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C-Cubed TV Review: “Aquaman” (Pilot Episode)

Hello, my friends.  It’s been a while since I’ve delved into the vast and ever-expansive world of superhero television.  As such, I’ve decided to take a unique glance at a singular episode.  Unlike “Birds Of Prey” where it only got to share a single season of content before it was ultimately canceled, this particular oddity was the victim of unfortunate timing.  In celebration of its 15th Anniversary, we’ll be taking a look back at the lone entry for a show that never got its chance to make its originally intended splash with audiences.  In that vein, I’ll be taking a dive into the program known as…

Developed by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (who also created the Superman series “Smallville”), the idea for this show came about after that program had their version of the character appear in a Season 5 episode called “Aqua”.  In that venture, Alan Ritchson portrayed Arthur as he teams up with Clark Kent to stop LuthorCorp from unleashing an experimental weapon called Leviathan, since it would harm the nearby sea life.  It became the highest-rated episode for “The WB” and even as it was being made, Gough and Millar began to realize the potential for the character to get his own show.  However, it ultimately didn’t serve as a backdoor pilot and Ritchson wasn’t retained for the possible series.  Speaking of Smallville, Gough & Millar even considered giving Lois Lane her own show, but those plans ultimately fell through (as well as a spinoff focused on Lois & Green Arrow, by the way).  Getting back on track, the first three months of 2006 were spent assembling a cast with Florida model Will Toale initially getting enlisted into the title role.  Ultimately, he was replaced prior to the beginning of filming.  Also during this time, “The WB” was acquiring the channel UPN in order to merge with it and become a new TV station called the CW.  The show (initially titled “Tempest Key” and “Mercy Reef” by the press) began filming in March with a $7 million budget over in Coconut Grove (which is part of the greater Miami area) and Homestead, Florida.  Gough and Millar also wrote the pilot episode’s script, while Greg Beeman directed this initial outing.  Despite the production going as smoothly as it could (I didn’t find anything related to problems while the episode was made), the show was ultimately not chosen for the Fall schedule or even as a midseason replacement.  Wanting to get the pilot episode out in some form, Gough and Millar managed to find a way.  While other parts of the world (like Canada) ultimately got to see it on their small screens, the U.S. would see it released for iTunes on July 24 where it went on to become the most downloaded TV episode at the time.  As of this article, it’s still available for the eternally convenient price of $1.99.  If you’re interested and you have iTunes, then go download it if you’re interested.  For everyone else, let’s take the plunge and see what initially transpired from beneath the depths.

We open on some oceanic sites as Atlanna (surprisingly voiced by Superman III’s Lana Lang & Smallville’s Martha Kent herself, Annette O’Toole) narrates about her son’s story beginning within the vast waters.  She says that it’s full of mystery, “none more so than the Bermuda Triangle”.  In order to fully grasp this notion, she wants us to understand her son, since he lives among the human race, but came from the grand depths.  She had intended to teach her boy “the ways of the world” and live as a proper man, but she was ultimately “taken from him”.

Following the title card, we then flashback to a decade ago as a young Arthur Curry (played by Graham Bentz) is out flying close to the Bermuda Triangle with his mother Atlanna (played by Daniella Deutscher, credited as Daniella Wolters).  Just then, they’re contacted by the Tempest Key Coast Guard as her husband Thomas Curry (played by Lou Diamond Phillips) checks up on them.  From there, she lets Arthur inform his dad about their aquatic venture, ranging from their spotting of a sea turtle to him holding his breath underwater for nearly five minutes.  Afterwards, Atlanna informs Thomas that they’ll be heading back soon in order to grab a bite to eat.

Suddenly, the transmission cuts out while the navigational readings go haywire.  As her seahorse pendant glows, she realizes the approaching danger as a series of water spouts proceed to form out of nowhere.  As such, she tells Arthur to buckle in while she evades them.  Back on land, Thomas has lost connection to his wife & son as he learns from a fellow maritime mate that the sonar isn’t picking up any kind of bad weather from the Bermuda Triangle.

Meanwhile, Atlanna continues to weave around the spouts until she’s unable to evade one and they end up crashing into the ocean.  As the plane proceeds to sink, Arthur is unable to free himself from his seat belt.  Atlanna manages to reach him where she proceeds to tell him that “they” are coming for him and that it’s vital that he reaches the surface in order to “do good” with his life.  As she gives him her seahorse pendant, she promises to find him while also calling him “Orin”.

