For the last two weeks, The Gifted has presented an interesting narrative. The idea is pretty simple: you don’t care about the plights of others until it happens to you. Where most X-Men comics, movies and series tend to center on people already marginalized, Caitlin and Reed Strucker are human parents dealing with marginalization for the first time in their lives because they’ve chosen to stick by their mutant children Andrea and Andy. And in the last two weeks, Caitlin has always made the right call. Well, the right call for those sympathetic to the plight of the Mutants.
But this week, we finally saw Caitlin switch back toward conventional society. A move that, while seemingly a step back in a dramatic sense, is another realistic element in The Gifted‘s surprisingly fresh take on the Mutant idea.
As the episode begins, we discover Blink’s condition has stabilized and the Mutant Underground Atlanta’s next objective is the rescue of Lorna Dane. Caitlin proposes a conventional solution: using her family’s political connections to secure her release. Her brother knows senators and could make phone calls. Marco is highly dubious of this idea, but as The Gifted‘s narrative engine is the “until it happens to you” plot, Caitlin has to make this mistake.
And the mistake is visiting her brother and bringing the kids with her. The result is learning how easily intolerance appears in the land of McMansions. Even if the error in her thinking is obvious to the viewer — especially if the viewer has ever read an X-Men comic book — the way in which it plays out is still interesting. Andrea and Andy’s cousin is thrilled that they have powers; even goading Andy into destroying a baseball trophy. Caitlin’s brother, meanwhile, tells her she has to leave in the morning and complains about the way former friends at the country club look at him just because he’s related to her. That’s how it builds and that’s how intolerance breaks family bonds. After a group of neighborhood bigots comes to the house with shotguns in hand, Caitlin’s brother learns the error of his ways. Nevertheless, the damage is done.
Unless of course he’s moved to use some of his political connections to advance the Mutant Rights cause though conventional means, but it is too early in The Gifted‘s lifespan for such an idea.
Meanwhile, Reed finally learns conventional means to save his family will hurt others. And yeah, sometimes it takes a good man seeing a scared woman and her child relax as safety nears to realize he is using them as a shield for his own interests. To be fair, this is human nature and we always try to protect ours before anyone else. But the X-Men metaphor of mutants for any marginalized group is a powerful way to build empathy. That’s what happens here as Reed considers the weight of his actions. He also sacrifices the deal to save his family in order to help someone far beyond his kin. That’s an impressive step in his character as Reed has consistently failed to see the wider implications of his way of life.
But this week also laid the groundwork from some interesting storylines with the mutants themselves. In order to activate Blink’s powers, Dreamer (Elena Satine) implanted a memory to make her believe that she’s in love with Thunderbird. As it happens, Dreamer used her own memory of their time together to power Blink’s new impression of reality. It saved everybody from the bigot brigade, but at what cost? Based on the conversations she and Thunderbird had about her power, she cannot wipe away implanted memories. But I’m also guessing they have a tendency to collapse; the vague references to other times she’s used her ability suggest dire consequences. More than a simple love triangle plot, Dreamer’s Hail Mary play introduces a new question of bodily autonomy. Inception — to borrow a handy term from the film world — can only be viewed as a violation, right? Even if done for a greater good?
Questions like these make The Gifted a thrill to watch every week. And speaking of questions, here are a couple of dangling ones:
- Is Turner’s wife secretly a Mutant? There’s something about their text conversation that left me thinking he’s hiding something about her. I could easily be wrong, but complicating Turner would be an interesting turn for the show.
- What happened to Dreamer’s other inception victims? Did they leave because of the violation or does her power have a really unintended consequence?
- Was that guard actually sympathetic to Lorna during her escape attempt?
The Gifted airs Mondays on FOX.