In 2014, when Kevin Feige took to the stage at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood to announce The Inhumans would become a movie, few could have anticipated what would happen with the property. The film was slated for Phase Three in 2019, but come November 2016, Marvel switched the Royal Family from the big screen to the small screen with ABC and IMAX joining forces to hopefully make an epic along the lines of Game of Thrones.
Fast forward to September 2017, and all the concerns fans had in the build-up to the IMAX premiere were justified, as the debut episodes tanked, critically and financially, in its its limited two week IMAX window. What made things even worse was that in its wake, ABC reportedly expressed dissatisfaction over final product and speculation began to mount that the television network was ready to drop the axe and cancel the show before it even started its full season run on September 29.
Is the show that bad? Well, as of the premiere, yes. There are deep flaws thus far, painting it as arguably the weakest in the MCU's catalog. But should it be cancelled before airing all its episodes? Of course not. That wouldn't make any sense whatsoever from a business or brand point-of-view, and it's not a step we see the key stakeholders taking.
Firstly, Disney owns Marvel Studios and ABC, and cancelling the series -- especially upsetting to those who watched the premiere and are willing to push on -- is the sign of a weak brand. It's up to your audience to dislike your product, but first they have to try it. The first two episodes, in IMAX form, are not the best way to judge a series, no matter how bad it may appear.
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Disney knows about protecting the strength and integrity of its brands, which we've seen with the Star Wars universe, whether it be Rogue One reshoots or Ron Howard replacing Phil Lord and Chris Miller on the Han Solo anthology film. Brand building and brand preservation is very important, and what kind of brand would Marvel Studios be if it wanted to hide a potential failure?
Owning up to a mistake is, in and of itself, a big part of learning and rectifying for the future. ABC can simply follow what they did for Agent Carter and do mini-marathons, or if push came to shove, just dump all episodes on fans in one day. As it sta663nds, there are no ratings to really say that the television audiences will fully hate the show. Agent Carter suffered from low ratings, as did Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As seen with the latter, it's good to keep faith because, because you just might land a hit.
Powering through like this shows confidence and a bit of ego from ABC, both of which are needed when you have a flop on your hands. From the moment fans saw the visual effects and costumes of Inhumans, the worst was expected but all parties still pushed on. Scott Buck as a showrunner has had big misses with his early involvement with AoS and Netflix's Iron Fist but again, the continuation of these shows and its characters is a prime example that not all hope should be considered lost. Lukewarm returns at the IMAX box office can help gauge and anticipate failure but again, television ratings would more or less be the definitive answers that the stakeholders need. It's just that this chance needs to be taken.
We've only had two episodes but who knows, maybe a couple of the others will resonate. Maybe one or two focusing on specific characters will stand out. The point is this method of unravelling the entire series as planned can be used to better the property and its characters moving forward, whether in this series, spinoffs or something else entirely. You can't judge a comic book by its cover, so with Inhumans, as painful as it might be, ABC ought to be professional and acknowledge their mistake by putting this out there for us and wearing it on their small-screen sleeves.
Could Inhumans be helped by a potential AoS crossover? It's certainly likely to happen, because of AoS's take on NuHumans (not to mention the last season ended with Agent Coulson in space). With that in mind, seeing as both cover similar ground in terms of Inhumans, this presents a great opportunity for the stronger aspects of Inhumans to be integrated into AoS in the future. There may even be positive feedback that could help structure how a second Inhumans season should unfold with a new showrunner, but to envision this, we have to see the full breadth of the show.
It's also good to keep in mind that airing the episodes as planned doesn't do anything that the series hasn't experienced already. Seriously, what's there to lose? Getting a lack of buzz or crushing reviews puts them in no different place than they are now. In fact, it can only get better from here. Is there money to be lost? No, the show's packaged, ready to air and also, prepared to sell ad-space on ABC. Also, no one's talking about Inhumans at the moment, and when the series airs, either they'll be not talking about it again, or panning it, which wouldn't be new territory.
At this juncture, Feige and everyone involved should embrace the old adage that there's no such thing as bad press. If anything, they need to be open-minded and putting their mistakes out there for us to critique shows that the MCU is the bigger person, or in this case, entity. It's a short season after all, boasting just eight episodes, so rather than dump it and get it out the way, gradually using fans' feedback can help steer the Royal Family down the right path. When it comes to this show, honestly, given what's been said thus far, the only place it can go is up, and ABC should follow the essence of their heroes and be just as fearless with it.