Marvel’s Inhumans: Season 1 (And Only?): a review

inhumans

 

By now, you know that Marvel’s Inhumans was the most-widely panned MCU project since Netflix’s Iron Fist. Many critics say that it is worse than the maligned Iron Fist project.

The audience—those non-professional critics—gave the show a 51% Fresh rating over on Rotten Tomatoes, just slightly better than average. A solid grade of C, let’s say. While this might not motivate you to drop everything and watch the show, it is a much higher rating than the 10% given by the professionals.

Proving once again that I am a man of the People, I find myself agreeing with the audience. This show is a 3-out-of-5 stars for me. Average. If the show were allowed another season, I would watch it. Sadly, that’s probably not going to happen. So, while this review will say “Season 1,” it should probably say “Entire Series.” That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Television is a business, and viewers stayed away from what is essentially an eight-episode miniseries in droves. I certainly didn’t help things in this regard. I allowed the series to sit in my DVR until the other shows I was actively watching went into their midseason breaks.

I’m going to try to make a case for renewing Inhumans. My opinion will not sway anyone, I’m sure, but I feel compelled to tell you what I think about this show.

After a brief scan of the professional reviews, I’m convinced that most of the critics had never even heard of the Inhumans before this show aired. Since I’ve been familiar with this—this what? Race? Community? Group?—since the days Jack Kirby was drawing them, I can’t really imagine what it must be like to be dropped into this strange new world without knowing something about the characters. It must have been confusing. Disconcerting, even. Even if all you knew about the Inhumans came from Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, this series would immediately have you out in left field, trying to figure out how the Inhumans ended up on the moon.

Brief digression: I remember when the comic book Inhumans moved their entire city, Attilan, from Earth to the moon. This was in the early ’80s, I believe, during John Byrne’s run on the Fantastic Four comic. Roughly three-and-a-half decades ago now, which makes me feel old, even if it has no effect on you.

I know what you’re thinking. The fans of the comic books aren’t always a forgiving group when it comes to depictions of their favorite characters either. That is true. Live action superheroes often fail to measure up to what we conjure in our imaginations. Since the Inhumans were never among my favorite Marvel characters, the page-to-screen transition didn’t bother me overmuch. I’ve always considered the Inhumans to be a B-tier team at best. Interesting guest stars in some of my favorite old comics, but I can’t recall ever buying any title featuring the Inhumans solely. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that the television Royal Family didn’t look exactly like they did in the comic.

I think the show was harmed by the release of the first two episodes in IMAX theaters. This was shot as a television series, and that’s what comes across on the screen. If I had paid IMAX prices to watch this on the big screen, I would have been disillusioned as well. Probably angry, even. Not an auspicious beginning for the series, since terrible reviews dogged it even before its small-screen premiere.

I like what the series was doing with the Inhuman’s Royal Family.

Anson Mount is a perfect Black Bolt. I know he was on that cowboy series that also had Chief O’Brien on it, but I never watched that show. I don’t even know what his voice sounds like, which is okay since Black Bolt can’t speak without destroying a lot of property or killing people. But, he has the perfect superhero face, almost out of a Jack Kirby sketchbook. The set of his mouth as he keeps it shut has a decidedly John Byrne quality, if I’m allowed to dip briefly into my artist-centric comic geek past. Since this show is unlikely to go forward, I would actively lobby for Mount to play Cyclops in the next X-Men reboot, since the franchise is finally joining the MCU.

I was initially on the fence about the character Medusa, Queen to Black Bolt’s King. I thought the CGI hair needed some work to seem more realistic, but I was angry when Maximus shaved her head. I feel that it was something done just to save on the budget. I’m no fashionista either, but I didn’t care for her initial costume. But, once Serinda Swan changed into human clothes, she managed to win me over, at least partially, by episode four, when she was interacting with our nerd-girl Louise (Ellen Woglom). Until then, I found her scenes the least interesting to watch.

