The Gifted: 2.01 eMergence
After a slow but steady first season, The Gifted kicks off its second run by expanding the world it so carefully established and presenting the characters six months on after the events in Atlanta. In the conflict with the Sentinel Services, the heroes are believed dead and two groups have formed; the Inner Circle (formerly the Hellfire Club) and the more established mutant underground that are working behind the scenes to save mutants from continued persecution.
New character Reeva Payge (Grace Byers) made her mark as a prominent member of the Hellfire Club who masterminded the Frost triplets' attempts to bring Lorna Dane / Polaris and Andy Strucker to their side. We saw the leaders of the Hellfire Club for a brief moment before a violent coup saw the Frosts and Page wipe them out. It was a strong start for the character, setting up the dangerous and powerful mutant organisation with wealth and power to take the war to humanity.
But the central focus was on Polaris' baby; the time jump served the series well, allowing for the birth without having the powerful mutant out of action with a pregnancy bump. A good thing too, as it seemed the baby's kicks and the subsequent contractions were enough to send Polaris's powers haywire; from spinning cars to knocking out the city's power grid, it still feels as if there's a lot more to come from her abilities.
Interestingly though, the turn to the 'dark side' hasn't quite lost her or Andy's humanity (even though his new look was terrible). While powerful mutants, there was a sense that they were out of their depth; Polaris certainly didn't trust Payge not to kill her baby if the birth went wrong in favour of keeping her and her power to the cause. The vision of mutant acceptance that allowed her to give birth was a nice touch, but whether this was just manipulation or the truth remains to be seen. Payge too had an interesting motivation; the X-Men has always treated mutant persecution as an analogy of racism, sexism and xenophobia. In Payge, she has suffered as someone growing out of poverty and then her skin colour; being hated for being a mutant is only the latest in a long line of suffering.
There was some real progression in the Mutant Underground too, now relocated to Washington DC and working to free mutants from escalating Sentinel Services' raids. Now a couple, John Proudstar / Thunderbird and Clarice Fong / Blink seemed more relaxed and natural leaders in the fight to save their people. Both Blair Redford and Jamie Chung's performances felt more real this episode, mellowed perhaps after all the anxieties and high drama of the first season. Sean Teale's Marcos Diaz / Eclipse was more unhinged though, understandably desperate to find Lorna and his unborn child.
Similarly desperate was Amy Acker's Kate Strucker. I felt the actress was a little wasted last season, but she showed more grit and fire in Kate this time; working as a nurse to help treat mutants and helping take a leading role in the underground, she appears to have lost some of her warmth in her desperation to find Andy. Natalie Alyn Lind's Lauren was far more confident, aiding in the strikes against Sentinel Services while Stephen Moyer's Reed also felt more natural working behind the scenes to fight his former employers while battling with his returning powers.
With Reed and Lauren now the voice of reason in the new Strucker home, Kate took matters into her own hands, encouraging Marcos to use his criminal contacts to find Andy and Lorna. The attempts to learn the location of the Inner Circle didn't go too smoothly and Kate seemed all to willing to throw herself into a violent confrontation to get answers, even getting grazed with a bullet as she attempted to demand answers. This unhinged side to Kate, coupled with Marcos' own desperation is an intriguing development and certainly elevate two characters that have veered a little too close to bland at times.
The season two opener of The Gifted did a solid job of re-establishing this world and where the key characters were six months on. There was a renewed confidence to the show that pulled it along, even if there wasn't a huge amount of action or drama in the opening episode. Characters feel more rounded and the added desperation has helped elevate the drama. It was a decent start to season two and should allow the rest of it to really hit the ground running.