With the inside of the plane completely filled with water, she notices a deep sea terror lurking outside.  As such, she rips the seatbelt off of her son before they swim towards the door.  With the unknown creature attempting to get in, she kicks it open and forces her son out.  From there, she tangles with the sea beast as they disappear from sight while the plane plunges towards the dark depths.

As night falls, Arthur manages to get saved by a pod of whales.  After he returns to the surface, he looks around in calm fright at the fact that he no longer has his mother.

We then shift ahead to the present day as Arthur has grown up into a young man.  Here, A.C. (played by Justin Hartley) is out swimming amongst the sea life and still wearing his mother’s seahorse pendant.  After a while, he swiftly swims back to the shore as he climbs up to relax on his boat.

Just then, he’s approached by the local sheriff who charges him for sneaking into the marine park (known as “Neptune World”) last night and freeing five dolphins.  Arthur tries to play dumb, but he gets shown images from the security footage that clearly shows him breaking in to bust the sea-based mammals out.  As such, he ends up getting arrested for his act.

Later, A.C. gets bailed out by his father.  As it turns out, Arthur has previously done similar acts like this before.  He then tells his dad that it’s been a full decade since his mother’s disappearance and that she had a lot of things to tell him, not to mention that she called him Orin.  Thomas then says that she also wanted him “to do good” with his life, since he should be in college by this point and not getting himself in trouble with the law.  Although A.C. says that he’s not leaving until he finds out what happened to her, he still admits his rash action and apologizes.  Thomas then tells him to get his life together before he heads out for work.

Later, Arthur arrives at the dive shop/seaside bar where he finds his friend/fellow business partner Eva (played by Amber McDonald) putting his boat up for sale.  She’s also miffed at him, since his arrest prevented him from fulfilling his charter duties as a diving instructor.  Not only that, but she even points out a past moment of recklessness when he swam over to a private cruise ship that was holding a wedding and ran up a steep bar tab.  She then asks why he chose last night to break in and free some dolphins, to which he explains that it felt like they actually called to him, even describing it as “weird empathy”.  Despite his odd description, Eva says that she can call a friend over at Dolphin Rescue in order to set up a Legal Defense Fund.  A.C. thanks her before he assumes his bartending duties.

From there, he’s approached by a customer who recognizes him as Thomas Curry’s son.  He explains that he runs the local lighthouse over at Atlas Point before he suddenly tells Arthur that he remembers the day when his mother’s plane went down, describing a picturesque scene disturbed by a sudden storm.  A.C. asks the man who he is, to which he introduces himself as McCaffrey (played by Luther Stickell himself, Ving Rhames).  Just before he takes his leave, he tells Arthur to keep an eye out, especially when it comes to the unknown beings of the deep.

Later at Mercy Reef (which is 25 miles off the coast of Tempest Key, Florida), the Coast Guard manage to rescue a man who’s floating unconscious on some driftwood.  After bringing the guy aboard the helicopter, Thomas proceeds to examine him before he notices a familiar seahorse pendant around his neck.  Suddenly, the young man wearily exclaims that “they’re coming” and that he “must warn Orin” before he passes out as they proceed to make their way towards the hospital.

We then shift over to the Tempest Key Naval Air Station as Lt. Rachel Torres (played by Denise Quiñones) is approached by Commander Haley (played by Brett Rice).  He informs her that she’ll be flying over Mercy Reef before she questions whether this is a low-level assignment that’s being placed upon her due to a lack of faith in her aerial skills.  He assures her that she’s the best pilot and that these orders came from the higher-ups.  He then says that the reason for this clean sweep is because an unidentified man was recently rescued from said reef with no clue as to where he came from.  As such, he tells her to investigate and report anything unusual back to him.  From there, she climbs into her fighter jet and takes off.

Later, Arthur is out for a swim as he swiftly makes his way through the water.  Just then, Torres flies in as she initially finds nothing out of the ordinary.  A.C. then notices the passing plane as he decides to swim towards it.  As a result, Rachel picks him up as an undersea bogey on her radar.  After a short while, Arthur lets up and returns to the surface.

