Ink Master season 9 is adopting a format for this season that is similar to season 7, where we’ve got returning artists coming throughout the competition in hopes of securing the title. The difference? This time, it’s artists in pairs looking to get the title of Master Shop to go along with being Ink Masters in their own right.
From the beginning, it’s been easy to have conflicted feelings about this. Why not just bring in everyone at once? This season, that’s probably because the premise creates a situation where there are too many cooks in the kitchen. There are already close to twenty artists around the majority of the time — could you imagine if there was well over thirty? There would barely be a place for anyone to move around in that shop!
The larger question, given that the twist is already happening and there isn’t any real way to stop it, is whether or not some of the artists who arrive fairly late in the season should have a chance at actually winning. Here, we’re especially saying this through the lens of Empire State Studio (Tommy Helm and Marvin Silva) or Golden Skull Tattoo (Cleen Rock One and Aaron Is). It’s not hard to figure out why the show is saving the two shops for the end — both are former runner-ups, Tommy’s a huge star within the Spike tattoo universe at this point, and Cleen has come close to winning two different seasons and is arguably one of the show’s most-popular contestants.
Now, if one of these shops wins, what does this say about the whole season? It’s two-fold. First, it’s that they are really good artists — though that should be a given right now. There is a challenge that comes with turning up halfway through a season, and we’ve seen that a number of times. While tattooing is a skill, there is a certain momentum to it. People who have been a part of the show for a while have a chance to get into that momentum, whereas those showing up midway through don’t have the same sort of groove. They have to get accustomed to the rigors of the competition, and for someone like Tommy that could be a challenge given that he hasn’t been around since the very first season.
Still, does this challenge really offset at all the fact that you weren’t there for the first half of the season? By the time Golden Skull Tattoo turns up, there will have been nine episodes already wrapped up. That’s a ton of challenges that you’ve missed for no other reason than having a good resume coming into the show. If you’re looking for an argument against one of these shops that’s shown up late, it is “well, you guys didn’t have to compete for that long.” Theoretically, there’s a chance that someone would’ve stumbled on one of the earlier tattoos this season and gone home — we just don’t know right now.
This entire debate may be circumstantial in the end, given that if Cleen and Aaron show up and destroy every single challenge, it’ll be easy to make a case for them winning. However, if either Golden Skull or Empire State Studio struggle at any point, it’s so much easier to say someone else deserves the title. We luckily avoided this issue in season 7 given that Cleen, Christian Buckingham, and Anthony Michaels had all been around for a good percentage of the season. We’ll see if it’s avoided here, and what sort of controversy erupts as a result.
Do you think that an Ink Master winner can show up so late in the season and have a good shot? Share below!
Meanwhile, be sure to click here if you do want to see an additional preview for Tuesday night’s new episode of the show. (Photo: Spike.)