I expected and deserved a lot better than what I saw last Friday.
Let me start off by saying that I don’t believe that Inhumans was as bad as the early reviews. Some critics were definitely more interested in piling on than actually putting together thoughtful critiques. It was also weird seeing some critics review the IMAX release as if it as a movie and not a TV pilot. On the flip side, the months leading up to the premiere were so negative that the only place left for Inhumans was up. So I can definitely see why for some people, the show wasn't bad enough to just throw away. Some of my favorite shows took some time to get their footing and maybe Inhumans deserves the same benefit.
Maybe. But as of right now, the show is a massive disappointment. Can that change? Absolutely but I have a lot of questions as to why Inhumans is even in this mess to begin with. This isn’t me trying to dampen the mood of those who actually want to give it a shot. Truth is, I wish I wasn’t as disappointed as I am because I want it to be good. But just off the first two episodes, it’s safe to say that we deserved a lot better than the product we were given. Myself and others have praised season 4 of Agents of SHIELD as being one of the best seasons of a television show ever. That's why it's hard for me to give Inhumans a pass. Honestly, part of me feels cheated. As if Marvel and ABC knew that they built up a level of trust with fans for what they did with Agents of SHIELD and decided to take advantage of that trust by giving us a rushed, poorly written and acted pilot.
I have a lot of questions about how we got here.
Why Doesn’t it Feel like the Evolution of a Combined 6 Previous Seasons of Marvel TV?
"I missed it didn't I?" - Coulson
It's not that the first two episodes of Inhumans don't live up to some impossible to reach standard but rather, it doesn’t live up to the standards Marvel themselves have set. Last season of Agents of SHIELD was a masterpiece in television. In a time where most networks aim for shorter run seasons and those that do go for full 20+ episodes seem to run into pacing issues, Season 4 of Agents of SHIELD thrived. Everything felt perfectly planned, from breaking the season into 3 parts (Ghost Rider, LMD, Agents of Hydra/Framework) to the promotion to the fact that every episode either coming into a break or coming out of a break hit hard. Marvel and ABC now have 6 seasons under their belt (Four of Agents of SHIELD and two of Agent Carter). Now I understand there are different showrunners and writing rooms even though they all fall under Marvel TV, but there’s a level of quality we all expect when a show falls under an umbrella of connected shows. I don’t think the first season of Legends of Tomorrow was that good. But it still felt like it was an Arrowverse show. Sure, it took a while for it to find its footing, but it still had all the elements there to become good. Agent Carter was an entirely different show than Agents of SHIELD but still felt like Marvel TV quality (solid leads, great action, interconnected to the larger world, tight story telling, etc). Inhumans on the other hand feels like it was made by a completely different production company. Put it this way: imagine if Black Panther came out and it looked like the Green Lantern movie from 2011. We’d wonder why the quality we've come to expect from the MCU drastically shifted to something not only unrecognizable to the brand but why it also felt outdated. Not only did Inhumans offer none of the quality Marvel has trained us to expect from them over the years but overall it felt as if it was made using standards from 4-5 years ago. Sure, every show needs time to grow and mature into it’s own. But shows that spin off from existing franchises shouldn’t feel like such a steep drop in quality. I never watched Legion but heard nothing but good things about that show. I watched The Gifted off the strength of the praise Legion got and while I can’t compare the two, I can definitely see it has a particularly high level of quality. We shouldn’t have to lower our expectations for Inhumans, particularly since ABC & Marvel decided to delay season 5 of Agents of SHIELD to run Inhumans first. Which leads me to…
Why isn’t there a Direct Connection to Agents of SHIELD?
