Season 1, Episode 1
Written by Matt Nix
Directed by Bryan Singer
“I’m being raised like a veal.”
How would humanity react if part of the population developed wondrous gifts, and the other part remained completely ordinary? Considering the long history of persecution of anyone who exhibits differentness, the answer looks grim. People always fear what they can’t understand; they also hate what they cannot have. In short, people suck.
On The Gifted, society has passed laws taking away the rights of any person exhibiting extra-human talents. The legal system includes a shadowy pseudo-governmental agency which hunts mutants. Much like the Nazi SS, and not coincidentally called Sentinel Services, this agency whisks the mutants away and they are never seen again. The SS must be part of the Department of Fatherland Security. All of this is done ostensibly to protect the safety of regular people, after the wars between the factions described in the X-Men universe. Gifted explores what happens when the two children of a prosecutor who goes after mutants develop mutant powers. Through the lens of one family’s experience, the show explores what happens when one group of people is vilified. The parallels to contemporary society shine right through.
Gifted opens as multiple cop cars chase a young woman through a rainy cityscape. She creates some kind of portal and disappears through it. It closes it behind her, just capturing part of the flashing lights off one of the cop cars in pursuit. Two young men and a woman also chase this young woman. One of them seems to be able to track people, and the other can shine light out of his hands. The woman with them seems to be some kind of matter/energy manipulator. The three people tracking the young woman are trying to help her escape from the police, but instead they are all cornered. The police capture the matter/energy manipulator, but the rest of the group gets away.
At the same time, concerned parents meet with their school administrator because their son is being bullied. The father of this family works as a prosecutor, specializing in pursuing charges against mutants. The same prosecutor happens to be the one in charge of the young energy manipulator’s case. While she is in detention, he questions her about an alleged underground railroad for mutants. He tells her she must cooperate with him and give him information. She uses her energy to mess with the screws from his knee surgery. He responds by showing her some piece of paper which frightens her. Later in the show it is revealed that this young woman is pregnant.
That prosecutor’s two teenage children go to a school dance. The school bullies find Andy, the son, at the dance and start torturing him in a locker room. They hold him down and spray him first with cold water, then with hot water from the showers. He screams with frustration and anger and his screams shake first the room and then the building. He keeps yelling until the structure of the building starts to collapse. The crumbling structure causes a panic at the dance. The boy’s sister Lauren runs through the fleeing crowd to try and find him. Part of the ceiling falls but she puts her hands above her head and blocks it with some kind of barrier which we later learn is manipulated air. These two siblings both possess mutant powers.
The kids get home safely and try to explain to their mother what happened. She doesn’t want to believe it but the SS knocks on her door, intending to take her children away, perhaps for good. The mother refuses to turn over her children to the SS. They force their way into the house and knock her to the ground. Andy yells in rage at the cops and the walls start to vibrate. One of the cops takes aim at him but Lauren blocks the bullet. The family runs to the car. They escape only because the children use their mutant powers to get them away. Once on the run, the mother of this family, Kate, breaks it to Dad that his children are the mutants who caused the damage at the school, which is now being labeled a terrorist attack. He now needs that underground network that helps mutants get away from the authorities. Barely keeping ahead of the SS, the family makes contact with the mutant network. They steal a truck and arrange a meeting.
Each mutant possesses a unique power. The tracker finds people even over large distances and through walls. The light emitter actually seems to be composed of brilliant light energy. When he is shot by the police, the wound leaks light rather than blood. He can create light so bright that it blinds the pursuing police. The portal maker opens doorways from one place to another, but it’s a very dangerous skill; if she opens a doorway without seeing what’s on the other side, there may not be space for a human body, resulting in injury or death.
The family on the run meets up with the mutant network to try and arrange passage to Mexico. In this world, The Wall has been built between the US and Mexico which makes it hard for mutants to reach the relative safety on the other side. Unfortunately, the SS closes in on their location. The SS possess some sort of terrible weapon to use upon the mutants. They also deploy large metal Terminator Transformer mechanical spiders to pursue them as they run. As the SS closes in, the portal maker opens a doorway, while Lauren uses her ability to move air to hold off the spiders. Andy demonstrates the greatest power, however: after he leaves through the portal the spiders close in on Dad still on the other side. He yells and emits so much power that it disintegrates the spiders.
That skill still doesn’t save Dad, though. Dad takes a bullet and doesn’t make it through the portal before it closes. Now the family is separated and completely dependent for their very survival upon people they used to despise.
The premise of the show works on many levels. It’s a great urban fantasy/action story. The pacing is fast and the storyline is compelling. As social and political commentary, the show points out many human failings. The production values on the show set a high standard; it exhibits a distinctive look of urban decay. The nocturnal scenes are beautifully lit and shot. While derivative of the Xmen, The Gifted has an entirely different feel with its grunge steampunky urban fantasy flair. The Gifted drew me in like its predecessors never could.