[EDITOR'S NOTE 11/12/14 2:30 PM PT: With the latest revelations on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." -- the Kree corpse being thousands of years old, and Coulson's carvings being a map to a secret city -- it's looking more and more like Meagan nails it with her theory that the Inhumans are on their way to television.]
With "A Hen in the Wolf House," "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." dropped some major clues for the direction of this season. In a dramatic confrontation between Skye and Coulson, he suggested that she may not be entirely human -- that she may, in fact, be an alien. And, well, he certainly isn't wrong. Expounding on my previous theory, here's a few more clues that point to "Inhumans" taking center stage in the Marvel Universe.
So, where did you get this random Inhumans idea from, anyway?
For Phase 2 and beyond, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has a vision (by which I mean a few concepts, but yes, the robot too), and that vision includes his pet projects: the critical darling "Guardians of the Galaxy," the upcoming "Doctor Strange," and -- you guessed it -- Inhumans. Feige has mentioned his love for Inhumans in more than a few interviews. After the wild box office success of "Guardians," it isn't too crazy to suggest that other, smaller properties might get their chance. What's more, "Guardians" introduces the Kree, which paves the way this advanced race's interest in human genetics. Thanks to "Guardians," Marvel is on top of the world right now, and could easily pursue any of their lesser-known superheroes.
What did I miss in the season premiere of "Agents of SHIELD"?
It was quick, so I hardly blame anyone for missing it. In fact, I missed it entirely myself; some anonymous Internet sleuths have pointed me in the direction of a few good screencaps. (Thanks, guys!) In the very opening sequence, when Agent Carter and the Howling Commandos capture the last known Hydra outpost, a lot of boxes can be seen in the background. The action of the shot focuses on Dum Dum Dugan almost touching the obelisk. Before Peggy stops him, she's seen quickly closing the lid of a crate -- an open lid that briefly reveals what looks to be the Kree body that Fury's team used to revive Coulson. That would mean Hydra has long been in possession of the kind of technology that brought Coulson back to life, which further plays into the idea that Hydra has Inhuman-engineering technology in its hands -- whether or not they're aware of its true origins.
What's with the South Asian setting?
A good half of last season dwelt on the fact that Skye, as an infant, was labeled an 084 -- an object of unknown origin, in S.H.I.E.L.D.-speak. She was recovered in the Hunan province of China before she was brought to America. Interestingly, the Ultimate universe Inhumans based their city Attilan in the Himalayas for 10,000 years. As previously mentioned, Joss Whedon -- who helped created the show and oversees the Avengers -- draws a lot of his inspiration from "Ultimates." A little coincidental, don't you think?
Can we get a paternity test over here?
If Attilan is based in the Himalayas, as I suggest, that leaves the question of Skye's father. However brief his appearances have been in season 2 so far, "A Hen in the Wolf House" has revealed quite a bit. He's powerful -- powerful enough to strike fear into Raina's heart. He's a doctor, as we saw when Raina interrupted his work. He claims to know how the obelisk works when no one else does. And, quite notably, he isn't very emotionally stable.
I have three candidates who exist within the comics universe that could fit the bill, each as likely as the next if we're running with this Inhumans theory. Let's take a look:
Here's a name I've heard tossed around since the episode aired. Calvin Zabo is a doctor with some serious anger problems; when he takes a special formula that he engineered, he transforms into a beast akin to the Hulk with impressive strength and brutality. He's had a pretty long tenure in comics, but he's a relatively C-list villain to use -- unless you consider the fact that Daisy Johnson (alias: Quake), Nick Fury's right hand woman, is his daughter. It'd make a whole lot of sense if the MCU retooled his origin so that he was Inhuman rather than a science experiment in the wrong hands. Not only that, Skye's father made quite the emphasis on her name, suggesting that her "real" name might be recognizable to fans of the comics. Skye is in a very similar position to Daisy: Young but high in S.H.I.E.L.D. ranks. It's a durable theory.
Maximus the Mad
A little deeper into the Inhumans mythos we go! As Black Bolt's brother and a frequent antagonist, Maximus as a dad would tie Skye right into the Inhuman royal family. Further, Maximus is called "the mad" for a reason, for his minor telepathic powers came with a price: his sanity. This would sync up with the behavior -- the anger, sudden emotional shifts, obsessive tendencies, and paranoia -- that Skye's father exhibited in "A Hen in the Wolf House." Described as a genius, Maximus has tested his knowledge extensively in the comics universe, creating countless technological devices. Of course, this has only gotten him exiled from Atillan more often than not. An exile would explain why he has spent so long wandering. If Skye's father is Maximus, perhaps that it the reason he knows how to "speak to" the obelisk.
