Marvel’s Inhumans – Season 1 Episode 7
“Havoc in the Hidden Land”
The Royal Family return to Attilan and loyalties shift in the penultimate episode of Marvel’s Inhumans.
Anyone who has been reading my reviews over the course of the season will know that I’ve found this show to be an exercise in frustration. The only two things keeping me watching are that I write reviews every week and I’m somewhat motivated by a sense of morbid curiosity concerning how it will turn out. I’m fairly sure it won’t be good but it’ll be interesting to see just how bad it will be.
This was probably the best episode of Marvel’s Inhumans which admittedly isn’t saying much but there are some noteworthy things going on here. For one thing we finally get actual conflict between Maximus and his family rather than endless posturing and wasting time in Hawaii with irrelevant side stories. It also boasts the best action we have seen since the show began which also isn’t saying much but I did find myself mildly entertained.
Despite being the best of what we have seen so far it also highlights the flaws the show has. The return to Attilan is supposed to be a celebrated moment that the show has been building up to but it all feels flat. In theory the trip to Earth should have changed the characters in some way but that isn’t really the case. Poor character work has plagued this series from the opening episode and the lack of development is painfully apparent throughout.
The worst offender is Medusa who just comes across as entitled pretty much the entire time. She speaks the words about finding a more peaceful way to resolve the situation which suggests that she has in theory started to feel empathy for Maximus and her people in general though Serinda Swan’s performance doesn’t back that up. The impression I got was that they have so few resources that attempting a peaceful resolution was the smartest thing to do rather than the right thing to do. Her part in the decision to attempt to parley with Maximus only really serves to reinforce her racism as she makes a point of inviting him to be one of them suggesting that her superiority complex hasn’t really gone away.
Black Bolt has the virtue of being so poorly defined that the writers can essentially do whatever they want with him at this point. It turns out that he was keeping the fact that Triton (Mike Moh) is still alive which surprised me as I had almost forgotten about him just as the other characters had. His reasons for lying about this aren’t explained very well or justifiable as it’s really cruel to watch your family mourn the loss of a loved one when you know that they are alive. He has also been keeping a hidden bunker on Attilan secret. Its purpose is for use by the Royal Family in the event of something like this. I can see his logic behind that because keeping it to himself meant that they were still able to use it. If Maximus knew about it then it would be much more difficult to operate within Attilan.
Medusa’s objections to Black Bolt’s dishonesty work reasonably well though are undercut by the fact that it’s unclear what gives her the right to judge given we have no reason to believe that she wouldn’t do the same. The line “You deny us your dignity when you lie” was nicely delivered by Serinda Swan and to her credit she does manage to play the cracks in Medusa’s resolve really well. She’s clearly hurt but trying not to appear vulnerable in the midst of a difficult situation.
This episode does allow the Black Bolt and Medusa relationship to present the appearance of something more layered. Their back story is fleshed out more by extending the flashback of their first meeting to add the context of Medusa going to see Black Bolt because she wanted to confront him before realising they were more similar in different in how they were trapped by circumstances beyond their control. With a little more work this reflection could easily play into the current situation and encourage both of them to see things a little differently but it doesn’t which makes it a fairly shallow moment designed to show that they haven’t always seen eye to eye. Medusa goes on about wanting her say rather than simply interpreting Black Bolt but it’s not something that pays off in any significant way.
Triton suffers from having no time to be developed though I’m not convinced this show would have served him well either. He definitely proves to be an excellent asset in the action sequences which manage to be dynamic and exciting. Triton was a highlight for that very reason.
Karnak is definitely the best handled character in this episode. I’ve mentioned in prior reviews that Karnak’s plot felt really inconsequential and it definitely did but last week went a long way towards showing the potential of this character. His team-up with Gorgon did a lot to build their friendship and show that these characters have a history which continues into this week through Karnak seeing things differently. It’s clear that he has changed even though the previous episodes didn’t show him changing. It’s very bizarre to have a character develop without any character development but that seems to be a symptom of the problems of this show. Character behaviour isn’t defined by who they are or what they’ve been through; it’s defined by whatever the plot needs them to be.
