Airing on September 29, Inhumans is Marvel’s latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Being a part of the Marvel brand, Inhumans has a lot to live up to, so let’s jump on in.
This recap and review include Episode 1 & 2, which premiered together.
The episode begins on the island of Oahu with an Inhuman girl being hunted by a strike team. Triton (Mike Moh), an Inhuman with the ability to breath underwater, finds her and tells her she will be safe in Attilan, the Inhuman city located on the moon. Before he can transport them to Attilan, the strike team finds them. The girl is killed, and Triton is shot in the stomach. As he tries to escape, he accidentally falls from a cliff and into the sea.
Meanwhile, at Callisto Aerospace Control Center in California, Louise (Ellen Woglon) is operating a moon rover when it collides with the invisible barrier hiding Attilan. Suddenly it is hit from above and is disconnected. As she replays the footage to find out what hit the rover, she see’s what appears to be a hoof.
In Attilan, Black Bolt (Anson Mount) and Medusa (Serinda Swan), the king and queen of the Inhumans, hold a meeting with the other member’s of the Royal Family concerning the moon rover. They find out that Gorgon, (Eme Ikwuakor), a faun-like Inhuman, and leader of the Royal Guard, was responsible. Karnak, Triton’s brother and Black Bolt’s cousin, is concerned with Gorgon’s tactic’s, particularly with how humans will react. Black Bolt wants to let the matter go, but his brother Maximus (Iwan Rheon) states that they need to take action against the humans. He believes that once the humans discover Attilan, they will try to destroy the Inhumans out of fear. Gorgon taunts Maximus for being just like humans since he never received Inhuman abilities.
Later, the Inhuman Royal Family attends a Terrigen ceremony where Inhumans are exposed to Terrigen Mists that reveals their powers. On Attilan, since space and resources are sparse, Inhuman powers determine your social status. Iridia (Andra Nechita) receives the ability to fly, which is highly regarded, while her brother, Bronaja (Ari Dalbert) doesn’t appear to have any powers. When Maximus goes to consoles him by patting him on the shoulder, Bronaja reacts violently, falling to the floor in spasms. When he recovers, he tells Maximus he saw him pinned against the wall with snakes wrapped around him.
Afterward, Maximus learns of Triton’s fate and confronts Black Bolt. Black Bolt reveals that he sent Triton to Earth to find humans-turned-Inhuman who were exposed to Terrigen after it contaminated their water supply. Triton was to bring them to Attilan to live without fear of prosecution. Black Bolt decides to send Gorgon to Earth in hopes of rescuing Triton.
Black Bolt goes off to think on his own, and Maximus approaches Medusa. He talks about how close they used to be and how things would have been different between them if she hadn’t married Black Bolt. He asks her if she regrets marrying him and Medusa attacks Maximus using her powers to manipulate her hair. After she lets him go, he realizes that Bronaja can see the future.
On Earth, Gorgon is tracking Triton’s path when the strike team from the beginning surrounds him. It turns out they work for Maximus, and he orders them to kill Gorgon. Gorgon manages to fight them off and escapes. Tired of Black Bolt’s inability to act, Maximus decided to organize a coup to remove him and the rest of the Royal Family from power. Karnak manages to escape capture and warns the others of Maximus’s plan. Maximus tries to persuade Medusa to join him, but when she refuses, he has her head shaven, stripping her of her power. Crystal (Isabella Cornish), Medusa’s sister, has her giant dog, Lockjaw, teleport Medusa and Karnak to Earth.
Maximus goads Black Bolt about his inadequacy as a ruler and further taunts him with the fact that he accidentally killed their parents with his hypersonic voice when he was young. Maximus challenges Black Bolt to speak, and just when he’s about to, Crystal appears with Lockjaw who transports him away to Earth. Lockjaw returns for Crystal but is subdued, and she is captured by Maximus.
