Aquaman: King of Atlantis has been quite the interesting ride. The animated trilogy started off strong and immediately made waves with its new take on Aquaman (that's being produced with the help of the current live-action director behind the Aquaman films, James Wan). It put Arthur Curry in the center of a new kind of universe with an Atlantis that not only ridiculed him, but actively disrespected his role as the King. Through the three episodes of this animated trilogy, we have seen Arthur fighting against this notion for full acceptance not only from the people, but from himself as well.
While the first episode of this limited trilogy was an explosive and fun introduction to King of Atlantis, the second episode was much less so. It provided a fine continuation to what had come before, but unfortunately failed to properly set an intriguing stage for what could be coming in the third episode. Thankfully the ship has righted itself for its conclusion as Aquaman: King of Atlantis - Chapter Three: Tidal Shift is an entertaining end to the trilogy that also leaves the door open for more adventures.
Tidal Shift picks up right after the events of "Primordeus" and finally gives us a full team up of Aquaman, Mera, and Vulko that the trilogy had been ultimately lacking at this point. Aquaman discovers that the two crystals he had acquired over the first two episodes actually warp the fabric of space and time, and that the two of them could be used to destroy the world if they are united within a strange suit in the Atlantean vaults. From there, old enemies make their return for an explosive fight that brings the trilogy to an end.
Much of what makes Tidal Shift works is fulfilling the promise of the trilogy's premiere, "Dead Sea." The comedic banter between Aquaman (Cooper Andrews), Mera (Gillian Jacobs), and Vulko (Thomas Lennon) returns, and it's still the best aspect of the entire trilogy. Even more so apparent in the third one too as they finally all share the screen for an entire story. This leads to new insights on each of their personalities, and thus some of the heartiest laughs overall as a result. This isn't the only way the trilogy has grown either.
While the elastic character design provided some fun action sequences in the first two entries, "Tidal Shift" feels like the first real time that the full potential of King of Atlantis' action based comedy has come to fruition. The third entry finally brings Atlantis itself into the full scope of its battle (which lasts a very notable chunk of the third entry's run time), and thus makes for far more inventive set pieces overall. You'd think it would be tough having to top Aquaman fighting a living island, but the third episode really goes for broke with some of its sequences.
Like the first episode, the comedy is always present too. Rather than take away from the actual intensity of the action itself, the comedy punctuates some of the bigger moments. The wilder angles, looser character designs and reactions, and punchy and fun dialogue all return for the final entry to end the entire experience on a great note. It ends with the kind of potential that not only feels like the animated trilogy was fully firing on all cylinders for the finale, but leaves some mystery behind should there be more entries someday.
It's a fun world that was exciting to swim around in for three new entries, and in terms of the trilogy as a whole is definitely one fans even slightly interested in Arthur Curry should check it out. It's a the kind of makeover that works so well for the character that's so perfect, it's a wonder why we never got this before. If you dive into the first episode hoping for a fun trilogy, you'll be pleased to know that the final episode makes it all worth it.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Aquaman: King of Atlantis - Chapter Three: Tidal Shift debuts on HBO Max on October 28th, and will soon be airing on Cartoon Network's ACME Night block.