The Gifted – Season 2 Episode 1
The Gifted begins its second season by picking up the thread of Lorna’s pregnancy and exploring how the characters deal with the new status quo established at the end of last season.
If this episode could be summed up with one word then that word would be “acceptance”. One way or another the characters are struggling to accept recent events despite mounting evidence that things won’t work out the way they would like them to. This is most true for Caitlin and Marcos who relentlessly search for Lorna and Andy despite it being abundantly clear that they really don’t want to be found.
They operate on the assumption that they have been somehow corrupted and need to be rescued from the current situation rather than actually choosing to leave. Anyone who saw Lorna’s speech coupled with Andy’s decision should be in no doubt as to the conviction behind their choice but denial is a very powerful thing as evidenced by Caitlin and Marcos’ desperate behaviour.
It takes Lauren to remind Caitlin that Andy chose to leave and experiences the required powerful realisation moment that is well played by Amy Acker but it strains credibility to have Caitlin still believe that her son was kidnapped 6 months after witnessing his clear choice. This is something that exists for story reasons to provoke an emotional reaction from the audience rather than making any internal sense. Having Lauren be the one to give her the wake up call is a great idea as children understanding a situation better than their parents is often a good way to develop characters but this should have come a lot earlier.
Marcos doesn’t ever seem to accept Lorna’s choice though he is blinded by his desire to see his child which clouds his objectivity. This plays out in an exciting sequence at the end of the episode where Marcos and the others follow electrical surges caused by Lorna giving birth. It gets to the point where there is no trail to follow because of a total blackout. Marcos’ immediate assumption is that Lorna and/or the baby could be dead which is a bit of a stretch though given how stressed Marcos clearly is it makes some degree of sense. The manifestation of his powers in the midst of his grief is yet another example of one thing this show has always been good at; grounding the abilities to the characters and their emotional state to increase the impact of a given moment.
A similar thing is happening with Reed albeit in a very different way. It was established last season that he was born a mutant but he was experimented on to prevent his abilities from manifesting.Predictably this wasn’t a permanent measure and his powers are now starting to manifest.This ties into the overriding theme of acceptance as Reed will have to accept that he is changing. It’s likely that the manifestation of his abilities has a lot to do with his feelings around Andy’s choice to leave with Lorna. He is shown to be putting a brave face on the situation throughout the episode except when he is alone and he loses that self control. Once again it’s a clear physical representation of his feelings and works really well to personify the inner turmoil that he would feel after effectively losing a child. It’s also interesting to explore the notion of someone coming to terms with mutant powers as an adult. Most previous versions of the X-Men mythos have adult characters fully established and in control of their powers or focus on children/teenagers learning how to control powers that are unfamiliar to them. This show is good at extending the Mutant Metaphor beyond racism and growing up as shown with this example. How it will play out is anyone’s guess but there’s no denying it’s fascinating on a conceptual level.
Andy and Lorna are portrayed really well in the episode as well. Characters “switching sides” is always a problematic concept because it can be difficult to accept their reasons for doing so. In this case it worked because it was clear that they were turning their backs on the Mutant Underground because there was a fundamental disagreement on what methods were acceptable to be used in the name of survival. Lorna and Andy gravitated towards a show of force in order to scare Humanity into accepting them which has its merits as an idea while also being problematic. Being peaceful and trying to lead by example is also valid but problematic so both positions are clearly defined and worth exploring. Lorna and Andy leave the Underground because they feel that the Hellfire Club more closely aligns with their values so it makes sense for them to go down that road.
It’s problematic because the Hellfire Club are clearly not all they appear to be which isn’t fully known by Andy and Lauren at this point. There is the sense that they don’t truly feel a sense of belonging to the organisation because of the close friendship they have established in the intervening months. They are likely sticking together because they don’t have a connection to anyone else and seem to be feeling more than a little adrift in their current situation. Andy has taken it upon himself to act as a protector for Lorna and her baby while Lorna sees Andy as the only one she can truly trust so there are defined roles in this pairing and it works really well. On the flip side the fact that Lorna feels she needs someone she can trust to look after her and her child somewhat undermines her reason for joining the Hellfire Club in the first place considering she did so to help create a better world for her daughter. This may be moving towards both of them feeling that they made a mistake and the truth of what they want to achieve is somewhere in-between the Hellfire Club and the Underground but there seems to be a lack of self awareness from her at this point.
