Aquaman “Pilot” (part 10 of 11)

And when we get back from “commercial”, A.C. and Ving are tied up in the cabin of The Quint. Apparently, Nadia is bringing them both out to sea. And I say, whaaaaaaaaa? Why? Nadia wants to kill A.C., right? And there was nothing to stop her from doing it right there on the spot with her nasty Lee Press-On talons, right? So… why not just kill him already? Didn’t she realize I would have been happy to help?

Okay, maybe she needs to take him out to sea and kill him there for some reason. Implausible, but I’ll go along with it. But even if that’s the case, whyput him on a boat? Look who we’ve got here: A.C., Nadia, and Ving. All creatures of the sea. None of them need a boat! Boats are for stupid humans who can’t do the Patrick Duffy Body Wave thing!

Even dumber? This is A.C.’s boat. He’s lived on it for years, and Nadia hasn’t. So, basically, she’s giving him the home court advantage, so to speak.

The fact that the final confrontation between three Atlanteans takes place aboard a boat is just criminally stupid. Here you have Aquaman, supposedly one of the most powerful beings in the ocean, and what do we get? Essentially, someone dragging a chunk of land out into the sea so they can have the big fight there. They’ve been squandering the potential of this character since minute one, and now, at last, the Aquaman-ness of this venture has officially run dry. Yes, pun intended.

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Anyway, A.C. comes to and rolls over, coming face-to-face with a photograph of himself and Eva, which just happened to have fallen on the deck, face up, in this particular spot. The photo prompts him to remember that his friend has been skewered. But Ving tells him they have more important things to worry about now: Primarily, staying alive. (I really want to know how Nadia got the drop on Ving. Somehow, I think they were wise in not trying to show that.)

Meanwhile, The Quint is climbing across Perfect Storm-sized waves. These waves are so big, I’m keeping an eye out for the Poseidon. As the camera moves to the front of the boat, we see that Nadia, now in her full siren grotesquery, has herself in braces and is manually hauling the boat along [!!].

OMG? WTF? Why the hairy heck is Nadia bothering to haul her two enemies out to sea in a big clumsy boat, presumably for some elaborate execution scenario, when she had them both completely in her power back on shore? What is she, a Bond villain? Oh wait, that would actually explain a lot.

Caption contributed by Mark

Atlantis’ valet service is actually quite good. But if you don’t tip them well, they’ll slice your arms off.

Much to my amazement, A.C. is perceptive enough to address this very problem, asking Ving why Nadia hasn’t gutted them already. He wonders why she’s intent on physically dragging them back to Atlantis. Ving’s response is that A.C. is a “symbol of hope”, and if the Atlantean people actually see him die, “that hope dies too.” Sorry, still not buying it, for a number of reasons.

First, I bet A.C.’s head on a stick in the middle of Atlantis Town Plaza would be just as effective as a public execution. Second, Nadia would have to know that hauling A.C. back to Atlantis carries a major risk of him escaping along the way. And A.C. can’t escape if he’s sliced into sushi before the trip even starts.

Third, even if A.C. doesn’t escape, his physical presence in Atlantis would rally the people around him, way more than just seeing his severed head on a stick. And let’s say they gave him a chance to make a speech before his execution. (Given the Bond Villian-esque tactics already on display, I’d say an “any last words” moment is a foregone conclusion.) Wouldn’t that give him a pretty good shot at pleading his case, and rallying “his people” against the bad guys?

And fourth, they’re going to Atlantis. Last I checked, it’s at the bottom of the ocean. So why are they taking a boat? That’s like trying to drive to the South Pole. You might be able to do it, but boy, are you setting yourself up for a few rough moments.

A.C. says he needs to be exposed to water. It seems the idea is that he has super-strength only when he’s wet. Hmm. I wonder when A.C. discovered this? There’s never been the slightest hint that this was the case until now, but it’s an aspect of his powers that A.C. seems very clear on. This whole show is very oblique, both about what A.C.’s powers are, and what he knows about them. I guess that way, it’s much easier to make it up as they go along.

I guess this has-to-be-wet thing could explain why Nadia put him on the boat, since this does restrict A.C.’s access to water. Not by much, though. Because not only are they traveling through pouring rain that’s due to leak into the cabin sooner or later, they’re also going to Atlantis. Which is completely underwater. I really don’t foresee A.C. staying dry much longer.

Regardless, Ving’s immediate instinct is to tell A.C. he has a flask in his boot, which the tied-up A.C. is able to reach with a fair amount of grunting and groaning. No, this won’t make him wet enough to get superpowerful—Instead, A.C. smashes the flask, and uses the glass to start sawing at the ropes binding his wrists. Wow, it’s a good thing that Ving is a crazy drunk!

The seahorse around Nadia’s neck starts glowing. (This must be A.C.’s seahorse, since she didn’t have one before. Once again, this begs the question of why she didn’t take Raftwreck Boy’s pendant if she really wanted one that bad.) Soon, another energy bolt shoots up out of the ocean, and man, these things are even more unmistakable at night. Especially in a storm. You’d think Bermuda Triangle folklore would be rife with tales of these energy bolts. They’re almost as obvious as Pamela Anderson’s—um, inspiring compassion and sweet disposition. Oh hi, Pam! Didn’t see you there.

