"The Enemy Below" is the sixth and seventh episodes of Justice League. It depicts the reappearance of Aquaman, as hostilities increase between Atlantis and the surface world, while at the same time, a plot by his brother threatens Aquaman's life.
The U.S. Navy submarine USS Defiant is on patrol beneath the ocean, when it happens too close to an armada from Atlantis. The Atlantean ships attack, and the submarine sinks to the ocean floor. Aquaman, captaining the lead ship, coldly orders it abandoned.
The Justice League leads a rescue and retrieval team to the submarine before the crew suffocates, where they confront Aquaman and his troops. Aquaman grudgingly allows them to rescue the crew, but says that the submarine is now his property. Green Lantern angrily objects, saying that the submarine's nuclear material is too dangerous, but Superman says that they have to rescue the crew before it is too late. He urges Aquaman to visit the surface world and air his grievances before an upcoming conference of world leaders. Aquaman is skeptical, but promises to consider the suggestion.
Back in Atlantis, he listens to the counsel of his brother, Orm, and the head of his military, General Brak, both of whom say that Atlantis has the technology and the manpower to wipe out the surface world. He refuses to listen to them. In private, he confers with his Queen, Mera, and looks fondly at his baby son. Above all, he wants to make a safe and prosperous kingdom for his son, but wonders whether there isn't a peaceful way to do it.
Aquaman goes to the surface and visits the world conference. Unfortunately, his approach is less than diplomatic: He arrogantly insists that the surface nations must cease their intrusion into and pollution of the oceans. Outraged, the world's leaders say he is being unreasonable, and he walks out in anger. Superman tries to convince him to stay and be more moderate. Aquaman continues to walk out. Just then, a sniper fires a bazooka rocket which hits the pavement in front of Aquaman, gravely injuring him.
Aquaman is rushed to the hospital in critical condition, where they are unsure how to treat him. Batman then appears and orders that he should be moved into a saline water tank, which allows his natural healing abilities to work.
Back in Atlantis, word comes that Aquaman has been injured, possibly killed. Orm reassures Mera, and assumes the crown and royal trident in his brother's absence.
The League decides to try a ruse to catch Aquaman's would-be assassin. Putting the word out that they are moving Aquaman to a specialist facility, they wait for the assassin to try again, and he reveals himself: Deadshot. He realizes he has been fooled — the "Aquaman" on the gurney is J'onn in disguise — but has a well-prepared escape plan in place.
The real Aquaman decides that he's recovered enough, and is returning to Atlantis immediately, over Lantern's objections.
After a long, hard chase through the sewers, and then the streets, Deadshot is finally caught by Superman. He admits casually that someone hired him to kill Aquaman, but refuses to say who. Batman takes over the interrogation, and a few seconds later, Deadshot cracks. He doesn't know the name of his employer, but he was paid in gold. Examining the gold, Batman deduces the antique coins and crosses are Spanish doubloons, obviously salvaged from a sunken ship — which means that the one who ordered Aquaman's assassination is from Atlantis.
Aquaman returns to Atlantis and is stunned to see Orm sitting on the throne. Orm says he is sick of Aquaman's tolerance for the surface dwellers, and has decided to take matters into his own hands. Brak's soldiers surround him, revealing that Orm and Brak are behind the plot.
The Justice League hurries to Atlantis to warn Aquaman, but they are ambushed and taken prisoner by Brak's soldiers. Orm says that he plans to destroy the surface world to keep Atlantis safe, and sentences them to death by drowning. They are held in a chamber filling with rising water, kept passive by headbands that make them unable to use their powers. Then Mera appears and knocks out their guards, and frees them. She says she suspects her husband is still alive, and asks for their help.
Elsewhere on the ocean floor, Aquaman is chained to the side of a rock outcropping, above a lava fissure. As he struggles to get free, Orm arrives and shows how he plans to ensure his succession to the throne: he has brought Aquaman's infant son, and pins him to the rock beside Aquaman. With a mocking goodbye, he uses a blast from the trident to send the outcropping on a slide down the cliff face toward the lava.
Aquaman wrenches desperately at his chains, managing to free one arm, but the other is held fast. He grabs the sharp metal buckle from his belt and hacks at the chain, but without effect. As they draw nearer to the lava, and his son cries, Aquaman raises the buckle, and brings it down with a roar...
At the Royal Palace, the League reports to Mera that Aquaman is nowhere to be found. Then he returns, carrying their son. Mera embraces him, then gasps in horror: his left hand is gone, the stump of his wrist wrapped tightly with the baby's blanket as a tourniquet. Aquaman then tensely asks where his brother is.
While Aquaman is being fitted with a prosthetic, Batman calls from the surface and tells them that the temperature at the Arctic Circle is rising dramatically; if it continues, the ice cap could melt, causing catastrophic flooding all over the globe. Aquaman resurfaces from his operation and reveals the source of the trouble: the Doomsday Thermal Reactor. He admits that he had it built as a weapon of last resort, if it ever came to war with the surface world. But he never armed it; instead, Orm has done that, using the nuclear material from the submarine, and activated it. Aquaman swears to stop his brother, and the League insists on aiding him.
At the Arctic Circle, the League is joined by Batman in the Batwing, before clashing with Brak's forces. The Atlantean soldiers manage to hold the League at bay, but Aquaman breaks through, as do Lantern and Batman.
In a glacier cavern, Aquaman reaches the reactor, and confronts Orm, who has the advantage, with two good hands and the royal trident. Orm destroys the controls with a blast from the trident. While Aquaman engages him in a brutal fight, Lantern and Batman try to shut down the reactor. Batman quickly determines that he will have to shut it down manually from the inside. Lantern creates a body shield with his ring, and Batman climbs inside the reactor.