As Torres prepares to circle back for another look, his seahorse pendant suddenly lights up as a blinding light appears from the ocean and hits the jet, forcing her to bail out before it crashes into the water where it briefly disorients A.C.  Afterwards, he sees Rachel unconsciously land onto the ocean floor as he frees her from her seat before he swiftly takes her back to land.

Later at Tempest Key Hospital, Torres is resting up while Arthur keeps her company.  As she regains consciousness, he asks her if she remembers anything before she passed out.  She tells him that she only recalls seeing “a flash of light” before she wound up “flying in the water” with him “carrying” her at a swift speed through the torrent.  He then attempts to convince her that she was probably hallucinating due to nearly drowning before telling her to rest up.  As he’s about to head out, she sits up and asks him if he thinks her explanation sounded crazy, to which he says that he’ll reserve judgment on that until she recovers.  She then asks him for his name, to which he ultimately tells her that it’s A.C.

As he makes his way down the hall, his seahorse pendant lights up just as he reaches a particular room.  He looks inside and sees someone resting up with a familiar glow on them as well.  After heading in, he finds out that the man has the same pendant.  From there, the newly-rescued guy wakes up and tells “Orin” that “they” know that he survived & that they’ll be coming for him.

Arthur tries to ask him who he is, but he doesn’t get the chance to find out anything as Agent Brigman (played by Rick Peters) arrives with a pair of military personnel to take the weary young man away.  Curry tries to ask the agent who he is and what they’re going to do with the guy, but Brigman ignores his questions and calls up his superiors to inform them of his successful capture.  As A.C. takes his leave, he passes by a woman who seems to have taken a particular interest in him.

Later, the young man wakes up after being transferred to the air field’s infirmary.  As Brigman observes him through a one-way mirror, a military aide gives him a file from the Navy Archive that informs him about this mysterious person.  Brigman learns that the man is Ensign Gus Thompson, who was on Flight 19 which wound up disappearing into the Bermuda Triangle on December 5, 1945.  Not only that, but it turns out that he hasn’t aged in six decades.

Over at the pier side bar, Arthur arrives after he attempted to contact his dad about the recently-rescued man.  Just then, he sees some fishermen bragging about the marlin that they recently caught.  This angers A.C. as he attempts to approach them, but Eva intervenes in order to tell him that she’s taking a calmer approach by reporting their boat to the proper agency.  Arthur says that a pricey fine won’t stop them from continuing their devious practice, but she reminds him that roughing those seaside hooligans up will only land him back in jail.  Thankfully, he calms down.

Afterwards, he’s approached by the mysterious woman who sympathies with him about the fishermen’s cruel capture of a marlin.  After she casually mentions how possibly “some day, the fish will get their revenge”, she introduces herself as Nadia (played by Tyra Collette, Barbara “Bobbi” Morse a.k.a. Mockingbird & Commander Kelly Grayson herself, Adrianne Palicki) before she comments about his “underwater” skills.  He offers to take her diving tomorrow, but she hypnotically convinces him to go right away.

From there, they proceed to have a late-night skinny dip as they swim out to Atlas Point.  Afterwards, she comments about them having previously met before she offers to remind him.  She then heads under the water to discreet shift into her actual form, while he’s unaware of what awaits him.  After a short while, he starts to get worried for her.  Suddenly, Nadia returns as the familiar sea creature and proceeds to attack him, managing to scratch his chest before she begins to strangle him.  Fortunately, she gets struck by a spear as it turns out to have come from McCaffrey, forcing Nadia to flee.  Afterwards, Arthur swims to the shore and asks about her, to which McCaffrey tells him to get dressed so that he can properly inform him.

Later, he tells A.C. that Nadia is a Siren and that she has a hypnotic gaze.  McCaffrey says that he’s seen these creatures before, but regrets having a rusty aim since they can only be taken out if they’re shot between the eyes.  He then tells Arthur that just like him and his mom, he’s a exile from the undersea kingdom of Atlantis.  A.C. is initially skeptical, but McCaffrey lets “Orin” know that he can’t escape his “true calling”.

