Right off the bat of 2021, Marvel Studios has not only kicked off their fourth phase of long-form, multi-project storytelling, but also a whole new era of how we consume the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, there will be plenty more films coming out from the "House of Ideas" over the next few years, but Phase 4 also sees the addition of a new method being added to the formula that fans have come to know, which will be both new and familiar to some of us...
On January 15th, Marvel Studios aired WandaVision on Disney+, which ran for nine weeks before making way for The Falcon & The Winter Soldier to premiere on March 19th. These are just the first two of many shows Marvel Studios will produce that'll debut on the streaming service that will be directly intertwined with the mega-arcs that will unfold within the movies. But, this isn't the first time everything's been "all connected"... This is just the first time we'll see the shows act as more than just "supplemental", inconsequential additions to the larger narrative.
The Falcon & The Winter Soldier / WandaVision
WandaVision proved a huge success, and now The Falcon & The Winter Soldier is off to a great start with audiences. But, with these new shows on the way, and all the hype they're garnering, I wanna take a second to look back at the first era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its slate of TV shows... This was an era defined by two companies, instead of just one, wherein the second saw an interesting mixed bag of misfit projects with varying degrees of success and praise. I specifically wanna focus on that second company.
Of course, I'm talking about Marvel Television.
Today, they're seen as more of the "lesser" of the two companies, especially as time has gone on and the amount of cross-over the shows have had in the films has been minimal. Add to that the amount of cancelled shows they had under their belt, as well as the fact that they've now closed their doors and have been absorbed into Marvel Studios, their validity has come into question. But there was a time when many felt Marvel Television's output may be just as important as Marvel Studios'.
In 2006, Marvel Entertainment came out of bankruptcy and started rounding up all of their outlying and expired contracts with film studios who hadn't produced movies based on Marvel's characters as agreed. With these contracts now in-hand, Marvel set out to adapt their intellectual properties themselves through Marvel Studios. Come 2008, the company launched what is now known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, and the rest is history.
Fast-forward two years, and Marvel's been bought out by Disney - Who were interested in Marvel's unprecidented, inventive filmmaking plans - and they now had the platforms and the funding to expand their reach! Comic book writer and television producer Jeph Loeb was hired to head-up Marvel's TV division, with the first announcements being a Guillermo Del Toro-produced Hulk series for ABC, as well as AKA: Jessica Jones, and even Mockingbird and Cloak & Dagger shows for the then-called ABC Family (Now FreeForm). Later, they'd announce a series starring The Punisher for Fox, and overall it seemed Marvel Television might be off to a solid start, with more shows for Agents of Atlas, Luke Cage, and even The Hood being considered, as well.
But, then, everything changed.
In 2012, the culmination of everything Marvel Studios had been working up to finally paid off with the release of THE AVENGERS. It grossed over $1 billion at the box office and put Marvel on the map! The film turned into a far bigger success than anyone expected, and everyone was feeling the ripple effects at Marvel. At the time, director Guillermo Del Toro seemed preoccupied with his Pacific Rim franchise, thus the Hulk show - Which was poised to be a groundbreaking flagship series for the company - was more or less cancelled before development was finished. Between that and The Avengers' impact, Marvel Entertainment's and Disney's new priorities forced Marvel Television to put all of their other projects on some form of indefinite hold in favor of something that'll tie directly into and market off of its association to the films.
This new project became Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The rest would also be history, but whether it was good or bad depended on whether you could consider Marvel Television's output as either good or bad quality in the first place.
Let's take a look back and see if we can't determine that.
I loved Marvel Television's work.
That's why I'm here to talk about it...
The ups, the downs, all of it!
Now, mind you: I'm fully aware of the problematic situation surrounding the now-former Executive Vice President of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb. This isn't a reflection of his career, but rather a commentary and celebration of the work of the producers, showrunners, directors, writers, and actors who worked so hard under him to ensure that, despite his alleged prejudices and problematic behaviors, the projects Marvel Television produced were quality inclusive storytelling experiences that could transcend the people running the company.
Marvel Television Vice President Jeph Loeb
With that said, what I absolutely love most is Marvel Television's more ground-level perspective. In a world where Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor battle aliens, robots, and corrupt government agencies, we not only got to see how those battles affected the people on the ground, but see more everyday issues and injustices interpreted in raw ways not shown in the big budget films.