When Marvel announced they were bringing Inhumans to TV with a limited IMAX run of the first two episodes, I was extremely excited. Agents of SHIELD introduced Inhumans back in season 2 and fully ran with it. Skye became Daisy Johnson/Quake (an Inhuman) and literally shook a mountain, Coulson started putting together a team of Inhumans with Daisy as the lead (even grooming her to be Director), they brought the Kree Reapers to Earth to hunt Inhumans, gave us Lash & Hive as well as Alpha Primitives. Marvel’s Slingshot webseries even won an award and centered on an Inhuman working for SHIELD. Hell, last season saw a LMD become a Super Skrull-like Inhuman with various powers. So in my mind, an Inhumans TV show introducing the Royal Family would be amazing. Then we were told it wouldn’t directly connect to Agents of SHIELD.
For THREE SEASONS, Inhumans have been seeded and built up on Agents of SHIELD. SHIELD had one of the best seasons of any TV show ever. But Marvel decided to launch Inhumans with zero direct connections? That makes no sense. Agents of SHIELD launched with the motto “It’s All Connected.” As an audience we’ve been trained to expect cameos, connections and inclusion into the larger MCU world. When Agent Carter launched, not only was Peggy Carter known from the movies, but she even had a cameo on Agents of SHIELD (And was name dropped several times). Inhumans has none of this in it’s pilot. It’s inexplicable that after such a critically praised season, Agents of SHIELD would be sidelined for Inhumans while Inhumans uses none of the built up cred to get us engaged in the show.
Ask yourself: when does Inhumans take place in relation to Agents of SHIELD? Is it after last season? Is it after season 3? We know its after the terrigen got into Earth’s water supply but other than that, there’s no indication of when it takes place. There’s plenty of guesses but why should there be for something so simple? We always know when Agents of SHIELD takes place in relation to the movies. We knew when Agent Carter took place. Hell, even the proposed Most Wanted series with Bobby & Hunter that never took off had a clear indication of when it took place in the timeline. Why is Inhumans so vague?
Why Does Inhumans Feels Completely Isolated?
Continuing the theme of feeling so disconnected, Inhumans hasn’t even been launched the way other Marvel TV properties have been. Agents of SHIELD’s pilot not only set Clark Gregg as the lead but brought in Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill. That’s two characters directly from the MCU to launch. The Avengers themselves were name dropped heavily. Nick Fury showed up and literally saved Fitz and Simmons during season 1. This is on top of them using SHIELD as a vehicle that played an important part in the MCU up until Winter Soldier. Agent Carter also launched with two character we were familiar with from the movies, Peggy Carter (Hallie Atwell) and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper).
Inhumans launched with zero direct connections to the rest of the MCU. It’s even more isolated than the Marvel Netflix shows except it doesn’t even have the quality (or acting talent) of those shows. The government agency trying to figure out what’s happening on the moon isn’t SHIELD or any other organization we’ve seen. I know that General Talbot isn’t an option (depending on when this show takes place) but we don’t even get a name drop of him or anyone else we’ve seen before.
Now to be fair, maybe the connections come later on into the season and maybe the reason why they’re hidden is because they spoil parts of the upcoming season of Agents of SHIELD. That makes sense. But then I have to wonder why not just say that? Instead we’ve been told not to expect a connection.
Why was the Launch So Bungled Launch and Followed By Poor Acting?
First there was the terrible first image of the Royal Family with Medusa's wig looking a hot mess. Then there was the lackluster trailer. Then there were the testy press interviews. Then the poor IMAX reviews. None of that gives confidence and none of it follows how other shows were launched. At first it all seemed like people piling on because Marvel has had the crown for so long, there's always someone gunning for them. And truth be told, there probably was some truth to that. But most of what was said and most of the concerns have turned out to be true. The lackluster trailer brought questions about the quality of the costumes, acting and designs and having seen it all for myself, those were valid. The costumes and designs are cheap. But I could probably get past that if the acting at lease was up to par. Only Iwan Rheon and Ken Leung are believable in their roles. Eme Ikwuakor at times seems to struggle when walking in his Gorgon costume. Anson Mount is lifeless as the silent king. Serinda Swan's action scenes are pretty horrific (more on that later) and Isabelle Cornish is just dull as Crystal. At times Lockjaw seems to give a more vibrant performance and that's a completely CGI character.