The Hellfire Club are the sort of organisation typical to shows like this where the higher level motivations make sense but don’t entirely add up when scrutinised to any significant degree. Reeva Payge’s (Grace Byers) introduction in the opening scene establishes her as someone who may not be the most trustworthy as shown by her killing all of the other high level members of the Hellfire Club leaving herself as one of the only remaining voices of authority. Granted her actions lack proper context as it’s unclear whether the people she kills are worse than her but killing to remove obstacles is a morally dubious act so it certainly paints her in a suspicious light as a first impression. This is reinforced throughout but particularly when she encourages the Frost Sisters to inspire her to give birth by showing her the idealised future. It’s implied that it’s the future that Lorna is fighting for but the Frost Sisters showing it to her suggests that there is some element of manipulation involved. It’s hard to say with how problematic that sequence is. So much of it didn’t work such as Lorna not dilating out of her own lack of commitment to the cause and having a Doctor on hand who really didn’t seem to know what he was doing. The symbolic nature of Lorna not being able to give birth until she committed to a specific cause was a nice idea but the execution of it crossed the border into laughable. I did like the vision of the idealised future as cheesy as it was because it’s a clear indication of exactly what the main characters of this show are fighting for no matter their allegiance.
Despite this, Reeva Payge is far from two dimensional Her best scene was where she talked about the different types of persecution she has experienced in her life. Her background and race have meant a lack of acceptance that was only compounded by her being a Mutant. She talks sincerely about knowing what it feels like not to fit in and seems genuinely committed to her own vision of an idyllic world where everyone can live harmoniously. There’s lots of room for her to be an antagonistic force in terms of what she’s willing to do to make that world come to pass which is fine as long as that complexity remains beneath the surface.
This season so far seems to have shifted its focus away from the Von Strucker’s as a central point for the show to revolve around and embraces the ensemble potential brought on by a large cast of different characters. This means that some characters must naturally fade into the background in order to make room for meaningful development elsewhere. In this case this applies to Lauren, John and Clarice who feature throughout but don’t receive the lion’s share of the attention. John and Clarice as a couple who seem to be very comfortable with one another makes for a nice surprise especially considering how Clarice was manipulated into connecting with him last season and provides some much needed levity for the show. Clarice in particular benefits from Jamie Chung’s precision delivery of key lines to add many layers to them. A great example is her reminding those around her that her powers have limitations.There is so much frustration in her voice that suggests an awareness of how heavily she was relied on last season. John by comparison is much more stoic but as a shared dynamic that works and he has lightened up some since last season.
Lauren will definitely have a lot more to do in the coming episode. Her connection to Andy expands when she dreams about encountering him and being forced to combine their powers. The episode doesn’t explicitly confirm that it’s more than a dream but the fact that she sees his new white haired look definitely points in that direction. It’s very brief but offers some expansion of the internal mythology of their abilities, reconfirms the strength of their connection and reminds the audience that Lauren has a built in fear of her own potential to contrast Andy’s desire to fully embrace his. It all makes for an intriguing basis for further development without explicitly focusing on her character.
A strong opening to the season that sets up some obstacles to be overcome and shows what the characters are currently dealing with. There is a strong theme of acceptance that carries through the episode with Caitlin failing to accept that her Andy chose to leave, Reed pretending to accept the truth while privately struggling with his newly manifesting powers, Marcos feeling that Lorna needs to be rescued, Lorna accepting her role within the Hellfire Club and Lauren continuing to run from her potential. Some of this is handled better than others but generally speaking the show sticks to exploring that with most of the characters and has something to say in terms of what it means to them individually.
Many of the strengths of the first season are upheld here such as using the powers to reinforce the emotional moments and tying them nicely to the characters that they belong to. Lorna’s abilities triggering during childbirth are a great example of that along with Marcos losing control of his when he is at his most lost and vulnerable. The Hellfire Club are fairly problematic in how they are portrayed thanks to Reeva Payge’s morally questionable introduction and how she casually has the Frost Sisters manipulate Lorna during childbirth in the episode’s most problematic sequence though her implied backstory is still interesting enough for the character to have plenty of merit. Relegating Lorna, John and Clarice to the background makes sense for this episode and suggests that the show is leaning more into being an ensemble. Jamie Chung’s precision line delivery is great for adding much needed levity and they work well as a couple dynamic at this point.
- a well explored theme of acceptance
- continuing with established strengths such as connecting the powers to the characters they belong to
- the Lorna/Andy friendship in unfamiliar surroundings
- Jamie Chung’s precision line delivery bringing in much needed levity
- embracing the ensemble potential of the show
- the problematic childbirth sequence
- Caitlin’s failure to accept her son’s choice not making much sense
- the dubious motivations of the Hellfire Club
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