Aquaman “Pilot” (part 8 of 11)

Back at Eva’s Sugar Shack and Dive Bar, A.C. is trying to reach his dad to ask about Raftwreck Boy. But no luck. (In fact, it seems Lou Diamond Phillips has collected his paycheck and gone home for the day, because he will not be seen again in this episode.) A.C. gets distracted by a group of jerks showing off a marlin they caught, but Eva stops him from marching over and pounding the catch and release policy into their tiny little skulls. She says she doesn’t want him to go back to jail. So how come when it does happen, she brags about it to strangers?

As he moves toward the bar, Beach Babes Girl appears and starts talking about how cruel people can be. A.C. agrees and admits that it’s been bothering him more and more. That marlin belongs in the ocean, not over someone’s fireplace! Beach Babes Girl muses, “Maybe someday the fish will get their revenge.” What? Did she actually say that? Nevertheless, Fish’s Revenge sounds like what happens when Abe Vigoda realizes he shouldn’t have eaten that enchilada.

A.C. abruptly notices he’s being chatted up by a beautiful woman, so he goes into full charm mode, which involves huge incandescent grins and terrible jokes. She actually laughs at “I dunno, I think rednecks would make terrible trophies,” which should be enough to make anyone suspicious of her true motives.

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Beach Babes Girl introduces herself as Nadia, and says saucily, “I heard you’re pretty amazing under the water.” Wow, what a come on. She clearly wants underwater sex. Hmm, I’ve having trouble imagining that. Let me consult my Head DB. Let’s see. Accessing Cocoon—yikes! No no no. I’d forgotten I’d seen Steve Guttenberg getting it on (shudder). Another one, quick. The next hit is Sh-sh-showgirls—aaaiieeee! Get it out of my head! Geeet oooouut! Okay, new rule. From now on, no movies are allowed to even allude to underwater sex ever again. Got that, A.C. and Nadia? Don’t make me hurt you the way Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle MacLachlan hurt me. (I always thought it was fitting revenge for that travesty when Kyle ended up as an impotent wiener on Sex and the City.)

A.C. seems to be on my frequency, missing her point and suggesting she hire him for diving lessons tomorrow. But Nadia moves closer and whispers that she wants to do something “now”. A.C.’s expression goes blank(er), and there’s a slight “swoosh” on the soundtrack, so I think we’re supposed to intuit that Nadia has some super-hypno powers or something. Or, perhaps, we’re simply meant to intuit that A.C. has a penis.

Mind-Controlled and/or Horny A.C. suggests they go for a swim, and soon they’re in the water. As they come up for air, we notice the lighthouse in the background. Man. Did I already mention this show has some lazy writing? Obviously this means that Ving Rhames is going to show up in a minute, just as soon as trouble arises.

The thing is, this is the first time we’ve seen the lighthouse. If the show had previously established that A.C. likes to swim near the lighthouse, I’d believe he brought her here just because. But like before, when he was out at Mercy Reef for the sole purpose of chasing Torres’ jet, the only reason A.C. is swimming here is because it says so in the script.

After more banter, during which we get to enjoy watching two actors struggling to tread water gracefully, Nadia tells him they met before, long ago. As predictably as a Simon Cowell sneer, A.C. asks if she’s sure, because he “definitely would have remembered [her].” Egad. I think that line has been used in every movie ever made. Well, maybe not Memento.

She offers to refresh his memory and dives away from him, and he just stays there, treading water and calling after her like an idiot. A couple beats go by, and suddenly Nadia bursts out of the water, and now she’s all gray and mottled. She swipes at A.C. with taloned hands, slashing him nastily across the chest. Shots from below the water reveal she now has a long fish tail. (It’s night, but these underwater shots feature a steady bright light source from above, which could only come from the lighthouse itself bending over to stare at them.) Now she’s attacking him and, I guess, trying to kill him, but making a real hash of it.

Suddenly, she’s struck by an arrow through the center of her back, and we switch to another angle and see the arrow protruding straight out of her chest [!]. But she seems merely annoyed by this, and when she sees Ving standing on the beach with a crossbow, she just glares at him [!!] and darts away into the deeps.

So. You can shoot an arrow straight through the chest of one of these siren creatures, and all you get for it is a “knock it off!” look? I mean, I’ve heard of invulnerability, but that usually means that bullets and arrows and stuff can’t even pierce your skin. Once you’re actually a shish kebab, doesn’t that elevate the problem to something a little more bothersome than “gosh darn it, another arrow through the heart”?

Caption contributed by Mark

This date now officially sucks.

A.C. climbs out of the water, and onto the rocks near Ving. Evidently, the gash make-up on his chest is really painful, because he’s kicking up quite a fuss. Ving drawls, “I hate those damn things,” like they’d just encountered a cockroach, or some new reality series on Bravo. A.C. asks what it was, but Ving, still committed to being as uninformative as possible until the halfway point of the show, just tells him to get his clothes on, and bam! Black screen.

Well, we’re back from “commercial”, and now that we’ve arrived in the second half, Ving is spilling his guts. In fact, he can’t shut up. He starts talking about sirens, and how he’s seen his “fair share”, and how the only way to kill “those scaly bitches” is to nail them between the eyes. This finally prompts A.C. to ask who he is. Why, I’m Mysterious Stranger, friend! Who did you think I was? Ving answers that he’s an exile, like A.C. and his mother. A.C. asks cautiously, “Exile from where?”

