Rarely, there are casts this cohesive and persuasive. Every single role is filled with an actor--known or not--with admirable calibre. Acker and Moyer are more than brilliant, but the youngsters too are incredible. Teale, in this episode, steals the show.
The surprise douchiness of the doctor really hit home how disgustingly prejudiced even the best people can be.
The pacing of the script was excellent, and possibly better than the pilot. It was heart-thumping, poignant, clever and ultimately unifying.
As a federal prosecutor, Reed's character flips the switch a little too quickly. Some conflict could arise from his potential anti-mutant beliefs and his love for his family.
Ahab's introduction. Incorporating the wider universe is great, but a supervillain in play when the current villains--humanity--are doing such a good job is somewhat premature.
There were some cheesy lines, but then again, Jamie Chung can create magical portals. That's the world. The episode was darn good.
The Gifted punches the sophomore slump in the face by rolling out an action-packed, politically driven episode that feels disturbingly relatable—magical portals and all.
Thunderbird [to Blink]: “You were hard on some trees and the furniture…but people survived.”
The Gifted. You mongrels of understatement.
We begin the episode with a flashback. The Struckers enjoy a family day out. Caitlin (Amy Acker) sucks at bowling, Andy (Percy Hynes White) bosses it, and Reed (Stephen Moyer) steps in when a mutant situation occurs. Truly, it sets the tone for the episode.
We’re still reeling from the separation of Reed and his family. While he gets grilled, the family hides out in Eclipse’s (Sean Teale) underground haven for mutants.
Refreshingly, we really see things unravel through Caitlin’s eyes. Daughter (Natalie Alyn Lynd) protects the site from an injured Blink’s (Jamie Chung) bursts of power. And later, Andy assists too. Meanwhile, Caitlin and Eclipse risk a hospital trip to find (correction: steal) medicine to stabilise her. And like any good story, serious trouble unravels.
Reed’s questioning devolves into one essentially of blackmail. Caitlin and Eclipse are ratted out to the police. Blink’s fits become too overpowering, initiating an evacuation of the place. But not before Andy gets to show off his power too, against a SWAT team ready to invade via one of her portals. It’s a classic structure of the plot, laced with political undertones that feel far too real.
The story wraps up nicely with Blink safe after Caitlin administers the medication just in time. But don’t trust The Gifted. Finally, we’re introduced to the menacing Roderick Campbell (Garrett Dillahunt), a classic Marvel villain. We’re talking the sixties. Twins. Blonde hair; blue eyes. Oh dear. How will Campbell play into The Gifted? And who feels like they’ve just run a marathon after that episode?
The superpowers are the shining light of the show, but it’s the very human plight that carries it.
After that bombshell of a pilot, The Gifted needed something explosive to carry on its rampage through television. And boy did it deliver. Not only were we treated to a nail-biting, drawn-out repercussion of the premiere, we were given back-story to Reed’s struggle between his job and his humanity. And The Gifted didn’t spend too long dwelling on the tragic plight of the mutants. It was succinctly done in the bowling alley scene. And it packed a punch or five.
Any show that sticks Jamie Chung under duress is a show that hurts the soul. But The Gifted does it so extremely well. Not only does it demonstrate Blink’s explosive power, but it also allows the Strucker kids too. But ultimately, it’s Caitlin and Eclipse who are racing to save the day, risking everything—and potentially Eclipse’s life—when they steal medication from the hospital.
Caitlin: “We’ll fight to bring your father home. We’ll fight to bring everyone home.”
It’s the family who actually saves the day. And in a way, Eclipse saves Caitlin, too. Any X-Men story sets out to aim for unity, but The Gifted get to the nitty-gritty of it. By having a federal prosecutor with children possessing the xR gene, it’s conflicts at the highest level. Instead of dallying around with pleas for unity, Reed and Caitlin get thoroughly stuck in as they learn from their past prejudices.
Unfortunately, there’s a niggle. We can’t forget Reed’s a federal prosecutor. We have a villain introduced at the end, but would it not be infinitely more interesting if Reed was the villain? This man locked mutants up! Are we supposed to truly believe Reed’s had a change of heart? Caring for his family doesn’t equate to the mutants’ cause. Frankly, it feels lacking.
The incorporation of humanity on ‘The Gifted’ does not glorify or vilify them: it is instead an exploration and education of worlds foreign to each group of people.
The Gifted provides a grounded, human approach to inhumanity, which is about as big a conflict of interest as you can get. It will likely make you uncomfortable, and that’s why it’s intriguing. In the age of genetic manipulation, animal cloning and selective breeding, Blink’s super-portals may be way off, but disfigured ‘mutants’? Check the CIA cold war programmes…
Amy Acker and Stephen Moyer, veterans of good television, don’t overshadow. Without a doubt, Jamie Chung and Sean Teale captivate whenever they’re on-screen. Teale, in particular, is the perfect choice for a rugged leader of the underground operation. Brave, brash yet sympathetic, he’s a natural leader who oozes a harsh kind of charm. Moyer’s story was potentially boring at first, until he flipped the menacing “I’m a prosecutor too” switch and we realised why he was so good at his job.
