Is it really dystopia or is it just a super-powered doomsday ready to fall? We don’t know, but The Gifted shows that no-one is safe–not even a well-to-do suburban family.
What difference does it really make when you’re living the all-American dream? Think about your picket fences, and your two children. One’s a girl, and the other’s a boy. Your parents look younger than their age, and they’re happy. You go to a good school and receive what the majority of kids don’t: an education. Glued to your iPhones and Macbooks, you don’t pay much attention to the third world. Some teachers even call you gifted, because you excel at Maths, or English, or Candy Crush.
In this world, what isn’t common knowledge is what will keep you safe. That’s what the Struckers find out, anyway.
Still dazed from the blistering premiere, Reed (Stephen Moyer) and Caitlin (Amy Acker) find themselves residing in the exact opposite of the American dream. Minus Reed, who’s been detained by special Sentinel forces. The underground mutant resistance, led by honorable Eclipse (Sean Teale) is designed to help newcomers struggling with their powers. Unfortunately, that is the very definition of the Strucker siblings, Natalie Alyn Lynd and Percy Hynes White. Alas, their serene bowling days are gone. Instead, they’re replaced by a dark, foreboding, yet paradoxically safe haven.
Because we reside in the X-Men universe, trouble soon awaits. Police swarm the scene; suddenly, ‘safe haven’ doesn’t seem to exist in the dictionary anymore. And if bad timing were to be mastered, Jamie Chung‘s Blink is something of a Jedi Master. Seizing and sparking spurts of her extraordinary power to create portals–to the same place–she forces Caitlin and Eclipse to rob a hospital for medication. Meanwhile, Reed’s undergoing some seriously shady questioning whilst the mutants face a race against time. It turns out not all coppers in the media are half-wits. They figure they can jump or shoot through the portal Blink creates. By this moment, you’re holding your breaths. You’re begging to see a swoosh of Acker’s L’Oreal hair and Eclipse’s Gillette-mastered fuzz.
And you do. Matt Nix recognises his audience aren’t mainly made of fish. Oxygen is sweet in our lungs. But not quite as sweet as this episode–we think. But what do our gifted contributors think? Let’s get down to it, shall we? Warm greetings for our keen volunteers, who’ll be sure to leave us wanting moyer! (Sorry). We have:
- Nicola (@NicolaChoi) – Pharmacist, mountain-biker, TV After Dark
- Lydia (@lydia_sharp) – Author, editor, and Marvel addict
- Jeff (@JeffHarris7) – Educator and library media specialist
- Carolyn (@CarolynsGeekOut) – ScreenRant and The Marvel Report staff writer
1. Let’s kick things off with the episode’s last-minute surprise: what did you think of Roderick Campbell’s appearance, and his potential role? Anything to do with, say, twins?
Lydia (@lydia_sharp): Hard truth: one of my biggest frustrations with the X-Men universe is that all the different timelines and interconnections make my head explode a little. Out of self-preservation, my initial reaction was to not think on this too hard…but then my head exploded anyway, because there are so many possibilities you can’t ignore. Bottom line, I found it incredibly interesting. So far the show has done a great job doling out everyone’s stories in digestible bites, rather than dropping them all in your lap at once, just enough to heighten interest without confusion. I’m extremely curious to see where this leads, but for me it’s too soon to make any predictions.
Jeff (@JeffHarris7): His work in cutting-edge science involving mutation is going to play a major role as the show progresses — at least, it should, judging by his character in the comics. Knowing his later role (spoiler alert — he’s the guy who becomes Ahab in one potential dystopian future in the comics), he could end up trying to use mutants as hounds — trackers to hunt down their fellow mutants. Or he could take on a more experimental role, using mutants as lab rats or guinea pigs. Clearly, he’s intrigued by the idea of mutant twins… but the only major ones that come to mind are Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and I doubt the show’s got the rights to use them. Unless he’s referring to minor X-Treme X-Men characters from Australia, Lifeguard and Slipstream (who are technically half-alien) or Jean Grey’s niece and nephew, Gailyn & Joey, who never fully manifested powers from what I recall. I’m definitely interested to see where this storyline leads, though!
