Hi! Welcome to my episode-by-episode recap of, and reaction to Justice League. There will be no spoilers beyond the current episode. As is my custom with recaps, I will give you a short summary recap followed by a long and
unnecessarily helpfully detailed version. My reaction will follow at the end if you just want to scroll past all of the recap.
If you want to see my prior Justice League episode reviews, click HERE:
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Aquaman and Atlantis sink a submarine, the USS Defiant. This draws the Justice League into a growing tension between Atlantis and the surface dwellers. Green Lantern is angry with Aquaman that he will not release the nuclear submarine to their custody. Superman encourages Aquaman to speak to the World Assembly and attempt to make peace.
Aquaman speaks to the World Assembly and they tell him his demands are too great. Outside, after the speech, as Aquaman is departing, an assassin attempts to kill him. As the Justice League investigates the attempted killing, they discover that the hitman was hired by someone from Atlantis. They learn this only after Aquaman returns to Atlantis. There, he finds that his brother Orm has seized control over the kingdom and that he, despite being King, has been deemed a traitor to their people.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
The episode starts with a stormy sea before panning down below the water. There, we see a submarine, the USS Defiant. Inside, a seaman reports to his commanding officer that an unidentified craft is approaching. The commanding officer cannot believe another vessel would be traveling at their own depth and gives the order to establish radio contact. Another officer says that she has tried all frequencies and has had no response. We next learn that “whatever it is, it’s big and closing fast.”
The commanding officer orders that evasive maneuvers be taken. The Defiant goes to a deeper depth but the other craft continues closing before crashing into it. The commanding officer orders that torpedoes be prepared but the seaman says that there is no time. The other vessel crashes into the USS Defiant again. The female officer sends out a request for help stating that they are under attack and that they have sustained heavy damage.
Inside the attacking ship, a man tells his commanding officer that the surface dweller’s ship has been disabled. A man with a crown, blonde hair, and a beard leans forward out of the shadows and answers, “Good, let it sink.”
Green Lantern is inside a Justice League jet and he replies to the USS Defiant to tell them that help is on the way. They fly into the water. Wonder woman reports that they have locked onto the distress signal and that they are getting close. Suddenly, Superman points at the radar and says that they are not the only ones getting close.
Superman: We’ve got company.
Superman tells the other two to abandon ship and fight their attackers outside. The three quickly destroy their attackers’ ships. However, a moment later, the ship’s occupants are now individually on smaller ships. The group’s leader tells the Justice Leaguers that they have violated the sovereign borders of Atlantis.
Leader: Leave at once or you will be destroyed.
Superman: We are sorry for the intrusion. We were responding to a call for help.
The Atlantean leader says that the ship should have stayed on the surface where it belongs. Wonder Woman asks him if they can please help the crew so that they do not drown. The Atlantean leader says that they can take the crew but he demands that their vessel remain behind. Green Lantern is furious at these terms, pointing out that the submarine is nuclear. He is told he does not have a choice and Superman agrees because time is running out to save the submarine’s crew.
The Justice League evacuates the crew. As they leave, the Atlantean leader comes above the surface. Superman tells him all of this could have been avoided if he would negotiate for peace.
Atlantean: I will not crawl to them like some beggar.
Superman: No. Stand before them like a king.
Sometime later, in Atlantis, the King of Atlantis is holding court. A man in front of him is speaking and says that the surface dwellers are barbarians. He describes the pollution of the oceans and says that he recommends wiping the surface dwellers from the earth.
The King of Atlantis tells him, General Brak, that he – not the General – decides policy. Brak replies angrily, asking how long they must suffer these affronts. Another man approaches Brak and tells him to be silent as his king has spoken. Brak then apologizes to Lord Orm.
Finally, the King stands and tells Brak that he will consider his counsel. He says though that this is a serious matter and that he must give it more thought. In his personal chambers, the King is with his Queen wife and his infant baby son. He asks his wife, Mera, what kind of future he is making for their son. She tells him that she is certain whatever he decides will be the right choice.
Later, the Justice Leaguers are all back aboard the Watchtower orbiting the planet. Superman is on the phone with an unnamed Admiral saying that he understands his concerns but also says they had no choice because lives were at stake. Some distance away, Green Lantern is talking privately with Wonder Woman. Green Lantern says that the Admiral is right and tells her they never should have left that sub down there with that madman.
