An unexpected coup sends the Inhuman royal family fleeing to Earth
So here we are. After seasons of stories about Inhumans on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., after years of this project languishing in development hell, we finally get a live-action version of the Inhuman Royal Family. To make this easier, I’ll try to explain the major figures and concepts up front, since the show actually does a remarkably poor job of clarifying them.
Black Bolt (Anson Mount) is the King of the Inhumans and rules his people from their secret stronghold of Attilan, located on the dark side of the moon. His power is a supersonic voice; the slightest whisper can unleash untold devastation. As a result, he doesn’t talk much. Some writers find ways around this — in the current Black Bolt solo comic from writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward, for instance, the Inhuman king is temporarily derived of his powers while in a cosmic prison and therefore speaks sometimes. Unfortunately, the show has not yet come up with such a workaround, so Mount mostly glowers silently (said Black Bolt comic is very good in general, and I highly suggest checking it out, especially if you’re disappointed by the show).
His wife Medusa (Serinda Swan) is Queen of Attilan. Her power lays in her hair, which is super strong and powerful. She is capable of speaking for the royal family when her husband cannot, and indeed has occasionally ruled the Inhumans without him at times in the comics.
Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor) is captain of the royal guard. His power takes the form of hoof legs, which are capable of generating seismic waves.
Karnak (Ken Leung) is a royal adviser. His power is especially difficult to understand in the show, but suffice to say he can see the weakness in anything.
Triton (Mike Moh) is amphibious. He looks the most non-human of the Inhumans, with green fish scales and the ability to live underwater.
Maximus (Iwan Rheon) is Black Bolt’s brother. Somewhat less powerful, he is nevertheless a devious schemer. In the comics, he is even known as “Maximus the Mad,” but that epithet is missing from the show, along with his corresponding mad-scientist skills.
Crystal (Isabelle Cornish) is Medusa’s younger sister, capable of controlling elements like fire and ice.
Lockjaw is a big slobbering dog with the power to teleport anywhere. Crystal’s best friend, he is easily the best of the Inhumans.
Triton is actually the first one we meet in the show. He’s arrived on Earth in order to help new Inhumans find refuge in Attilan and even finds such an Inhuman girl with yellow eyes (not all Inhuman powers are useful). Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. A band of gun-toting soldiers pursue them and appear to shoot down both of them. Why Black Bolt chose Triton, of all of them, for a covert mission to Earth remains a mystery.
Following that, the action moves to Attilan, where we see what Terrigenesis transformation is supposed to look like. The Inhumans in the MCU were activated by Terrigen crystals leaked into the planet’s water supply, but on Attilan, they have the real stuff: Pure, uncut Terrigen crystals. And instead of a bar mitzvah or quinceañera, the Inhuman coming-of-age ceremony has young people expose themselves to Terrigen crystals to discover their true selves. We see both a boy and a girl go in, but while the girl gets some lovely blue wings, the boy seems unaffected. Maximus appears sympathetic, given that he also lacks any major Terrigen power, but the boy does appear to have a new talent, albeit a non-physical one. After going into a short seizure, he tells Maximus he had a vision of him being attacked by snakes.
Aside from Maximus, the other Inhumans are less impressed with the boy’s apparent non-transformation, and demand he be sent to the mines. See, as it turns out, the Inhumans are not quite the X-Men parallel Marvel has been trying to turn them into in recent years. Where the X-Men are multicultural champions of diversity and difference, the Inhumans are a rigid caste society built on slavery. Maximus thinks that should change, and it’s hard not to sympathize with him. (Recap continues on page 2)
In apparent short time, Maximus is able to pull off a coup against the rest of the royal family. After discovering Black Bolt sent Triton to Earth to scope out the new Inhumans, Maximus declares they should all go to Earth. The limited space of Attilan is what makes their caste society necessary; with a little lebensraum, maybe they could fix all that. The city’s soldiers are remarkably sympathetic to his argument and soon attack every member of the royal family. Karnak and Gorgon successfully fight off their attackers, but Medusa isn’t so lucky. Maximus and his soldiers ambush her and cut off all her hair, which at least saves the production team from having to animate her hair for a while.
All the while, Crystal keeps sending Lockjaw to take her friends safely to Earth. What’s funny is, this probably wasn’t even the best move because it prevents the royal family from being able to marshal potential loyalists in Attilan. Karnak, who successfully fights off his assailants, is immediately shuttled away to Earth, even though his strategic skills might have helped nip this coup in the bud. An even bigger example comes when Maximus finally confronts his brother and taunts him by bringing up how Black Bolt’s powers accidentally resulted in the deaths of his parents. Just as Black Bolt is about to unleash the full power of his voice against the plotters, Lockjaw spirits him away. But Crystal is left behind, captured by Maximus, as is Lockjaw when he attempts a return journey for her. That plan didn’t really work at all!
As you might imagine, Black Bolt has a difficult time on Earth on his own. Unable to speak and totally unfamiliar, he kind of just wanders around causing problems for everyone. When he attempts to get new clothes, he walks away with them, resulting in the police being called. Black Bolt is able to fight off a few of them but is eventually overcome and arrested. The first and so far only use of his voice comes when one of the cops tases him, causing him to grunt. That’s probably the least dignified use of his powers imaginable.
At least his wife gets a dignified moment when Maximus sends his right-hand woman Auran to Earth to finish her off. Even without her hair, Medusa is a formidable foe and shanks Auran, apparently to death. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy; the episode’s last moments feature Auran coming back to life and calling Maximus for backup.
So that’s where we leave off, for now. The Inhuman royal family scattered across an unfamiliar planet, Maximus in power on Attilan, and no plan in sight. Until next week!