Aquaman “Pilot” (part 9 of 11)

Not knowing what to do, A.C. heads back to the Sugar Shack to appeal to Eva, since, heck, she almost seemed to buy the thing about the dolphins, right? Eva, it seems, has A.C.’s gift for pithy summarization: “So this girl Nadia is actually a killer mermaid who wants to take you out because you’re some kind of underwater royalty?” Which she says as she flips randomly through a picture book about mermaids [?]. A.C. replies, “In a clamshell, yeah.” A clamshell? Ugh. Can we do the rest of this without A.C.? Is that at all possible?

Eva comments that they always looked so friendly on the Starbucks cups, which is a bit of a stretch. Who hears “mermaid” and immediately thinks Starbucks? I mean, mermaids make me think of that goofy TV movie Sabrina, Down Under before I would ever think of the Starbucks logo. But, um, maybe that tells you more about me than about Aquaman.

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Justin Hartley once again taps into the vulnerability he’s apparently only able to project around Amber McDonald. But this time, she’s not buying it. To finally get her to listen, he has to grab her arm and tell her he thinks Nadia is the creature that attacked his mom. “I have to face her,” A.C. says. He tells Eva to close up shop and get out of town, so she’s not caught in the middle. Meanwhile, he’s going to take the boat to Atlas Point, where Ving has weapons.

Eva walks to the edge of the set and peers into the distance, where a CGI thunderstorm is brewing. How apropos. She figures maybe she should go visit family in Tampa. A.C. apologizes for all the insanity, but Eva says that “being friends with you has always required a leap of faith,” whatever the heck that means. Anyway, someday A.C. will make it up to her by giving her a title like “Duchess of the Deep”. Or, since she’s running away instead of helping her friend who’s being targeted for murder, how about “Chicken of the Sea”?

Caption contributed by Mark

“I’m dead meat, aren’t I?”

Establishing shot of the Bad Acting Infirmary, and now it’s nighttime and pouring rain. Raftwreck Boy wakes up suddenly, which seems to be his specialty and sole talent. Behind him, we get a dramatic reveal on Nadia, who’s all wet and wearing some kind of netting over her bikini [?]. She tells him she doesn’t know how he escaped from Atlantis, “but thank you for leading me to Orin!” Poor Raftwreck Boy. I’ve seen it a million times. Bad guy can’t kill the lead character, so out of pique she goes for whoever she can reach, which is usually someone a good halfway down the cast list, and thus not much of a challenge. I have a feeling that whatever’s about to happen here is not going to be very satisfying for her. Or us.

And now we get the laziest, cheapest rip-off of a murder scene ever committed to film. On a close-up of Nadia’s face, we hear a “something thrusting into flesh” sound effect. Switch to a close-up of Raftwreck Boy, who goes “GAK!” Then back to a close-up of Nadia, accompanied by a “something pulling out of flesh” sound effect. Come on! Did you seriously just show us a murder, without bothering to show us the actual murder itself? Without even giving us a clue what the murder weapon is? Even the werewolf attacks in The Howling: New Moon Rising were filmed with more commitment to the craft than this. Geez, you might as well have just thrown up a title card that said, “By the way, Nadia just killed Raftwreck Boy, but we didn’t feel like filming it.”

Caption contributed by Mark

Something interesting is happening about 18 inches below this shot. You’ll just have to imagine it for yourselves.

Over in the hangar bay, Lt. Torres is doing a walk-and-talk with Bite Me Guy, who says he ordered her mission, and that he works for the “top dog”. And also, this case has been particularly “ruff”. (Sorry, sorry.) He asks about the “flash of light” she saw before she ditched her jet. Torres says she was disoriented and the flash could have been a sun flare. This seems odd coming from Torres, who so far has been pretty inquisitive and aggressive. But for some reason here, she’s falling back and pushing the easy explanation. See, I knew marrying Tom Paris would turn her soft.

Bite Me Guy reminds her she was flying over the Bermuda Triangle, which Torres immediately dismisses as a myth. Bite Me Guy says he used to feel the same way, and takes her to see what changed his mind. They end up in a room full of archive file boxes, out of which Bite Me Guy pulls out pictures of an older man who tried to blow up an oil platform a few years ago. Only, his prints match some guy who was lost with his yacht in 1905. And his entire cargo of unicorns and jackalopes was tragically lost as well.

Torres is understandably skeptical, but Bite Me Guy has more. “He’s not the first to come back,” he says. “Back from where?” Torres asks. He says that’s what Project Nautilus is all about. That, and getting the best darned muscle definition of any secret project in the whole Armed Forces.

As suspected, Bite Me Guy is trying to recruit her into Nautilus, to “help unlock the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle.” Torres objects, saying she has no relevant experience, which I’m sure is merely a repeat of what Denise Quiñones said when they gave her the part. But it seems Torres’s relevant experience is her surviving the extraordinary events at Mercy Reef. A pilot of her quality isn’t taken out of the sky by a sun flare, he says.

