The biggest shame of Marvel’s Inhumans continues to be that the first two episodes were not only so terrible, but also so different from the rest of the series in structure and writing skill. Tonight was the fifth installment of eight, and only now are characters starting to address questions and issues that have been distracting from the first moment they appeared. “Something Inhuman This Way Comes” continues the trend of episodes three and four, framing most of the arc around Karnak’s individual story while giving glimpses into the experiences of the rest of the motley crew.

The last episode closed on one of Karnak’s new pot farmer friends killing his partner while Karnak had sex with the sole female member of their group, and if it weren’t for this suddenly murderous compatriot there’s not a lot of evidence that Karnak would have gone off looking for the rest of his family at all. The subplot of the marijuana growers takes up a lot more screentime than it really should, but it appears to be required in order to put Jen, Karnak’s bed buddy, in danger, which allows him to realize he’s got at least some of his faculties back after his head injury.

While Karnak runs through jungle that will look very familiar to Lost fans, Gorgon continues to hunt for his cousin, and Black Bolt and Medusa celebrate their reunion by sitting in the back of the convertible Louise is driving and generally being grossly affectionate. Medusa recounts the story of how Maximus took her hair to Black Bolt, who has a constipated and also murderous expression on his face while she does so. Using the echolocation powers of an Inhuman that had previously been part of Auran’s group on Earth, Black Bolt and Medusa look for Karnak, and Louise comes along like a very awkward third wheel. Crystal spends most of the episode on a beach with Dave, who you’ll remember as the guy that ran his ATV into Lockjaw. For his part, the teleporting dog lays in the shade and sleeps off whatever damage Crystal did by insisting he get up and start moving just a few hours after getting run over by a guy who looks like he probably hangs out with teenagers to make himself feel cool.

It’s taken far too long for Marvel’s Inhumans to get to the point where characters are discussing issues of moral quandaries and nuance. Audiences shouldn’t have to wait five whole episodes before they see Maximus act like an asshole to someone who wasn’t propping up an abusive caste system, and the episode is nearly over by the time Locus, the echolocation Inhuman, tells Louise what it’s really like to live on Attilan under Black Bolt’s rule. The show hasn’t done a good enough job to show the audience that Attilan is rigid not only in terms of caste but also individual duty, which adds a layer of complication that could’ve been interesting if it had gotten mentioned once or twice, let alone explored. Louise’s reactions in this scene in particular prove what I said last week, that she would have been a great fulcrum by which to lever audiences into the drama of the Inhumans: she’s incredulous that people are conscripted into service based on their powers, or lack thereof. When Locus says she wanted to be a healer before she got her abilities, Medusa points out she was more useful elsewhere; Louise’s incredulous “She can’t be both?” was perfect, and it’s such a shame we’re not getting more of that. When Black Bolt crushes Locus’s communications device in his hand, Louise’s desperate little “Can I just see that?” gives us such insight into the character and Woglom deserves a lot of credit for doing so much with a character that’s given so little.

What’s becoming increasingly concerning, not to mention frustrating, is the weird implication that the royal family will be “fixed” by a brief trip to Earth. The episode almost wraps on the sight of Black Bolt and Medusa being begged by a dying subject to be better, to change and be the rulers that the Inhumans deserve, and as Maximus goes off the rails it’s easy to see that the writers are angling for that kind of redemption arc. What’s worse is that Karnak and Crystal seem to be getting their improvements via romance with humans. It’s an embrace of the Magical Healing Penis trope that undermines the more important trading places one as Gorgon imitates Karnak’s strategic thinking and Karnak embraces some of Gorgon’s impulsivity when he can’t rely on his full abilities. Even if it is nice to see Leung in a romantic role, Jen and Dave serve mostly as pretty diversions, but neither are well written or interesting enough to be more than just pretty. Holo served nearly the same role for Gorgon, Louise for Medusa, and Sammy for Black Bolt, leaving each Inhuman with an ideally matched human companion that, with the exception of Louise, existed just long enough to impart some kind of wisdom only to disappear when they got in the way of the plot. Gorgon’s return to flirty and silly at the end of the episode only serves to highlight how weird it was to watch him be serious and Karnak be loose. Eme Ikwuakor is a charming, funny guy and Gorgon is a lot more interesting when he’s allowed to show that.

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The biggest and best takeaway from this episode is that there is finally a reason to not root for Maximus, who is descending into the “yells at statues” kind of royal crazy faster than I expected. He’s clearly upset that Auran keeps failing to kill his brother, which is justified, but instead of leaning into all the things that would keep most of Attilan happy with his rule so that they’ll reject Black Bolt if he does return, he cracks down hard and embraces a lot of the same tyranny that he was just criticizing last episode. This further reinforces the impression that Black Bolt is going to have learned a lesson from all this and do the right thing at the end of the season, whatever that looks like. Depending on if ABC decides to renew the show, or connect it to Agents of SHIELD in any meaningful way, it might be a redemption arc for naught.


Stray Observations:

  • Previews for next week seem to imply that Dave’s ex, the vet tech, is going to go after Crystal in what I predicted would be the most boring love triangle ever. I don’t like being right about things like this.
  • It’s weird to see Justice League trailers in the commercials for this show, and I say this as someone who likes DC movies (we do exist). I think marketers still haven’t figured out that “likes comic book movies and tv” isn’t a demographic, because “comic book movies and tv” aren’t a homogeneous genre.
  • Thanks, random guy working with Dr Declan, for asking the obvious question of “All these people with powers, what happens if they stop fighting each other and start fighting us?”
  • Jen had a gem this week, too: “People who don’t feel doubt are the scariest people on this planet...only crazy fanatics don’t feel doubt.” That applies to a lot of things, really.
  • Why is Crystal continuing to hang out with the boy who ran over her dog?
  • Why are any of the humans letting the Inhumans do anything?
  • I hate it when characters have names tied to their powers. Locus locates things. Flora can make plants move. Do Inhumans change their names after their abilities manifest, or what?
  • Mordis is funny, he should go be funny with Gorgon.
  • How did Gorgon learn to track people through the jungle, since he lives on the moon? How does Karnak know what “dawn’s first light” is, since he also lives on the moon?
  • I’m really confused by Auran, all the time. She’s convinced Black Bolt is terrible, but also that he’ll come back to rescue two humans he barely knows because they helped him out once. She has no real motivation, she’s not even in love with Maximus as far as I can tell. And while her power looks cool, I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the imagery of a woman who gets brutalized (and dies) over and over again while she acts as proxy to a man.