Fox’s X-Men spin-off series The Gifted continues to explore the struggles of mutants living in a world that fears and is constantly trying to exterminate them. Season one introduced viewers to a world in which the X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood are missing. Serving as a stand-in for the X-Men is the Mutant Underground a support network protecting mutants from being captured and experimented on by a government agency, Sentinel Services.
eMergence, the season two premiere, builds upon the lessons learned in season one and continue to introduce more comic book related concepts. Reeva (Grace Byer), the show’s newest mutant cast member and member of the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle, introduces herself through a cacophony of deadly screams and gun fire courtesy of the Stepford Cuckoos (Skyler Samuels). Reeva may consider herself a mutant activist, but shields herself in a cloak of wealth like other members of Hellfire Club. From jump Reeva exhibited many of the same status climbing attributes embraced by Anika “Boo Boo Kitty” Calhoun, a character Byer previously played for four seasons on Fox’s Empire. Like Boo Boo Kitty, Reeva employs violence to eliminate rivals and manipulate individuals human or mutant to achieve her goals.
Mutant politics is an essential part of X-Men lore, but The Gifted would not be proper spin-off without a dosage of interpersonal drama. The strain of residing in the ghettos of Washington D.C. while saving mutants from raids conducted by Sentinel Services has taken its toll on the Mutant Underground. Reed and Caitlin Strucker (Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker) are struggling to hold their family together following their son Andy’s defection to the Hellfire Club. Marcos/Eclipse (Sean Teale) yearns to be reunited with his baby momma Lorna/Polaris (Emma Dumont) before she gives birth. Ultimately Caitlin and Marcos’ obsessions sets them on a collision course with a mutant hacker and a bit of gun play.
One question this viewer is dying to have answered is why doesn’t the show explore a Caitlin/Marcos pairing? The actors ooze sexual chemistry when their characters are involved in dangerous situations in which one of them gets shot.
Mutantkind was seen as a monolith throughout much of season one, but the Hellfire Club’s introduction allows the show to ramp up its exploration of family lineage, power levels and socioeconomics. Polaris’ parentage has not been revealed but it is strongly implied that Magneto is her father. Only the Master of Magnetism’s daughter birthing chamber would resemble to cage used in previous X-Men films.
Episodes of The Gifted often contain X-Men related Easter eggs; the premiere maintained this tradition. The term “Mutant Homeland” was named dropped during a meeting of the Inner Circle. Could this be a reference to the mutant island nation of Genosha? Or Magneto’s outer space sanctuary Avalon? Any number of X-Men comic arcs have proven that interstellar bases and independent island nations for mutants are inevitably destroyed.
eMergence is a solid if not predictable start to The Gifted’s sophomore season. Series creator Matt Nix uses this opportunity to resolve some plot threads from season one (like Lorna’s pregnancy) while starting new ones (Reed Strucker’s latent mutant powers emerging). Nix also did a wonderful job establishing the Inner Circle (or what’s left of it) and reintroducing the Mutant Underground. The Gifted continues build upon the lessons learned in the second half season one. Inner mutant conflicts may be bad for the species as a whole, but makes for great television drama.