The Gifted: “rX” Season 1 Episode 2 Review

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For its second episode, The Gifted appropriately slows down. With both Reed and Polaris in captivity, and the rest of the gang back at the mutant safe house, “rX” gives the series a chance to more intimately develop out the world’s war against mutants.

Most of the episode’s plot comes from Blink going into a state of shock after over-exerting herself and her powers. This causes neon pink portals to violently appear in the middle of the safe house, also allowing anyone on the other side to see into their surroundings. Obviously a mutant phenomenon to the onlookers, a police presence slowly builds outside the spot Blink keeps opening to, a smart, simple way to build tension throughout without having big action sequences.

With no medical personnel among the mutants, it becomes up to Caitlin, a nurse, to round up the drugs that’ll stabilize Blink. Her and Eclipse’s mission, however, showcases one of the main problems so far with The Gifted: the strong thematic writing hasn’t quite synced with the actors. Amy Acker is charming as Caitlin, but she doesn’t take the character through her very necessary emotional journey in “rX” with more than fairly generic reactions and boring line readings. Having the Strucker matriarch come to the full realization of not only what her kids are about to face, but what all of mutantkind faces on a daily basis is a smart way to spend this second entry. And the writing is there, with pointed lines from Eclipse, asking if she’d have given mutants a second thought if they weren’t her own kids. It’s disappointingly Acker who isn’t quite ready to blow past the cliches of her character.

Her kids fare better in “rX.” Of the Struckers, despite some shaky acting from Natalie Alyn Lind, it’s Lauren who stands out the most. She’s the fervent activist of the family, and she steps right up to courageously help the mutants when her mother initially hesitates. Lauren was living a normal high school life before her brother showed signs of being a mutant, but she also grew up in a world where the X-Men once fought for mutant rights. Her rights. With the show’s themes being probably its greatest strength, Lauren is the first character to spark any sort of heroic inspiration. I especially look forward to how she might help Andy learn to control his powers in the coming weeks.

Rounding out the episode’s events with the Struckers, Reed learns how desperate and potentially dangerous Sentinel Services really is. So he strikes an unfortunate deal. In exchange for his family, he’ll have to give up the mutant underground. That certainly won’t sit well with the rest of them after what they went through this episode, especially Lauren.

But the power dynamics weren’t all shifting negative this week. Polaris, stuck with a power-suppressing collar, still manages to throw a metal table at her most dangerous prison rival. Polaris remains the most engaging of the main mutant underground characters, and not just because she’s proven to be quite powerful, but because of her will to live and maybe even dangerous dependence on that power.

But with little development of Blink, Eclipse, and Thunderbird here, the show still had some heavy lifting to do in terms of defining its characters. For now though, The Gifted remains thematically rewarding, as some characters hint at exciting futures and the show does its homework in getting them all there. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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