But it took a while for them to find that footing...
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tried to set the standard, at first; With S.H.I.E.L.D. being such a huge presence in the first phase of Marvel's films, it only made sense that in order to expand on the world around The Avengers, you'd use the organization that brought the team together in the first place as the audience's window into that world. But, who would be the star? Certainly, they couldn't get an expensive actor like Samuel L. Jackson to reprise his role as Director Nick Fury for 22 episodes a season on a network like ABC! Well, original character Agent Phil Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, went from a one-off character in Iron Man to building a fan following through his continued appearances in Iron Man 2 and Thor, as well as The Avengers. In-between, Gregg would also star in two short films, Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant and Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor's Hammer that bridged gaps between and contextualized details in the films. These would, ultimately, be the inspiration for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But, in The Avengers, - To many fans' surprise - Phil Coulson sacrificed his life at the hands of the villain Loki, inspiring The Avengers to come together to save the world in his memory. Phil's popularity, though, made him the perfect star for Marvel's first show, especially since they wanted a character to anchor the show's connectivity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe outside of superficial references, so they made the decision to revive Coulson and make that a part of the show's plot.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson, played by Clark Gregg
From there, the series was basically about Coulson's band of agents traveling the world and uncovering high-tech, cosmic mysteries and threats that would shape the greater foundations of the MCU. Meanwhile, the show would take the time to have narrative cross-overs with the big films Marvel Studios was releasing at any given time, with Marvel Television's big marketing strategy being the tagline "It's All Connected". This tagline would define all of Marvel Television's marketing efforts beyond this series, as well.
The premiere came with so much anticipation, it broke television records, and... A lot of people were disappointed. Audiences were promised Avengers-level quality in storytelling, but for many it really only ended up being more of a pale comparison to its film counterparts. But, audiences had to be patient and Marvel tried to keep them reeled in, even having Samuel L. Jackson cameo as Nick Fury in the third episode, as well as featuring an epilogue to the events of Thor: The Dark World in its eighth episode, but by that time, some had already written off the show, especially since the mystery surrounding Coulson's revival, at least, was taking too long to unfold.
But not me, nor plenty of other people who helped keep the show afloat to earn it a second season. Season 1 eventually paid off, revealing the dark, advanced scientific origins of Coulson's survival, effectively introducing the Kree to the Marvel Cinematic Universe months before Guardians of the Galaxy would, as well as having a cross-over with the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier that redefined the show's direction and brought long-gestating plot threads to a head in an arc about Coulson & his team attempting to get ahead of Hydra to rescue the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D. This even saw the return of Nick Fury in the season 1 finale!
What we would later learn was that the show's uptick in pacing wasn't an accident- - The producers weren't dragging things out because they thought that would be the best way to tell the show's story, rather they were forced to do that by Marvel Studios. See, in order for Marvel Television to play in the Marvel Cinematic Universe sandbox, they needed to follow some rules, and since the movies were where the real money was coming from, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was the one to set those rules.
Marvel Studios President, and Marvel Entertainment CCO Kevin Feige
Essentially, Marvel Television couldn't feature certain concepts - Like magic - until Marvel Studios established it better in the movies, or if they gave Marvel Television permission; Same with certain characters and plotlines. But, one of the big stipulations about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., during its first season, was that they could not deal with Hydra in the present tense, or even allude to them still being around. They didn't want the show to ruin the plot twist of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, wherein it's revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been long-infiltrated by Hydra since its inception. Because this was such a massive turn for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the producers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. decided to hook most of their overarching plots to it because the show was, obviously, going to have to deal with the fallout and it was just best to intertwine the plots for a big payoff. But, Marvel Television as a whole learned a valuable lesson from this that would have an affect from here.
Season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. proved to be a major step up from season 1. It had a clear goal in mind for its multiple arcs, and decided to rely less on connecting to the films in any detrimental way to its own narrative. It still existed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but season 2 definitely took strides to help give the show its own legs to stand on. It introduced more comic book heroes we hadn't seen yet, like Mockingbird, to the cast and even revealed that one of its main cast members was the superhero Quake all along! It brought in a couple'a lesser-known comic book villains to help maintain a consistent pace for its arcs over another 22 episode season, and introduced an entirely new corner to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: THE INHUMANS. But, I'll talk more on that in a bit...
