And so The Gifted‘s first four-“issue” arc has concluded and, so it would seem, the “until it happens to you” story of Reed and Caitlin Strucker. Of course, such stories are not easily finished and one imagines the couple will continue to adjust to their new lives with the Mutant Underground. But this week’s episode also served a nice, quick rebuttal to Reed’s portion of the story while Caitlin finally had to face the truth about her commitment to her new ideals.
So let’s start with Reed because he has always been the one clutching more tightly to conventional society.
After realizing his actions would effect other mutants and bailing on his deal with Agent Turner, he is scheduled for transport to that black site we keep hearing about. Sentinel Services seems to be someone efficient, so they’re transfering Polaris along with him. As the two simmer in holding cells, Reed attempts to apologize to Polaris for his actions when he was going to prosecute her. It’s the completion of the narrative between them — at least in the sense of these episodes forming the first story arc — but his attempt at mea culpa is met with derision.
Polaris is completely correct in pointing out that apologizing to her will not undue the damage he’s done. By simply “doing his job,” he helped create an atmosphere of terror for those compromised by an accident of birth. Sure, the political machine behind the persecution of mutants is large and complex, but it requires the complicity of people like Reed: highly trained individuals who accept the absolute correctness of laws. Like Michael on The Good Place, they fail to see how easily marginalized groups can be caught in the Jean Valjean conundrum. There is an undercurrent of fear to that seemingly absolute belief as, in Reed’s case, the marginalized group comes with incredible powers. In reality, the fear is motivated by something as stupid as the melanin content in a person’s skin. Nonetheless, a character like Reed needs to be held accountable for the actions they committed prior to the life-altering realization that they are the bad guy. Perhaps Reed’s next storyline will see him attempting to atone for his old life.
But I doubt Polaris will warm up to him anytime soon.
Meanwhile, Caitlin’s last action in this storyline would seem simpler if not for the emotions involved: she has to let her children go. Almost from the moment the three arrived at the Underground’s base, she has talked about joining the fight. She’s run support for the group and seen first hand how mutants are treated in even seemingly mundane places. But in all of these situations, she’s only put herself on the line. This week, Andrea and Andy finally had something to contribute and that means she needed to face the reality of their situation. Her kids are soldiers now.
Which, as an aside, it is interesting to consider how Professor Xavier put teenagers into battle. You can probably handwave the original team as their ages are somewhat ambiguous. The movies fielded a team of adults trained throughout their childhoods. But the School for Gifted Youngsters often saw its underaged pupils in life-or-death situations which they confronted in blue-and-gold uniforms. Despite his wish of peace, Xavier was building armies.
And while Caitlin accepted that this conflict means her children will have to fight, I hope the show will find a way to look at the issue with a little more clarity. For the purposes of this episode, she was clearly wrong to hold the kids back. But there’s definitely room to consider the reality of teaching teenagers to fight as Andrea and Andy start to train.
Similarly, the underlying issues presented in this first arc are not as easily solved as rescuing Polaris and Reed — and even that featured the horrific shooting of Shatter (Jermaine Rivers). Marcos’s deal with his cartel-running ex (Michelle Veintimilla) and the continuing conflict between Thunderbird, Dreamer and Blink suggest a number of ways the show can go and interesting themes that can take center stage now that the Struckers are firmly outside conventional society.
- How long ago was the July Incident? If Thunderbird and Pulse were running rescue missions two years ago, then the final conflict between the X-Men and the Brotherhood must have taken place as long as five years back.
- How did Sentinel Services press-gang Pulse? He didn’t seem all there when Thunderbird confronted him, but was that a simple result of being shot or was he altered in some other way. The tattoo on his arm suggests he latter.
- Is Shatter going to make it? He took a lot of fire in that moment, but hopefully Caitlin can be of some assistance.
The Gifted airs Mondays on FOX.