Back on Earth, the Royal Family has been separated to different parts of the island. Karnak is lost in the jungle. Gorgon nearly drowns, but his saved by some friendly surfers. Medusa uses her communication device to locate Black Bolt, who Lockjaw has transported to Honolulu. When she finds on where he is, she sneaks onto a tour bus heading back to the city. In the Honolulu, Black Bolt is arrested and sent to jail for causing a minor crash and shoplifting. Meanwhile, Louise, the moon rover operator, is slowly discovering what actually happened on the moon.
On Attilan, Crystal manages to contact Medusa who realizes that it’s a trap for Maximus to locate her. Maximus sends Auran (Sonya Balmores), his head of security, to Earth to bring the Royal Family back, dead or alive. Auran finds Medusa, and they fight, ending with Medusa stabbing Auran to death. Maximus has now become king and promises the people a new era of hope. Later that night it is revealed that Auran is not dead and that she has regenerative healing powers. She contacts Maximus asking for backup to capture the Royal Family.
Marvel TV really, really, really wants Inhumans to feel like a cinematic experience on the small screen. The opening scene is filled with swooping aerial shots, slow-motion running, and dramatic music that is just begging to be called epic.
Marvel TV even went as far as to premiere a 75-minute cut of episodes 1 & 2 in IMAX theaters. I can’t speak for those who saw it in theaters, but if there was any cinematic quality to be found there, it was lost on the small screen. Inhumans in its TV form feels small and cheap.
For a show that boasted a higher budget because of its collaboration with IMAX, it sure doesn’t look it. The production design for Attilan, the Inhuman city, was bland and uninspired. There was nothing that stood out as otherworldly or any different from what you would see on Earth. Some of the sets literally just looked like nice hotel rooms. At times the minimalist design choices made me think of The Hunger Games, but there was still the cheap and underwhelming finish about it. Of course, the portions shot in Hawaii were beautiful (it’s Hawaii), but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Honestly, the CGI is just barely above what you see on other Marvel TV shows. The limited budget severely renders seeing the characters use their powers. Medusa’s hair is conveniently shaved in the first episode and Crystal, who can manipulate the elements, shots off one little fireball. I imagine most of the CGI budget went to creating Lockjaw, who is adorable, but in a story about superhumans, not seeing their powers used to their full potential is disappointing.
There is talent to be found in the cast, but even the best couldn’t make the unnatural, jarring dialogue sound good. While it might be tempting to compare Iwan Rheon’s Maximus to his role on Game of Thrones (you may have heard of it), I don’t believe that is a fair comparison. Maximus reminds me more of Marvel’s favorite villain, Loki, but reserved and not nearly as fleshed out. Rheon gives depth where he can, yet there is still something lacking in his character. Serinda Swan’s Medusa is put through the ringer a few times, which ultimately felt more melodramatic than just dramatic. Ken Leung’s Karnak and Eme Ikwuakor’s Gorgon supplied some comic relief but were stuck in the stereotypical, sidekick archetypes. Anson Mount’s Black Bolt, who is voluntarily mute, doesn’t have much to do but scowl. Isabelle Cornish’s Crystal… I’m honestly not sure how she plays into the story yet besides that fact that she has a teleporting dog (Lockjaw might be my favorite character).
The plot strives for family drama and political intrigue but falls short. By the end of the first episode the Royal Family has been torn apart, but there’s no build-up or time to get to know the characters. We barely know anything about the character’s relationship or why we should care if they ever see each other again. See, if you don’t give the audience time to actually care about the characters, we’re not going to care about their struggles. If Marvel can get people to care about a talking tree, then they can get us to care about anyone. Considering that showrunner Scott Buck is also the showrunner for the first season of Iron Fist on Netflix, the disastrous execution of Inhumans makes so much more sense.
Inhumans wanted to straddle the line between movies and television. It wanted to give the experience of the watching Marvel movie but in a TV format. Try as it might, with IMAX showings and two-hour TV premieres, it just didn’t live up to its own hype. The first two episodes of Inhumans weren’t just bad by Marvel’s standards; they were just bad. I doubt the rest of the season will improve, but miracles are known to happen. Just look at Thor: Ragnarok. Until next week, stay awesome.