With another episode of Marvel’s Inhumans out of the way, Ken and Robbie take a look and see how it went. The past few weeks were odes to lost potential, let’s see if this time is any better.
Robbie: Ken, answer me honestly: do you get the feeling that this show is actively trying to make us hate its protagonists?
I ask because I keep seeing more and more reasons why Inhuman society is awful, and how the royal family, the characters we’ve been following, contributed to maintaining the oppressive status quo.
But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself; there’s still plenty to look at this episode… I think. We have Crystal and what’s-his-face talking, Karnak and manic pixie drug girl getting shot at, and some flashbacks that certainly flash back to things that happened, while Black Bolt and Medusa try to develop their characters. Where shall we begin?
Ken: Well, I’d like to talk about the updates to the card for (as of writing) tonight’s WWE Pay-Per View: TLC: Tables, Ladders, & Chairs and how surprised I am to see that we’ll finally get the Bullet Club Leader dream match of Finn Balor vs. AJ Sty-
…Okay, fine! We’ll talk about the episode! I suppose the first thing we could talk about are the flashbacks we get with Karnak and Gorgon, if only because their relationship is the closest one has to development.
In the comics, the two do have a similar relationship, Gorgon finding frustration in Karnak’s more patient and contemplative nature and on the other side: Karnak’s annoyance at Gorgon’s face-forward act before thinking nature. It’s an old, but still good, dichotomy and Ken Leung and Eme Ikwakor do their best to convey that, given the thin material they are given.
Robbie: The flashback was one of the few passable things about the episode, even if it made Karnak look like more of an ass. But I enjoyed how Gorgon was so upbeat about finding a flag and using it as decoration, plus his initial lack of foresight or concern as to how it might reveal Attilan connects to the first episode and when he stepped on the rover.
I can also acknowledge the purpose of the flashbacks, as it helped parallel how Gorgon and Karnak affected each other and looked to the other’s way of thinking during the episode. It was the closest we’ve gotten a nice bit of character work
Hey look, something almost positive to say! (Don’t get used to it.)
Ken: I mean… fuck, where do we actually begin with the rest of this? I get it: their society is bad, but now we’re at episode 5. We are over the hump of this season with three episodes to go and they are barely, and I do mean barely beginning to realize just how screwed up their society is. And you’re right, they have done nothing but contribute to maintaining a horrible status quo and maybe Black Bolt is having reservations on it, but it’s nothing that has been developed. Nothing with any tangible weight or depth to hook on to.
I guess let’s focus on Black Bolt and Medusa. You know, it was when scientist lady was driving them in her convertible with them in the back that made me think: “I thought this was supposed to be a sci-fi drama?”
Robbie: Talk about an awkward car ride. Louise had to put up with their PDAs the entire drive, with a body in the trunk as well. So yes, they’re back together, good for them. And then they go out to find everyone else. Okay, plot is progressing.
And when Locus calls them out on almost everything we’ve been complaining about – the oppressive caste system that they’re fighting to uphold, Medusa marrying the son of the man that banished her parents (which reminds me, where do Inhumans even get banished to? They’re on the freaking moon.) – they brush it off with “Hey, we both know loss, okay?” and “The terrigen gives us our ‘one true path,’ so deal with it.”
Oh, and then Locus dies from a fight scene we don’t even get to see and a wound that was never hinted at until literally all the other conversations wrapped up, and suddenly the royals are Attilan’s last hope to change things.Continued below
Ken: Oh my God! You’re right! We didn’t even see that fight scene where Locus got wounded! I thought I was just tuning out so much I just wasn’t remembering it. And her final speech was such a tack on to get the royal family to be “heroes.”
Speaking of, let’s switch to who should be the actual hero of this piece: Maximus. Like how they are tacking on the traits of heroism for the royal family, Maximus is rapidly losing the traits of the revolutionary and just becoming a sniveling Caligula. His idea of abolishing the caste system now giving way to having to “earn your freedom” by forced conscription. If this is trying to get me to root for the royal family… it’s not working.