In this case Karnak needs to be a sympathetic strategist who uses his ability to read people to see a different way out of the situation. It works well enough to endear him in this particular episode and his scenes are by far the most interesting. I found his interactions with Auron particularly interesting as it attempts to flesh her out as well. Before she was bland muscle for Maximus though the reveal last week that each time she dies and comes back to life she grows closer to permanent death and there will come a time where she won’t resurrect at all. A character being forced to consider their mortality for the first time is fairly common in sci-fi/fantasy stories where people who have never had to deal with that actually exist and here it’s handled fairly well. Auron has never been complex, sympathetic or even memorable but Sonya Balmores is able to deliver a performance that rises above the failure to develop her.
Her interactions with Karnak reveal that she is starting to feel disillusioned about her role in this situation. Maximus made promises to her that he seems unwilling to keep which means that she betrayed her people for nothing and greatly regrets it. She is currently motivated by a desire to redeem herself and Karnak helps her see that it won’t be impossible. She starts off stubbornly adhering to everything she has convinced herself of and defiantly disagrees with Karnak when he points out that Gorgon saved her life. She calls it an accident even though the truth is that Gorgon didn’t want to see any of his fellow Inhumans killed which was the reason for his sacrifice. He gave his life to protect his people which is exactly the oath he took. Auron’s eyes are opened to that fact though there is the sense that she always knew that but was in denial about it.
Unfortunately the episode has to take the unnecessary step when revealing that there was a prior relationship between Auron and Gorgon. This isn’t at all necessary as it’s a shallow attempt to add a connection that doesn’t need to exist. Auron being trained by Gorgon and being close to him through a long working relationship is more than enough backstory to inform Auron’s change of heart. I have my misgivings about their collective attempt to resurrect Gorgon especially since he seems to be a mindless zombie though I do acknowledge that there is still one episode left to see how that plays out.
Sadly any nuance that existed in Maximus as a character has pretty much been eroded away. This episode reveals that his desire to help his people and improve the conditions for the lower classes in Attilan was all a facade and his real motivation was to have a second crack at Terrigenesis. Why can’t he be motivated by both? He was the most interesting part of the show so relegating him to moustache twirling villain status feels like a badly wasted opportunity.
He is characterised as being insane in this episode especially when it comes to his desire to become Inhuman. Dr. Declan outlines the risks calmly and rationally but Maximus is determined to ignore that and choose what he wants from a list of powers. It flies in the face of his motivation to want to be Inhuman as the ability to choose their post Terrigenesis powers doesn’t exist for them. In trying to be one of his people he is further distancing himself for him which makes no sense. As I’ve said previously this character has been altered in an attempt to make the rest of the characters more sympathetic and it fails.
His conflict with Black Bolt is really shallow and uninteresting because there has been no time to establish what that relationship was before now. At least in the first Thor movie his brotherly relationship with Loki was developed enough so that the betrayal actually felt like a betrayal. This is just clumsy and only comes across as a betrayal because the show tells us that it is rather than being informed by any actual characterisation. It’s a systemic issue that unfortunately makes for the only consistency the show has.
Crystal has something resembling character development when she tells Medusa that she sees the good in Humanity and her experience showed her that most of them are just people living their lives with no ill intent towards others. We know that her experience with Dave apparently taught her that which muddies the revelation somewhat but the fact that she has slightly moved away from being an entitled princess is something at the very least. Her desire to leave Attilan and be among Humans seems reasonable enough if the development had been done right though I’m unconvinced as to why she would want to leave to be with Dave.
The best episode yet though that doesn’t really say much as most of the issues the show has still exist. Medusa still comes across as racist though a little less entitled and Black Bolt is now characterised as someone who keeps secrets for reasons that he keeps to himself. An attempt is made to establish that Medusa and Black Bolt don’t always see eye to eye but it doesn’t entirely work. The best handled character is Karnak who has some genuinely compelling scenes with Auron who questions her loyalties after Maximus’ recent behaviour.
Maximus has lost any nuance that he had and now comes across as completely insane. His motivation to become Inhuman doesn’t even work since he wants to become a different sort of Inhuman who can choose his own powers. Moving his motivation away from actually caring about his people makes no real sense either and comes across as a transparent attempt to make the Royal Family more sympathetic. Crystal receives dome development with the realisation that Humans aren’t all bad and she might want to spend more time with them. It’s not great but it’s definitely something and moves her away from the entitled Princess characterisation at least a little.
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