Quake and Mockingbird as they appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Essentially, the producers decided to focus primarily on their own characters' stories, as opposed to worrying about how the show connected to the stories of the movies. There were still plenty of references and appearances from characters, like Sif, and they even gave a backstory to the surprise helicarrier that showed up in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but even the episode that follows that film's events doesn't go any further to attempt to do a big narrative cross-over, like they did with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Rather, it goes on dealing with its own story threads about the emergence of a second surviving S.H.I.E.L.D. team and fleshing out the Inhuman situation, but acknowledges the tragedy in Sokovia. From here, this series would progressively get better with every new season, in part thanks to its ability to no longer rely on the movies to give the show its purpose or value. But, also, because Marvel Television figured out what they strive best at: Telling stories about [almost] everyday people. They stopped concerning themselves with matching the scope of Marvel Studios, rather building a new, smaller, but just as important scope for their side of it.
Marvel Studios focused on the heroes battling enemies in the sky to save the world while Marvel Television showed us the ones on the ground, keeping the people safe from threats right in front of them.
With Marvel Television's new lease on sharing the narrative foundations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they decided to try their hand again at giving a supporting character from the movies their own show. This time, defining their new stance, they isolated the show in a period of the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline unaffected by new films.
This show would be Agent Carter.
Beginning in 1946, the show focused on Peggy Carter, the former love interest of the now-considered-deceased World War II hero Captain America, as she struggles to overcome the gender limitations of her time to prove her worth as an agent of the SSR, before it became S.H.I.E.L.D. With only Captain America: The First Avenger to go off of, the series was able to breathe on its own from the rip. Season 1 was about proving the innocence of a framed Howard Stark, and the origins of both the Hydra infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Russa's Black Widow project, while season 2 would begin to explore the advancement in science thanks to discoveries made during WWII. The show was inspired by the Marvel One-Shot short film of the same name and Hayley Atwell returned to play the titular character, as Dominic Cooper reprised his role in guest appearances as the young Howard Stark. The show even introduced Jarvis, Howard's butler, who would be the basis for Iron Man's AI system in the MCU canon later in the timeline. The series would come to an end, though, when ABC Studios decided they wanted to use Hayley Atwell's talents in a less expensive, more mainstream series, much to Agent Carter's fans' disappointment. To this day, the show has an avid fan following that hopes to, one day, see it revived, especially after it ended on such a major cliffhanger and didn't finish paving Peggy's journey to the aforementioned Marvel One-Shot short film.
While this wasn't what anyone had hoped, it didn't stop Marvel Television from charging forward and taking a major stride into their next phase of programming, and attempting a groundbreaking approach to television storytelling.
Teaming with Netflix, they set out to produce four TV shows starring street-level heroes that would lead into a cross-over event series called The Defenders, re-adapting the films' formula for The Avengers to the streaming service. This was announced before The CW aired their second DC Comics-based series The Flash, which spun out of Arrow, wherein both shows would kick off a yearly tradition of crossing over with one another, so - At the time it was announced - The Defenders was a major game-changer in television adaptations of comic books. Anyway, we'd see Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist finally make their debuts within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where they'd deal with rampant street crime, as well as their own personal demons in dark, seedy shows revealing a whole new underbelly of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist as they appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
This is where the TV side of things really shined, mostly in part to the streaming platform having far more flexibility with the maturity of its content, which allowed Marvel to touch on subjects and tell stories they'd otherwise couldn't tell in the more mainstream, family friendly mediums the Marvel Cinematic Universe already occupied.
When it aired in 2015, Daredevil was a hit with fans and critics alike, fully realizing the character and his world the way fans had hoped to witness in live-action one day. The mistakes Marvel had learned from doing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter helped them craft a more personal, grounded, and genuine superhero series about a man coming to grips with his identity and role in society as he falls deeper into the life of a crimefighter, and seeing the worse humanity had to offer while maintaining his faith in himself and others to do the right thing. Its connectivity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was tied to the events of The Avengers; In the real world, Hell's Kitchen has gone under heavy gentrification over the last couple'a decades, and is no longer the focus of drugs and crime like it once was in the 80's, when the Daredevil comics once strived with the neighborhood as its backdrop. The producers and writers decided that in order to recapture the Hell's Kitchen of the comics, they would rely on The Avengers' third act battle, known as The Battle of New York, to explain that the alien invasion ransacked Hell's Kitchen, which brought back its seedier roots, calling for the need of a hero like Daredevil. Outside of that, and a few throw-away references to The Avengers members themselves, Daredevil attempted - And succeeded - to stand on its own and play on its own merits. Charlie Cox played a heavily flawed, morally troubled, but just, determined and genuine Matt Murdock and a brutal Daredevil, who wanted nothing more than to keep his neighborhood safe. Against him was his antithesis Wilson Fisk, the future Kingpin of Crime, who's also trying to save Hell's Kitchen, but in a more destructive way.