Torres still resists, saying she doesn’t want to “chase windmills”. Okay, guys, the expression is tilting at windmills. I mean, windmills don’t exactly run away. Or do they? That might actually give a little more meaning to Don Quixote trying to joust with them, if they were scampering over the hills at the time.

Bite Me Guy turns on the lights, and we see we’re in a warehouse full of files, row after row of shelves with archive boxes, in an obvious rip of the warehouse scene at the very end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Bite Me Guy tells her all these boxes have pictures of people who vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. What? There are thousands of boxes in this shot. Even if there were one picture per box (and why would there be?), that’s still too many people to be associated with Bermuda Triangle disappearances. By a factor of about a thousand.

Bite Me Guy: They are MIAs in an invisible war. [!] Tempest Key’s the front line.

An invisible war? Now, that’s one even Dick Cheney never thought of.

Caption contributed by Mark

“A fabulous prize has been hidden in one of these boxes, and you have sixty seconds to find it!”

Bite Me Guy gets a call, and soon they’re heading through corridors with flashlights. Yes, flashlights. Apparently, between the last scene and this scene, the power was knocked out. I don’t know, can a thunderstorm really knock out the power at a Naval base? Actually, I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that.

They get to the infirmary, which is splattered floor to ceiling with blood [??]. Even Raftwreck Boy’s body is doused with gore, like someone went nuts with a leaky bag of L’Oréal hair dye. Okay, then. So, they didn’t want to show us the murder, but they’re willing to pour blood all over an entire set? Here’s a better question: How did all that blood get there, anyway? Is Atlantean blood under, like, 600 psi of pressure or something? Did she stab him, and then pick up his body and spray the room like he was a super-soaker? I swear, I do not understand this scene.

Bite Me Guy picks up Raftwreck Boy’s seahorse pendant, which Nadia left behind for some reason. Torres reacts to the seahorse in a way that’s difficult to nail down. From her head movements, I’m guessing we’re to infer that Torres recognizes the seahorse, presumably from having seen A.C. wear it. But to be honest, Quiñones just doesn’t have the goods to convey reactions clearly.

Not only that, but A.C. was wearing it under his shirt in the hospital scene, so the only time she could have seen his seahorse (now, now) was while she was semi-conscious and A.C. was rocketing her to the hospital. It’s all a bit of a reach. If that was the intent, they could have inserted a shot during the rescue scene to make it clearer what Torres is reacting to here. But, hey. Why be clear? We have a whole season to sort this stuff out, don’t we?

Or maybe Torres just thinks the seahorse is pretty. Like I said, I have no idea. Between Lou Diamond Phillips’ stone face, Justin Hartley’s slack jaw, Ving Rhames’ lethargic delivery, Bite Me Guy’s overbaked sp00k act, and Denise Quiñones’ blurry reactions, I’m starting to think that what we have here is the Bad Acting Summer Olympics. Up next: the 500-meter Freestyle, with Ambiguously Furrowed Brow!

Anyway, the storm is getting worse. Over at the Sugar Shack, A.C. and Eva are trying to batten down the hatches before she leaves. Suddenly, the power konks out. At first, they think the island’s power lines were blown over, but A.C. can see that the lights are still on at “Captain Jack’s”, so it must be the circuit breaker. Okay, so, this storm knocked out power at the local Naval base, but some hole named Captain Jack’s still has electricity. Excellent. I feel really good about our national security right about now. Now if you’ll excuse me, Captain Jack will be getting me by tonight.

A.C. and Eva head into a utility room to check the circuit breakers, and Eva asks if he’s sure he knows what he’s doing. Because circuit breakers sure are complicated. They have both an “on” and an “off” setting!

A.C. gripes that she’s not holding the flashlight steady, but it turns out it’s because she’s being stabbed in the back by Nadia, with her giant wicked fingernail-talons. So I guess I can’t deride her flashlight-handling abilities too much, under the circumstances.

Nadia yowls, “You couldn’t hide forever, Orin!” Hide? What is she talking about? She found him at his place of work. She originally met him here. I don’t think too much forensic perspicacity was required to track him down.

Caption contributed by Mark

“That stupid Madge. She told me it was dishwashing liquid, and now look at me.”

Nadia knocks him into the wall with a big whap. A.C., true to his complete uselessness on land, is down for the count. She kneels and snaps off his seahorse necklace and holds it up, gloating silently. In fact, she’s acting like she pretty much went through all of this just to get the seahorse (with maybe the extra added benefit of getting to slap around a pretty-boy beach bunny slacker). Seems a bit much, though. You know, Nadia, they probably sell those by the binful up in Miami Beach. You didn’t really need to go to this much trouble.

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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