Seeing Black Bolt sent to jail at the end of episode 2 gave me a war flashback to episode 2 of Iron Fist. At that point of the other Certified Rotten Scott Buck show, we knew little about Danny Rand, but already he is being thrown into this One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest scenario out of character with the kung-fu show. As such, I was afraid that this next episode would be “The Black Bolt Redemption” rather than an episode of a Marvel show.
I also thought a lot about Arrested Development season 4, a season of television that threw out its most valuable asset—the group character dynamic. Keep in mind that this is the first damn season of Inhumans, and this supposed “family tale” so far has had them apart most of the time. I came into episode 3 with the lowest of expectations—yet somehow, I was still let down.
No one in this show talks like a real person
No one in this show talks like a real person. I know that first drafts of screenplay might be cut and dry and have the characters speaking very literally and plainly, just to get ideas on paper—these Inhumans scripts don’t feel like they’ve gone beyond a first draft. Seriously, I think this was a play I wrote in middle school.
Did you listen to that non-sensical flashback of young Black Bolt and Maximus? Dear lord, I could not believe how awkward and/or cliched every bit of dialogue sounded.
“I’d rather just be me!”
“But if he does die, I’m king, right?”
Jesus, Maximus. You’d think Black Bolt would be suspicious of some brotherhood backstabbing that early after that exchange. That isn’t even to mention that these childhood flashbacks barely served any story importance—for Pete’s sake, we already get that Maximus wants to be king. It’s interesting to learn that Black Bolt was reluctant to take the throne, but otherwise, these flashbacks were showing us things the audience already knew.
Personality should be popping up from the dialogue alone, and I’m not seeing that. Everyone is saying things in the plainest way possible, and the show lacks any sort of edge or pull as a result. Think of characters like Coulson or Hunter or Daisy on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and how almost every little thing they say to each other is brimming with character. So far, Karnak and Gorgon seem to be the most dynamic characters, personality-wise, and even they have problems so far.
I began playing a game in my head—try to finish the characters’ sentences before they do, and see if the most boring thing you can think of matches up with the real dialogue. At one point, Maximus threatened Lockjaw to Crystal, and I said to myself, “please don’t say ‘accident’ in a coy manner.” You can probably guess what happened right after.
I was questioning last time who these strange, wise Hawaiian surfers who Gorgon encountered were. Again, they seemed super casual about hanging out with an Inhuman (which is good, I guess), but this next episode took this to an absurd lengths. Without little warning, we’re suddenly following Gorgon and these heavily armed surfers. What the fuck? (Sorry, what the Buck?) What a total coincidence, that these surfer dudes who saved Gorgon just happen to be highly trained soldiers. And after knowing this guy for maybe an hour or two, they’re willing to risk their lives and safety for this random guy with hooves. Why? Because Hawaii.
When Inhumans was first announced, I’m sure that “Karnak getting involved in the marijuana business” is the last thing that everyone predicted for the show. Honestly, who’s idea was this in the writing room? This subplot gets increasingly bizarre, with some guy who looks like a young Liam Neeson contemplating straight up murdering Karnak to protect his weed business, and Karnak confessing that his pretty damn cool face tattoos being an impulsive decision he made as a teenager. What, did he lose a bet or something?
What is the deal with Mordis? He is set up to be this dangerous wildcard at the beginning, but in the end he turns out to be this snarky, sarcastic (literally) metal head played by some Nathan Fillion rip-off. And the other people in Auran’s entourage don’t get any proper introduction—no names, and barely any demonstrations of their powers other than the plant lady. Come on, even the CW/DC shows know better than this; give each superpowered person a moment, so we at least understand the stakes when they finally get into battle.
Black Bolt’s prison subplot was a tad bit frustrating. In classic fashion, the prison warden is a total asshole, and the prison guards want to beat up Black Bolt for no particular reason. Luke Cage for all its flaws had a better and more fleshed out take with the white supremacist prison guards and their fight club (to be fair, that show had fewer plots to juggle). And then we have this Sammy character who is willing to help break Black Bolt out—because Hawaii. Oh, and he’s also a NuHuman. This plot development actually worked out well, and was a pleasant surprise—Mount’s expression to the revelation was quite well done. More moments like this, please.
Predicting the arcs to come (if there are any)
So Maximus is the bad guy, and we’re supposed to get hyped for the eventual return of Black Bolt and a climactic confrontation. Sure, I can buy that. But what I really want the show to get at is how this journey will change the Royal Family for the better. Going back to the first Thor movie as I did in my first feature, Thor was grounded on Earth, with the audience fully aware of the character’s flaws to improve on during the course of the movie. We have a bit of potential with some of these characters.
While Maximus is indeed the villain of the show, the writing is trying to frame it in a way that maybe he does have a good point about Black Bolt’s “rigid meritocracy.” I don’t think the show provides enough information to let the viewers decide who’s ultimately right, but this does give Black Bolt a chance to go through a character arc where he may question his decisions as king and perhaps changes for the better.
Medusa in my eyes is the strongest and most driven character of the show so far—but her sole quest of attempting to reunite with her husband doesn’t seem like a strong enough arc (Medusa barely missing Black Bolt at the prison was near-comical). She does have a lot to prove with the loss of her hair, and therefore her power; her handling of Auran in the premiere was a great step in that regards. But besides for a moment where she looked at the mirror in this episode, her losing her hair doesn’t feel as significant right now.
Also questioning their self-worth is Karnak, who monologues about how he is less of an asset to his family after a bump in the head. It’s definitely a good arc—what happens when someone who knows every possible solution to a scenario suddenly knows nothing now? The premiere did show how his power can lead to intense social awkwardness, so perhaps Karnak can learn a little more about, you know, being a goddamn person.
I have no clue what is going on with Gorgon, who personality-wise is probably the most interesting character in the show thus far. I guess his character flaw is that he acts before he thinks, something Maximus criticizes him for in this episode. Yelling “come at me” is probably a bone-headed move, but seeing how these Hawaiian locals told him to do that in the first place, I feel that the audience was led to believe that that was the “correct” solution.
I don’t even know if I want to talk about Louise. She is by far the most generic “human surrogate” character I’ve seen in a genre show in a long time.
The Culprits of This Episode: We had director Chris Fisher of the no-good-very-bad-sequel S. Darko, and writer Rick Cleveland who previously worked with Scott Buck on Six Feet Under. Buck is starting to look more and more like the Adam Sandler of Marvel Television: getting his old friends new jobs, and probably getting exotic vacations (Hawaii in this case) as a result of their mediocre work.
Is This Show Just Lost?: Seriously, save for the casting of Ken Leung and Henry Ian Cusack, and the quite obvious filming of an ABC show in Hawaii, I had reminders of Lost season 3 episodes “Further Instructions” (in which a flashback storyline has John Locke and a commune of people growing marijuana) and the infamously awful “Stranger in a Strange Land” (which focuses on the origins of Jack’s tattoo—seriously).
“Traitor” Count: In the premiere of Inhumans, I noticed several instances of characters dramatically saying “Traitor.” In episode 3, I only heard Gorgon utter this right before attacking Auran.
Triton Watch: Gorgon mentions the dude like, once, but still no sight of him. He’s an actual character in this show, right?
Best Part of the Episode: Whatever sick beats Crystal was listening to through her headphones.
Am I watching the next episode?: Eh, yeah. As absurd as “The Adventures of Weed Farmer Karnak” sounds, I have to see where the heck that goes.