Aquaman may only have a mid credits scene–sorry anyone hoping for more Deathstroke teases this time around–but it makes it count if you know what you’re looking for. We’ll break it down for you right here, right now, but first: Be warned, obvious and major spoilers from the movie to follow, so please proceed with caution.
Black Manta fans may have found themselves just slightly disappointed at their favorite villain essentially being defeated at about the midpoint of the movie, but never fear: David Hyde is far from done in the franchise. The mid-credits scene follows him from where we last saw him, knocked unconscious and thrown into the water off the Italian cost, drifting on a piece of wreckage out at sea. He’s not dead, but he’s certainly seen better days. Fortunately for him, an unlikely ally shows up just in time to make a heroic rescue: Dr. Stephen Shin–you remember, that guy who showed up for about half a second on the news with some strong opinions about Atlantis, right?
Don’t panic if you don’t. The movie doesn’t give Dr. Shin a ton of time in the spotlight, but we promise he is there, and better yet, he is actually from the Aquaman comics, so we’ve got some history to work from. A relatively recent addition to the Aquaman pantheon, Dr. Shin was introduced at the start of the New 52 era in 2011 as a friend of both Tom and Arthur Curry. He believed, wholeheartedly, in the existence of Atlantis, and was thrilled for a chance to interact with Tom’s half-Atlantean son. He even helped Arthur develop some of his abilities and powers, a role that was largely given to Vulko in the movie.
However, as time passed, Shin became increasingly frustrated about Arthur’s reluctance to share Atlantis’s location and eventually turned on him. He even tried to murder him, so naturally, you can imagine there’s some bad blood there. Shin eventually comes back around to help Arthur out when the aquatic monsters known as the Trench start attacking the surface world, however, so things (sort of) worked out in the end.
Of course, things aren’t exactly following the same trajectory for the movie universe. It doesn’t look like Shin has had any real connection with the Curry family at all, so where and why he got the ideas about Atlantis in his head remain a mystery. He does, however, seem to be suitably unhinged, which leads us to believe he’s definitely got “attempted murder in the name of science” potential somewhere down the line.
Add to that the actual mid-credits scene itself, in which Dr. Shin rescues Black Manta and promptly becomes totally fascinated with his tech, and we’re looking at a recipe for full blown villain catastrophe. Manta may not have hung out in the foreground for too long in this first outing, but an alliance with someone like Shin would lay some real groundwork for a comeback. After all, Manta knows more about Atlantis than any human on the planet right now, as far as we know, and Shin has both resources and scientific platforms at his disposal. The two of them putting their heads together could mean a world of hurt for both Arthur and Atlantis itself.
That raises some questions. What, beyond the ethically dubious thrill of discovery, does Dr. Shin actually want? What beyond killing Arthur and avenging his father does Manta really want? What will Manta have to say about Orm now? And will Orm want in on Manta and Shin’s little cabal if he ever finds out about it?
Hopefully we actually will get an Aquaman 2 that is able to explore these potential plot threads–there are certainly enough of them to go around.