Also: something I finally noticed with this episode. Maximus is an inhuman villain on the moon that sends monsters down to planet earth to do his dirty work and fight the “heroes”… you know where I’m going with this, right?
Robbie: My god… Maximus is Rita Repulsa! I swear, if one of the next Inhumans he sends down has growing powers, I will laugh hard enough to take back at least a few of the things I’ve said about this show.
But yes, more on Maximus, the only character to get any sort of depth to him. He doesn’t start losing it because he’s corrupted by his own power, but just because his team can’t kill the Inhumans who escaped to Earth. And yes, he’s stepping back from “freedom for all” to “freedom for all, except when I need them, then you better earn it,” but even then, at least he has a character arc.
Speaking of, there was one moment where Iwan Rheon really got to go all out with the acting, when he cried out to the statue of his father about how he could have been king, if not for his terrigenesis. Except… he couldn’t have. Black Bolt was always first in line, they established this last episode, when young Maximus asked “But if Black Bolt dies, I could be king, right?”
Can you imagine how much more interesting this show would have been if they did it the other way around? If Maximus was meant for the throne, and was raised believing he’d be king, until terrigenesis happened and suddenly his lack of powers deemed him unworthy? In his eyes, Black Bolt would be the usurper, and the uprising for the throne would be him taking back what was rightfully his.
On the other hand, we’d probably still complain about how different that is from the comics, but at least it wouldn’t be giving us a thrift store variant Loki backstory.
Ken: If the next Inhuman he sends down there does that then perhaps this show will redeem itself. Not helped by Mortis himself looking like a Power Ranger monster-of-the-week.
Yeah. It is a shame that, maybe the best moment of the show with Maximus’ monologue, is kind of undermined by that little leap in logic. Sure, it can be attested to Maximus’ seething jealousy of Black Bolt, but again, that does feel like a Loki-lite thing. Your idea would provide something a lot more juicy to munch on.
With that, let’s get to the weakest part of this show: Crystal and the dudebro. I know he has a name but every time he opened his mouth I internally groaned. A big part of that being he, a white guy, trying to tell me about Hawaii. Especially considering when a couple episodes ago when the show decided to… hmmm… “tackle” the whole imperialism thing.
Robbie: He’s a walking stereotype of all the worst surfer dudebro cliches. And I can’t believe this show has anything to step down from, but it’s still a step down from the Hawaiian characters and surfer characters we saw before, because at least they had some level of motives and characterization.
So is he supposed to be the character whose influence helps Crystal overcome her flaws? I can’t say, because even after all these episodes there’s still so little to her character that I couldn’t tell you the first thing about her, aside from “has a teleporting dog,” “Medusa’s sister,” and “we keep comparing her unfavorably to Todoroki.” Yes, her character is so bland we have to constantly refer to a better series just to talk about her.Continued below
Ken: Honestly, it’s almost being mean at this point. It really is. I would say good things about this plot line if there were good things to say.
Robbie: At least we got to see Karnak fight for a bit. He pulled off some nice bo staff moves.
Then the actual fight scene was shot in almost all darkness, so we didn’t get to see much of it.
But at least that’s more than we saw of Black Bolt and Medusa fighting the drug dealer soldier guys.
Ken: So, in summation, this show is just compounding it’s tone deafness by constantly trying to convince us that these people are on the side of good. Their growth is at such a drip-drop speed I fear we won’t have time for this to end in any satisfying way.
And we still got three more episodes…
Robbie: It’s practically the definition of “designated protagonist.” There’s no clear theme, and any character development is restricted to having the support characters meet humans who help them overcome the flaws we barely even got to see.
Have we really touched upon everything? So little happened in that hour that it feels like there’s nothing left to talk about. Each scene starts doing something, then half of them drop and leave us waiting until the next episode to see if they go anywhere.
Close us out, I suppose.
Ken: As I said before, I just wish there had been effort put into the creation of this show. I find it ironic, this show is here being utter dreck, meanwhile “Black Bolt” and “Inhumans: Once & Future Kings” are two of Marvel’s better comics right now with creators who get things like “character development” and aren’t afraid to tackle the problematic elements of this show with nuance.