Carolyn (@CarolynsGeekOut): I’d say it was – twinning! haha. No, but it was a real surprise and I thought I detected he was walking with a slight limp. In the comics, his mutant hatred began with him losing a leg so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s pre or post that defining event for “Ahab”. It was less of a role then I was expecting, he’s rumored to be this season’s big bad and got a much smaller part of the 2nd episode then I expected. It’s going to be really interesting to see where he goes and if his actions might affect Jace’s actions, but Jace seems pretty committed to the anti-mutant agenda. The moral of this story is, nobody wins. Except the audience when it comes to theories, while Campbell became the mutant hunter in the comics, is it possible he saw the reality that “The Gifted” took place in and decided to try and prevent it which led to him becoming Ahab? The dude is screwed six ways to Sunday and then some but he’s kind of a jerk so it will be interesting to see how deep his psychosis goes.
For the record there are almost 25 pages of mutant twins in the official marvel wikia so just WHICH twins he’s talking about are a mystery. Which actually ties into the second question.
Nicola (@NicolaChoi): I suppose it’s a definite nod to the wider X-Men universe. You’ve got the papers of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed twins from the sixties. Children of Baron von Strucker sounds kind of intimidating, and I much prefer their current names to ‘Fenris’. I hope it’s nothing familial on the villain side of things, because I very much want the Strucker kids to be Reed and Caitlin’s. I think he’ll be one big baddie–following and using the kids, maybe–but what I like about The Gifted is the distinction from the X-Men world. I like that the enemy is the oppression carried out by the cruelty and xenophobia of humanity.
2. There have been blatant hints and the introduction of Campbell, but do you think The Gifted works better as a standalone series with mentions of the X-Men universe, or would you like to see a crossover—and why?
Lydia: I like that The Gifted is mostly its own thing, but the idea of having some crossover is also exciting. I’m always eager to see a new twist on an “old” character or rivalry. As long as the story doesn’t get too far-fetched or feel like it’s trying too hard to make things connect. Did I mention I’m not a fan of brain explosions? They’re messy.
Jeff: I think the show needs to find a good balance between the two. Too much reference to the movies and the X-Men universe as a whole, and they run the risk of confusing or possibly alienating viewers who just want to enjoy a show about people with powers struggling to get by in a world that often hates and fears them. Too little attention to the comics and movie X-canon, and they will likely disappoint a large component of their fanbase! Obviously, I prefer to have MORE nods to the X-Men mythos, but I can understand why others would want those to be used more judiciously.
Carolyn: Honestly the vague connections make it all the more intriguing but it’s nice to see something that doesn’t rely on the skintight suits and images of the films. The second episode introduced us to that kid who was chubby who had mutant abilities. They’re not pulling punches on different looking mutants and putting them in a common everyday setting makes the series timely. It’s nice to get to see the world that the X-men inhabited but it wouldn’t be the world the mutants live in WITHOUT the X-men. I’d be fine without a crossover, they don’t have to be in the same place at the same time to be connected after all. I think it’s also giving us an opportunity to see – dare I say it? Some more diverse mutants. It’s very meaty story material.
If I had to pick something I’d like to see a crossover with it might be Legion, or giving an extra spin-off to some other characters in the show. We’ll have to see where the Gifted goes.
Nicola: As much as I enjoy X-Men, there have been roughly twenty-six thousand and five hundred and one movies already. I don’t think a crossover’s necessary when The Gifted‘ offers such a different premise. We’re talking normal people still attempting normalcy. Admittedly, I enjoy their attempts at simply being kids. I don’t want them to sprout through puberty and become superhuman Wolverines. It’d be interesting to watch them grow up, properly, with the burden of their abilities too. That’s two toughies to battle with. How do you fall in love for the first time when you wipe out a hall full of people when you’re angry? How do normal people react to horrible situations? It’s a classic dilemma, and it’s too easily solved by showing off your powers all the time. We want struggle. We’re sadists, we are.
