Moving on to the second Marvel TV series premiere of the week, FOX was clearly more committed to its show than ABC was to Inhumans, despite the Inhumans IMAX premiere. While it’s not prestige TV, The Gifted is a solid outing, with a familiar, talented cast and crew. It gets its very own Stan Lee cameo as a stamp of approval, something notably missing from Inhumans.
The Gifted is set in the X-men universe, at a time when the X-men themselves have disappeared. Mutants are being hunted down, captured, imprisoned, and mistreated in a variety of ways. There are government agencies dedicated to finding mutants and putting them away. In other words, it’s a time of mutant holocaust and genocide, though the normals justify their actions as being necessary for public safety and good people go along with it out of fear for themselves and their families. Until someone they love turns out to be a mutant.
The episode opens on a young mutant woman named Clarice Fong running away from multiple police cars on a dark, rainy night in Atlanta. She gains a little distance on the police, and stops to create a pink and blue portal which she escapes through, taking the flashing red lights from one of the police cars with her.
Nearby, Another mutant, John Proudstar, touches the ground as he uses his abilities to try to locate Clarice. Marcos Diaz teases John about the difficulty he’s having finding Clarice, which, c’mon, she’s jumping around using portals, give the tracker a break. John says that Clarice is moving…strangely. They notice the police lights that went through the portal have appeared near them, and figure out that she must have used her powers to jump somewhere close by.
Marcos and the third member of the group, Lorna Dane, flirt for minute while John figures out where Clarice materialized. They find her in the office of the building they’re in. She isn’t happy to see them. As breakables fly toward them, Marcos and Lorna try to explain that they’re with the Mutant Underground. It turns out that Clarice has broken out from a mutant detention center and the underground wants to help her get to safety. They convince her to trust them.
The police figure out where the group is hiding and surround the building. The mutants fight their way out. As they’re escaping, Marcos is shot in the arm. Lorna is enraged by this and uses her powers to physically attack a police officer. While she’s distracted, she’s tazed and captured by other officers. The other three mutants escape, with Marcos screaming for Lorna as they drive away.
Cut to Belleview Acres School, 14 hours later. A boy draws in the hall while his parents, Stephen Moyer (from True Blood and The Sound of Music Live!) and Amy Acker (from Angel, Dollhouse, and Person of Interest) meet with the principal.
Amy and Steve Reed and Caitlin Strucker are very worried about their son, Andy, who’s being bullied at school by a group of older boys. They’re very upset because it’s ruining the closeness of their ideal upper middle class suburban family.
The principal understands, but tells them not to worry, he’s a got a discipline system that uses an amazing acronym, so all will be well. Reed’s a prosecutor, so he sees the results of the principal’s acronym systems everyday. That’s not going to cut it for his little boy.
The principal gets the full on Vampire Bill Death Glare as Reed threatens to sue the school into oblivion if they don’t solve the problem.The principal leaves the room to get someone who’s qualified to deal with former vampires. The crisis is averted when Reed gets called into work to deal with one of his mutant cases.
Later at the Strucker Home in the North Atlantic Suburbs, the Strucker’s perky daughter, Lauren, is trying to pick an outfit for tonight’s school dance and generally being a Normal American Teenage Girl. Andy is being a Normal Loner Geek Teenage Boy Who Might Become an Internet Billionaire or Maybe a Serial Killer.
At dinner, Andy tells his mother and sister that they had a debate in Social Studies class that day about testing and monitoring people with the X gene. Lauren doesn’t like Andy’s cavalier attitude about the subject and they start to bicker. Caitlin wonders why they can’t have a calm dinner.
We catch up with Reed in the Mutant Wing of the Garland Detention Center, where Lorna has been detained. Reed tells her that she’s accused of trying to murder two police officers, plus she used her mutant abilities, which equals “enhanced” sentencing, but he can get her charges reduced if she agrees to cooperate. Lorna isn’t interested in screwing over her friends.
Reed tells Lorna that he knows that she and the underground have helped dozens or possibly hundreds of mutant fugitives escape, then shows her a medical report that might influence her decision. She’s disturbed by the report, and her powers start going off uncontrollably as Reed leaves the room.
Lauren and Andy go to the
Under the Sea dance, where Lauren meets up with her boyfriend and Andy lurks in the shadows. Eventually, Andy gets bored, and steps out into the light just in time to be seen by his regular bullies. They’re extra antagonistic tonight because their moms got a call from the school today, as part of that super effective acronym program. They drag Andy off to the locker room for a private bullying session.
They put Andy under the showers and turn on the scalding hot water. Andy starts to writhe and scream. As he does, tiles fall off the bathroom walls, the shower fixtures twist and bend, pieces of the ceiling fall. Soon the building is crumbling.
Lauren, who saw Andy being dragged away, races to the bathroom to get him. She uses her own mutant powers, which involve throwing up a shield that looks a little like bubble wrap, to safely make her way to him. He’s caught in a cycle of uncontrolled screaming. Lauren breaks him out of it, then they make their way out of the school.
Meanwhile, at the Mutant Underground Headquarters, Clarice is settling in. John patches up Marcos’ arm, then they argue about whether or not to try to rescue Lorna. When they see the news report about the mutants at the high school, John is sure that it’s the wrong time to try to stage a rescue mission.
Lauren and Andy have gone home and are explaining what happened to Caitlin, who is flummoxed. Lauren finally tells Caitlin about her own powers, which manifested three years ago, to help her mother understand. Caitlin shows her naivité by failing to understand why Lauren would keep her powers a secret from the father who imprisons mutants for a living.
Jace Turner, from Sentinel Services, a federal agency that monitors mutants, shows up at the door to take the kids away. For some reason he’s there with only one other officer, despite having evidence of how powerful Andy is. The Struckers have to fight their way out of their house, but overall, they escape fairly easily.
