Every so often, Inhumans glimpses its own deep conceptual flaws and attempts to correct them. Or, at the very least, tries to alert the viewer that it is aware of the problem. But like so many complex organizations in crisis, being aware is not addressing the underlying issue. And, of course, the issues plaguing the show cannot be easily corrected as the series was completed before it was broadcast.
And yeah, I’m assuming these eight episodes is all we’ll get of Inhumans as its own series.
Nonetheless, it was interesting to see both Louise and Locus (Sumire Matsubara) broach the single most important topic in the series: the aristocratic behavior of the royal family. Medusa, in particular, gets called out repeatedly for the ease with which she orders people around. And if the show was squarely about her, I think it would make for interesting television. All the hallmarks of a good story are there. Her parents were “banished” for wanting to change the caste system. Despite that disgrace and indignity, Medusa and Crystal grew up next to the seat of power; allowing her and Black Bolt to bond in a very specific way and fall in love. At the same time, both women grew accustomed to the privileges of being near the apex of Attilan society. That kind of backstory makes me wish the show was about Medusa, alone, trying to get home. It’s a great engine for story and conflict. It’s also a very strong arc for a Marvel character as hubris is often their real worst enemy.
The problem appears when all the royal family characters have to learn the same lesson. Locus explain her decision to follow Maximus to both Black Bolt and Medusa at the same time, painting their inaction as one common problem. Which, to be fair, it is, but it produces a dramatically unsatisfying conflict if both characters are guilty of the same mistake. Locus is also disposed off in a comically swift way, merely existing to make her case to the royals and depart this plane of existence. It seems like Black Bolt heard her, but when you consider there’s only three episodes remaining, it’s hard to believe either he or Medusa will really learn this lesson of humility in a believable way or be worthy to rule Attilan.
Meanwhile, the interesting Karnak plot is over before it really began. I get that it was all a set-up for a very long game joke. Jen (Jamie Gray Hyder) played Karnak the way he often played women back on the Moon. He even calls out the exact length of time they were together, echoing a moment from the first episode. It would be funny if not for the fact she walked away without getting proper medical attention for her gunshot wound.
Y’know how most heroes on shows like these see someone bleeding and say, “Oh, let’s get you some medical attention?” Not here: proving the royal family are still aristocrats at heart. The life of one Earth woman is not as important as restoring their regime.
Also, few things have worked as well on Inhumans as Karnak learning to embrace doubt. The moment he tells Gorgon he did the right thing by barging into the camp is pretty significant; and a good moment for the actors. But having Jen run off undercuts it in a way that underlines the show’s ongoing misunderstanding of its main characters and, perhaps more importantly, why audiences like Marvel superheroes.
Up in Attilan, Maximus appears to be cracking under the strain of the crown. His noble ideals are giving way to more obvious despotic moves. That’s definitely something the show needed to do as his argument against the caste system is incredible sound. But as with the coup at the beginning of the series, there’s something so cartoonish about Maximus’s villainy. But I suspect that’s a side-effect of the very short episode order. These characters needed thirteen episodes — at least — to flesh them out properly. Thanks to the way Inhumans was conceived and executed, I doubt they’ll get more than the remain three.
Inhumans airs Fridays on ABC.