So far, The Gifted has relied on the thrill of fast-paced, action-driven plot to keep viewers interests. The breakneck speed continues straight into Episode 2, which picks up moments after Reed is separated from the rest of his family, and captured by Sentinel Services. Wife Caitlin and kids Lauren and Andy don’t have too much time to dwell on the loss, as the Mutant Underground is immediately thrown into a high-stakes situation.
Blink, exhausted from using her powers to try to save the Struckers, is not only dying, but out-of-control. Her rogue powers are opening portals to a rural road. First, half of a truck speeds through, nearly crushing everyone in its path. Then, the local police call in an apparently local SWAT team to deal with the mutant threat.
None of the Mutant Underground members’ powers seem able to present any long-term solutions, but Caitlin’s nursing knowledge does. She offers to go with Marcos to steal the necessary drugs from a local hospital. (Because Caitlin is the kind of suburban nurse mom with latent spy capabilities — with Acker in the role and Caitlin being given much more to do than last week’s episode, I mostly buy it.)
Caitlin and Marcos’ escapades are the best parts of this diverting, yet mediocre episode. Caitlin, a paragon of white, non-mutant privilege is having a hard time comprehending the discrimination mutants face on a daily basis. It’s frustrating to see her ignorance play out, and the show doesn’t hold her accountable enough for her it. The best it can do is when Marcos asks her if she would have stood up for mutant kids at her kids’ school if they were not her own children, Caitlin stays thoughtfully silent. The Gifted’s insistence that Caitlin and Reed Strucker are people worth rooting for may be its biggest structural flaw at this point.
Of course, Reed’s character and Caitlin’s character are worlds apart. While Caitlin was willfully ignorant from the ‘burbs, Reed was willfully ignorant while actively taking part in the system, meeting and prosecuting “dangerous” mutants. On another show (or, you know, in the comics this is based on), Reed would be a bad guy. Thus far, I’m not sure what The Gifted wants us to think of him. In this episode, it goes to great lengths to make us empathize with his character, even though it’s hard to do so. While Reed is made to watch his mother be questioned by the police, Polaris is bullied, beaten, and thrown into isolation in actual prison. Reed may be behind bars, but he still has power. Polaris’ literal superpowers, part of who she is, are shackled by a collar that zaps her into submission whenever she tries to use them.
Besides, by the end of the episode, Reed is already cutting deals with Agent Jace Turner, who has his own Defining Character Moment: his seven-year-old daughter died in a mutant accident. This is sad, but not a reason to lock other people up (including, probably, some seven year olds). Again The Gifted should worry less about making all of its characters seem equally sympathetic.
Reed agrees to give up the Mutant Underground in exchange for his family’s safety, which is just a dick move and one that, no doubt his much more conscientious daughter (and increasingly woke wife) may have a problem with. After her adventures with Marcos and her taste of spycraft justice, Caitlin is totally drinking the Mutant Underground Kool-Aid. Given that the Mutant Underground isn’t even organized enough to have a doctor, the clandestine support system would be lucky to have her.
Overall, this was another entertaining episode, though one that was far better at action and intrigue than it was at character-building or exploration of theme. The Gifted remains at its best when it keeps the pace fast, but the cracks in the narrative start to show whenever the characters slow down for a breath. That’s going to need to change moving forward or viewers won’t care enough about these mutants to care either way.
Rating: ★★★ Good
It’s unfortunate that The Gifted has no black mutant characters so far, but populated the prison bullies with black actresses.
Where was Blink blinking to when she was opening unconscious portals? Surely, this is a link to her past.
I continue to be unimpressed with the Mutant Underground’s skills as an organization… and their lack of members over the age of 35.
The Gifted exists in a world where pretty much every human is, at best, willfully ignorant of the injustice of mutant policy and social treatment or, at worst, will laugh at and attack mutants when they present powers. This level of nihilism seems unrealistic.