The Little Mermaid, the series: Against the Tide

Wha’ Happen’?

The episode begins with Ariel riding a sea horse throughout the entire ocean to wish every single sea creature a good morning and to continue her descent into self-parody. One creature who is not having a good morning however, is whatever the hell this thing is:

What? What!? WHAT?!!

So this…flipped bird from evolution itself is a Bad Luck Creature and none of the other sea creatures will have anything to do with it because it’s supposedly unlucky which, clearly from the fact that it’s living, it is. The creature, which we shall call Lucky, is very sad because all of the other ocean denizens shun it and call it names.

“FREAK!”

Ariel comes across this abomination and starts make cooing noises and oh God, you know what this means don’t you?

Now, when I realised we were in for yet another “Ariel takes in another poor, misunderstood sea creature” episode I almost checked out there and then. But then, oh but then, I saw THIS…

Oh. Fuck. Yes.

Yes people. She’s back.

Here’s the amazing thing. Not only does this episode re-introduce Ursula, one of the absolute GOATs of the Disney Villain Pantheon. Not only do they have Pat Carroll back voicing the character. But they don’t fuck it up. I’m serious. This deeply mediocre little cartoon actually manages to do Ursula justice. Now, a lot of that is on Carroll. They give her a song when she appears, You Wouldn’t Want to Mess With Me. Now, the song is better than most of the songs this show had simply by dint of being a villain song and therefore not dripping in treacle. But it is certainly not, objectively, a good song. But Carroll sells the hell out of it. She fills every syllable with such husky, voluptuous relish that she makes it listenable through sheer force of personality. Now, Ursula’s spells keep going wrong and she assumes that since it obviously can’t be because she’s doing something wrong, there must be another reason. And when she sees the Bad Luck creature she decides to choke a bitch.

Meanwhile, in Atlantica, Triton has arrived home after some state visit or other and one of his daughters calls out to him “Welcome home father! It’s me, Arista!”

Which just…oof. Like, open secret that Triton doesn’t give two shits about any of his non-Ariel daughters but jeez louise. It’s the “it’s me! Arista” that just kills me. I’m starting to suspect that Triton had Sebastien write Daughters of Triton just so that he had a mnemonic to remember their names.

Fair’s fair, Triton does at least acknowledge her presence but then Ariel shows up to steal Daddy’s attention away as is right and proper. Ariel, for once, doesn’t even bother hiding the Bad Luck creature and just tells Triton that she has one and that it’s his move. The other mermaids are horrified, particularly Arista, demands that the creature be thrown out before it brings bad luck on all of them. Ariel does not take this in stride.

“FUCK YOU SAY TO ME?!”

But before things degenerate into Real Housewives of Atlantica, Ursula arrives and we are suddenly in a different show my friends, a completely different show. First of all, there’s Ursula’s arrival, descending down like Cthulhu in drag to the sound of thunder and two moray eels orbiting her arms.

ICON.

Then, we get something that we never even saw in the original movie, an actual proper battle between Ursula and Triton. And it is AWESOME. Ursula goads Triton into blasting her with his trident, which allows her to temporarily steal his power and turn it against him. Also, the animation in this sequence is leagues ahead of the rest of the series. I don’t know if the budget was increased or the animators were jolted out of their stupour by the chance to actually draw something cool but whatever, it happens. Ursula turns Flotsam and Jetson into two massive monster eels and siccs them on Triton. She only leaves when Sebastien creates a dummy Bad Luck creature out of a cake which Ursula destroys and, thinking that her job is done, peaces out.

Ariel is delighted when she realises that Lucky is safe and then…oh boy. Lucky makes a face and just drifts off screen and then…

Not joking. That’s the actual line of dialogue. Our characters just watch as Lucky pups offscreen for like a whole minute. This comes out of nowhere. And by the end of it she has given birth to five babies and it’s supposed to be cute and heartwarming but all I can think of is that that everyone is just standing around breathing the same water.

Guys. Mothers poop during labour. That is a thing that happens.

How was it?

I have got whiplash overhear. I flat out hate everything to do with Lucky, I hate the design, I hate Welker’s vocal performance, I hate that we’re doing this same damn plot again. That said, every scene Ursula is in is such a riot I have no hesitation calling this my favourite episode thus far. If we can get one of Ursula and the Evil manta hanging out I will die a happy mouse.

The moral of the story is: Pat Carroll could serve you shit in a sundae glass and tell you it was chocolate ice-cream and you’d believe her.

Does this violate continuity?: I thought having Ariel and Ursula meet (even if they don’t actually technically interact ) would violate canon but actually I think it reinforces it. When Flotsam and Jetsam first offer to take Ariel to Ursula it’s clear that she a) knows who that is and b) thinks that she is BAD NEWS. Ursula’s assault on the palace would absolutely leave that impression on her. I dig it.

4 comments

  1. Had to look up both the song and the reprise, and yeah, she’s delivering the goods even if the goods ain’t great.

    Guess I like the implication that Ursula is just having an off day, her first instinct is to go off and destroy something, and apparently it works because she thinks the problem is solved.

    Kinda makes me wonder what would happen if the Fairies from Sleeping Beauty just cast a sleeping spell on Aurora (a power they explicitly have, they did it to a whole kingdom), and loudly wailed “Oh no, Stefan missed a spinning wheel!” while snickering and elbowing each other in the ribs. There’s a whole alternate timeline where Maleficent spends the rest of the movie chilling on a beach sipping mai tais because she thinks she won.

  2. Since the Bad Luck creature never shows up, even in a background, for the movie or its sequel I’ve gotta assume Triton quietly had it and its puppies killed behind Ariel’s back and then told her they’d moved away to another ocean wishing her well.

    And of course, Sebastian had to do it like everything-freaking-else.

  3. I kind of like Ariel’s recurring series trait of adopting anything and everything who are vaguely misunderstood and/or unloved. And the writers 100% were being tongue in cheek in this one. They pretty much hang a lampshade on the recurrence.

    And I think the moment where Ariel clearly isn’t entirely sure the whole “touch the unclean thing and you will have bad luck forever” and says FUCK IT anyway and comforts Lucky is genuinely sweet.

    I have no proof of this but I have a vague sense that the execs drew hard lines on some things and gave 0 fucks about others and the writers and animators egged each other on to see what the weirdest shit they could get away with was.

    How else do you explain stuff like THE LOBSTER MOBSTER? Who in their right mind was like, “Okay we’re worldbuilding for our underwater fantasy fairytale tv show spinoff. I KNOW WHAT WE SHOULD PUT IN. Guys, guys. We’ll have this minor villain who is a lobster. And he will act like a 30s mobster. AND WE WILL CALL HIM THE LOBSTER MOBSTER.”

    And someone else heard that pitch and went, “That’s pure gold Jerry!”

    SPOILERS:

    Sadly Ursula and Manta do not ever have a scene together. Possibly because the showrunners knew hearing Curry and Carroll in such close succession would be too much for us mere mortals and all our minds would cave in and hearts explode like when you directly talk to God in the movie Dogma.

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