The fourth episode of Marvel’s Inhumans is pretty perfectly titled with Serinda Swan finally getting some scenery to chew on without the anchor of acting as Anson Mount’s translator dragging her down. While “Make Way for...Medusa” does still give each of the Inhumans their own adventures, this is the first one that focuses mostly on Medusa (Swan), and Swan steps up to the task pretty admirably.
At the end of the last episode, Medusa had come to the facility where Black Bolt (Mount) was being held, only to see him take off in a helicopter with Dr. Evan Declan (Henry Ian Cusick). She promptly kidnapped Louise (Ellen Woglom) at gunpoint. Up to this point, Louise hadn’t been in direct contact with any of the Inhumans, though her involvement in private space exploration and general enthusiasm for science seemed to have put her in the position of trying to figure out who Black Bolt was and where he’d come from.
Much of the episode is dedicated to Medusa and Louise’s interactions, and is sincerely better for it. Swan and Woglom are snarky and sharp with each other, and Woglom’s exasperated glee at encountering an alien as infuriating as Medusa injects some much needed personality into the show. Through her interactions with Louise, Medusa is humanized and becomes just a hair more sympathetic, though she is as imperious and demanding as ever. If the show had been centered around Louise’s perspective from the beginning, it could have served as a really interesting entry for the audience, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a pretty blond white woman served to get people invested in a show. The chemistry between Swan and Woglom is stronger and more interesting after just a few short minutes than anything Swan had with Mount in the last three episodes, enough to get me to momentarily forget that they met because Medusa kidnapped Louise at gunpoint.
Louise’s sometimes outsized emotional reactions, which are rooted firmly in Woglom’s skill, and her unrepentant love for science make her an ideal conduit through which to observe Medusa, and as the royal family begins to reconvene there’s little doubt she’ll do the same for the rest of them. She’s the perfect antidote both to the royal family’s bad attitudes and their unlikeable protagonist problems: seen through the eyes of a human that’s genuinely excited to meet them and understand them, the royal family could have been a lot more interesting.
The rest of the episode meanders awkwardly from character to character, as if the writers weren’t entirely sure what they were supposed to be doing with them individually while we wait for the group to find each other. Crystal ended the last episode encountering her first human, a young man named Dave who was riding his ATV at night and hit Lockjaw with it. Though she does eventually come to seem a little bit softer and less of a bratty teen by the end of this hour, she’s trapped in an already boring love triangle with Dave and his exgirlfriend, who is conveniently a vet tech and roped in to help heal Lockjaw.
Gorgon and Karnak’s forays into the human world don’t go a lot better, though at least Karnak gets laid. Their adventures, along with Crystal’s, really do feel more like an attempt to fill time than a productive use of plot and characterization. At one point Karnak asks the pretty pot farmer that rescued him from her more distrusting compatriots “...what’s our purpose, what’s our destination?” and I was struck that neither he nor the audience got any sort of answer to that question. There’s just not a lot for the sidekicks to do while they wait to reunite with the heroes of our story, and that’s a real shame.
Four episodes into this show and we are finally starting to see some disparate threads draw together in satisfying ways. Maximus is showing his hand in some pretty transparent but ultimately enjoyable plots that are just shy of mustache twirling. For the first time, Maximus outright states that the people who are being transformed by Terrigan on Earth are humans, and makes it clear that part of his take over plot is to uncover why he became human himself when exposed to the mist, which makes sense and probably should have been mentioned sooner.
The show still hasn’t resolved many of the core issues with the story. The motivations of the people who are cooperating with Maximus and those helping Gorgon are still clear as mud, and I’m really not sure why Medusa would marry the man whose parents killed her own. Though Black Bolt and Medusa both became a modicum more relatable, the season is half over and the root of Maximus’s argument, that people shouldn’t be enslaved because of their lack of superpowers, still holds far more sway. Despite Maximus’s increasingly fascistic behavior back in Attilan, there are only glimpses of the things we can root for in Black Bolt and Medusa. After confronting Black Bolt, several of Maximus’s foot soldiers are hurt in an explosion, and despite the fact that it would be a lot smarter to run, Black Bolt begins to move his fellow Inhumans to safety. When Medusa, who’d arrived just moments earlier to save him, greets Black Bolt there is some actual genuine emotion that isn’t relying on the soundtrack to convey what the audience is supposed to feel. Mount could still stand to do something other than scowl all the time, but for just a few minutes it feels like they actually care about each other instead of just being two people professing their love by referencing their spouse every couple of minutes.
If the first episode or two had been Louise and Medusa doing their best Thelma And Louise impression with the Inhuman queen slowly giving out bits and pieces of backstory, it really would have done a lot to save the tone and heart of the show. As it is, the show really has grown to be something much better than the first two episodes, but with only eight total that might not be enough to recover. It’s worth noting that this is the first episode written by a woman, Wendy West, and despite the flaws it is the one that imbues the main female characters in particular with the most personality and life. Scott Buck, who bungled Iron Fist over on Netflix, wrote the first two episodes, and it’s fair to blame him for the majority of the things that are making it hard to watch Marvel’s Inhumans. It looks like West isn’t credited for any more episodes this season, which is a shame, she managed to do what I genuinely thought wasn’t possible and made Medusa almost likeable and delivered a shock at the end of the episode that I genuinely didn’t see coming, although I’m also not sure it’s means anything to the Inhumans in the long run.
- Although it’s a Buick and not a Thunderbird, I hope the convertible that Louise steals to cart Medusa around is a Thelma And Louise reference.
- Maximus is a really bad low rent Loki, but Rheon is doing an okay job of channeling some of Hiddleston. There’s a mania that’s lacking, but we’ve got a couple of episodes left.
- We still have not seen anyone actually touch Lockjaw and I’m calling the ASPCA. If Crystal kisses Dave (a.k.a. “sorry I ran over your dog but it’s your fault”) I’m going to kidnap Lockjaw.
- Ken Leung deserves so much better than this show, and so does Karnak.
- I actually laughed out loud when Auran said “...our plan…” and cackled when Maximus slapped her down. That’s probably not what episode writer Wendy West wanted, but it was hilarious.
- I’d pay good money to watch Louise smack Medusa with some Emily Post books to get her to behave better.
- There was an uncomfortable obsession with sex and marriage in this episode that I’m not sure was there before. Karnak got laid almost every time he was on screen, and even Louise talked about getting married too much. Might have been a response to Black Bolt and Medusa being unable to go three minutes without mentioning their marriage.
- Karnak’s weird hippy journey of self discovery isn’t necessary, but the R&B backed “swim in the ocean and kiss the pretty lady scene” doubly so.