Ving says it’s been called many names, but A.C. probably knows it best as Atlantis. A.C. laughs at him [!] and says, “Next time you’re in Atlantis, can you say ‘hi’ to Captain Nemo and the Little Mermaid for me?” He tells Ving that booze has pickled his brain. Uh, hello, A.C.? You’re the one who can breathe underwater, swim at super-speed, and communicate with fish. Not only that, you were just attacked by a strange sea-creature and this guy saved your life. So maybe it’s not polite to laugh in his face and call him a crazy drunk just yet. Or do you want us not to like you? If so, good job so far.

But we all know the one thing that will get A.C. to stop in his tracks, and so does Ving. “You can’t run away from your true calling, Orin!” Sure enough, Justin Hartley actually stops in his tracks. But, not like he abruptly realizes what Ving said, and the importance of it. And not even like he’s responding to the suddenness of the use of the name. No, Justin pretty much just stops in his tracks, like he’s about to turn ninety degrees and walk another fifteen paces to the right, and then start looking around for “a big W”.

Now it’s a bit later on the beach, and A.C. is pacing around a fire evidently started by Ving. They couldn’t go into the lighthouse? Is it being fumigated? If so, shouldn’t it have a big tent over it?

Anyway, A.C. is processing that his parents were rulers of Atlantis, which, he muses, “technically” makes him a prince. Apparently, this is tough for him to swallow, because he reverts to making fun of Ving again, asking if Atlantis has “a retractable dome”. Yep, keep it up. You only have a tiny little smidgen of likeability left to stamp out.

Caption contributed by Mark

“So do the Atlanteans… do the macarena?”

Now A.C. wants to know why nobody’s ever been able to find Atlantis, and his tone here is practically belligerent. Geez, A.C., it’s not like he told you there’s no Santa Claus, alright? This guy just let you in on the fact you’re heir to the throne of a mystical underwater kingdom, and all you can do is bitch about it? Hey, Ving, don’t give him a million dollars; He might spit in your face.

Anyway, the answer to A.C.’s question is not very helpful: No one’s found Atlantis “because it’s cloaked in a shroud no modern technology can penetrate!” And not only that, it’s also shrouded in a cloak! A super-cloak, actually. In fact, it’s double-cloaked and triple-shrouded! And don’t forget the retractable dome.

This “shroud”, alas, turns out to be the Bermuda Triangle. You know, it’s a good thing A.C. has never picked up a book in his life, because otherwise, he’d have an inkling that this whole Bermuda Triangle Shroud thing is a big crock.

I mean, all we’ve seen of the Atlantean control of the Bermuda Triangle is its offensive weapon (namely, the Death Star laser light show that tagged Atlanna and Torres). How does this “shroud” Atlantis from technology? In fact, wouldn’t it draw attention to the area, and therefore be the opposite of shrouding? Geez, Miles and Al, why do I have to do all the thinking around here?

Anyway, thanks to the No Straight Answers Rule in the first half, Ving has a lot of exposition stored up. He sits down by the fire and starts to unload. You’d better have a seat too, because we’re gonna be a while.

Basically, A.C.’s real dad, the king, wanted peace. (He’s never named here, but called Atlan in the comics. Which is a little like the King of England being named Engle.) Others wanted war with “the surface world” for reasons Ving doesn’t bother to explain. The rebels killed A.C.’s dad, but Ving rescued Atlanna and Orin and brought them to the surface, where they were found by young Lt. Tom Curry.

A.C. figures out this means Tom knows the truth, but Ving says he doesn’t. Atlanna insisted on saying nothing, hoping to shield Orin from his “true destiny.”

A.C. chooses this moment to turn pissy again.

A.C.: And what’s my true destiny, huh?
Ving: [practically chanting] To defend this world you’ve embraced as your own, and protect the ocean from which you were born.

Not exactly “with great power comes great responsibility,” is it? A.C. pithily summarizes the show’s High Concept—and probably paraphrases the original pitch to the network—by saying, “So you want me to fight sirens and Standard Oil?” Pretty much. The only question is, which one is the B plot this week?

A.C., like the major tool he is, goes back to Bail Mode and walks off, telling Ving to “find somebody else.” Quick, he’s leaving! Call him “Orin” again! But Ving simply tells A.C. he can’t avoid his responsibility.

A.C.: This is insane! I’m a dive shop owner! I’m not the protector of the seven seas!
Ving: Destiny is like a riptide. [!!] You never know it’s pulling you in until it’s too late.

“Destiny is like a riptide”? Wow, I’ll have to write that down. That’s right up there with “Our songs are like somebody’s bedsheets.” Ving, man, you had me for a second, then you went and said that destiny is like a riptide. Maybe you meant destiny is like an episode of Riptide. You never know when Perry King is going to wiggle his eyebrows until it’s too late! Or maybe Ving meant Dynasty is like an episode of Riptide. You never know when Perry King is going to take you to Mexico on his yacht and then reveal he’s on the run from his creditors! Is that your point? Wait, no, that’s not Dynasty, that’s Melrose Place. Huh, now I’m all confused.

Anyway, A.C.’s un-response is just to stare at him with a slightly furrowed brow. Zoom in on him, aaaand… scene.

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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