This The Gifted review contains spoilers.
The Gifted Episode 2
It’s still really early to say this, but watching “rX,” the second episode of The Gifted, the thing that struck me the most about it is how this show conveys how utterly shitty it must be to be a mutant better than anything live action since the first movie.
For such a new show, one of its biggest strengths is how completely thought out the world is. At one point early in the episode, Jace (the bad dude from Sentinel Services) mentions that “damaging property with mutant powers is a serious federal crime.” That’s a more robust legal framework than we are used to in the comics, where the law usually doesn’t go past “Mutants/Heroes must register,” and occasionally “It’s cool to testify with your mask on.”
Half of the episode is spent with Eclipse and Kate dealing with the provision of medical care to mutants in a world that hates, fears and has in large part legislated against them. And through that lens, we catch glimpses of normal life in a world where mutants are common: Eclipse talks about home maintenance with mutant powers, while the hospital doctor talks about domestic violence with Kate when they’re alone together. Even that brief conversation gave multiple windows into the world – the racism that is so common, the layers that everyone in this show has, another angle on law enforcement in a show that is largely concerned with its impact on the mutant community.
This is part of what’s made The Giftedso strong, so fast. The main plot beats of the episode – a mutant’s powers start to freak out, putting his/her friends in danger and necessitating a run for supplies, while an interrogation sequence plays out in the B-plot – are nothing new, and have in fact been done a million times before, both on TV and in X-Men stories. The two things that make The Giftedrise above that are the richness of the world they put in front of the camera, and the focus on the family dynamic that adds heart to the whole thing.
– You want a better easter egg section name, feel free to suggest one in the comments. Until then, WE RISE.
– The episode starts with a flashback to the family plus Grandma at a bowling alley. Timewise, Grandma should have been married to Baron Von Strucker, but…well, we’ll get to that.
-Lauren uses her power to knock the last pin down at bowling. Nobody yells it here, but “No powers!” is one of the most common sentences you see in the history of X-Men comics.
-Speaking of Lauren, I really enjoy her confidence and heroism in using her powers. She’s still very much a teenager, but she’s also slipping into a mentor role for Andy, and she saved the Resistance several times this episode because she’s confident enough to jump into a crazy situation like Blink’s powers going bugshit.
-We mentioned this last week, but a big chunk of this episode is concerned with Blink’s powers not working at all like they do in the comics. She almost died teleporting folks back to resistance HQ, but in the comics, she’s teleported huge landmasses before. Later on, she does cut a car in half with a portal, which is very much her bag in the comics, but the show is pretty all over the place on where they’re drawing from. For now.
-The collar they put on Polaris and the other mutants in prison bear a strong resemblance to collars used to restrict powers in Genosha in the comics. Genosha was an island nation off the coast of Africa where mutants were violently enslaved, and the collars dampened powers. These collars don’t prevent mutants from using their powers, they just zap the living hell out of them when they do use them.
-Polaris’s comics trademark green hair shows up in the shower. Now she just has to get possessed and super buff...
-It’s not immediately clear who the woman with powder white skin with blue cracks in it is. I can’t place her in the comics, and I doubt the show would gender-swap Caliban (the mutant tracker last seen in Logan).
-A mutant we missed last week! Sage has apparently been in both episodes – she’s a human computer introduced by Chris Claremont and John Byrne in 1980 as a member of the Hellfire Club. And the redhead who keeps popping up is, apparently, Beautiful Dreamer, a multicolored Morlock (mutants who live underground because their powers make them unable to pass as Flatscans) who emits telepathic smoke to implant fake memories in her targets. She was created by Louise Simonson and June Brigman in Power Packin 1985.
-Jace namechecks the Mutant Liberation Front in another interrogation scene WAIT A SECOND THE MUTANT LIBERATION FRONT GOT NAMECHECKED ON TELEVISION HOLY UNDERWEAR. The MLF was a group of anarchist mutants formed by Stryfe in the pages of New Mutants#86. They featured such mutant greats as Feral, the orange cat version of Wolfsbane; or Forearm, a guy with…four…arms.
-Typical “incidents” in the Marvel Universe are named for their location – the Stamford Incident, the Cambridge Incident, the Albany Incident. However, it looks like on The Giftedwe’re just going to get a date on their inciting incident. Jace mentions the July 15th incident in his questioning of Reed.
-We meet Pedro, a white, leonine mutant who apparently has the power to “project fear.” I can’t find a comics analogue for him yet, though Mirage (Danielle Moonstar) could create projections of peoples’ deepest fears in the comics.
-Momma Strucker mentions in interrogation that her (presumably ex-) husband “lives alone in chattanooga,” and that she marched against apartheid, the South African institutionalization of racial segregation that was ended in the early ’90s. In the comics, Baron von Strucker would not have been marching against racial segregation.
-Garrett Dillahunt, who is routinely the best part of every show he’s in, appears to be hell-bent on testing that theory here. In The Gifted, he plays Roderick Campbell, who eventually (in the Days of Future Past timeline) becomes Ahab, leader of the Hounds. He was created by Walt Simonson and and Jackson Guice for 1990s “Days of Future Present” crossover, and first appeared in that year’s Fantastic Four annual. Ahab is…mad stupid. He’s mostly robot and can fire energy harpoons keyed to a particular genetic structure.
-Ahab closes the episode asking his lab assistant to pull up news about a mutant sibling attack in Rio in the ’60s. The only two prominent mutants from Brazil in the comics were Sunspot and Shark Girl, and they were not siblings. BUT! You know who ELSE went to Brazil and possibly made a lot of boys from there? (Spoilers: this is a Hitler joke).
The show spent a big chunk of this episode lampshading the whole Strucker thing. The show’s creators knew what they were doing when they picked that name – it’s not like Fox legal came barrelling into the writers’ room and said “we’re about to lose the trademark on this name, ADD SOME NAZIS TO YOUR SHOW.” That only happens in their news division. For them to be dancing around semi-common Nazi stuff and to be prominently toying with the audience’s expectations around the names and family connections of the main characters, that has to be intentional, and I bet it becomes a plot point.
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