Wonder Woman: Aquaman is no mad man. He’s a king. He only wants to preserve and protect his own kind.
Green Lantern: So who is going to protect us from him?
Later, we see Green Lantern stealthily back on the submarine, alone, and examining the nuclear reactor area on the sub.
In the next scene, we see Aquaman emerging from the ocean onto the beach as a young teenager asks, “where did that dude come from?” Aquaman breaks (ignores) numerous pedestrian laws before drawing the attention of a street cop. The officer tells him “not so fast” to stop him. Aquaman, in turn, picks the man up and asks where the World Assembly is located.
Back on the Watchtower, Green Lantern is speaking with J’onn J’onzz and Wonder Woman. He is irate.
Green Lantern: I knew we couldn’t trust that fish man. The sub has been stripped and the plutonium is gone.
Wonder Woman: And you think Aquaman is responsible?
Green Lantern: Who else, Princess. We’ve got to go back to Atlantis and get some straight answers.
Superman: [some distance away] If it’s Aquaman you want, he’s not in Atlantis.
The Justice League watches the news where Snapper Carr reports that Aquaman just forced his way past guards and into a closed session of the World Assembly.
At the World Assembly, Aquaman stands on a stage adjacent to a man at a podium. One of the men in the crowd, with a French accent, points out that first Aquaman sinks a nuclear submarine and now he threatens them for peace. The man asks Aquaman what gives him the right.
Aquaman: I am the born ruler of Atlantis.
Frenchman: A country we do not even recognize.
Aquaman: These are my final terms. Refuse them at your own risk.
The man standing next to Aquaman at the podium says that the king’s demands are outrageous and he says that they would compromise the entire world’s defense and its economy. Aquaman tells the World Assembly that this is their problem, not his.
A moment later, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and J’onn J’onzz fly into the room. Superman calls out to Aquaman. The King of Atlantis tells Superman that he offered the world a chance at peace. Superman implores him that peace negotiations take time and Aquaman replies that he has wasted too much time already. Aquaman walks out of the world assembly alone and brushes off questions from reporters. Just then, some distance away, a man from a nearby roof shoots the King of Atlantis.
Snapper Carr reports that the Justice League rushed him to Metropolis Medical Center after the shooting and he also reports that the injuries appear to be significant and possibly fatal. The news reaches Atlantis quickly. Lord Orm decrees that this treacherous attack cannot go unpunished. Someone else tells Lord Orm that he does not have the authority to give that order. Orm replies that the King may be dead and that the prince is an infant. Orm says that the prince will take control when he comes of age.
Mera enters the chamber. Orm tells her that all of Atlantis mourns her loss. She says that he speaks as if her husband will never come back. Orm says that he prays her husband will come back but he also says that they do not know what the surface dwellers will do to him.
In the hospital, Aquaman is not responding to treatment. The doctor tells the Justice League that he is not sure if he can help because the Atlantean physiology is so different than there own. Batman enters the room and says maybe he can help. A moment later, we see Superman lifting Aquaman into a tank of water. His vitals begin improving immediately.
Doctor: How could you possibly guess that?
Batman: He’s a fish out of water, Doctor. Salt water.
As soon as Aquaman comes around, Green Lantern asks him what he did with the plutonium. Aquaman replies that his orders were to leave the vessel where it lay. Green Lantern asks if they are supposed to believe that and Aquaman tells him to believe whatever he wants. He tells the Justice League that he needs to figure out who tried to kill him. Batman says that he can help but he tells the King of Atlantis that he will have to trust him.
Snapper Carr reports that Aquaman is being removed and sent to an unnamed Marine Research facility for further treatment. A crowd gathers as his move is slated to take place. The League watches from afar. Wonder Woman says that she hopes Batman’s plan works. As Aquaman is wheeled outside on a gurney, a man emerges from below ground through a manhole cover. He is armed. Just as he is about to fire a gun at Aquaman again, Wonder Woman spots him, Batman redirects the shot to be fired with his Batarang, and the Justice League descends on the would-be assassin.
However, the attempted assassin makes it back through a manhole cover. Superman attempts to remove the cover to follow and is electrocuted. Batman arrives at the scene where Aquaman still lays on the gurney and asks if he is okay. Aquaman shapeshifts into J’onn J’onzz and says “perfectly.”
