In the run up to its release, it would seem that Medusa, one of the protagonists of Marvel's new show Inhumans', has been the most talked about character. Pretty much every Marvel fan had an opinion about her tresses and what it implied about how her character was developed for the show. Whether it's an op-ed focusing on the wig initially used or on Marvel's CGI, the focus on Medusa's looks was intense.
It turns out the whole debate was meaningless because while the most shocking thing about Medusa in the television adaptation of #Inhumans is about her hair, it's not at all about what those aforementioned op-eds were focused on. Instead, the first episodes of Inhumans tease a shocking twist...
Note: Heavy spoilers for Marvel's Inhumans follow.
A Dark Twist For Medusa
The first episodes introduce us to Maximus, the ruthless man who covets his brother Black Bolt's throne. He's convinced that Black Bolt's leadership will bring the Inhumans of Attilan to ruin and begins to prepare for a coup against him. In what soon proves to be a deeply disturbing plot, he chooses to first have a chat with Medusa.
Inhumans reveals that Maximus and Medusa have personal history. There was a time when they were close, and it's clear Maximus fell in love with her. Before he makes his grab for the thrones, Maximus takes the time to offer the love of his life one last chance to join him as his wife and remain the queen of Attilan. Ever faithful to her husband, Black Bolt, Medusa refuses the offer and beats Maximus's attention back with her hair.
Sadly, in this moment Medusa underestimates Maximus's ambition. She doesn't realize that Maximus has the backing to launch a coup, and soon winds up prisoner of Maximus and the treacherous Royal Guards. That's when Maximus gets his revenge.
In response to her rejection, Maximus takes drastic steps by depriving Medusa of her powers by shaving her hair. This moment, lifted straight from Paul Jenkins's 1998 Inhumans run, is a visceral and affecting physical assault. You get a horrific sense of Maximus's power over Medusa, of his violating her body as he strips her of the power that is core to her identity. The scene so quickly becomes about power and control, about a man imposing himself on a woman and violating her for his own purposes. It's deeply disturbing, and it exposes Maximus for the villain he is rather than that militant, troublesome idealist he's initially thought to be.
Medusa's powerless rage is haunting, giving way to a grief that, after the violation against her is perpetrated, shows that Maximus is a brutal abuser. He is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals and that includes victimizing and hurting a woman that trusted him and he claimed to care for.
Medusa's Emotional Arc On Inhumans Is Dark
For Medusa, this act of violation redefines her as a person. Her sister, Crystal, finds her huddled on the ground after this assault, her fingers playing through the shorn strands of hair and grieving that which has been taken from her: her hair, once a literal center for her powers as well as a symbol of her power as a woman. Crystal sends Medusa to Earth, and there it takes time for the Queen of Attilan to get back on her feet.
The scenes that follow are fascinating, not least because of smart visual cues that remind us of Medusa's emotional state. The once-bold Queen becomes withdrawn, hiding among humans on a tour bus with her fingers occasionally straying back to her shaved head. Most notably, her clothing is askew, giving her a disheveled appearance which only highlights her emotional trauma and disarray. The fact she doesn't even notice this, let alone take the time to adjust, is an indication of just how wounded she really is by Maximus.
Medusa's pain soon becomes anger, a burning passion to regain her throne and defeat the man who attacked her. When she realizes that Maximus has traced her, and is undoubtedly sending an assassin, she sets up a trap. Her confrontation with Auran, the assassin, is as fascinating as it is brutal. Medusa may be stripped of her powers, but she's still a fighter. She swiftly proves herself more than a match for the assassin.
The scene is played as a real triumph for Medusa, as she finds a knife and repeatedly stabs Auran in the chest. You get a strange sense of emotional catharsis, of Medusa reminding herself that she is still the one with power. The dialogue emphasizes it with Auran telling Medusa to surrender and Medusa snarling back that she is still the queen; she is still the one who gives orders. Her pain has given way to anger and determination.
While deeply troubling to watch, it is nonetheless cathartic to see how Inhumans allows Medusa to regain her power in one way or another. Maximus may have robbed Medusa of her power at first, as shown in a truly shocking and visceral scene, but it is clear he did not (nor will he ever) break her.