After setting up a seaside campfire, McCaffrey goes on to tell Arthur that his original parents were the king and queen of the famed kingdom, thus making him a prince.  A.C. then asks why Atlantis hasn’t been discovered if it’s actually real, to which McCaffrey exclaims that “it’s cloaked in a shroud no modern technology can penetrate”, which turns out to be the Bermuda Triangle.  From there, he tells Orin that his original father was a peaceful man, but he was opposed by adversaries who wanted to go to war against the surface world.  As such, they revolted and managed to kill him.  Fortunately, McCaffrey was able to sneak Arthur and Atlanna out in time, where they would ultimately be found on Mercy Reef by Thomas Curry.  However, Atlanna had McCaffrey make sure that neither he nor her son knew about this horrid past as well as his destiny, which is to protect the surface world that he’s already embraced in addition to the ocean that he came from.  A.C. finds this too much to handle and attempts to walk away while exclaiming that he’s just a mere dive shop owner, but McCaffrey reminds him that this is the responsibility that he’s destined to ultimately bear.

We then shift to the next day as Arthur tells Eva about Nadia and that she attacked him last night as a Siren, due to his undersea royalty status.  She finds it difficult to believe, but he tells her that he was in the same state of un-believability before the assault and that Nadia is going to return for him.  However, this doesn’t entirely convince Eva before A.C. exclaims that it’s likely that this Siren is the same one who attacked his mother and that he has to face this she-beast.  With Eva starting to take him seriously, Arthur tells her to close up the shop and leave town for a few days in order to avoid the harmful confrontation.  He tells her that he’ll take his boat (called “Quint”, nice Jaws reference) over to Atlas Point in order to acquire some necessary weapons from McCaffrey.  After noticing an approaching thunderstorm, Eva decides to comply and visit her sister over in Tampa for the time being.

That night over at the air field’s infirmary, Gus wakes up and attempts to take a drink.  Suddenly, he’s approached by Nadia who thanks him for unintentionally leading her to Orin before she proceeds to kill him.

Meanwhile, Brigman is conversing with the fully-recovered Rachel.  He reveals that he was the one who ultimately gave her the flight assignment over Mercy Reef and that he works for the U.S. President.  When he asks her about “that flash of light” that she saw during her mission, she claims that she simply got disoriented.  He then assures her that he doesn’t see her as if she’s going crazy.  Lt. Torres says that it just a myth, but he assures her that it’s real and is willing to prove its existence.

From there, he leads her over to a file room before presenting a picture of a deceased man named Evan Corday who last year attempted to blow up an oil platform within the Gulf of Mexico, but was killed before he could complete his dangerous mission.  He then shows a picture of the guy on his boat before he disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle on July 6, 1905.  Rachel says that this must be a descendant, but Brigman assures her that his fingerprints were an exact match.  Not only that, but he’s not the first person to return from that infamous area.  As such, he wants her to join Project Nautilus and help crack the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.  Lt. Torres expresses her doubt about how she could possibly be useful to this investigation, since she’s just a pilot.  He tells her that her recent experience is vital, since she witnessed “something extraordinary out there” and survived.  Not only that, but he doesn’t believe that a pilot of her incredible skill would be easily taken down by “a sun flare or a freak mechanical failure”.  She then says that she originally joined the Air Force to fly jets and serve her country, “not chase windmills”.  He assures her that this won’t be “a fools crusade” since this is a matter of national security.

As such, he turns on the lights to reveal every box that contains files of individuals who’ve disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.  As such, he describes them as “M.I.A.s in an invisible war” with Tempest Key serving as “the frontline”.  Just then, he gets a call about something dire as he tells her to come with him so that he can prove how real this situation has become.

Later, they arrive at the infirmary as they find the room covered in blood.  With Gus’ body mutilated, the scene ends with Brigman discovering his seahorse pendant.

We then shift over to the seaside bar as Arthur and Eva attempt to shelter the establishment from the thunderstorm.  Shortly after they complete their task, the power suddenly goes out.  She thinks that a power line has been struck, but A.C. notices a nearby establishment that hasn’t been affected and believes that they’ve blow a fuse.  As such, they head over to the circuit breaker box as Arthur attempts to find the problem while Eva uses a flashlight to help him see.  After a short while, he notices that she’s shaking his light source before she drops it.  To his horror, he discovers that she’s been stabbed by Nadia.  From there, the villainous sea creature smacks him into the shelf and knocks him out before she takes his seahorse pendant.

