With a title like ‘gaMe changer,’ the merry mutants of FOX’s The Gifted get a big checkmark in the win column, something that will, with any luck, alter the core dynamics of the show. It’s not too often that a television series will call its shots like that (let’s face it, it’s pretty ballsy for any show to flat-out call any episode a “game changer”), much less actually pull it off. Sure, creator Matt Nix and his writers’ room still have to follow through with the events seen here in a creative and meaningful way, but until then, The Gifted can revel in the fact that it delivered an episode that could well be the turning point for the series as a whole.
Since FOX’s X-Men-adjacent series premiered, it was always working to limit the one thing most viewers were tuning in for: mutants. It’s long been an X-Men storytelling tradition that the easiest way to combat the sometimes godlike powers of Marvel’s mutants is to turn them off completely or have them somehow be on the fritz. The film series has often resorted to that tired plot device in one form or another, particularly in movies like The Wolverine, Logan, and Deadpool 2, just to provide some sense of balance and give the normies of the world a chance against characters whose off-the-charts powers make them kinda boring to watch from a storytelling standpoint. And to The Gifted’s credit, the series has found a way to upend that cliche and potentially explore a world where not only are mutants of varying power levels running free, they’re taking a cue from ol’ Howard Beale. That is: they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take this anymore.
Mad mutants running around with no one detaining them or keeping their powers in check certainly stands the chance of livening up what can sometimes be a rather plodding series. And in case viewers were wondering what this brave new world Reeva, Polaris, Esme, and the rest of the Inner Circle are helping create will look like, The Gifted is here to remind viewers that Rebecca (Anjelica Bette Fellini) is (or was) what happens when a world treats powerful, emotionally undeveloped people like garbage and them lets them loose.
The show has been building toward an end to the Rebecca situation for a little while now, and after she turned someone inside out and was later put in solitary confinement at Reeva’s request, the show effectively set the stage for the probably psychotic mutant with a niche power set to cause some trouble. To that end, when Andy sets his would-be girlfriend free and offers to run away with her, Rebecca’s response works to foreshadow the kind of mayhem the world of The Gifted can likely expect when the show returns next year.
Normally, flashbacks for characters in the X-Men series are basically the same story over and over again. Rebecca’s is really no different. After apparently nearly killing her teacher and showing little in the way of remorse — or any feeling, really — about it whatsoever, she gets a visit from Sentinel Services, who won’t even let her finish the inside out pancakes before they drag her away. Although the scene is reminiscent of so many other “My Child is a Mutant” flashbacks that’ve been seen or read time and time again, the twist here is that, well, Rebecca’s parents, were probably right to fear her. The scene at the breakfast table was similar to that of ‘It’s a Good Life’ from Twilight Zone: The Movie, in that a supernaturally powerful child is ostensibly holding their family hostage.
It’s one of the few times The Gifted asks the viewer to understand what made a mutant act violently without also overtly asking for the audience to sympathize with them. And that grey area is where the series has spent a great deal of its time since the arrival of the Inner Circle, and, more so, since Andy and Polaris joined their ranks. As such, the show turns its game-changing event into something that, interestingly enough, creates as many problems as it solves.
But while The Gifted splashes around in those murky waters, it finds a clearer approach when it comes to its two other primary storylines. In the first Reed, Kate, and Lauren discover the kindly old researcher willing to help Reed out with his X-gene run amok isn’t just working to suppress dangerous mutant abilities and help those who want to lead normal lives, she’s actively in search of a way to eradicate mutantkind. Something she has in common with Jace Turner and the hate group known as the Purifiers. While the series isn’t subtle with the allusions it makes regarding the would-be civilian militia, it does at least give the storyline a frightening real-world feel, one that, sadly, never ceases to be effective. And it’s particularly effective considering John is about to be on the receiving end of the group’s machinations.
In all, ‘gaMe changer’ lives up to its title, delivering an opportunity for The Gifted to actually chance the circumstances of the world is has created, and to dramatically upset the status quo going forward. Whether or not it follows through on this promise effectively remains to be seen, but perhaps when the series returns in 2019 it will do so by entering into a brave new world.
The Gifted returns on January 1, 2019 on FOX.