Originally announced as part of Marvel's Phase 3 film slate, the Royal Family of the Inhumans are finally set to make their presence felt in the wider MCU with their very own TV show. Premiering in IMAX cinemas on September 1st, Inhumans will introduce us to the Royal Family of the Inhuman city of Attilan. They're ruled by their silent king, Black Bolt, whose words have the power to level mountains. The part will be played by Anson Mount, of Hell on Wheels fame, with Canadian actress Serinda Swan as his wife Medusa, and Welsh actor Iwan Rheon as his dangerous brother, Maximus.
In a recent interview, Serinda Swan has just given us a unique glimpse into the MCU backstory of the Inhuman Royal Family. It promises to reveal a heart-wrenching story that's never been told before...
Actor Serinda Swan Reveals A Shocking Backstory
Speaking to Collider, Swan reflected on the history between Medusa and Black Bolt:
"When Black Bolt goes through his terrigenesis at 14 and loses the use of his voice, there’s that acceptance that he’s never gonna be able to speak again. There’s massive loss with his parents, there’s everything."
Terrigenesis is the ritual by which Inhumans are exposed to the rare alien chemical known as Terrigen. Terrigen unlocks the hidden powers of anyone with an Inhuman gene; they form a temporary cocoon, one that only breaks when the transformation is complete. The Inhuman emerges transformed, their powers triggered. It's a process that anyone who's been watching #AgentsOfSHIELD will be very familiar with.
As we've already seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., in Inhuman society, a child is carefully prepared for Terrigenesis. When their family believe they are ready, they undergo a ritual surrounding Terrigenesis, one that stands at the center of Inhuman civilization. As a 14-year-old, Black Bolt would have essentially considered this the moment he became a man.
But here's the tragedy of it all; nobody knows what powers any individual Inhuman will possess once they have undergone Terrigenesis. Nobody knew that Black Bolt's words possessed the power to destroy entire cities — at least, not until he spoke. Notice how Swan conflates the triggering of Black Bolt's powers with the loss of his parents. It really does sound as though Black Bolt's first act as an empowered Inhuman was to unwittingly kill his own mother and father, the King and Queen of Attilan.
An Isolated Monarch
Imagine the strain this would put on the wider Royal Family. The King and Queen are dead. Their successor is an isolated mute, unable to communicate. For a time, the wider Royal Family would have had to step up to rule Attilan. According to Swan, only Medusa was willing to approach Black Bolt.
"One of the reasons I love Medusa is that she doesn’t care that he can kill her with a whisper and she walks right into his chamber and starts a friendship. And, together, they create this language. Together, they create this connection. And it’s from nothing. It’s literally from nothing. There’s nothing that you can really use. He has to make every word. Figure it out. They have this symbiosis that keeps them intertwined, which I love. And so, obviously, through childhood, they create this language together. Then, they get married."
Notice what Swan doesn't say. Nowhere here does she mention that the two fall in love. I can't help suspect that Medusa approached this marriage with a sense of duty rather than one of devotion, knowing that her people need their King to be able to communicate. As time went on, she and Black Bolt created a sign language with which to speak to one another; Medusa essentially became the King's voice.
Swan stresses that the relationship between the two is a fascinating one, unlike anything she believes we've seen in Marvel before. The challenge facing Medusa is a simple one; even though she speaks on the king's behalf, she must somehow retain her own thoughts and identity. She refuses to be reduced to merely the King's voice; she is the Queen in her own right. This sets up a strange, codependent relationship unlike anything we've seen in Marvel. As Swan noted, "Watching the two of them figure [the relationship] out and watching the two of them have that connection already is beautiful."
Now, though, the marriage looks set to come under more strain than ever before. On the one hand, humanity — fearful after the Chitauri invasion we saw in The Avengers — is expanding into space, and it's only a matter of time before Attilan is uncovered. On the other, Terrigen has been spread in the Earth's water. As we've seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., anyone with an Inhuman gene back on Earth is spontaneously undergoing Terrigenesis. The challenge facing the Royal Family is this: do they abandon these 'NuHumans' to the hatred and fear of humanity? Or do they intervene on their behalf?
With the Royal Family threatening to schism, it even looks as though Black Bolt and Medusa may not be on the same page. Swan notes that, at some points, the two will be "very combative." Those words hint at a profound disagreement, one that Maximus will no doubt exploit.
The Wider Impact Of This Intriguing Backstory
As fascinating as the relationship between Medusa and Black Bolt may be, Swan's comments raise other intriguing questions. How would the relationship between Black Bolt and his brother Maximus be affected by Black Bolt's horrific experience of Terrigenesis?
No doubt the tragic loss of their parents left the relationship between Black Bolt and Maximus strained. Notice that it's Medusa who breaches Black Bolt's isolation — not his brother. The love between the two brothers would be twisted and torn, damaged almost beyond repair by their parents' deaths.
It may be even worse than that. We know from the Inhumans trailer that Maximus possesses no powers. Until now, we'd assumed it was because he went through Terrigenesis, but no powers were activated; he lacked that genetic marker. Now, though, another possibility rears its head: that the Inhumans chose not to expose Maximus to Terrigen at all. After all, his brother's genes had contained a power so great, so dangerous, that he was essentially rendered mute, lest he destroy the entire city of Attilan. With such potential power running through his bloodline, was it really safe for Maximus to undergo Terrigenesis?
This fits perfectly with another moment in the trailer, where Medusa caustically remarks that Maximus will never rule; he is only human. The wife of Black Bolt, the one who has carefully created a whole new form of sign language, would have developed a deep understanding of the power of words. She would know that this one critical comment would be a like a knife stabbing into Maximus's heart, and twisting.
Serinda Swan's interview has hinted at some fascinating possibilities for Marvel's Inhumans series. The relationship between Black Bolt and Medusa sounds like it will be a fascinating one, unlike anything we've seen in comic book shows before. They seem to be bound more by duty than by love, and the relationship between the two promises to be an unusual, codependent one. Meanwhile, that's all set against the context of a troubled monarchy, one whose relationships have been torn asunder when Black Bolt emerged from the Terrigen cocoon.