Inhumans: 1.01 Behold... The Inhumans
Marvel's Inhumans has had quite the troubled history. What began as the closing movie in the Marvel Cinematic 'Phase three' has been reduced to an eight-episode series, chronicling the prominent characters from the comics on what they were based. But the reviews coming out of the US have not been great and with Agents Of SHIELD already tackling the Earth-based Inhumans since season two (the MCU's equivalent to mutants since Fox still retain the rights to the X-Men) this had to be quite special indeed.
As Inhumans made its UK broadcast, I approached the show with trepidation. The MCU really hasn't had a flop yet; while the likes of Thor: The Dark World sit at the bottom of movie rankings and Iron Fist failed to live up to its predecessors, there has been some great stuff among every big and small screen entry so far. Watching the first episode, I was expecting a disaster - bad CGI, performances, writing and story - and I was pleasantly surprised. It's not great TV, let's not kid ourselves, but it's not quite the disaster it was made out to be, even though it does have several flaws.
The performances are largely solid. Anson Mount delivers an enigmatic performance as Black Bolt, which considering his character is effectively mute, is quite the challenge. Eme Ikwuakor certainly stands out as cloven-hooved captain of the royal guard Gorgon, full of charm and intensity. And Iwan Rheon - well he's just good, though largely a watered down version of his Game Of Thrones character (something which I'll expand upon shortly). Serinda Swan felt a little flat as Medusa and is the character which feels the most problematic for me. Ken Leung and Isabelle Cornish are decent enough but nothing standout as the remaining core characters Karnak and Crystal. Oh, and I love the giant teleporting dog Lockjaw, which is certainly the best thing in Inhumans so far.
Where I think it fails is in both the direction and writing. Considering this was once considered a potential flagship movie for the the MCU, there are moments that feel kind of cheap. Parts of the alien city, like Crystal and Black Bolt's apartments look like they could have been set in Los Angeles. While there are some nice sweeping shots of the hidden Inhuman city on the moon - which is a great concept - when it gets down to the streets and corridors, it just doesn't look quite as dazzling.
There's also a lot of expositiony dialogue and clumsily executed too; Karnak telling Gorgon about the terrigen ritual is plain odd; they know all about this so they're only talking about it so the audience understands what is going on. And there are seemingly trite references, like Medusa and Maximus's shady past. Again, this might be something to do with Swan's rather flat performance.
Perhaps the trailers gave too much away, but the whole rebellion feels obvious; there is an attempt at Game of Thrones's intrigue, murder and betrayal, but it doesn't quite excite. What is more interesting however is the idea of the human / inhuman caste system and how those not imbued by powers are forced to work in mines and as servants for the royals. It actually makes Maximus's cause just, even if the execution is wrong. But there is a flaw. Are we supposed to care for the plight of Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, Karnak and Gorgon who live in luxury? They aren't particularly great people to start with and without that 'humanity' I'm not sure there is enough development in their characters to really engage with yet.
There were moments of promise - the flashback to Black Bolt's accidental murder of his parents was shocking - but also moments that completely failed. Again, and this feels like a dig as Medusa, I failed to understand why her hair, which had already been shown to be sentient and able to fight off attackers, did nothing while it was shaved off Medusa's head. Had she been knocked unconscious and then woken up to find it gone, that would have been tragic. But to let it happen when she was held down, felt like a massive plot hole that I couldn't get over.
I don't know the Inhumans of the comics and my only experience comes from Agents of SHIELD, so I don't know how good or bad the source material has been treated. Judging by the general internet rumblings and low IMDB scores, I suspect the latter. Personally, I enjoyed elements of it and am interested in seeing more; hopefully the plight of these characters to Earth will make them more endearing as the weeks go on.