Later, Arthur wakes up and finds himself tied up within his boat, only to find out that McCaffrey was also caught as well.  A.C. learns that Nadia is taking them back to Atlantis in order to get publicly executed, thus snuffing out their “symbol of hope”.  Arthur says that he needs water before McCaffrey points him towards the flask that he keeps within his boot.  From there, he manages to crawl over and reach it before he intentionally smashes it in order to use a shard to cut through his rope.

Meanwhile, the seahorse pendant glows around Nadia’s neck as a familiar beam of light emerges from the Bermuda Triangle, thus opening a portal towards the undersea kingdom.  Back on board his boat, A.C. manages to free himself before he covers himself in water.  With his strength restored, he frees McCaffrey before asking him how he can take Nadia down.  However, he refuses to help Orin since he only wants to help the young prince escape.  Arthur rebuts by saying that she needs to pay for taking his mother from him and for attacking his friend.  McCaffrey then says that he’s not breaking the promise that he made to Orin’s father.  Thankfully, he decides to stay put as he asks him if he has any weapon on board.

From there, they launch their plan as McCaffrey calls out to Nadia.  She proceeds to make her way on board before she heads into the main cabin.  McCaffrey attempts to shoot a spear into her head, but she’s able to quickly catch it before she subdues him and jams the blade into his leg.  She then demands to know where Orin is, but he refuses to tell her as she proceeds to stabs his leg again and orders him to reveal where her target is.

Suddenly, Arthur emerges from the ocean and lands onto the boat’s stern before he calls out to her.  From there, a brief struggle ensues before he punches her with enough force to send her flying through the cabin and ultimately end up near the bow.

A.C. attempts to approach her, but she stuns him with a kick before pinning him down and taunting him by saying that his mother is unable to protect him.  Arthur demands to know what happened to his mom, but Nadia assures him that he’ll find out.  Meanwhile, McCaffrey manages to pull the spear out of his leg before he calls out to Orin.  After kicking Nadia off, he catches the blade and jams it into her head where she proceeds to vanish from existence.

Shortly afterwards, the massive beam of light dissipates while the thunderstorm also breaks up.  With his seahorse pendant back in his possession, Arthur gets commended by McCaffrey who tells him that his father would be proud of his accomplishment.

Later, A.C. arrives at Tempest Key Hospital where he finds Eva resting and slowly recovering from her wound before he apologizes to her for what happened.  Over at the air field, Brigman comes across a file where he discovers that Rachel used to be a club singer down in Cuba before she disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle back in 1936.  However, she’s completely unaware of her life prior to vanishing into the infamous area.

Afterwards, the episode ends over at Atlas Point as A.C. looks out over the Atlantic Ocean.  Shortly afterwards, McCaffrey joins him and says that Nadia was only the first of several undersea terrors that await the Atlantean Prince.  He then tells Arthur that he’s now here to get him prepared, since he regrets not training him when he was younger.  Despite that, A.C. is eager to get started.  As such, McCaffrey starts him off with a birthday gift.  Arthur discovers that it’s a book containing William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2.  From there, McCaffrey tells him that he has a whole week to read it in its entirety.  A.C. feels a bit hesitant about the reading assignment that lies ahead of him and asks if he could just skip to the main bullet points, in addition to how this tale ends.  However, McCaffrey tells him that not only is “the lesson isn’t in the ending”, but that “it’s in the journey”.