In the sewer below ground, the would-be killer is running. As Wonder Woman attends to Superman above ground, J’onn J’onzz phases through the ground and into the sewer below. He spots the shooter and tells Diana that he is heading toward her. She pulls up a grate and meets the man – now on a motorcycle – and tells him that it’s the end of the road. The man says that he will take a detour. He blows up a bunch of the sewer wall. It lands in Wonder Woman’s head as he rides away.
Back in the hospital room, the real Aquaman asks Green Lantern what is taking so long. He says he needs to get back to Atlantis. Green Lantern tells him to sit tight and that they will tell him when it is safe to go. Aquaman punches Green Lantern, knocks him out, and says that he presumes too much.
In the sewer, it’s now Batman’s turn to stop the motorcycle riding attempted killer. The Dark Knight booby traps the path, causing the man to crash his motorcycle. When he attempts to apprehend him, though, the man throws something that creates smoke or gas at him and flees successfully back above ground. He gets into a car and drives away. Superman is now on his tail, though. Superman uses his heat vision to crash the car. Then he rips the top of the car off. Finally, the man tells Superman that he gives up. Superman asks why he tried to kill Aquaman and the assassin replies sarcastically with a question.
“Gee, why would a hired gun try to shoot somebody? Could it be that someone paid me to?”
Wonder Woman arrives and asks who. He calls her babe and says he cannot tell her that citing professional ethics. Then he looks her up and down and suggests she might change his mind if she makes it worth his while. Batman pulls him aside and suggests that he will conduct the interrogation alone.
Shooter: You don’t scare me Batman.
Batman: Let me give you one word of advice.
We do not hear what Batman says next but a few seconds later the shooter is saying that he will talk. Wonder Woman asks Superman what Batman said and the Man of Steel tells her that she does not want to know. Back in a grouop, the man is asked again who hired him and he says he does not know and that he does not ask questions. When asked how he was paid, he replies that he was paid in gold and he points to a pile of his payment not far from where they are standing. Batman picks up a piece of gold and notes that they are Spanish doubloons.
Wonder Woman: Where would they get coins like this?
J’onn J’onzz: Atlantis.
Superman: We’ve got to warn Aquaman.
Green Lantern: [arriving] Too late, that royal pain in the neck is already gone.
In Atlantis, Orm is speaking to a gathered crowd about how now is the time to strike fear in the hearts of Atlantis’s enemies. Aquaman arrives and asks what treason this is.
Orm: No treason brother, I though you were…
Aquaman: Dead? That’s no reason to plunge Atlantis into a fool-hardy war. I left specific orders.
Orm: I am only doing what you never had the courage to do.
When Aquaman calls for the guards to arrest the traitor, they turn their spear points against him. Orm says that he sold Atlantis out to the surface dwellers.
Orm: Look around you, brother, I’m in charge now.
to be continued
The 2001 Aquaman – with the deep gravely voice, an angry but noble disposition, long hair, and beard – is a bit of a glow up from the 1960s cartoon Aquaman.
While we met Wonder Woman and the Amazons fresh from myth and legend, Aquaman and Atlantis are known entities in-universe when we meet them in this episode. It’s kind of a fun mental exercise. What if we discovered a human(ish) civilization living deep in the ocean who are more technologically advanced than the rest of us. I suspect that meeting might go a big like the interaction we have here between Atlantis and the rest of the world.
I liked and appreciated that Green Lantern and Aquaman were immediately at odds. It makes sense. GL is the establishment law & order guy on the Justice League while Aquaman views himself as being above the surface dweller rules. Wonder Woman seemed most immediately sympathetic to Aquaman – and that also makes sense. She might have been familiar with Atlantis before leaving her island. She also understands wanting to be kept apart from the human race.
It also makes sense that Batman diagnosed Aquaman’s recovery. I suspect he knows all about Atlantis and has contingencies for them if things get hostile. Here though he can use what he knows to help them.
The episode never actually names the assassin but his in-universe name is Deadshot. Michael Rosenbaum did the voice and did not pull double-duty as The Flash was not around for this episode.
From a story-telling standpoint, this is probably my favorite Justice League episode thus far. We’ll see if they can stick the landing in part 2.