Once freed, A.C. quickly finds a pitcher of water that just happens to be lying around, and pours it all over his head. Oh god, really? A.C. is only strong when he’s wet, so instead of making that a point of dramatic tension, and instead of making him work to get wet enough to do anything, you’re just going to leave pitchers of water lying around for him to dump over his own head, like the whole thing is some stupid party trick? Criminy, what’s the point, then? You might as well just make him strong all the time. The way it is now, it’s like his super-strength has an easy-access “on” switch.

And as if this wasn’t lame enough on its own, I suddenly remembered that Turbo Teen had to do pretty much the same thing to change into a car. And in terms of quality, there’s not a lot of distance between Turbo Teen and Superfriends, so it appears we truly have come full circle.

Caption contributed by Mark

You idiot, you’re supposed to pour the Gatorade over the coach’s head, not your own!

Anyhow, A.C. is now strong enough to yank the cords off Ving’s wrists and ankles one-handed. I wonder how that works. If you’re really strong, and you pull really hard on ropes that are binding someone’s ankles, won’t you just yank his legs in the air? I’m beginning to think the amount of thought that went into this whole scene could be ironed flat, folded carefully into sixteenths, and slipped through the mail slot of the home of a particularly small hydrogen atom.

A.C. and Ving proceed to have a tired debate, with A.C. taking the “I wanna kill her” side, while Ving counterpoints with “I swore to protect you”. Then Ving asks A.C. if there are any weapons aboard, which means Ving intends to kill her himself. Hey, here’s a thought, maybe the two of them could work together to kill her? Why is it action heroes never seem to think of that one?

Nadia hears Ving calling her, and immediately launches herself onto the boat, morphing back into Beach Babes Girl mode, as she has a tendency to do. She steps into the cabin and Ving fires a harpoon gun at her, but she grabs the shaft and laughs. Which officially puts her on the fast track to becoming as much of a bad ass as Mr. T.

“Your aim’s getting better,” she sneers. She hauls him toward her using the harpoon line, and jams the barbed shaft into his leg. Ving screams very unconvincingly, as if the line in the script were literally “AAAUUUURRRGG!” and he just delivered it verbatim. Reminds me of an old episode of a sci-fi show in which dinosaurs were roaming through a city, and there was a T. rex that, instead of roaring, would holler the word “ROAR!”

Nadia demands to know where Orin is, but Ving says, “Rot in hell, you scaly bitch!” He needs a new derogatory term for sirens, I think. She yanks out the harpoon and stabs it into his torso, asking again about Orin’s whereabouts. At this point, A.C. is pulled up on wires—I mean, he leaps out of the ocean and lands on the deck of the boat. “I’m right here!” he yells. So, did A.C. save himself as Ving told him to, and then decide to come back? Or was he lying in wait the whole time? You decide, because the writers didn’t bother to.

Casting aside her weapon, and forgetting that she can morph her hand into lethal talons, Nadia engages A.C. in a fistfight [!]. I’m no longer sure which of these two was more shortchanged in the smarts department.

A.C. belts her so hard she’s thrown through the cabin, where she lands on the bow. This move is Miles and Al’s favorite gag, by the way. Clark does it so often in Smallville (at least once per episode) that it’s acquired its own nickname, the “thirty-yard chuck.”

Caption contributed by Mark

“All right, Namor, you and me! We’ll see who has the Power of Shirtlessness!”

A.C. leaps over the cabin and lands near her, but Nadia roundhouse-kicks him and knocks him down. She jumps on him and starts throttling him, and we see that she’s morphed her teeth into fangs [!!], which she bares at A.C. Like she’s Cujo or something. You know, honey, maybe the lethal talons would be more useful at this point. What’s even funnier is that when Nadia taunts A.C. about his mother not being able to save him this time, it’s obvious that Adrianne Palicki is having trouble talking around the prosthetics. Wow. So those fangs are stupid in terms of plot, character, and performance. A hat trick!

We already know A.C. is easy to taunt, and sure enough, he demands to know what she did to his mom. She gleefully retorts, “You’ll find out!” Well, not if you strangle him, he won’t.

Ving succeeds in yanking the harpoon out of his flesh, and throws it to A.C. He catches it and, remembering Ving’s instruction from earlier in the show, slams it between Nadia’s eyes. This causes her to explode [!!!], leaving no trace behind except A.C.’s seahorse dropping to the deck. That’s right, she exploded. Okay, so maybe it was a design flaw to pack the sirens’ heads with C4, but at least that explains why they don’t have any brains.

The big energy bolt they were heading for vanishes. This perplexed me, until I decided that it must have been summoned in some way by Nadia, so her death must have somehow caused it to disappear. Isn’t it fun when the writers let you figure out the plot mechanics on your own, so they don’t have to?

A.C. picks up the seahorse and stares at it. Ving limps up and tells him his father would have been proud. They look out at the ocean together, as if pondering future weekly encounters with the Atlanteans, always in sexier and more exciting ways.

Mark "Scooter" Wilson

Mark is a history guy, a graphics guy, a guy for whom wryly cynical assessments of popular culture are the scallion cream cheese on the toasted everything bagel of life. He spends his time teaching modern history at Brooklyn College, pondering the ancient Romans at the CUNY Graduate Center, and conjuring maps and illustrations for ungrateful bankers at various Manhattan monoliths. Readers are welcome to guess at reasons why he’s nicknamed Scooter, with the proviso that all such submissions are guaranteed to be rather more interesting than the truth. Mark lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with a happy-go-lucky, flop-eared dog named Chiyo who is probably, at this very moment, waiting patiently for her walkies.

Multi-Part Article: Aquaman "Pilot"

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