Now to be fair, Agents of SHIELD's cast grew into their roles. Chloe Bennett's Skye took the brunt of most of the hate followed by Brett Dalton's Ward. Both have since grown to be incredibly popular characters. But even then, Agents of SHIELD still padded that early learning curve by giving Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen more of the early heavy lifting. The show also paired up Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge who had great chemistry together. None of that exists with Inhumans. Anson Mount and Serinda Swan are Black Bolt and Medusa and therefore should be the leads as King and Queen yet the chemistry between the two of them was severely lacking.
Why are the Action Scenes so Bad? (Rhetorical Question. The Answer is: Scott Buck)
The action scenes on Inhumans were absymal. Almost every fight scene needed to use slow motion because there was zero quality fight choreography. Now all of this probably lies at the feet of Scott Buck who is also responsible for the also rushed Iron Fist that was also plagued by a lead character with poor action scenes. If this was 4 years ago and Marvel’s first attempt at a TV show, maybe this would be somewhat acceptable. But its 2017 and what we were presented with was flat out pathetic. First off, both Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter have been known for some amazing action scenes. Here’s near the end of season 2 with a great tracking shot of Daisy taking down a bunch of people (without powers).
Remember the May vs May (Agent 13) fight?
Agent Carter also had great action scenes
Now compare that to the Medusa fight scenes. It just doesn’t hold up. But not just with Marvel, think about what we’ve seen from Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow that also have a lot of great fight scenes, particularly with women.
Now tell me that any of the scenes in Inhumans were up to that kind of quality? Yes, its just a pilot and maybe they can get better, but it really begs the question why they weren’t already up to the standards we’ve become used to.
Why is the Use of Powers So Sparse & Poor Looking?
One of the reasons I got so excited about an Inhumans TV show is that over the last 4 seasons Agents of SHIELD has drastically increased the use and effects of powers on their show. We watched Daisy Johnson shake a mountain and cause an avalanche. We got great uses of Yo-Yo’s speed powers in scenes like this
So why is it that the first introduction of the Royal Family in live action has their powers looking so weak? Think about how Lockjaw teleports then ask why didn't they use similar effects like Gordon from Agents of SHIELD.
Medusa’s hair looks great in motion but the way she uses it in scenes is so unimaginative. Then they just have Maximus cut it off with what looks like a regular pair of clippers. Gorgon can create earthquakes with his hooves yet what we see on TV doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to the magnitude we see with Daisy. And Crystal has been completely disrespected. She’s an elemental that is basically Captain Planet but actually scary. In the pilot she's sent to her room with dinner and that's it. Oh one time she fires a small fireball to make her captives drop a food tray. That's it. Mind you, we've watched both Daisy and Lincoln use their powers in hand to hand combat.
Now I know some will say that it’s just a pilot and that maybe they can’t afford it. But I find that to be a cop out answer. The pilot episode of The Flash had Barry Allen stop Weather Wizard by running around a tornado. The Flash pilot was so good because it proved a TV show could consistently show a super powered character that operated pretty close to their comic book counterpart.
How about when Reverse Flash took on Barry, Oliver and Ronnie later on that season?
Both of those are from the FIRST season which was three years ago. Since then we've gotten Barry Allen punching Gorilla Grodd and fighting King Shark. ON THE CW. There's no excuse for Inhumans to be so far behind 3 year old content and even farther behind more recent content.
The only explanation I have for why everything looked so bad is that maybe they shot the wrong scenes in IMAX. IMAX cameras are great but expensive. They can also expose cheap sets and costume design. If that’s what happened then chalk this up as yet another poorly thought out and executed decision.
I hope Inhumans can turn it around. I expected more and quite frankly think we as an audience deserve better. I watched the pilot episode of The Gifted and it was infinitely better than what I saw on Friday. I want Inhumans to get better. But it's only an 8 episode season so if it is going to turn it around, they better hurry up.
Listen to our full review of the first two episode of Inhumans on our Super Tuesday Recap podcast.