Speaking of Ellen Woglom, I spent half this miniseries believing she was the same actress who used to be on Fringe. But, that was Anna Torv (I’m stating this boldly as if I didn’t have to look it up). Woglom, whom I have seen in other television shows, even if I didn’t know who she was, does have a Torvish vibe, although a side-by-side comparison reveals they really don’t look that much alike.

I enjoyed the scenes featuring Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor) or Karnak (Ken Leung) from the beginning. Karnak, whose Inhuman talent is the ability to find the weakness in anything, finds his powers diminished after taking a blow to the head and he falls in with some shady marijuana growers. Gorgon finds a surrogate family with some Hawaiian surfer dudes, a couple of whom have military experience. His scenes are also fun, even though the cameramen are careful to show his hooves only sparingly. More budgetary constraints, I would guess. Probably the same reason Karnak doesn’t get to use his powers a lot.

Isabelle Cornish also does a good job as Medusa’s sister Crystal. But, I have to admit that I like her more for her giant teleporting dog, Lockjaw. The Lockjaw teleporting effect was well done.

That pretty much leaves only Triton (Mike Moh) and Maximus (Iwan Rheon) to discuss in the Royal Family. Triton appears briefly in the pilot, is presumed dead during much of the season, and then suddenly returns. Iwan Rheon carries his villainous aura with him from Game of Thrones, where he was the much-hated bastard Ramsey Bolton. I like him as Maximus. I even like his motivation in the beginning, to eliminate the caste system in Attilan. He’s like Fidel Castro on the moon, a ruler elevated by the people. His rule, however, isn’t destined to be a benevolent one, and his underlying motives are self-serving and, if I’m allowed to pass judgment, evil.

The Hawaiian setting is beautiful, naturally, and helps make up somewhat for what must have been a meager budget. If Oahu wasn’t enough to evoke memories of the television series Lost (not to mention a vacation that Sharon and I spent there back when the show was still in production (okay, I guess I mentioned it)), both Ken Leung and Henry Ian Cusick (who plays Dr. Declan) are veterans of that series as well. Inhumans flirts with the flashback structure as well, but that’s really where the similarities end. The mysteries on this series are, unfortunately, not quite as compelling as in that J.J. Abrams’ show.

These eight episodes provide a brief character sketch of the Royal Family, and while they seem to be aiming for big royal intrigue, ala Game of Thrones, the story really misses that mark. The story’s side-plots were more interesting to me than Maximus’ betrayal, but even the side-plots failed to pay off in the end. The show is okay, just not big enough, and too representative of what I perceive as budgetary constraints.

In conclusion, I found this series to be watchable and at least marginally entertaining. It didn’t wow me, certainly. Maybe, by this point, I should be expecting more from my television entertainment, but this show was okay to me. As I said before, I would watch more episodes if they were allowed to exist.

What do I know? I didn’t think Iron Fist was that bad either.

2 thoughts on “Marvel’s Inhumans: Season 1 (And Only?): a review

  1. I must admit, I never got around to watching Inhumans, not because of poor reviews, I just didn’t have time. Maybe I’ll catch up with it eventually. You sum up some great points about the series, it sound average at best, but all first seasons can take a while to find out what works best for the show. I doubt it’ll get a second season either, and for the record, I thought Iron Fist was an OK series as well. I don’t understand why critics ripped it to bits like they did.

    Like

  2. My only exposure to the Inhumans’ story comes from what I learned in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and I took in stride what I didn’t know about their backstory (as in how and why they ended up on the Moon, for example), certain that somewhere along the way the audience would be informed about these details. However, the story did not catch my imagination, and I stopped watching after the first three or so episodes: on one side it must have been the effect of “superhero burnout” that comes from the huge amount of stories that Marvel is launching on the big and small screen; on the other, the overall effect was of poor characterization (the good guys are invariably good, the bad ones are totally evil) that in my opinion took away all the “shades of gray” I like to encounter in a story. IMHO this was a missed opportunity that could have worked better with a little more care given to fleshing out the characters…

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