In spite of the fact that we never got any further adventures involving this iteration of Atlantis’ finest, I’ll still give my character analysis a try upon Orin and the rest of his central cast.  As such, let’s begin with A.C. himself, Arthur Curry.  When we get to this story’s present time, he’s become a young man with vast potential for him to grasp.  While his father Thomas has done as good of a job as he can in helping him become a noble figure (given the fact that he works for the Coast Guard), the lack of his Atlantean mother Atlanna to properly guide him (as well as her not entrusting McCaffrey to inform him of his otherworldly past should something dire ever happen to her) has left him in a somewhat uneven state.  While he does have a regular job, he’s so caught up with trying to find his mother again that he’s not focusing himself on striving towards a worthwhile goal.  It’s not until the past comes back to haunt him that he finally takes his burgeoning abilities & his noble personality and zeroes in on becoming a purposeful hero with the potential to become the mediated king of Atlantis, had this show been allowed to happen and the writing team ultimately chose to do so.  Sure, he would have had his own growing pains to overcome, lessons to learn, powers to discover and regular enemies to make, but that’s what would’ve made his coming-of-age journey and eventual character development all the more exciting for him to explore.  After all, he’s never called Aquaman at any point in this episode, since he hasn’t earned that title yet.  It’s possible that he could’ve run into other Atlantean allies along the way (like Mera, Garth, Vulko, Dolphin, etc.) to help mold and/or assist him with his ultimate end goal, but the foundation towards becoming his own self-made man is nicely established here.  I dig Justin Hartley’s performance, since he expertly presents A.C. with youthful charisma, charm and the right amount of command required for a lead role.  It’s sad that this show wasn’t able to prove itself, but that’s not to say that he hasn’t fell into obscurity.  On the contrary, he got to portray Green Arrow in “Smallville” and his acting career has remained strong within the TV realm, especially with his regular role of Kevin Pearson on “This Is Us”.  In the end, it would have been nice if he got to give this kind of righteous presence for several seasons.  Despite that loss, he did prove that he would have nailed it as a leading man and could’ve helped in giving this character a much stronger presence outside of comics with the right kind of well-written stories.

Next up, let’s get to an Atlantean man who’s both a lighthouse keeper and a superhero mentor with McCaffrey.  As Atlanna’s closest ally at the time that she and her original husband were usurped from Atlantis’ throne, he’s done all that he can to make sure that Arthur is protected from the terrors that have taken hold over the undersea kingdom.  While there may have been some kind of weariness that came with the job of keeping A.C. safe from afar up on the surface world (as evident by him initially missing his chance to land a surprise headshot upon Nadia), he never slacked on his preparations and his promise towards the noble queen.  Unfortunately, there’s not much else to read on him based on this lone episode.  I’m sure that his several lessons would’ve revealed further details on what kind of a person he was, as well as delving into his own flaws that he must overcome.  Either way, it was a nice choice for McCaffrey to be made as Arthur’s mentor, since he’s the only nearby being with first-hand experience of what horrors can be contained within the original domain.  Had this series been allowed to prosper, it would’ve been interesting if Vulko came along and they were forced to work together in order to help Arthur with his training.  Seeing their overall ideologies clash would’ve made for some compelling storytelling before they eventually come together for the greater good of A.C.’s benefit.  Not to mention, the thought of them fighting alongside each other in combat had the potential to be a satisfying moment.  Ving Rhames brings a cool confidence towards a part that’s essentially created by scratch.  It helps that he was already know for his signature role from the “Mission: Impossible” films, but at least this episode gave the idea that McCaffrey would be willing to put himself on the frontline if given the chance.  While it would’ve been interesting to see him receive further development over the series and maybe even make the jump into the mainline Aquaman comics as a result, this standalone character served himself really well for this outing and still made enough of an impact upon this tale.

Now, let’s get to one of our key ladies with Eva.  As Arthur’s business partner, she does what she can to keep him in line with his dive shop duties.  Unlike A.C. initially, she’s fully-focused with her job and is temperamentally balanced enough that we can absolutely buy her as a dual operator between the dive shop and the seaside bar.  Although she doesn’t entirely believe Arthur when his own burgeoning powers and his Atlantean-based past begins to surface, their friendship must have been established for some time since she starts to trust his cautious word once a particular Siren has begun to threaten him.  Things will get even more real for her once she eventually awakens from the coma that Nadia ended up putting her in due to the near-fatal stabbing, or at least it would have had this pilot been allowed to have a full season of episodes under its belt.  Had this story got its chance to develop, it would’ve been interesting to see her rattled once she woke up and her friend would have to take the confident composure that he’s been developing to ease her back into a secure position within this overall arc.  As such, all I can make out of her is that she’s a level-headed business owner who serves as a counterbalance to A.C.’s sometimes-impulsive personality, yet still has a respectable level of patience with him.  Amber McDonald felt very wholesome & friendly throughout her scenes, while serving as the benchmark of self-togetherness for Arthur to reach and surpass.  All-in-all, she allowed her character to serve in a potentially-strong friendship that looked to become rock-solid as she ultimately left a good-enough impression upon our hero and myself as well.

