Inhumans returned for its third episode—the first that wasn't part of Marvel's IMAX event for the series—and it was a surprising improvement on the season premiere. Of course, if the reviews can be believed, it would be hard for the third episode to be worse than the two preceding it. The series, originally conceived as the next major film franchise for the MCU, launched to distinctly average box office numbers and less-than-brilliant ratings. More than that, Inhumans received absolutely brutal reviews that criticized everything from the costumes to the writing, the CGI to the acting, and the plotline to the world-building. In short, the first two episodes were far from what Marvel was hoping for.
However, the show isn't dead in the water quite yet. Like Agents of SHIELD, the series has a significant part to play in the larger MCU, and it's unlikely that the Marvel machine will pull the plug on the franchise this early. There is already talk of a crossover with Agents of SHIELD, and it's likely that there is more in store for the Inhumans Royal Family. A third of the way through the first season, there are some improvements, along with some things that may not improve until the second season.
The Inhumans On Earth
While the first two episodes of the series focused on Maximus' (Iwan Rheon) coup on Attilan and the scattered Royal Family, the third episode did something a little different. With most of the family on Earth, Divide And Conquer focused on their experiences in Hawaii, and how each character struggles to adjust to their new world.
Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor) found some new friends in surfing ex-soldiers, Karnak (Ken Leung) found a similar kind of kinship (albeit one with a more violent beginning) with a different group. Meanwhile, Black Bolt (Anson Mount) is in prison and Medusa (Serinda Swan) sheds her royal clothing for a new leather jacket. While the majority of scenes take place on Earth, there are a few updates on life on the moon as well. Maximus is continuing to manipulate his new subjects including Crystal (Isabelle Cornish), who he manages to use before she finally escapes with the help of a heavily sedated Lockjaw. Finally, this episode also introduces a little backstory to the lives of Black Bolt and Maximus by way of flashbacks to their childhood on Attilan.
The Same Key Issues
While the episode is certainly an improvement on the previous two, there are still some major issues that will probably continue through the entire first season. The soundtrack feels rushed, and often clumsy especially early in the episode on Attilan. Similarly, the overall tone just doesn't stand out. Black and white flashbacks seem dull and very unoriginal, and the design of Attilan leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully, most of the scenes are now taking place in Hawaii and taking advantage of the gorgeous scenery there, but the moon-based moments are still extremely awkward in terms of style. In addition, the low-budget nature of the series is still evident in the CGI, and neither the writing nor the fight choreography seems to improve as the show goes on.
Aside from that, the constant introduction of a vast amount of characters continues to be an issue. The two-hour premiere included a huge number of characters, leaving many viewers unaware of the names of every member of the Royal Family. The hope was that the third episode would be a chance to get to know these characters better, but it continues to introduce new Inhumans to the mix. Black Bolt is freed with the help of another, Earth-based Inhuman, Karnak is sort-of-kidnapped by a group of humans, and Maximus releases a whole gang of Inhuman mercenaries on Hawaii to hunt down his family including the pointedly-discussed Mortis, who will surely become important very soon. There are simply too many characters to really connect to, and the sheer number is overwhelming—especially for those fans who aren't familiar with the source material.
Where Inhumans Improves
While the series still has some major issues, there are also some big improvements worth getting excited for in Divide and Conquer. For one thing, there's not a lot of reason to use CGI throughout the episode, and with Medusa's shorn scalp, the hair that looked so terrible in the premiere is entirely out of the picture. There are still moments that could do with some effects refinement, but it's nowhere near as glaring as it was in the first two episodes.
Similarly, the characters are changing out of their Attilan garb and are wearing clothing that looks a lot more appropriate. Medusa's switch to jeans and a leather jacket is the biggest so far, but Black Bolt is also looking a little less awkward in his clothing (even if it is a prison uniform), and the rest of the core cast is soon to follow. This leaves only Maximus in his heavy black outfit, and that one actually suits the character.
Speaking of Maximus, Rheon's portrayal of the character is, again, the highlight of the show. The actor brings a depth to the script that is truly impressive, and he is given some real space to shine this week. It would be nice to see even more of him in future, but it does seem as though the series will be making the most of this talent, which is bound to keep fans watching.
Finally, this week's Inhumans manages to build some intrigue, with the introduction of a mysterious organization that breaks Black Bolt out of prison, and a little more exploration of Karnak's damaged powers. Throw in a little extra backstory with the flashback scenes, and the show starts to really focus on the characters themselves, which is the most important element of the franchise.
Make Way For... Medusa
While the show is far from perfect at this point, there is still hope that it will continue to improve. With more of the family on Earth and some reunions planned for the near future, the characters will really get a chance to shine. This is where the show will really be able to make an impact. In addition, the slew of new characters has to slow at some point, which can only be a good thing for the series. The low-budget effects and the less-than-perfect fight scenes are unlikely to change drastically, of course, but those would be something audiences could overlook if the rest of the series improves enough (and those elements were fixed in the second season).
There's still a long way to go before Inhumans really becomes a success for Marvel, and the series needs to find its feet and a consistent tone in order to do so. However, if this third episode is any indication of what's to come, the show is moving in the right direction, and that can only be a good thing for fans of the MCU.