You know what a bait and switch is, right?
Miriam Webster defines it as:
1 : a sales tactic in which a customer is attracted by the advertisement of a low-priced item but is then encouraged to buy a higher-priced one
2 : the ploy of offering a person something desirable to gain favor then thwarting expectations with something less desirable
So how does this apply to ABC television’s new series Marvel’s Inhumans?
Well, it’s like this: Jack Kirby created The Inhumans back in 1965 as a superhero team. They originally appeared in Fantastic Four #45. They are a royal family of mutant human beings – inhumans – who have been exposed to the Terrigin mist and have developed special super powers.
The Inhumans are led by their king, Black Bolt, and his Royal Family, consisting of Medusa, Karnak, Gorgon, Triton, Crystal and the canine Lockjaw. Both Crystal and Medusa have been members of the Fantastic Four; Crystal has been a member of the Avengers as well.
Are you getting the point here? These are superheroes. They have powers, special abilities, and they fight alongside other superhero teams.
So, when ABC announced that they would be making a TV series featuring the Inhumans, I expected a show about superheroes.
So what did we get?
Well, the setup is pretty much the same as the comics. The inhumans live in the city of Attilan which is located on the moon. Black Bolt’s voice is the most powerful power in the kingdom. The merest utterance from him can cause massive devastation. So he must remain silent. His queen, Medusa, has living hair that she can manipulate to fight and overpower enemies. Karnak can see the limitless possibilities of any action and choose the most effective. Gorgon is super strong and has hooves. Crystal can control the elements – zapping things, freezing things, etc. And lockjaw the giant pug can teleport the members of the royal family anywhere they need to go.
So far so good, right?
However, in the first episode Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus (who has no powers at all) stages a coup and takes over the kingdom. He shaves off Medusa’s Hair, rendering her powerless. Crystal commands lockjaw to transport the others to Hawaii. After that Maximus sedates the giant pup and places Crystal under arrest.
In the Hawaiian jungle Karnak falls, hits his head and loses his powers. Gorgon still has his powers but is pretty ineffective hanging out on the beach with a group of army vet surfers. Black Bolt steals a suit and is immediately arrested. He is tased and he lets out a gasp which sends a police car flying end over end. After that he realizes he just better shut up and cooperate.
So, by the end of the pilot the Inhumans are on Earth, without their powers and separated from each other. The rest of the series promises to continue in this same vein, keeping the Inhumans separate and powerless.
This is not what I signed up for.
And here is the bait and switch. Suppose I’d been promised a gritty cop drama and in the first episode each of the cop characters were put on suspension and had to spend the rest of the series in their own homes dealing with their suspensions? I mean, that might make an interesting show if I hadn’t been promised a gritty crime drama.
Suppose I’d been promised a western with cowboys and gunfights, but in the first episode the main cowboys had to leave the west and head back east to look after their ailing mother’s estate and the rest of the series was about how the gunfighters coped with having to deal with wills, probate and property laws? Again, that might make an interesting series, but not if I had been promised a show about gunfighters.
The Inhumans is about super heroes. Mutants with super powers. That’s what I want to see. If you make a TV series out of Moby Dick and have the characters spend all their time on shore, talking about how they’d like to go back to sea… that’s not really Moby Dick, is it? If you make a Sherlock Holmes TV series and have Homes suffer a brain injury in the opening episode and spend the rest of the season showing how Dr. Watson helps Holmes to regain his deductive powers… well, that’s not what you tuned in for, is it?
I want to see Jack Kirby’s Inhumans. I want to see Black Bolt and Medusa and Karnak and all the others doing what they do… using their superpowers to fight villains or aliens or the Fantastic Four or… anything — ANYTHING — but this boring show!
Sure, Netflix’s Marvel shows can be slow moving. You have to have a certain amount of “TV drama”, and that’s fine. But if I didn’t see Mat Murdoch dressing up in a suit and fighting bad guys I would have checked out. If Luke Cage didn’t use his superpowers and just spent his time mentoring inner city kids… well, that’s inspiring but it’s not what Luke Cage is about. Jessica Jones IS Jessica Jones. Even Iron Fist, for all it’s problems, had Danny Rand using the Iron Fist!
The Inhumans lost no time making their main characters human. And not very interesting ones at that.
The only character who has all the superpowers at his disposal is Maximus, the one human among the inhumans. The fact that he is the villain (and played by Game of Throne‘s Ramsay Bolton) means that the superpowers are all on the wrong side of the equation.
This is not the show that I wanted. Nor is it the show that I will continue to watch.