Guess what, guys? We didn’t have to wait too long for our wish that Amy Acker, as Kate Strucker, would be given a chance to shine front and center. While we only got a tease that she was a nurse in the pilot, this confirmation allowed Kate to show the core of her character: her brains, her dependability, her resourcefulness, her ability to overcome her naivete.
The flashback to the family sighting a mutant while bowling set the stage for the further events of patriarch Reed, who in present time is locked up and awaiting charges by the Sentinel Services governmental anti-mutant division. In the flashback, Reed shows himself to have a bit of a heart in dealing with a young mutant — though only a bit of one. Little wonder that mutant daughter Lauren stayed “in the closet.” Now, in the present, shoe is on the other foot, and the agent in charge of bringing down the Mutant Underground is an almost direct foil for Reed. It’s an interesting examination, because this anti-mutant agent, Agent Turner, also seems to have a heart. He lost his daughter to mutants, and can’t be sure if she was felled by a “good” mutant or a “bad” mutant, but the results are the same. To the show’s credit, there is some moral ambiguity here — we’re shown again and again how mutant powers are very, very dangerous — near catatonic Blink’s powers are going haywire, Andy can’t control what he does, the girl from the bowling alley’s emotions turned dangerous, if not deadly. Turner has a point, and a good one — the slippery slope is taking away constitutional freedoms of some for the safety of others. As usual, X-Stories remain parables.
Reed, per usual, thinks the rules, and his expertise with them, will save him. Eclipse and the mutants know that the rules are ignored when it comes to his kind, and shows Kate this during their jaunt to the hospital.
Back to Acker — we were really impressed by some of her performance. The line about “not leaving my daughter here to close space holes,” was funny because she played it so straight. And in a show about super-people, Acker’s Kate may be the only “superhero” thus far — she identifies the quest (save Blink by getting the right medical equipment from a hospital), puts on a costume identifying her role (stolen scrubs), through cleverness and resourcefulness fulfills the first mission, then bravely steps through a portal in space, manifested by the very victim she’s trying to help, to finish the job and bring Blink back from the brink. The power of caring. The power of mom-hood, in service of her new extended family.
Reed shows he cares as well, but his priorities are with his mutants, not all mutants. He’s seemingly agreed to give up the Underground.
The portal hi-jinx were entertaining, but the most thrilling parts of the episode were all about Polaris in prison. Her tangling with other inmates, her helplessness at wearing a power-inhibiting collar, her “human” disguise undone by a mere shower that reveals that glorious green hair.
Also nice to see our first glimpse of Garret Dillahunt (whom we recently enjoyed in The Guest Book) as Dr. Roderick Campbell.
At this point, we can’t claim The Gifted is breaking any ground except that it’s avoiding cheese, avoiding preachiness, staying engaging, while developing two fistfuls of characters (we didn’t even mention some good Thunderbird stuff this episode), even as it juggles three separate threads of the same story. Hmmm, maybe we should take it back — it’s breaking some ground by treating a network genre show respectfully, with tight writing, good action, and enough fan service to be gratifying without being annoying. So far, so good.
GEEK Grade: B+
Next week: eXodus. (We agree, Blink! Why AREN’T there mutant espresso powers? Anxiously awaiting an episode title “eXpresso.”)
Director: Len Wiseman
Writers: Carly Soteras, Brad Marques