Daredevil absolutely reset Marvel Television's standards with their shows, one that they'd tweak and play with for years to come, but it wouldn't be Marvel's only Netflix success. Following closely behind that same year, Marvel released the first season of their most ambitious and unique series, dealing with heavier subjects never attempted in the superhero genre: Jessica Jones.
Being a leftover from Marvel Television's earliest plans, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg was still attached the whole time from the show's transition from ABC to Netflix, which allowed her to refocus the show's tone and re-incorporate themes from the comics that ABC may have been more squeamish to feature on their weekday airing blocks. Jessica Jones debuted with massive praise from audiences and critics alike, from its strong female protagonist, to the performances of everyone involved, but most importantly its portrayal of victims of kidnapping, abuse, and assault, and discussing the traumas they face, which brought it wider attention outside of built-in superhero and comics fan communities. The show broke a new barrier for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this really set the groundwork for what Marvel Television could further accomplish for the brand and how it connected with audiences.
A second season of Daredevil would soon follow, introducing audiences to the Marvel Cinematic Universe versions of The Punisher and Elektra.
The Punisher, Daredevil, and Elektra as they appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
While the first handful of episodes were solid, keeping to the themes and tones that made season 1 such a standout and expanding on them in deeper ways, it can be agreed that season 2 didn't have nearly as strong a focus; It quickly divulged into a Defenders set-up series, shifting tonally from ground-level street crime to mystical ninjas, and trying so hard to balance the two with a hard-hitting court drama in-between. But, this wouldn't hurt the interest in the Netflix shows - Jon Bernthal's Frank Castle shines the brightest in season 2, especially as a contrast to Cox's Daredevil, leading to some of the most hard-hitting, and well-acted scenes in the franchise. This prompted Netflix to later greenlight a Punisher series, but more on that later.
Things would turn around, though, with the debut of Luke Cage!
Luke made his first appearance in Jessica Jones as a bartender who's pulled into Jessica's life by force, which establishes his move from Hell's Kitchen to Harlem, where we find him at the start of his own show. A humble man trying to keep his head low so his past doesn't catch up to him, Luke Cage attempts to turn the darker Netflix formula on its head, taking steps in more stylized, 70's/80's "blacksploitation" inspired direction for its tone. Of the Marvel shows, Luke Cage was the most culturally and socially aware, and that combined with the series being the first high-profile superhero project starring a black lead, the show garnered a lot of attention so much so that its premiere date saw major Netflix crashes due to viewer traction.
The show would be praised for its social and political commentary, as well as its positive portrayal of black people, between its protagonist, Misty Knight played by Simone Missick, as well as the character Pop. The performances from Mike Colter, Mahershala Ali, and Alfre Woodard were beloved, so much so that many were sad to see Ali's villainous role as Cottonmouth cut short half-way through the first season, which would be followed by the least-liked parts of the show. The second half has been criticized for taking a strange tonal turn into a more silly direction, with the over-the-top villain Diamondback taking center stage and a bigger emphasis on the more science fiction/action elements of the superhero genre that didn't totally mesh well with the grounded foundation established up to that point. Overall, though, the show proved Marvel was still doing good work at Netflix, and nothing could ruin this winning streak!
Then enter Scott Buck.
Scott Buck was hired by Marvel Television to spearhead Iron Fist on Netflix, and from there his time at the company would pretty much seal the start of their gradual downfall. Iron Fist aired in 2017 and was met with generally negative reception from fans and critics alike as Buck decided to try and minimize Iron Fist's fantastic comic book roots in favor of a more serious, uninspired, tonally dry direction that the character did not need nor deserved, especially compared to its cleverly-handled sister shows. This was likely to help fit Iron Fist into the darker framework of the Netflix line, but it grinded not only with the colorful, sensational martial artist, but with audiences who, generally, came to dislike the character, even come his team-up with his Netflix peers.
