Inhumans Episode 3 Review: Divide and Conquer

Marvel's Inhumans doesn't improve in episode 3. At all.

This Inhumans review contains spoilers.

Inhumans Episode 3

So here we are, the first episode of Marvel’s Inhumans that wasn’t shown during the theatrical release. Listen, I’m a huge Marvel fan. I have loved every film, I really dig Agents of SHIELD, I adored Agent Carter, I live for the Netflix stuff, and I read many of Marvel’s books. I’m a fan and I have to admit at times, I’m a Marvel apologist in many ways.

With all that gush, I still must admit that so far, I don’t like Inhumans.

I like pieces of it, I like the casting, I like the idea of an Inhumans series, but the execution of this ABC series? Yeah, not so good.

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I hate reviews that are all I, I, me, me, but I had to give you a little background before I discuss the series just so you know that I was willing to die on the Marvel hill and defend any film or TV series because of the endless hours of happiness the company has given me. Not this hill, you guys.

There’s potential here. There’s always potential when Jack Kirby is in the DNA, but the potential of this series is more hidden than Attilan. Instead of presenting a mythic treatise on otherness and heroism, Inhumans is a going-through-the-motions snoozefest that just kind of sits there like a pile of Lockjaw’s doggie poo. Yes guys, it only took me a few paragraphs to hit a Lockjaw poop joke.

So where does the series go wrong? I think it’s the plot and the budget. You see, the mind and imagination of Jack Kirby cannot be budgeted. I know Thor had a budget, but man, whatever that budget was, every freakin’ penny of it was on the screen as Marvel Studio brought Asgard to life.

Go look at the early Kirby designs of Attilan and the myriad Inhumans in the pages of Fantastic Four. Stretching golden spires and hi-tech weaponry and machines juxtaposed with a fantastical medieval landscape. Monsters of all shapes and sizes living side by side in a hidden city that only Kirby could have envisioned. That stuff is expensive to realize on TV. That stuff is cinematic. Of course I don’t expect ABC to give this show a Game of Thrones sized budget, but I expect more than we currently have because instead of grand vistas and varied and monstrous residents of Attilan, we have a bunch of warehouse looking set pieces and some white hotel looking rooms. You can’t take something the size of Kirby and twist it and jam it into something the size of Once Upon a Time (and I say this as a fan of Once Upon a Time), you just can’t do it. 

It seems like the only drama and conflict that showrunner Scott Buck and company understands is the stripping the heroes of their powers trope. Buck did it in the opening episodes of Iron Fist when Danny Rand was strapped down to a gurney and unable to use his powers, and now Buck is doing the same with Inhumans. I don’t know about you but I just don’t want multiple episodes featuring a concussed Karnak not using his powers. Yes, I know adversity breeds drama, but if the adversity is paint by numbers and repetitive, then the drama is dull and stillborn.

And that’s the issue with Inhumans. It’s dull. It’s dull watching the Royal Family plod around Hawaii while Maximus is on the moon whispering and plotting but never actually doing anything. It’s dull to see Crystal lounging around her hotel-looking prison and looking sullen. It’s dull to see Medusa with a shaved head because that’s like doing a She-Hulk series and saying, screw it, let’s not make her green. There are certain visual cues that are exciting to comic book fans and if you remove them, you’re just left with mundane noise.  

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The early episodes have broken the Royal Family up and given us mini-adventures as they all try to come back together. Triton, perhaps the most visually interesting Inhuman, has been seemingly killed, and the other Inhumans are taking a walking tour of Hawaii. The only semi-interesting one of these plots so far has been Black Bolt. Black Bolt has been imprisoned for assaulting police and now must survive prison life. Bolt befriends his fellow inmates, particularly one big native Hawaiian who secretly has Inhuman powers. The dude has fire powers and accidently burned his house down, so basically, Black Bolt’s cellmate is an El Diablo from Suicide Squad riff, but I’m willing to forgive that because he’s the only super powered being in this silly series that does anything but look confused while endlessly walking. So Bolt escapes, a mysterious benefactor is revealed played by Henry Ian Cusick from Lost (at least we have Desmond, Desmond is always awesome), and there is a kind of exiting and cool prison break sequence that does make Black Bolt seem pretty badass. But here’s the thing, Black Bolt seriously has one of the coolest Kirby costumes the King ever created, so let’s just stick him in prison orange, because if we learned anything from Iron Fist, it’s that Scott Buck doesn’t do costumes.

So then we have Medusa who’s wandering around Hawaii looking like Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta. She just kind of listlessly plods along looking for her husband while yelling at ATMs because she has observed Earth enough to read English but not enough to know what an ATM does, and seriously, I want to punch this show in the face. Medusa gets to the prison just in time to see her husband escape and also meets up with Louise Fisher, the plucky lab tech that was fired last week for reasons. Fisher is plucky! because this show believes in the Mad Libs idea of character creation. So we get to look forward to Fisher being plucky while Medusa is bald and not in any way using her powers.

After all my snark, there were a few bits I liked. We are introduced to a new Inhuman named Mortis this week. A prisoner on Attilan who seems to be kind of like the Inhuman version of Hannibal Lecter. He wears a cool mask and looks like 1977 Doctor Who villain and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. Maximus seems unsure about using Mortis in his bid to find the Royal Family as Mortis instantly becomes the most compelling thing about this show. Mortis and his face blast powers join with Auron to battle Gorgon and a band of well-armed Hawaiians that the goat-footed Inhuman befriends. For some reason, Gorgon decides to go hoof to toe with Auron instead of just easily defeating her and her crew with an earthquake stomp which costs one of Gorgon’s pals his life. Next time, lead with the quake, Gorgon.

As for Karnak. For some reason, the writers decided that what we need is a subplot involving a concussed Karnak tied up helplessly by surprisingly good looking drug dealers. The tough as nails (Mad Libs!) leader of the dealers takes pity on Karnak as his powers continue to be impotent. You know what would be awesome? Karnak using his abilities to cut through the dealers like a hot knife through butter so fans can learn early in the show’s history just how cool the Royal Family can be. But no, instead we get martial arts guy tied up and helpless. Sound familiar?

On the moon, Maximus wants Crystal to declare him king. She agrees and a four year old can see her betrayal coming, but somehow Maximus can’t. So Crystal gives a scathing speech about what a monster Maximus is, runs away, freezes some guards because, oh yeah, Crystal has powers, finds Lockjaw, and teleports to Earth. Lockjaw is immediately hit by an ATV so I guess he’s not going to have his powers for a while as well as the show has now descended into self parody.

All this monkeying around with the Inhuman abilities is just being done for the sake of plot convenience and for the sake of keeping the budget down. Speaking of which, you have to love Maximus’ strike force. Other than Mortis, the team all look human. No makeup, no enhancements, just normal looking folks. Buck, ABC, Marvel, just listen. The show is called Inhumans, not Humans, can we have some people that look, you know, inhuman? Humans is a show about robots and is much better than this silliness.

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Marvel Moments

– The only Mortis in Marvel history is the younger half-sister of Dazzler. Like TV’s Mortis, Dazzler’s sister wields energy powers. Yeah Mortis is a cool name, but hundreds of old school Inhumans characters to choose from, and you have to steal Dazzler’s sister and make her a dude in a cool mask.

Speaking of the mask, Mortis really looks like Xorn from the X–Men and he has similar powers so I guess X-Men visual cues are going to fuel Inhumans a bit.

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1.5 out of 5