The Gifted’s Mutant Dystopia Is So Unnerving Because It Feels So Real

The Gifted’s Mutant Dystopia Is So Unnerving Because It Feels So Real

Even though there have been brief moments of brightness scattered throughout The Gifted‘s first few episodes, there’s been a distinct sense of hopelessness that feels central to the show. Despite its title, last night’s episode “eXodus” made it clear that the Mutant Underground’s running out of options for escape.

Image: Fox

Even though the Mutant Underground has told her multiple times that Sentinel Services isn’t interested in offering mutants their lawful right to fair trials and that her children are being hunted, “eXodus” revolves around Caitlin Strucker taking her kids away from their hideout and trying to find safety with her human family. Caitlin’s decision makes absolutely no sense given that we know her family’s wanted and that their pictures are all over the news, but the point of an episode like “eXodus” is to remind us that people can become incredibly short-sighted when they’re desperate. Other humans, Thunderbird tries to explain, aren’t the sympathetic, morally-just people that Caitlin wants to believe they are. But Caitlin clings to the idea of the justice system still actually functions in a way that will protect her kids, even though they’re mutants.

Caitlin’s point that there are ways to win fights that don’t involve (superpowered) battles is one worth considering, to be sure, but her decision to take the kids and run immediately sets the episode into a spiral. When Caitlin manages to make her way to her brother Daniel’s house, she’s dismayed to learn that he’s not willing to harbour her and the children out of fear that his neighbours will discover and report them. David argues that he’s just trying to look out for his family, something that understandably devastates Caitlin because she, Lauren, and Andy are his family.

Back at the Mutant Underground, a still-recovering Blink is still having trouble controlling her portals, something Thunderbird and Beautiful Dreamer (hey!) theorise is due to her not having learned to tap into positive emotions that trigger her powers. If Blink had a strong emotional connection to the memory of a person, she might be able to will herself into creating more stable portals that would give the Mutant Underground a way to finally free Polaris. It’s in seeing Blink struggle to become a helpful member of the team that really hammers home just how royally screwed the Mutant Underground is. At times, it can become easy to forget that The Gifted is set in Atlanta, but “eXodus” makes a point of reminding you multiple times and in doing so, conveying how trapped the mutants are. There are safe havens in Mexico and Canada, sure, but without the ability to cover vast distances while being undetected, they’re more or less fucked for the foreseeable future.

Rather than wallowing in the dread that is being a wanted mutant with fewer and fewer options of escape, “eXodus” finds its greatest strength in questioning the morality of the choices everyone makes as they come to grips with the direness of the situations. Blink has little to no hope of learning to control her powers on her own quickly enough, but Dreamer is willing to plant false memories that might give her the emotional anchor she needs. It’s a smart idea, but it raises the questions of whether the Mutant Underground would be justified in changing Blink’s mind without her consent in order to serve the greater good.

Similarly, Reed Strucker is forced to question whether a chance at freedom for himself and safety for his family is worth selling out the Mutant Underground. After being sent back to the mutant bar as a mole for Sentinel Services, Reed meet another mutant family that’s been torn up by the law the same as his has. You get the sense that, despite everything he’s recently been through, Reed (like his wife) hasn’t really been able to recognise that their situation is neither unique nor special. In The Gifted, Mutants — regardless of their connections to the law or people in positions of power — are being hunted down and exterminated in ways far more terrifying than most anything we’ve seen in other X-Men properties.

Assorted Musings:

  • Polaris and Eclipse’s powers interacting to create a miniature aurora borealis was a very nice touch.
  • One wonders if Beautiful Dreamer can unmake the false memories she creates.
  • The Strucker cousin comparing the Mutant Underground to the Underground Railroad was… weird. Like I get it, but it was still weird.