Now, before I finish out the first half of the Netflix phase, let's move over to ABC one more time to see what was going on there, as it relates back to all of this:
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had succeeded in trailblazing through both a season 3 and a season 4 by the time the Netflix shows were four titles deep into their plans. Season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. established the NuHumans (Descendants of Inhumans who migrated away from Inhuman society) and their plight as feared outcasts of humanity.
The NuHumans that make up the Secret Warriors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Before season 3's end, Captain America: Civil War was released in theaters, which established The Sokovia Accords. The Accords, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon, limited the actions of super powered individuals, and with the rampant Inhuman situation, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had to naturally address it and, thus, season 4 became about the organization finally rising back up to prominence to help the government enforce the Sokovia Accords and deal with the growing superhuman community at large, especially the growing Inhuman population (When it wasn't focusing on its great Ghost Rider subplot). The fourth season even took things a step further and had some fun with the fabric of its show's canon by introducing "The Framework", which allowed the producers and writers to explore an alternate reality without getting into a deeper multiverse that the films had yet to fully explore up to that point. But, the show was taking creative leaps and audiences were loving it!
The Inhumans as they appear in Marvel Comics, art by Jack Kirby
The Inhumans became a massive deal on the TV side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to the corporate politics at Marvel Entertainment at the time. Chairman Ike Perlmutter had developed a grudge against the film studio 20th Century Fox, whom owned the film rights to the Marvel Comics properties the X-Men and The Fantastic Four at the time. It was reported that Perlmutter would tear down posters of the two iconic teams from the walls of the Marvel Comics offices, and went so far as to cut the characters involved from Marvel Comics merchandise and marketing, even minimizing their roles in the comics to prop up characters they owned on the film side, like The Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and of course The Inhumans. Perlmutter's game was to effectively replace the X-Men with the Inhumans, making Marvel Comics publish a storyline in which a Terrigen (A crystal that transforms into a chemically reactive mist that can change the physiology of anyone with Inhuman genes, typically giving them powers) bomb goes off, spreading the mist across the world, affecting any and all latent Inhuman descendants. From there, Marvel Comics would reframe the Inhumans as the new allegorical stand-in for bigotry and oppression - Despite them not being created for that like the X-Men were - and Marvel Television was expected to follow suit, as well as Marvel Studios. When it came to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the plan was to gradually build the Inhuman situation through television shows before finally introducing the Inhuman royal family in their own film, initially slated for 2018, bringing closure to the Inhuman arcs. Marvel Television did their part with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. by ending season 2 with a lingering plot thread regarding Terrigen crystals being lost at sea leading into season 3 dealing with the rise of NuHumans being transformed by consuming fish oil carrying Terrigen. Once Marvel Television laid the groundwork, it was about time for Marvel Studios to start rolling ahead with their Inhumans film...
But a some things changed.
The Inhumans film title
In 2015, Marvel Studios separated itself from Marvel Entertainment to become an independent movie studio under Disney. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was no longer willing to work under the limitations set upon him by the very petty, very prejudiced, and very cheap Ike Perlmutter. Because of this shift in power, Marvel Studios was no longer strictly beholden to mandates given out by Ike Perlmutter, thus The Inhumans film was no longer a priority.
It got pushed out of its 2018 release slot as Marvel opted to add their first Spider-Man flick to the release calendar, as well as a sequel to Ant-Man.
Eventually, Marvel Studios pushed the project over to Marvel Television, who were still under Perlmutter's full control. And here's why I wanted to come to this topic before continuing on with Netflix's shows. See, Marvel Television picked up The Inhumans as an eight part series for ABC that would finally introduce the Inhuman royal family to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show was slated for a 2017 airdate with a lot of expectations set upon it to be huge and...
...Enter Scott Buck.