Moving on, we have our fighter pilot with a potentially interesting past in Lt. Rachel Torres.  Like Eva, she’s a self-made woman with her own personal drive towards her occupation.  After her encounter within the Bermuda Triangle leads her to cross paths with Arthur, it ultimately sets her up on an investigation that would eventually get resolved some time down the road.  Not to mention, she would also find out how she & several people have been able to live in the triangle for several decades before reemerging into the regular world without having aged and with seemingly no memories prior to their initial disappearance.  This sets her up as a possible ally, since she’s appreciative towards Arthur for saving her life.  However, it could potentially get complex since the events that would’ve transpired can see her ultimately having to choose between exposing Atlantis as a potential threat to humanity, rising through the Air Force ranks in order to lead a strike team against the Atlantean rogues or even breaking away from her official rank and join A.C. on his venture since it would ultimately be doing the right thing.  Given the connections that she makes in just this episode, the possibilities for where she could ultimately wind up by the end are simply fascinating.  Denise Quiñones brought a nice range to her performance, as she displayed a cool confidence, a weary humbleness and different kinds of uncertainty throughout her scenes.  Despite how her character’s relationship with Arthur would’ve played out, this former Miss Universe presented herself really well and gave off a particular potential that would’ve helped in placing Torres within such twisting & unlikely narrative positions.

Wrapping up the possible list of allies is our governmental figure in Agent Brigman.  As the central component to the U.S. Government’s investigation upon the Bermuda Triangle, the eventual revelations would’ve gone a long way in developing and fleshing out the kind of man he would ultimately become.  Based on the lone encounter he has with Arthur, it definitely sets up an uneasiness between the two men.  From his interactions with Lt. Torres, I get the sense that he does care to a certain extent about protecting America from the unknown terrors of the deep.  All of this would’ve been intrinsically tied into A.C.’s training since his encounters with Atlantis’ fiends could falsely make Brigman assume that every single entity from said kingdom is looking to overrun the surface world, thus providing some kind of commentary of how outdated some of America’s ideals towards individual prosperity has become, since the bigoted evils of the past have been allowed to fester and boil over in a horrific way.  I could easily see him as a man who means well, but may be a familiar kind of misguided that Arthur was at the beginning of his journey.  Aside from all of that, there’s really not much else that I can pick up about him.  Rick Peters brings a stone-cold and steely edge to his performance, but also adds a touch of concern when he’s informing Rachel of the potential threat upon the oceanic horizon.  Aside from losing out on the confrontational drama that would’ve come to pass, he still brought a mysterious presence for his character to loom over the preceding events.  No matter how this governmental figure wound up by the end, he succeeds in grabbing my attention and made me interested in seeing how his side of the tale would’ve played out.

Finally, let’s get a complete analytical picture of our featured villain of this piece: Nadia.  As a mythological Siren, she’s obviously sided with the usurping faction of Atlantis that wants to overthrow the previous regime and help the kingdom rise up to suppress the surface-dwellers.  Her own set of otherworldly abilities do make her a good choice for Arthur’s inaugural foe, since her hypnotic trace does come in handy as she attempts to lure the inexperienced hero-to-be towards an early demise.  At certain moments when she’s in the water, we do get glimpses of her true form, though the limited budget does prevent us from seeing her whole form in a coherent way.  Despite that, the human form that she uses when she’s on dry land does offer an initial temptation as well.  When we first see her in the hospital, it seems like she’s being a hunter who takes her time and looks over her prey before that fateful moment where she goes in and lures A.C. towards his doom.  After McCaffrey interferes, she turns into a looming threat for our hero as she bides her time before ultimately going in reengage him.  Because of her eventual end goal for this episode, I assume that she went back to Atlantis in order to talk to her master (maybe Ocean Master?) and that she was given the order to bring Arthur & McCaffrey back here in order to publically execute them.  More than likely, she waited until night came along and the thunderstorm arrived in order to carry out her kidnapping ploy.  Whether she captures McCaffrey before or after she goes after Arthur, Eva ends up on the wrong end of her undersea talons as Nadia ultimately traps her prey and begins her trek back to Atlantis with her bounty on board A.C.’s boat.  From there, our heroes manage to break free and ultimately take her out for good.  For her race, it does set up the potential for them to return in some form, especially when they find out about what ultimately happened to Nadia.  They had the potential to be a similar kind of overwhelming dread that the Trench would become once they were introduced during the New 52 era.  Either way, Adrianne Palicki played the right amount of terror that her part required her to bring.  It’s interesting that this comes in between a pair of brief brushes of superhero TV for her.  Namely, she was a faux Kara named Lindsey Harrison on the Season 3 finale of “Smallville” (“Covenant”) and later, she was the titular heroine for another failed TV pilot from 2011 called “Wonder Woman”.  Thankfully, “Agents Of S.H.I.E.LD.” allowed her to become Mockingbird and take on the role of a regular hero for a while.  Either way, her turn as Nadia was genuine proof that she does have a strong presence and steady command that she delivered with natural grace.

