The first season of The Gifted surprised me. No, it didn’t surprise me by being more of the same “mutant superheroes being persecuted and treated as the unwanted minority du jour.” That comic book trope has been with us since at least the beginning of the X-Men, and isn’t likely to go away.
The surprise was that I liked the series as much as I did.
I’m not implying that I was over-the-moon gaga about it. I liked it, and I was intrigued by it. I even wrote a review for it (which is a Firewater trope that’s not likely to go away either). The fact that I returned for the second season’s first offering, when there is so much other content in the world to watch, means something.
It’s been eight months or so since I watched the last episode of Season 1, so I was initially confused when the first episode of Season 2, “eMergence,” started. I thought I had forgotten the character named Reeva, who took a couple of minutes at the top of the episode to cull dissenting voices from the Hellfire Club‘s Inner Circle with the aid the Frost Sisters. A quick fact-check told me that she wasn’t in the first season, so there’s some hope left for my mental faculties yet. I liked the character, and I read somewhere on-line that her comic book analog is a character called the Black Queen. Don’t hold me to that.
My memories of the Hellfire Club started and ended during the Claremont/Byrne run on the X-Men comic back in the early ’80s. I recall the White Queen, who was Emma Frost (who didn’t have any sisters that I recall) in a white bustier and boots, and a bunch of men in period costume. What period? 18th century? 19Th? I don’t know. Not 20th century is all I can tell you, let alone 21st. Even though Chris Claremont (and John Byrne) should get a lot of credit for creating powerful comic book women, the medium was still male-dominated in those days, and the leader of the Hellfire Club was a guy named Sebastian Shaw. I don’t know where or when the Black Queen was introduced, so the character is new to me as well.
This is good news, because I have no preconceived notions about Reeva, and I liked her introduction here. The Frost sisters make good lieutenants, not leaders, and the opposition to our Mutant Underground (AKA “the good guys” if you think judgment calls are warranted) needed to have a leader. We seem to be shying away from the Hellfire Club moniker as well, with the Inner Circle being used a lot in its stead. Maybe because the group wants to avoid the “evil” connotations of “hellfire”? It reminds me that Magneto’s early band of merry mutants were called the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in the comics. Even Hitler didn’t think of himself as evil, I’d warrant.
At the end of the first season, several members of the Mutant Underground defected to join the other side. Two were the main characters Lorna Dane, AKA Polaris, and Andy Strucker, AKA Andy Strucker (Okay, one-half of Fenris with his sister Lauren). Already the good/evil waters are being muddied. This was an excellent way to generate story drama and tension, demonstrating the schism between mutant factions by actually splitting up already established couples. “Couple” in the non-romantic sense of the word in splitting up the Strucker siblings, as well as separating son from parents, but also “couple” in the traditional sense, splitting up Lorna from her baby-daddy Marcos, AKA Eclipse.
That’s right. Lorna was pregnant. We discovered that in the first season. She’s still pregnant at the beginning of this episode, but we were blessed with a six-month time jump from the end of last season, so she’s at the end of her term in the season premiere. Minor spoiler: she gives birth at the end of this episode. If, like my wife, television childbirth scenes are among your least favorite things, you may be comforted to know that mutant childbirths are often a lot more than screaming and sweating: when Magneto’s daughter is involved, you can expect some special effects.
During our six-month hiatus, it’s apparent that Andy and Lorna have become closer friends. Lorna is concerned that Reeva is less interested in her baby than in Lorna herself, so she makes Andy swear to protect the child. Also during the hiatus, Andy became a platinum blonde. We may never know whether that’s a mutant side effect or hair dye, but it’s an interesting look. Having separated from his family, Andy has become marginally more interesting to me. He was one of the least interesting characters in Season 1, along with his sister, so any character movement away from the sullen, bullied, wimpy person he was throughout most of the inaugural season is progress. His sister Lauren hasn’t quite made that turn for me yet, but hope springs eternal.
We’re going to use this mutant schism to drive at least a portion of our plot this season. Marcos wants to be reunited with Lorna and his baby, understandably. Caitlin Strucker is acting like Andy was kidnapped or brainwashed into joining a mutant cult rather than being a defector.
Marcos and Caitlin team up for a rogue mission in this episode in an attempt to track down Lorna and Andy. This involves a scene with a mutant named Wire, who has a knack for surfing the web, apparently. Caitlin is injured in this sequence, which, along with going behind everyone’s backs, makes Reed angry with her, and at Marcos, of course. This isn’t new drama for the series, of course. Interpersonal dynamics are a big part of the drama on this show. Divisions from without and within. Circles within circles.
That’s one of the tag lines I’ve noticed for the season. Pick a Side, Take a Stand. This series is often been about the things that divide us as well as those that bring us together. It’s not just the Mutant Underground vs. the Inner Circle (Hellfire Club, whatever). It’s also Mutants vs. Humans, and every other dichotomy you can imagine. One thing I missed in this episode, which concentrated on mutant drama, was the human element. Jace Turner, who was the face of Sentinel Services last season (although he resigned, I think), was conspicuously absent in the premiere episode. His motivations were realistically understandable last season, and I found myself rooting for him at times. I hope he returns.
With Lorna and Andy a part of the Inner Circle, it seems that blurring the lines that divide may be a recurring theme going forward. There’s enough fuel in that to power this season’s episodes, but we’ll also be dealing with Lorna and Marcos’ baby, Reed Strucker’s suddenly emerging mutant powers, and other plot threads that are sure to crop up. Lauren doesn’t seem likely to jump ship to join Andy any time soon, but we know the two will be reunited somehow just to have Fenris again. And, surely, John Proudstar AKA Thunderbird and Clarice Fong AKA Blink will be given more to do than be a cute newly-in-love couple.
I’m still intrigued by this series and will continue to watch. It’s pretty good non-costume-wearing superhero fare.
Oh, by the way, it seems that the letter M is being highlighted in the episode titles this year, as in “eMergence.” Last year, it was the letter X. Some internet types have suggested that the showrunners are planning to spell out “X-MEN” over the course of four seasons. If that’s so, that’s pretty cocky and presumptuous. I have no real predictions concerning this, but I would love it if the M meant we will see a television version of Magneto this season.
Of course, Morlocks also begins with an M, and we already know they’re coming.
Whatever happens, I’ll be watching.