Buck was rehired by Marvel to be the showrunner on The Inhumans. This decision was made before Iron Fist aired on Netflix, and Marvel Television believed Buck's vision on that show was good enough to earn him a second series. Unfortunately, Buck brought the same flavorless direction from Iron Fist to The Inhumans... From there, development and writing were fast-tracked as a cast was brought together, which looked very promising all things considered, with the likes of Anson Mount, Ken Leung, and Iwan Rheon added to it. Before long, Marvel Television announced a partnership with IMAX, who'd help fund the first two episodes of the show for a theatrical premiere. Everything seemed to be coming together nicely, but very quickly. Before anyone knew it, it was time to start shooting and director Roel Reine was hired to take on the first two episodes. It was here that doubts started to surmount... Reine is best known for his ability to shoot TV episodes on a strict deadline, and as cheaply as possible.
That reflected in the final product, which fans got a glimpse of with the first promo image, which was criticized for looking cheap and bland, especially with Medusa clearly wearing a bad wig.
The Inhumans as they appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Throw in Iron Fist premiering on Netflix not too long before production on The Inhumans began and anticipation started to wane. When the trailer hit we got to see what we could expect from the series, which didn't help matters in the slightest... Negative reception and depleting interest eventually lead to IMAX reducing The Inhumans' two episode theatrical premiere to a few days, as opposed to two weeks, in favor of a more lucrative film playing in their theaters, and once the show finally saw the light of day in August of 2017?
The reaction was pretty abysmal.
The show followed the comic book Inhuman royal family - Black Bolt, Medusa, Karnak, Gorgon, Crystal, and Maximus, with Triton taking a major back seat for the majority of the series due to makeup costs - as Maximus turns on them, banishing them to Earth and taking over as the new king of Attilan on the moon. Having to fight their way back, The Inhumans overcome their prejudices against humanity to find a way home and take back their rightful place in the Inhuman hierarchy. The show subtly acted as a conclusion to the Inhuman subplots from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as it kicks off by showing us the royal family's response to the NuHuman situation on Earth, as well as confirming the Terigen spread in the Earth's oceans had completed its contamination.
When you get down into the details of the show's story, the narrative is somewhat problematic... It focuses on systemic oppression of non-powered Inhumans that are essentially forced into slavery, with Maximus being one of the few powerless individuals in Attilan who's allowed to be amongst the upper class due to him being the brother of the king. Maximus wants to see equality in Attilan and when his pleas are shut down by his family, he takes drastic measures to usurp the throne. The problem comes in when you consider that Maximus is framed as the villain. The only justification for this is that Maximus is using other Inhumans as weapons against the rest of the royal family. But the problems don't end there as, beyond that, the acting, writing, directing, and overall production quality of the series was lambasted by critics and audiences alike, with the show being rebranded as a mini-series and silently cancelled after one season. Throw in Iron Fist's bad traction a handful of months beforehand, and that this show was gonna launch The Inhumans as viable competition against Fox's X-Men, it's no wonder that Scott Buck was let go by Marvel Television altogether soon after everything went down.
From my perspective, there was a lot stacked against The Inhumans from the start, from its creative lead, to its inception and purpose, right down to the rushed production, but I don't think any of this would've ultimately mattered. If you look at The Inhumans and compare them to most of the projects Marvel Television had under their belt, this one was far too ambitious and wasn't what Marvel Television was about. Everything that makes Daredevil or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. compelling are their relatable characters, themes, and stories, things that The Inhumans brand struggles with just on merit. The Inhumans, at their core, weren't created to be relatable. It's sort of the issue the comics have when trying to use them as replacements for the X-Men, because the Inhumans never cared about humanity or their positions on genetic politics, which the show even maintained. They isolated themselves to their own self-governed societies, with the main characters having always been the royal family. They've never had a long, ongoing title because of this. The situation with The Inhumans show proved to every level of Marvel that the initiative was always fruitless, and they should've taken their time to figure it all out better, if not at all.
The Inhumans as they appear in Marvel Comics, art by Jae Lee
Which is why The Inhumans have taken a back seat in the grand scheme of things over the last three years.
But, Marvel Television was not where The Inhumans should've been produced and, unfortunately, this would be the first of a string of massive blows. Especially as projects they were pitching would land nowhere, new ones that would be picked up wouldn't take off the same way past shows did, and the shows that were already established would be in jeopardy.
Come back to The Comic Section in a couple'a weeks as we deconstruct all of that, and see what ultimately lead to the company unceremoniously closing its doors.
We'll see you soon!