With a little "Game of Thrones" flare, The Unspoken is a former Inhuman king, ousted and blacklisted from their history following an argument with Black Bolt. In his exile, he has remained hidden in the Himalayas (there's that setting again!). While I'll acknowledge that comics and the movies don't follow each other to the letter, they do tend to influence each other, and it's interesting to note that the Unspoken has just resurfaced in Charles Soule's "Inhuman" book, where he is currently attempting to become king once more. The longer he's away from the terregenisis crystals, the weaker he becomes, which would explain why Skye's father hasn't had any massacre-level incidents since Skye's birth if he is indeed the Unspoken. What's more, Skye's father still hasn't been named even five episodes in; is this intentional? (Credit where credit is due, of course: My boyfriend mentioned the Unspoken after I suggested Maximus to him.)
Regardless of who Skye's father turns out to be, this leaves another key figure untouched: Skye's mother. Was she, too, Inhuman -- or was she human, a fact that would make their relationship taboo among his people. (The Inhumans have a Genetics Council and ban all conceptions that aren't pre-approved, a story that complicated the birth of Black Bolt's own son.) Did the Inhumans, while keeping an eye on their exiled member, recognize Skye's birth as forbidden and come to destroy her, to which her father violently reacted, resulting in the bloodbath that heralded her birth? This is far more up in the air, but important to note going forward.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have found this season's MacGuffin in the obelisk. Hydra wants it. Skye's father wants it. S.H.I.E.L.D. (or, more directly, Coulson) wants it. It's incredibly dangerous, slowly killing anyone who touches it; in "A Hen in the Wolf House," even its properties gleaned off dead tissue samples can cause a massacre in the wrong hands. It's clearly alien in nature, covered with the same kind of weird language Coulson has been scribbling compulsively. And, most importantly, Skye's father seems to know how to use it. So what is it?
It'll seem like a leap at first, but bear with me: The obelisk is a Terrigen crystal that is going to become a Terrigen bomb.
In the comics, Black Bolt used a Terrigen bomb to kick off the events of "Inhumanity," transforming dormant Inhumans into their fully-realized, fully-powered selves. Marvel Comics made a pretty big deal out of that event, giving it its own series and making a larger effort to get the Inhumans more involved with goings-on in the mainstream Marvel Universe. Again, let's note that the comics and the MCU don't necessarily mirror each other, but they do tend to inform each other's events.
"A Hen in the Wolf House" opens with a Navy wedding that Hydra infiltrates and uses to test its latest weapon: A reverse-engineered obelisk effect. Here's where that gets interesting -- not everyone was affected the same way. For all intents and purposes, let's assume Hydra's scientists put the same amount of this obelisk formula in each of the wedding guests' champagne glasses in order to measure the effect. But not all of them died. Whitehall specifically mentions some victims only got ill as a result. He also revealed that this obelisk formula was developed from its first deceased victim (the waitress from the first episode), meaning that their sample is not pure -- and thereby not quite the same.
In that same meeting, Whitehall also divulges his plans for this obelisk formula. He plans to mass-produce it, which -- Simmons realizes with horror -- could kill millions, even billions of people. Hydra wants to deploy this on a massive scale, but not until they get it right. They just have a key piece missing -- the obelisk itself. And, until they have it, they won't fully understand how to use it.
By the end of the episode, of course, Hydra does get the obelisk, but it doesn't come alone. Skye's father has joined Hydra, and -- though they have a common enemy in Coulson -- he clearly has ulterior motives. Using Hydra's resources, Skye's father could mass produce the obelisk and its effects, but here's the catch: He may be the only one who truly understands its properties, so -- no matter how much Hydra tries to monitor his research -- they could never know for certain that he's delivering what he promised. Skye's father did, after all, show his distaste for Hydra in that same episode, so betraying them would be no skin off his nose. If the obelisk turns out to be a Terrigen crystal, mass producing its effects would cause widespread -- if, perhaps, watered down -- terregenisis. If Skye's father turns out to be Maximus or the Unspoken, an influx of Inhumans would give him a veritable army, or perhaps even his own kingdom to rule as an added bonus to narrowing his search for Skye. He promised Raina that it would change her and, as we can see, change is certainly coming.
The implications are staggering. It would be a game changer for the entire MCU, but it'd be more than that for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" -- it would be a direction. "S.H.I.E.L.D." was developed to deal with superhuman threats, which the Centipede program tried to showcase (though, in my opinion, not very well). A flood of Inhumans would give the show a lot to work with once its overarching Skye storyline has wrapped. It could even see S.H.I.E.L.D. re-instituted to deal with Inhumans relations. For an extended universe, the possibilities are endless.
Wait, are the Inhumans going to stand in for mutants in the MCU then?
It's worth noting that Feige has denied the Inhuman-mutant link; in other words, he has fervently refuted the idea that Inhumans will be a poor man's mutant. However, until this season's plotlines clarify, it's impossible to tell whether Feige is trying to lead speculators astray, being sincere, or -- as the Master Planner -- viewing it from a perspective that we can't yet understand; for instance, would human-manufactured Inhumans be called by that term, or would they take on another label -- like NuHumans, perhaps?
However everything ultimately plays out, right now, it looks like something Inhuman this way comes to the MCU.