Inhumans is more than halfway through its first season, and things are not looking good for Marvel's latest small-screen offering. From the start, Inhumans has struggled to succeed; the IMAX opening was a critical flop (although it didn't do too badly at the box office), the TV premiere failed to achieve the kind of ratings Marvel hoped for, and since then, Inhumans has failed to really overcome that poor start.
Episode 5, 'Something Inhuman This Way Comes', marked season-low ratings for Inhumans and, combined with continuing negative reviews, there's a good chance that the Royal Family of Attilan won't be coming back to ABC for a second season. However, there has been no official word on cancellation or renewal, so fans shouldn't despair just yet. In fact, it may even be possible for Inhumans to find redemption. It wouldn't be the first time that a Marvel show has overcome a slow start to become a success, after all.
Related: Inhumans Ratings Hit Season Low
A Royal Mess
Before looking at how Inhumans could save itself, it's important to understand where it went so very wrong in the first place. One of the biggest issues that Inhumans has is its small budget, which means CGI that just doesn't meet audience standards for superhero shows. Medusa's (Serinda Swan) terribly-animated hair was one of the biggest issues that fans had with the premiere, but this was far from the only example of poor effects putting a downer on the first episodes. In addition, the bizarre decision to release the first two episodes as an IMAX event meant that these effects were impossible to overlook. Poor CGI on a TV screen is one thing. Poor CGI on a massive screen designed to magnify every frame? Disastrous.
In addition to the awful effects, the opening episodes had some other issues with the overall appearance of the characters and the setting. Fans failed to connect with the costumes on Attilan, which felt clunky and poorly designed, and Attilan itself is far from the gorgeous advanced civilization that we expected. Instead, it is cold, harsh, and predominantly gray. Not exactly a world that viewers want to see more of.
Beyond the look of Inhumans, the characters themselves are also problematic. Unlike most superhero series, there is no clear hero and villain here. Maximus (Iwan Rheon) is intended as the villain, but he is possibly the most engaging character at the start and his desire to create a more equal civilization is laudable (although his methods are violent). In comparison, Medusa comes across as cold and imperious, Black Bolt (Anson Mount) is constantly angry, Karnak (Ken Leung) is robotic, and the most human of the Inhumans, Crystal (Isablle Cornish) and Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor) get very little screentime. With an icy collection of Royals supporting a slave class, it's hard to find much empathy for the Inhumans at all.
The Humanity Of Inhumans
Thankfully, Inhumans does improve over the next few episodes. Since the series began, almost all of the major flaws have been dealt with. The amount of CGI needed drops hugely (especially after Medusa's head is shaved), and while Lockjaw-the-teleporting-dog is still not exactly cinematic quality, it's a lot easier to overlook the flaws when on a smaller screen and as a smaller part of each episode. The awkward costuming is also gone, replaced by human clothing that actually fits the cast and looks good. It's still not going to be known for stunning costumes (at least, not this season), but they are no longer a problem. The scenery has also changed. While there are a few scenes on Attilan, the majority of the action is set in Hawaii, which is, of course, stunning.
The biggest difference, however, is in the characters themselves. Black Bolt is still silent, and Medusa is still curt and imperious, but the other Inhumans have found their humanity. Crystal got an absolutely perfect moment in "Something Inhuman This Way Comes" as she was introduced to the idea of straightforward fun. It seems that Attilan isn't really a place where sheer enjoyment is encouraged, and there is certainly not enough water to go for a swim just for the sake of it. She begins to relax into her life as a regular young girl, and it's beautiful to watch. Karnak, though, is the one who goes through the biggest change. He, too, discovers the ocean and the pleasure of a simple dip, but he also really falls for a woman for the first time. He starts to cope with uncertainty as his powers are damaged, and his robotic demeanor is softened. With the first season now nearing its close, the audience is finally starting to root for the Royal Family.