The biggest transformation—and it’s impressive how quickly it came about—was in Acker’s Caitlin. Always an understanding character, Eclipse reads her immediately. When he questions whether she’d be as involved as she is if the mutants weren’t her children, the silence tells all. Yet it’s Caitlin who takes the biggest risk in stealing the medication. It’s Caitlin who vows not just to save Reed, but to save them all. Perhaps the biggest questions lie with her. Will the mutants accept her once the dust has settled? Would they ever truly trust her? And interestingly, though Reed is clearly tolerant, he was a federal prosecutor. Pasts can’t be changed. So how will that relationship, with Caitlin having seen first-hand what the underground is like, change—if at all?
Where there is a deviance from the norm, there is also defiance, conflict of interest—and the sudden justification of senseless violence.
The Gifted shamelessly shows us moments of mutant profiling. There’s the immediate assumption that upon one’s display of power, they are harming the public. The fact that such prejudice can exist—and laws created—simply because of a gene mutation you cannot help is absurd. Yet it’s not unheard of. Ever heard of melanin?
The Gifted reminds us that there are difficulties even getting jobs because of the xR gene. Reed’s mother even talks about taking part in apartheid in the past. Lastly, the hospital scenes demonstrate how widespread this systematic culture of hate is. The doctor takes Caitlin aside and immediately assumes she’s being abused by her ‘boyfriend’ Eclipse. If a doctor, perhaps the pinnacle of society in terms of confidentiality and non-judgment cannot even treat impartially, then what hope does society have?
Really, The Gifted does not need to market itself as a post-apocalyptic drama because it is. It’s masquerading under the illusion that humans coexist peacefully with mutants, but we know in society discrimination can win. Look at recent political advances in Germany, France, and even the UK’s immigration policy. People spoke and voted; it takes one political figurehead to propose a radical change, and those suppressed opinions will make a change. In reality, it already has.
This is what Fear the Walking Dead should’ve capitalised on. Fighting is scary, yes. But it’s the progression from apparent peace to criminalisation that is the scariest in its relevance. And The Gifted is doing it right.
However, the problem arises whatever the solution. Should a war occur, it becomes X-Men (sort of). If the public live in harmonious joy, it almost feels lackluster. And even worse, if the series is never-ending, it becomes The Walking Dead. It’s a premature thought: but how will the producers tackle the conclusion?
FINAL VERDICT: The Gifted is absolved from the prevalent television sin ‘the sophomore slump’ by producing a ballsy, thumping second episode that hits far too close to home.
The themes are uncomfortable and that’s why it works. There should be a ton of applause heaped on creator and episodic writer Matt Nix and episode director Len Wiseman. Nix’s dedication to keeping the script family-focused was a winning move. With television maestros Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker heading the cast, they never overshadow the others. You cannot create a cast to root for if you have unlikeable characters. Even Caitlin also has the potential to be your typical whiny mother, but she isn’t.
Moreover, special effects supervisor Bob Trevino ensures smart use of the show’s limited budget. Instead of a billion action sequences, the effects team compress blasts of impressive VFX. The political undertones are defined. Credit to Nix for being brave in this. A stark look into the prison system is a clever way of showing it. The Gifted doesn’t depict a fight between good and evil; it’s normal versus mutant. Fear versus acceptance. All are driving forces behind the first option, but The Gifted is clever enough to delve into the reasons why such divide occurs.
Also, Nix leaves the door open for Roderick Campbell (Garrett Dillahunt). The Gifted has shown its capability of being a standalone show, so will the overlap hinder or excite? Do we need Ahab? We’re not so sure. This isn’t Agents of SHIELD. The real question is: what is the longevity of this show? How long can the Struckers & co keep fighting the Sentinel Services without the conflict erupting to war? And then would it even be the same show anymore?
It’s questions and spec galore here in our own Underground:
- We’ve heard Eclipse’s tragic story, but I wonder if we’ll see a full account. Easily, the father at the bowling alley could’ve rejected his daughter. Thankfully, he didn’t. So what happened with Eclipse?
- Amidst the tragedy of the story, the bond between Lauren and Andy is heart-warmingly close. It’s sweet to see that Andy can joke about soda.
- Amy Acker’s acting as a terrified Caitlin afraid for her ‘boyfriend’ Marco is almost as good as her actual acting. That’s a compliment, because her acting is unrivaled.
- POLARIS! IS! THE! BEST!
- The variance in everyone’s powers, plus the settings—with Reed in questioning, Caitlin and Marco stealing drugs, and everyone else in the safe-house—provides endless opportunities for endless out-of-whack, crazy, nutball storylines.
THE GIFTED airs MONDAY, 16th OCTOBER, at 8/7c on FOX
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‘The Gifted’ Review [1×02]: “rX”