As they fight, Orm loses the trident, but lightly wounds his brother with a knife. Suddenly, the ice beneath them crumbles, and Orm is left dangling off a ledge, with Aquaman standing over him. Orm begs for his brother's help, but Aquaman simply picks up his trident, coldly stating, "I believe this is mine." Orm loses his grip and falls with a scream into the abyss.
Batman closes the manual shutoff valve, and the reactor shuts down. The world is safe.
At Atlantis, Brak and his men plead that Orm forced them, and they would never have otherwise gone against their king. Aquaman coldly orders them to be locked up.
With the League present, Aquaman reflects on his mistakes, but resolves to go on working for peace between Atlantis and the surface world, for the sake of his son.
- Aquaman does not appear again until "The Terror Beyond".
Home video releases
- Justice League - Justice on Trial (VHS)
- Justice League - Justice on Trial (DVD)
- Justice League Collection (DVD 3-Pack)
- Justice League - Season One (DVD)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Justice League - Season One (Blu-ray)
- Bruce Timm insisted that the blanket in which Aquaman's son was wrapped had to be colored red so when Aquaman uses it to wrap his arm after severing his hand, the blanket disguises the obvious fact that he is bleeding into it.
- The USS Defiant's captain has four chevrons on his sleeve; a nonexistent rank in the US Navy.
- When this episode was produced and aired, the policy of the US Navy forbade women to serve on submarines, yet the radio operator on the Defiant is a woman.
- When Superman is electrocuted by the pothole lid, a note on the wall lists instructions for the animators regarding color.
- During the battle in the Arctic Circle, after Aquaman dives into the water he's shown to have his left hand instead of the harpoon.
- The Atlanteans seem to forget that J'onn was breathing underwater without a rebreather during the battle against their submarines, and attempt to execute him with a drowning chamber (see the Trivia section below). However, J'onn appears to be drowning anyway despite this.
- Orm leaves his knife embedded in the rock formation when he hangs Aquaman's son on it, yet has it later (and uses it) during his duel with Aquaman at the North Pole.
- Mera's belly button keeps disappearing and reappearing in between shots.
- Flash and Hawkgirl do not appear.
- First appearances of Deadshot and Mera in the DCAU.
- Right after Batman foils Deadshot's attempt to kill "Aquaman" (who is really J'onn in disguise), there is a female reporter whose manner of dress resembles Summer Gleeson.
- Orm is better known in the comics as Ocean Master. In the producers' commentary for Part II, creators mentioned that the name "Ocean Master" works in the comics, but it was too hokey for the story they wanted to tell. Thus, they simply called him Orm.
- In the same commentary, the creators also noted that Orm's death was ambiguous enough that he easily could have been brought back in the series had they wanted him to return.
- In the comics, Aquaman's hand is lost to a swarm of piranha in a confrontation with a supervillain named Charybdis, who had stolen his ability to command sea life. Bruce Timm stated in an interview that, since Aquaman had the ability to command fish, it was felt the cause didn't make much sense. So, they decided to change the scenario to what is shown in the episode; him cutting off his own hand to save his son. It was felt that not only was this a more sensible scenario, but it also spoke a great deal about Aquaman's character. The prosthetic hook-hand he adopts here is modeled on the one used in the comics.
- Aquaman's appearance is revamped from the "classic" appearance used in his last appearance on Superman: The Animated Series, in "A Fish Story", the long-haired and bearded look stemming from his own revamp in the early-to-mid-1990s comics, during Peter David's run. Also, Scott Rummell replaces Miguel Ferrer as his voice actor.
- The episode shares its title with a classic 1957 film about submarine warfare during World War II.
- In Part II, Batman is shown alerting the rest of the League to the rising temperatures from the Batcave. On the commentary, the producers said that during the first season, the idea was for Batman to be spending most of his time in Gotham City and having little to do with the League hands-on. Batman is likewise shown "at home" in the Batcave in "Paradise Lost". Producers joked that Batman evolved into a more active role almost immediately, pointing out that "for a 'part-timer,' he was in almost every episode."
- Kristin Bauer originally auditioned for the role of Wonder Woman, but was beaten to it. When Mera had to be cast, producers remembered her Michelle Pfeiffer-like voice.
- In the DVD commentary for Part II, Bruce Timm admitted that the rogue Atlanteans happening to have a drowning chamber "doesn't make any sense" considering the fact that they already live underwater. For that matter, it's a mystery why the Atlanteans thought they could drown J'onn J'onzz, as an earlier scene showed that J'onn didn't need an oxygen supply to battle them underwater.
- In Part II, the death of Orm is a reference of The Lion King, the roles however, are reversed, with Orm asking his Brother for help as opposed to the The King begging his Brother for help.
|Susan Eisenberg|| Wonder Woman|
USS Defiant communications officer (uncredited)
|Phil LaMarr|| Green Lantern|
Atlantean soldier (uncredited)
Atlantean surgeon (uncredited)
|Carl Lumbly||J'onn J'onzz|
|George Newbern|| Superman|
Atlantean soldier (uncredited)
|Michael Rosenbaum|| Deadshot|
|Xander Berkeley|| General Brak|
Atlantean soldier (uncredited)
|Jason Marsden|| Snapper Carr|
Atlantean soldier (uncredited)
|Richard Doyle||Assembly Leader|
- Aquaman's unnamed son
Orm: Well, I'm off to avenge your deaths.