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Aquaman 2’s ending, explained

Orm and Arthur stand near rubble in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023).

It’s only at the end of the second act of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom that Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and his half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), realize the full scope of David Kane/Black Manta’s (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) plans. Orm, still reeling from his brief experience of holding Manta’s mysterious, powerful black trident, reveals that the weapon is an artifact of Necrus, the long-lost seventh kingdom of Atlantis, that was crafted using dark magic by its power-hungry king, Kordax. When Kordax’s brother, King Atlan of Atlantis (Vincent Regan), realized what would happen to the world if Kordax and Necrus continued to burn the greenhouse gases emitted by their orichalcum reserves, he was forced to go to war against him.

In his reckless pursuit of power, Kordax turned himself and his citizens into undead monsters, but he was nonetheless defeated by his brother. Cementing his victory over Necrus, King Atlan buried the kingdom in an iceberg and used his own blood to magically seal his brother away. Orm and Arthur, much to their horror, realize that Black Manta’s secret orichalcum factory successfully burned enough greenhouse gases to weaken the barriers of ice that have kept Necrus hidden away from the rest of the world for centuries.

In case that wasn’t bad enough, they also realize too late that Black Manta intends to use the blood of Arthur and Mera’s (Amber Heard) son to free Kordax’s spirit and undead body from his brother’s spell. Unfortunately, they’re not able to make it home in time to prevent Manta from kidnapping Arthur’s son, who is, like his father, a descendant of King Atlan. The third act of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, consequently, follows Arthur, Orm, Mera, and a select group of Atlantean forces as they bring their fight to the frozen passageways of Necrus.

Arthur Curry fights Black Manta in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
Warner Bros. Pictures

In the end, Orm, Arthur, and Mera all come to blows with Black Manta in Kordax’s throne room. Manta’s attempt to spill the blood of Arthur’s young son is thwarted by Mera, who uses her magical powers to rescue her child and then flee with him before he can be put in any more danger. However, Orm and Arthur’s fight against Black Manta takes a dangerous turn when Orm accidentally grabs the black trident and ends up possessed by Kordax, who uses Orm to spill some of Arthur’s blood and free himself. While Kordax awakens from his centuries-long slumber, Orm and Arthur battle for control of the black trident.

As they do, the bitter emotions that exist between them come pouring out, but Arthur is ultimately able to convince Orm to let go of the trident. Using his own, golden trident, Arthur is subsequently able to destroy both Kordax’s cursed weapon and the undead king himself. Following Kordax’s destruction, Necrus quickly begins to crumble and Black Manta ends up hanging onto the edge of a deep, cavernous hole. When Arthur offers him a hand, Manta decides to let himself fall and die rather than accept any help from his father’s killer. Arthur watches his longtime foe fall and then leaves Necrus behind forever with Orm.

Reunited on the surface with their family members, Arthur decides to let Orm wander free rather than forcing him to return to prison. He and his Atlantean allies concoct a plan to make Orm’s many enemies believe he died fighting Kordax and the forces of Necrus. In response, Orm thanks Arthur, finally acknowledges him as his brother, and assures him that he’s better at leading Atlantis than he thinks. Orm’s words, in turn, give Arthur the confidence to override the wishes of the Atlantean council and reveal Atlantis’ existence to the world. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom then ends with Arthur not only publicly calling for unity between the forces of the sea and the land, but also accepting his place as one the world’s greatest heroes and leaders.

Orm and Arthur stand together in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Before it cuts to black for the last time, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom briefly catches up with Orm in its mid-credits scene. Enjoying his new life, Orm finally tries the kind of surface-world cheeseburger that Arthur had been telling him about earlier in the film. While he clearly enjoys his first bite of the burger, though, it’s only after Orm impulsively decides to add a nearby cockroach to the meal — another reference to one of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’s oddest scenes — that a smile spreads across his face.

And that’s how Warner Bros.’ supposedly final DCEU film ends: with the crunch of a cockroach burger and the smile of a content man. Depending on how you feel about the DCEU and its track record over the past 10 years, that’ll either seem like the worst possible ending for the franchise or a tragically fitting one. Either way, it makes the lighthearted, unambitious nature of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom unabashedly clear.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is now playing in theaters.

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Alex Welch
Alex Welch is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
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