#3 It’s clear the Sentinel Services aren’t quite the regular police. How far do you think they’ll go into trying to glean information from Reed?
Lydia (@lydia_sharp): As far as they need to. I think the real question is, will Agent Turner be willing to do what’s asked of him when the time comes? We got some of his backstory in this episode, and saw he might have had a heart once. That’s possibly setting him up for a struggle in the future between his duty and his conscience—whatever is left of it.
Jeff (@JeffHarris7): I wouldn’t put anything past them. I mean, I think that Agent Turner probably has a code of honor, to a certain extent (even if it WAS a really low blow to bring in Reed’s mom), but he, or the people he works for, are probably willing to do some shady things to get the information they want and capture the entirety of the Mutant Underground. If they have a telepath held captive, they’d likely use their mental powers to extract information. My hope is that Reed will be rescued before that can happen!
Carolyn (@CarolynsGeekOut): Pulling out Reed’s mom was a DIRTY TRICK and I’m still mad about it. I need to give a shout out to Stephen Moyer and The Gifted writers for creating a character that’s (seemingly) not as conflicted. Usually in stories like these men seem to be mired in duty and like have a lot more dude angst about their situations. Not so with Reed, he came into this determined to protect his children and he and Jace Turner are doing a great job of pointing out he’s in an impossible situation. Will it hold up? After all, Reed was effectively on Jace’s team less than a day ago. So far he’s seen to care about upholding the law but Turner is holding Reed’s feet to the fire with his mother. I’d like to believe that he’s not going to take it and totally root for his kids, but there’s always a chance that Jace could go farther and dig out something on Eclipse or the rest of the Mutant Underground that would convince Reed that he’s rooting for the wrong team.
Using his mom was a low blow, but honestly, to cement the deal I feel like Jace will dig up some dirt on Eclipse and Polaris and their group to fully convince Reed to turn back to his side. Ultimately though torture isn’t off the table. Turner is a dedicated man on a mission and has absolutely no problem rounding up kids and locking them away forever so there’s no limit as to how far he’ll go.
Nicola (@NicolaChoi): Yeah, we got some of Turner’s history as well, which makes me think The Gifted will lean more towards the sympathetic side of things. But truly, it depends on how far he goes. There is a line between wrong and irredeemable. The question is whether he’ll cross it–wittingly or not. He could be fuelled by his conscience; his obedience; his ability to be a good soldier. Or he could grow to hate, too. Whatever it is, the only trait I’m positive about is ‘fear’. And that can make you do anything.
4. Speaking of Reed, that guy was a federal prosecutor. As shown in the flashback, he seems alright. He’s a family man, too. But is there any chance at all of him switching sides? He was working to persecute the mutants, after all…
Lydia: Reed is going to do whatever he feels is best for his family. If that means “switching sides” I believe he will, even if his family hates him for it. If it keeps them safe, that’s all that matters to him.
Jeff: I hold out hope for Reed. His family is his first and foremost priority, and we saw that in his dealings with Eclipse and in his conversations with Turner. However, if he had to choose between saving his family and saving the mutants who have promised to help his family… that puts him in a major dilemma. I hope that he can find a way to save both. I truly want to believe that he’s a good man, though, and finding out that his children are mutants will likely continue to shift his viewpoints over time.
Carolyn: There’s been some footage of him being shown to be in jail like Polaris, but just what comes of that or what brings him there (if he’s a mole or what have you) remains a mystery so far. It’s pretty likely, Reed’s probably very confused and there’s always the potential of him being brainwashed as well down the line by Campbell or Sentinel Services. They’ve set him up to be a dude in an impossible situation and they’re playing it off very realistically. He wants to do the right thing by his kids but he has these prejudices and beliefs. It’s another timely scenario, one person can support one side of a debate but not realize that all of these things are connected. They’re really doing an excellent job of showing that he’s in an unbelievable situation even without having his family on the chopping block. It feels very realistic.