[Thor: Ragnorak commercial! Bruce Banner is so much more fun in space! Loki gets to be a Revenger and banter like one of the gang! This might be the best Thor yet!]
Caitlin calls Reed from a pay phone and hilariously tries to make him understand that his children ARE the mutants that destroyed the school. Things like this aren’t supposed to happen in their suburb. Reed meets them at a diner and begins his professional evaluation of the situation, until they get to they part about Sentinel Services. Then he finally understands the life and death reality of the situation.
The last time Sentinel Services got involved with one of his cases, the mutant was disappeared. They need to leave, now. Not for Caitlin’s sister’s house, like she suggests, but for a foreign country where mutants are accepted and they won’t be extradited. He won’t let the feds get ahold of his children. Too bad he didn’t feel that way about other people’s children. Hugs all around.
Reed calls his associate Carla and asks her to get him a copy of the case file for the Mutant Network investigation. He can use that to contact them to find a way to get his family out of the country.
Lauren gives Andy a lesson in how to use his powers. He gets caught up in his emotions again, and destroys a vending machine, but shows more control than the first time.
Clarice finds Marcos practicing using his powers to cut through concrete. He’s trying to figure out how to rescue Lorna. Clarice thanks him for saving her. She asks about the underground network. It’s a nationwide group, founded just before the X-men disappeared, when the anti-mutant laws got bad.
Reed calls Marcos to ask for help. He explains who he is and the situation with his family. Marcos obviously isn’t inclined to help, but Reed convinces him to meet by telling Marcos that he can help Marcos get Lorna back, and that Lorna is pregnant. If Marcos wasn’t desperate before, he will be now.
Early the next morning, Reed and Caitlin talk as Reed keeps watch at their hotel window. She asks if he realized it was this bad for mutants. He says he knew it wasn’t easy, but doesn’t she remember how it was before, when the mutants were fighting each other and people were getting killed? People wanted something done about it.
Then Reed sees a Sentinel Service drone and knows it won’t be long before it spots their car. They need to get out, and to ditch their car. Caitlin spots a pickup truck and uses her powers to steal it from the owner. Reed hasn’t seen the wall she makes with her powers yet, and is momentarily stunned.
Just then, Stan Lee walks out of the hotel bar.
Marcos and Reed meet at a dive bar. They have a pissing contest over whose family gets to be safe first and who has to share information first. They settle on meeting that night to get Caitlin and the kids to safety, then Reed will help rescue Lorna.
Clarice tells John that Marcos ran out an hour ago on a dangerous mission after getting a mysterious phone call. John wonders why everyone has to act like children and sets off to find Marcos.
Reed’s kids are bickering like the actual children that they are while they drive to meet Marcos. When they arrive, Caitlin insists that Marcos explain to her what’s happening. While he’s talking, an army of Sentinel Services officers pull up. Silly Reed still thinks he can demand his rights. Jace informs him that mutants and those who aid them don’t have rights.
John and Clarice are in a nearby building and signal to Marcos and the Struckers, who run toward them to escape. Turner authorizes the release of the Weapon. The Weapon is a group of 2 foot wide robot attack spiders- replicators.
The replicators catch up to the mutants. Lauren uses her powers to hold them back, while Clarice creates a portal. Almost everyone gets through. Andy uses his own power to destroy the replicators. Reed is shot when the Sentinels catch up, and doesn’t get through the portal before Clarice passes out and the portal closes.
We’re supposed to believe Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker are just regular old humans in a show full of mutants. Riiight. I give it until season 3 before Amy, at the least, manifests her latent powers. Vampire Bill might just get away with the power of the lead white male, being the wisest, smartest, kindest, most understanding, most emotionally strong person to ever live and surrogate father a group of mutants. The Captain Von Trapp of the X-men. Climb every mountain, vaporize every enemy.
Are these Struckers related to the von Struckers from the MCU? Since this is FOX and not ABC or Netflix it isn’t part of the MCU, but let’s pretend they’re long lost distant relatives anyway, okay? It’ll be fun. They can be the unknowing connection between Magneto’s mutants and the inhumans of HYDRA. As always, the fan fiction writes itself.
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood by The Animals is playing at the bar during the meeting between Reed and Marcos, with the lyrics, “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”
Is Sean Teale doomed to pine for a woman he can’t be with in every TV series? He followed Queen Mary around in Reign, and longed to rescue his true love Elena in Incorporated.
The mutants use their powers frequently, but mostly in small ways that don’t blow the effects budget. Between the look of the powers when they’re used, and the glimpses we get at the mutant headquarters of some of the more unusual looking mutants, plus Clarice’s lizard green eyes, the show had a satisfying look and felt firmly grounded in its universe. There’s room for improvement, but there always is after a pilot.
Lorna Dane/Polaris is Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto’s daughter. She shares similar powers and is described as “mentally unstable”. Clarice collapsed at the end of the episode, exhausted after holding her portal open for everyone to escape through. Andy is already clearly much more powerful than Lauren. The female characters are weaker than the males, overall. This is something to keep an eye on. Also, while the regulars are almost evenly divided between male and female, (5-4), the background actors were weighted heavily toward male. With four people of color in a main cast of nine, the racial diversity is reasonable compared to the demographics of the US.
This episode is directed by Bryan Singer, creator of many of the most popular X-men movies. He also serves as an executive producer for the series.
The Mutant Underground Railroad moves mutants to Mexico, using Marcos and his connections to guide them over, under, or through the border wall. The Sentinels function as the mutant version of ICE, with the authority to suspend constitutional rights as they see fit in order to apprehend and detain mutants and those who aid them. It’s not all that fictional to those of us who live near the Mexican border.