With its second episode, The Gifted continues to take familiar aspects of X-Men lore and convert them into compelling broadcast television. It also continues to use the “until it happens to you” narrative to make some pointed comments about the erosion of civil liberties.
And it continues to be surprising that this is airs on broadcast television.
As last week, the core of this drama plays out in the experiences of Caitlin and Reed Strucker. Though the show does a brilliant job realizing mutant abilities and attempts to focus some of its attention on Polaris’s plight, the elder Struckers are the viewpoint characters. And through them, we’re seeing how this world has operates and how easy it is to ignore certain inequities.
For Caitlin, that means helping the Underground get medical aid for Blink. Severely injured from the escape in the previous episode, Caitlin quickly determines that she’s going into shock. Her condition also effects her abilities as she opens portals to a specific road somewhere in the US. The first instance was surprising and thrilling. The subsequent ones become more tense as law enforcement arrives on the scene. But Caitlin’s insistence on getting Blink some medication leads to her and Marco leaving the compound to raid a hospital. Once there, Caitlin manages to sneak her way into a controlled area and secure the needed meds. But she also learns something important along the way.
First posing as Marco’s girlfriend to get treatment for his gunshot wound, the ER doc pulls her aside in hopes of determining if the whole thing is a domestic abuse case. “I know some people think it’s exciting to date a mutant,” he says with a genuine, if misplaced, concern for her safety. Unsatisfied, he still calls in the police because Muties are going to Mutie.
Afterward, Caitlin asks Marco if it’s always this way. Marco says the experience — which saw them fleeing from the hospital — was “top flight medical care.” She asks about certain protections mutants should still have under established civil rights laws. He tells her those protections disappear as soon as a human considers a mutant to be a danger. Of course, that clarification only really sinks in for Caitlin because she experienced it for herself. As a result, she tells her kids that they are part of the fight now.
But her story sits in contrast to Reed’s plot, who spends most of the episode sitting across from Sentinel Services Agent Jace Turner (Coby Bell). Reed finds himself accused of a terrorist act and sees his mother, Ellen (Sharon Gless), called in for questioning. But he recognizes the tactics as desperate maneuvering and manages to talk Turner into a deal: he’ll give up the Mutant Underground for the safety of his family. Having not experienced the scene at the hospital, he’s still siding with conventional society and believes conventional methods can keep his family safe. I’m sure Garret Dillahunt’s Dr. Roderick Campbell will provided information invalidating Turner’s deal with Reed, but the way he and Caitlin relate to the mutant issue continues to be one of the most thrilling intellectual elements of the show.
In fact, creator Matt Nix wants us to notice this by highlighting their reactions to a mutant during a cold open flashback. The family enjoys a night of bowling when the see a group laughing at a young mutant whose power causes her to twitch at super-speed. Caitlin quickly tells her children that “it’s none of our business.” But when the mutant child’s power forces people and equipment back with a concussive blast, Reed introduces himself to the child and her father and advises them to leave. He even admits the people teasing her were wrong, but the use of her powers makes her legally at fault for the incident. In the present-day story, Caitlin has learned that it is her business, while Reed is still using legal maneuvers to defuse situations. Of course, his maneuvering still puts mutants at risk.
- What was the “July Incident?” From Turner’s account, it seems it was a final confrontation between the X-Men and the Brotherhood. He mentions his daughter was caught in the blast and that he’ll never know if it came from “a good mutant or a bad mutant.” Based on that description, it’s very easy to see the two teams finally engaging in an all out war or this world’s Jean Grey going full Phoenix. It could still be a reference to Logan‘s “Westchester Incident.” I can’t wait to learn more about it.
- Will the Mutant Liberation Front appear? Turner mentions them as one of the groups actively considered a terrorist organization by Sentinel Services, but will they emerge as a full-fledged characters on The Gifted?
- Is Reed’s father Baron Strucker? Reed’s mother mentions he lives alone, but it is possible he has ties to a larger Marvel world?
The Gifted airs Mondays on FOX.