Why Polaris’ Story Is Still the Most Important Part of ‘The Gifted’

     January 8, 2019

the-gifted-season-2Season 2 of The Gifted established a complicated new narrative, in which warring factions of mutants all pursue a different future for their species. While the Mutant Underground still believes in the X-Men’s original vision of coexistence and harmony, the Inner Circle agitates for their own mutant safe haven, and the Morlocks advocate for complete separation from human society in the form of a hidden life in the sewers. As a result, the story is thornier than ever before, and it frequently feels as though there’s no resolution that can possibly make everyone happy. (Or even let them all survive.)

The messy nature of this conflict has set friends and relations against one another throughout the world of the show, as families have divided and relationships ended over conflicting views regarding mutant rights, government power, political revolution and even medical ethics. (Not for nothing, but this is why The Gifted is probably the most realistic superhero show on the air today. Just saying.)

No character is more representative of this ideological turmoil than Lorna Dane (Emma Dumont), the mutant known as Polaris who is a former member of the Mutant Underground, a current leader of the Inner Circle, a new mother, and the daughter of one of the most famous supervillains in the X-Men universe. Lorna has tirelessly worked to save mutants from persecution since the series began, but she has frequently wrestled with her own beliefs along the way. To be fair, Polaris is far from the only character that must make difficult compromises about what living in society as a mutant means. But what’s different about Lorna is that she’s one of the few people who seems capable of seeing, understanding – and, yes, even possessing empathy for – all sides of this debate.

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Image via Fox

Though her presence was a driving force behind The Gifted’s first season, Polaris has had a more secondary role in Season 2, as the show has pivoted to focus on the deepening rift between siblings Lauren and Andy Strucker. Yet, despite her reduced screentime, Lorna’s story remains the most emotionally complex and thematically relevant to The Gifted’s overall narrative — and it is also the one that will most likely determine the future of the show. It is Lorna who can most likely bridge the divide between the Mutant Underground and the Inner Circle: she already has a foot firmly in both worlds, the inner grit necessary to bring everyone together, and the family pedigree to back it all up.

In X-Men comics canon, Polaris’ father is none other than the infamous Master of Magnetism himself, Magneto. For some reason, the show seems forbidden from ever mentioning his name outright, but Magneto’s shadow looms large over world of The Gifted, particularly in his daughter’s life. Lorna has spent years trying to come to terms with both her father’s absence and his identity, frequently questioning whether she must follow in his footsteps simply because she can also manipulate magnetic fields and shares a few of his political views.

Like her father, Lorna has had a difficult life. She experienced the worst of what humankind has to offer, facing abuse, scorn, torture and imprisonment at the hands of men who fear and distrust her power. She struggles with bipolar disorder and depressive episodes, making her feel more human and relatable than almost any other character. But she’s also the daughter of the greatest mutant extremist who ever lived, and she not only wields his exact same abilities, she literally wears his legacy around like armor.

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Image via Fox

Yet, unlike her father – and Reeva Payge, who currently leads the Inner Circle – the things Polaris has experienced have not made her cruel. Or, at least, not completely so. She doesn’t seek vengeance for vengeance’s sake or revel in bloodshed, and on the rare occasions she chooses outright violence – such as the political assassination that closes Season 1 – one gets the sense that she feels driven to do so only as a last resort. (Or that’s what she’d probably say, anyway.) Lorna doesn’t see herself as superior to humans, nor does she wish to see them eradicated. Her struggle to figure out her place in the world of mutants – as well as her bipolar episodes in Season 1 – have provided her with a sense of empathy and understanding that some other mutants seem to lack.

Lorna loves others fiercely, perhaps even more desperately than most precisely because she understands what loss and loneliness is. She values mutants and humans and is willing to work and coexist with both. Sure, she wants to guarantee that Dawn is protected and given a place to grow up where she’ll be loved instead of persecuted for who she is. But Lorna still understands that there are lines people shouldn’t cross without extreme provocation – whether they have an X-gene or not.

This is perhaps best evidenced by her horror at Rebecca’s decision to murder thirty innocent people in cold blood during their break in at Creed Financial. Because let’s be real: At the end of the day, Magneto would have done the same thing Twist did, and laughed the whole time. That Polaris did not – and was, in fact, openly horrified by Rebecca’s actions and found her unsuitable for continued involvement in the Inner Circle because of them – indicates that maybe she’s not entirely her father’s daughter, after all. She’s capable of making different choices, and becoming a different kind of leader. One who certainly toes the line of “morally gray” from time to time and who’s still trying to figure out what she believes. But that seems like exactly the kind of person needed to help mutants find a new way forward in a world that hates them. Someone who won’t back down from a threat, yes; but also someone who bristles at outright cruelty, who wants to help others and can realize when the people on her side have gone too far.

Season 2 appears to be building toward a showdown between Reeva and Lorna for control of the Inner Circle, and the future of the mutant revolution itself. Should Lorna emerge triumphant, what kind of leader will she choose to be? Yes, she could embrace her father’s destructive example, but her behavior to date gives every indication that won’t be her path. Instead, she might just turn out to be the savior the mutants have been waiting for all along.

The Gifted airs Tuesday nights on Fox.

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