just about dead as a doornail, after taking a couple of arrows to the chest in the first movie. Regardless, it’s looking as though Lang’s antagonist is destined to become a mainstay of the Avatar franchise – but does that mean we can put those rumors about Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the villain in one or more of the sequels to rest? (Short answer: probably, but it’s not a certainty just yet…)

Here is an official statement from Cameron, teasing the explanation for Lang’s return in the Avatar sequels:

“Steven was so memorable in the first film, we’re privileged to have him back. I’m not going to say exactly HOW we’re bringing him back, but it’s a science fiction story, after all. His character will evolve into really unexpected places across the arc of our new three-film saga. I really look forward to working with such a gifted actor, who’s also become a good friend.”

Judging by Cameron’s statement, it sounds as though the relationship between Col. Quaritch and Jake might not evolve in the same direction as, say, the dynamic between Agent Smith and Neo in The Matrix trilogy (or even Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy). That is, with the hero/villain conflict growing somewhat more complex over the second and third installments (and the fourth, in Avatar‘s case); yet, always remaining a mostly straightforward fight between good and not-so-good.

On the contrary, Cameron’s line about how Quaritch will eventually “evolve into really unexpected places” could be a sign that Lang’s scarred military man (whose own philosophy puts the survival of the human race above all else) in camouflage might even turn over a new leaf during the course of the new Avatar trilogy. That could be an interesting development in the story, to make up for the loss of dramatic tension, since it seems the character won’t be dying onscreen anytime soon.

Either way, it’s not at all what we might’ve expected a few years ago, back when we spoke with Lang – during an interview to promote the Avatar Collector’s Edition release – about how the Quaritch character might return in the future. At the time, him appearing in an Avatar prequel tie-in novel (exploring the Colonel’s first days on Pandora) or flashbacks during the movie sequel seemed like the most reasonable option – how times have changed, right?

Avatar 2 is expected to reach theaters in December 2016, followed by Avatar 3 in 2017 and Avatar 4 in 2018.