Season 1, Episode 2
Written by Matt Nix
Directed by Len Wiseman
“I’m not leaving my daughter to close space holes.”
Things are not looking promising for the Strucker family on The Gifted. Thrust into the underbelly of society by the Strucker children’s newly discovered mutant powers, the Struckers discover just how bad it is to be on the other side of privilege and law. Freedoms they previously took for granted no longer exist for them. Services to which they had unlimited access have now closed their doors. They thought that the legal system existed to protect them; Dad Strucker even upheld that legal system by prosecuting mutants. Now he finds the prosecution to be persecution. All the things that Dad used to do when pursuing cases against mutants are now being used against him. The SS dude even interrogates Dad’s mother about a protest she participated in in 1984. The Struckers suddenly understand in a whole new way that Mutant Lives Matter.
Even though Kate, Andy, and Lauren dove through Blink’s portal in time to get to mutant headquarters, a new danger arises. Badly drained by the strain of opening the portal, Blink falls into a kind of mutant shock. As her body fails, she unintentionally keeps opening random portals around her. This exposes everyone to the dangers of vehicles spinning through openings that didn’t exist a few seconds before. Even though Blink lapses into unconsciousness, these flash wormholes keep opening. Lauren uses her air gathering ability to close the portals. One specific portal keeps opening onto a road where for some reason there is a police presence. As the portal continues to open more police gather. More and more portals open, and the one with all the cops on the other side opens wider and longer each time. As Blink’s condition worsens the police prepare to enter the portal and attack the mutants.
Kate reveals that she is a nurse. She insists that Blink’s condition requires hospitalization, but the mutants absolutely refuse to take her for treatment. At first, Kate cannot understand this. Eclipse agrees to take Kate to the hospital to try and get whatever medicines Blink needs. When Kate sees how mutants are treated at the hospital, she understands that the healthcare system operates one way for humans and another for mutants. Even seeking medical care exposes mutants to danger. The ER doctor who treats Eclipse’s arm wound calls the cops on them. Dressed in the hospital’s scrubs, Kate steals the IV fluids and drugs that Blink needs. Kate and Eclipse run for it when the cops close in on them. They only escape because light produces heat: Eclipse aims a beam of light at the crossbar on the door, making it too hot for the cops to touch and fusing it closed. The show contains many nifty special effects. The CGI for the portals impresses, but the commonsensical use of a mutant power here should win some kind of honorable mention.
On the way back from the hospital, Kate descends into complete panic. The mutants possess many nifty powers and use them in inventive ways. Much of the fun of the show comes from watching not only the grand, showy mutant powers, but also seeing how the mutants utilize their gifts in smaller but equally interesting ways. One of the ways the mutants defend their headquarters consists of posting a mutant at the edge of the property who can inspire fear. This is what panics Kate. Eclipse calms her down and explains what is happening, but anyone else would turn around and drive away. That’s way more efficient and much less noticeable than some more conventional defense system. Who needs weapons when you’ve got this guy around?
Back at headquarters, Blink’s condition worsens and throws the entire mutant underground at risk. Blink’s medical emergency prevents her from being moved, so it looks like the entire headquarters will have to be evacuated. The cops on the other side of the recurrent portal call in a SWAT team. They are ready to invade, and when the portal opens again they start to come through. At the same time, multiple portals open all over the building, creating all kinds of havoc and destruction. Lauren cannot sustain her power long enough or strongly enough to close all of these portals. When her power fails, Andy uses his seismic gift to drive the cops backward long enough for the portal to close. Kate arrives with the medicines for Blink. Blink stabilizes quickly and the portals stop forming, but the building is a wreck.
Half of the episode deals with the mutants who remain free but under attack from conventional humans. The other half of the show follows what happens to Lorna and Dad Strucker in jail. Lorna discovers that mutants don’t fare any better in prison than they do outside. In fact, it may be worse. A human woman controls most of the population in Lorna’s prison, and she takes a hate to Lorna. Lorna tries to ally herself with another mutant, who rebuffs her. Worse yet, mutants wear a kind of Taser collar which zaps them if they use their powers. Trying to use a mutant gift causes great pain, as Lorna discovers. Lorna and the prison bigshot argue and then fight. Despite the pain, Lorna uses her matter/energy powers and smacks down the bigshot. It does her no good, however, because the bigshot’s henchwomen beat the crap out of her. They know she’s pregnant, so they take particular care to kick her hardest in the abdomen. For her efforts, Lorna ends up thrown into solitary confinement.
Dad Strucker finds himself the target of all of the techniques he used to use on mutants. He and his wife find out the hard way that there is a “public safety exception” which negates normal legal rights. Whenever mutants are involved, humans decree that public safety is at risk so this exception always applies. Dad has played this game before, albeit on the other side of the table, so he detects that the SS officer doesn’t have that great a case against him. Even though the SS interrogates his mom and intends to charge him with terrorism, Dad plays hard to get. He knows how this works. He demands that the SS leave the rest of his family completely alone. In return, the SS dude insists that Dad give up the underground mutant network. The episode ends before Dad agrees to that, so it’s not clear that he will flip.
The episode ends on a disturbing note. Some creepy doctor guys in lab coats research all the available information on mutant siblings. None of these characters appeared before, and the context remains completely unknown. But this does not bode well for Andy and Lauren, because it suggests that even among mutants they may attract special attention for some reason.
The persecution subtext provides an excellent storyline for the show. The Gifted looks good even without the special effects, although the special effects certainly provide an extra punch of excitement. The writing includes some very inventive use of mutant powers to provide detail and spark, not to mention the occasional joke like finding a mutant that makes better coffee. Second episodes usually establish a typical story arc for a series. The pilot for the show created a lot of interest, and this second entry definitely implies that the series will continue to be worth watching. It is both fun and dark.