Also feels really likely that we might need to break out Tyra Banks’s “I was rooting for you” gifs.
Nicola: I’d like to think “no”. Reed seems like your archetypal good guy. But I’d like to see some skeletons in his closet. We’ve seen him angered before. And come on, the kids have a great mother in Caitlin! We’ve got a serious bad guy coming in Campbell, but how awesome would it be for Reed to become completely unhinged? It’d be edge-of-your-seat stuff, and Campbell could be a complete decoy. I’m all up for a villainous Reed. I don’t have children, but I’d imagine having children puts you at the greatest risk of, well, anything. Ambiguous, but dangerous in its potential, this storyline.
5. Any theories on how Polaris—despite losing consciousness after it—proved that with enough power, that shock-collar-of-sorts was a bit of a dud? As a consequence, do you think anything will happen to her?
Lydia: Not surprising at all that Polaris got past the shock collar so quickly! She’s not just a bad-ass pretty face—she’s also intelligent and cunning. And STRONG. I think this will only cause more problems for her, though. Now that they know she can work around it, they’re going to have to come up with another way to keep her in line, and I’m afraid of what that might entail…for not only her but also Eclipse and their baby.
Jeff: Polaris will be on a roller coaster ride for a good chunk of the early part of this season as she continues to be kept under lock and key. Seeing how ineffective the collar ended up being, I imagine that the Sentinel Service folks may go to greater extremes to keep her powers in check. I fear for both her safety and that of her baby! If something were to happen to her unborn child, Lorna will likely rain all kinds of destruction on the Sentinel Service folks’ heads.
Carolyn: THE BABY. I have a friend who works in television who says babies are a logistical nightmare so facing the reality that she might have a miscarriage is something I’m preparing us for. It’s not a trigger for me, and it happens far too often in the US media but oh man man oh man they aren’t pulling any punches at all about what she might have to deal with. Honestly I think her rage might have broken the collar. Hopefully she can get it off and make a break for it but I don’t think the prison knows anything about it. It’s pretty clear about how they treat mutants from the way they knew she was pregnant and wouldn’t get her medical care afterwards (at least that I saw). They’re in for a very rude awakening, one that hopefully the other mutants will participate in. I love how they show ordinary people and not your typical X-men and brotherhood fare from the movies living their lives. They all deserve a degree of retribution.
Nicola: I confess, I have no idea. I mean, I know she’s a complete badass but I don’t know how. I’m pretty sure her collar doesn’t have a mind she can control. But boy, I’m glad she did. What a kickass move! I’m torn between two fates for her. One good, and one bad. The best option being she’ll gain the respect of her inmates. The second being they’ll find some other way to confine her, and it will be nastier than nasty. My only worry is her baby with Eclipse. There are drugs that are proven teratogenic. Judging by the way that collar affected her, it makes sodium valproate look like a glucose tablet. By that, I mean it looks bad!
7. One more theory: why did Blink keep creating portals to the exact same place? Did something, if anything, happen there? Or did she just really like the scenery?
Lydia: Definitely something important happened there, but when and why? And does she truly not remember—like it’s from a repressed memory? Or was she lying to cover something? Can’t wait to find out more about this!
Jeff: I don’t believe that it’s an accident that she kept opening the portals to that specific road (and no, it’s not just because Jamie Chung liked my tweet when I posited that theory, ha-ha). I imagine that the location plays a key role in her past — maybe it’s where her mutant powers first manifested, or maybe it’s where she experienced a major tragedy (or both). I do think they’ll revisit this story element in future episodes as we explore more of Clarice’s origin!
Carolyn: I‘m of the mind that something did and Thunderbird knows what. He knows why she was in jail so they’ve clearly found some other information about her but he’s willing to wait to help her talk about it. Maybe it’s near where she lived as a child? Obviously we need more blink backstory!