The setup story for this episode is mainly well-written, as it establishes Arthur’s coming-of-age journey, the central cast of characters that he’ll interact with, a mostly-grounded tone that we’re starting off with (at least until we slowly embrace more of the source material over the course of the season) and a creature-of-the-week format that’ll serve to prep A.C. in both physical skill & mental knowledge.  When I broke the plot down during my character analysis, I did notice a few time lapses that were needed in order for the overall tale to work.  However, nothing else seemed too convenient or contrived at any other point.  As such, this narrative feels very well-paced and supplies its details as naturally as it possibly can.  Sure, a few points can feel like an informational dump, but they don’t outstay their welcome and ultimately get their main points across.  The characters are all enjoyable in their own ways and get plenty of interesting things to do, plus the cast brings the right amount of charm and wit into their roles to help them stand out.  The action is minimal, but I can accept that since this was supposed to be the start of a long-running series.  If I had any major criticisms for this episode at all, then I would say that it’s the computer-generated effects.  While I do like the Siren make-up for Nadia and I can accept the rest of her overall body within the water, Atlanna’s plane, the exterior of Rachel’s jet in flight and Orin’s boat getting dragged across the ocean doesn’t exactly look good nowadays.  Sure, this was 2006 and they were probably visually pleasing for the day, but this kind of imagery has definitely aged poorly.  Despite that, I still understand what the story is trying to get across and it’s somewhat of a limitation due to the miniscule budget the production team had to work with.  Even when I first saw it back in 2019 and did a Stardust reaction to it, even I noticed the CGI that it was trying to do (mainly with the boat in the storm).  Despite that presentational hiccup, I was still invested with its narrative and found myself enjoying it in a cult status sort of way.  I’m aware that Gough and Millar had already planned out the initial season and from various online sources, it would’ve seen our main hero going up against polluters and evil oil companies.  Not to mention, the initial run would’ve had a cliffhanger ending with McCaffrey getting captured and taken back to Atlantis.  More than likely, A.C. would’ve honed enough of his skills and intellect for him to make that bold return, so it’s a shame that we’ll forever only have a pilot episode to view into this world.  As for how I saw it, it was a Blu-Ray bonus feature on “Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths” and it also contained the pilot episode for the Wonder Woman TV series that starred Lynda Carter.  Either way, I’m glad that I saw it and got to appreciate it for what it was trying to do.

Overall, this was a nicely-built episode that’s mainly weathered the tides of time with remarkable ease.  The characters were a joy to watch, the action was thrilling and the setup story was as well-written as it could’ve been.  Aside from how it sometimes handles its exposition and its CGI, it’s still a wonderful gem from the 2000s that worth diving back into.  Whether you do it by legal means (either iTunes or that animated Justice League movie Blu-Ray that I mentioned) or you buy a fan-made copy on either disc format (or even view it some other way online), it’s worth watching an episode that could’ve led to a remarkable series, but was ultimately left out at sea and only serves as a niche footnote within the history of superhero media.  Either way, this is worth bringing up to the surface whenever you have time to take the plunge.

Aquaman (created by Mort Weisinger & Paul Norris) is owned by DC Comics.

 

By coolcomix0221

Love Comics, Video Games, and Sports. Aim To Become a Sports Writer.

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