Now that Marvel’s The Inhumans has officially started airing, the true motivations of the royal family have come into question. Maximus and Black Bolt’s relationship is fraught with tension with the younger brother of the king feeling like an outcast amid a heavily powered royal family. Trapped in a rigid caste system based on eugenics and unlucky enough to have his inhuman genes manifest no unique abilities, Maximus becomes an unlikely revolutionary. In a twist on the comic books where he is a constant antagonist to the occasionally distant yet generally good royal family, he becomes a mentor and an ally to inhumans who feel repressed by the system that Black Bolt represents. How he goes about it might be suspect but ultimately his goals are rooted in freedom for other people, or at the very least a sense of equality between inhumans who are born without surprising and unique abilities. It makes him an unusually good hearted antagonist for the series, but he is, in essence, the hero of Marvel’s Inhumans.
His story begins with Black Bolt. Black Bolt is portrayed to some extent as a difficult but reasonably compassionate leader who is trying to do the best for his people along with his wife. In the comics, Maximus is pictured as a usurper, a Loki of Asgard like figure who wants his brother’s crown but won’t lead with the best foot forward. In the Once and Future Kings story in the 616 continuity written by Christopher Priest and Phil Noto, Maximus is depicted as supporting the enslavement of Alpha Primitives, the working class of the inhumans society, while Black Bolt suggests that by enslaving a man you remove the best parts of himself.
The TV show has taken this from a different perspective. Black bolt is loyal to his family first and foremost, protecting his brother but doing nothing to ease the plights of the lower classes. He isn’t cruel, simply obtuse and unaware of the situations they experience, especially odd, considering his brother is a “human.” While he already avoids speaking with his voice due to the nature of his powers, he is staying completely silent on the matter and conforming to the status quo when he and Medusa have the power to change things. The word “human” is tossed out as an insult by Crystal, Medusa’s younger sister even while her family is being beaten and attacked by humans on earth for being different. It would appear as if the royal court has a lesson to learn in humility that might be beneficial, but where does that leave Maximus and his insistence that he would be a “better king” than his brother?
He certainly seems to be a more compassionate ruler. During the terragenesis ritual, he comforts the brother of the “flyer,” the inhuman blessed with a pair of gossamer butterfly wings. The boy’s parents talk about how their hopes that their children’s ritual will turn out better than they did are underscored by how Maximus shows real compassion to the weakest among them. The rest of the royal family are in awe of the other inhuman, the boy’s sister. Gorgon and Karnak watch the sister’s wings declaring that “flyers are awesome,” completely unaware that they because of the society that they have lived in have condemned a second person right in front of them to a life of misery and torment. Only Maximus reaches out to comfort him.
Director Roel Reine has said that there’s more to Maximus than meets the eye and that he’s not really a “villain.” His compassion for the boy with his butterfly winged sister presumably having more opportunities than him demonstrates that. He’s also won over the loyalty of the palace guard. He’s educated himself and inspires the lower caste to rise up and with Black Bolt gone he can, at last, be free to remake their society into something where they no longer have to suffer under such harsh conditions. What this new society will look like remains a mystery, as to why no one has risen up before (or attempted to) but clearly there are more questions that will hopefully have answers. He reminds Crystal that the Genetics Council, the group who oversees the Inhumans and their rituals that give them abilities was not something that her parents would have wanted. Could disbanding them be the major step forward he wants to take in episodes 3 and 4? Will destroying them, which he presumably could not do without Black Bolt’s permission be a major step forward in an equal inhuman society?
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