Nicola: I’m more inclined to think that it was a place of sentiment. Something happened there or maybe she was happy there for a while–I don’t know. Jamie Chung plays her vulnerability very well. I know she was pretty much out-of-it and then in shock, but she was shaken…really shaken. I think it’s more likely a place she may have loved–but not necessarily a place where something happened that she’d like to remember. Except she can’t not. That’s my convoluted theory, anyway.
7. Lastly, a penny for your thoughts: how did you think “rX” compared to “eXposed”?
Lydia: This episode surprised me, in a good way. “eXposed” was intense, and I assumed episode two might take a step back from that breakneck pace in favor of some “quieter” elements to build the story, but “rX” flattened my assumption like the Hulk on…anything. We got more story, but not without the go-go-go. The ending was blockbuster-level dramatic, with destruction literally everywhere. Usually that kind of intensity is reserved for a season finale, and we’re only on episode two! Also, I really liked that we got to see Caitlin actively involved in a mission. She may not have mutant abilities, but that doesn’t make her helpless. Go Mama Bear! I also like the bits of backstory we’re getting about Marcos, and how he and Lorna ended up together. I am really in awe at how the writers are weaving together this story. It’s been a wild ride with each episode, and I can’t wait to do it again next week.
Jeff: ARGH! Now THAT is a tough question… Honestly, I loved both episodes, and thought they were fairly equally strong. The premiere episode’s action and the way it spread the focus across all the main characters was awesome, but I also liked the deeper look we had at Polaris, Reed, Lauren, and Eclipse in rX. Eclipse’s team-up with Kate Strucker was an excellent story element this time around, too. I am already amped up to see what happens in Episode 3!
Carolyn: I like the pacing of eXpose. It’s so different from say, Inhumans. It felt very raw and real. I’m going to keep saying that. Expose gave us a bit more character and it was a real chance for Sean Teale to shine. Eclipse is rapidly becoming my favorite character after Polaris. #PolarEclipse forever guys.
The big X’s make it hard to write reviews for sites though! people keep misspelling them.
Nicola: I actually preferred the second episode, which is a rarity for me, of any show. The premiere was great and at the time, it didn’t seem rushed at all. But watching this made me appreciate the pacing a lot more. It wasn’t as frenzied (organised frenzy!) as the first. It allowed the dust to settle, pair up some unlikely couples (Caitlin and Eclipse spring to mind) yet it still maintained that nail-biting anxiety. Really well-executed. If the season continues this way, we’re onto something special.
Two episodes in and ten percent of us are theorising about the super-villain, whilst the ninety percent are brooding over Polaris’ baby.
If “eXposed” didn’t roundhouse kick you in the face, then surely “rX” knocked you out with its super-effective attack of the confusing X’s. In a tale that sprinted from the finish line whilst tossing shreds of impeccably done characterisation and breath-taking plot, The Gifted succeeds in one thing only: upping the ante.
The show doesn’t waste time trying to be politically correct. It’s being politically relevant. Matt Nix doesn’t condescend you by patting you on the back for spotting the blatant themes of shameless racism dumped on the show. Instead, he’s making you watch and wonder: what would you do? We’d bet a lot of money you’d say the right thing to that question. In reality, though, would you? In terms of the visual effects, we noted the smartness of the selective use of CGI compared to the lavish yet ultimately content-poor Inhumans. Instead, The Gifted knows who and what we care about. Let’s face it: Nix knew we were all going to end up crying about Polaris anyway. The sadistic, clever man went ahead and did it anyway. And our guests here loved it! Painfully!
Frankly, we don’t know how far the Sentinel Services will go. Will Caitlin (refreshingly the matriarch here) ever be reunited with Reed? Is Reed going to turn? Can Blink go anywhere on holiday?
CAUGHT A CASE OF THE xR GENE?
If so, let’s band together. Blink and you’ll regret missing our weekly livetweets on Monday, 9/8c. Not enough? Catch our weekly reviews right here, and don’t miss the roundtable action! You want in, now? Get in touch with our roundtable–we don’t bite!