The Gifted goes for broke in its two-hour Season 1 finale *belts out REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It*, and as it’s been the case thorough the whole of its first season, we really, really appreciate the message it’s trying to send.
Even if, at times, the show gets lost in it.
“X-tincion” and “X-roads” flounder less than most episodes, even if they suffer from the lulls between one big thing and the next. The episodes, however, serve not just as quite the setup for the Season 2 we’re very glad has already been confirmed, but as a clear example of what this show does well – and what they need to improve on as they look to the future.
Ensemble casts are hard. Making us care about more than one or two people is hard. The Gifted has done a better job of this than most, and yet, we still have levels of caring which translate to us basically turning off our brain when the characters we care about the most aren’t on screen.
Polaris deserves all my attention. Others – like the Frosts and anything and everything that has to do with Dr. Campbell and Agent Turner – not so much.
And yet, the problem with this, especially as the show sets up a confrontation, is not that I’m only rooting for one side (a common thing in superhero-type shows), but that the villains are so unrelatable that the message loses some of its nuance.
Imagine how much more powerful this show could be if we could understand both sides.
Seems like a lot to ask? It is. But, when a show does as well as The Gifted does, one starts to get greedy. The status quo isn’t good enough. With a Season 2 secure, we now want the show to take even bigger chances, to go deeper with the characters and relationships we’re already invested in.
But, we also want shades of grey.
We want to feel like there’s no wrong or right side. We want to feel like a compromise is needed. We want storylines that require our faves to grow, not just blow shit up.
Though we’ll admit blowing shit up is hella fun.
So, let’s talk about the choices, the fights and the cliffhanger of “X-tincion” and “X-roads”:
A TINY SPECK OF DNA DOESN’T TAKE CHARGE OF WHO YOU ARE
The first and most important lesson of this episode, and this show, is about choices, and though the message is always an undercurrent in The Gifted, in this episode we get to see it actually vocalized, first by Clarice, who utters this line to Lorna and then by Johnny, who tells Clarice: “what matters is who you are now.”
And that is why Marcos, Johnny and Clarice go after Lorna when she decides to help Frost 2 and 3, that is why they continue to fight to do the right thing, even when sometimes, the wrong thing seems like the easier way.
Yes, this is a war, and these people are fighting for their lives. But they’re also, in a very real way, fighting for their humanity. The people who want mutants exterminated believe them to be monsters, and the message here is that you don’t have to become what people fear you are. You don’t have to become what the world expects you to be.
No, you are who you are. Who you decide to be. And that’s on you.
“We’re not taking any prisoners. We’re past that,” Turner says almost at the end of this episode, and that’s his choice – the opposite of what Marcos, Clarice and Johnny are making. It’s an eye for an eye, or worse yet, the end justifies the means. And yet, if history has taught us something, it’s that it doesn’t.
Lorna makes her choice, too, though, a choice born of desperation and a choice born of persecution. She makes what, for us, and for her friends, is the wrong choice – and yet, she makes what is, undoubtedly, the more interesting choice for the show. It’s the show we wanted them to take and didn’t really expect them to. And it’s the show that sets up a Season 2 that, right now, we definitely don’t want to miss.
Here’s to bad choices and the wonderful, angsty TV they give us.
NOTHING BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER LIKE HATE
“It’s time for humanity to prevail,” are actual words uttered during this episode. Sounds a lot like a Trump speech, doesn’t it?
But then again, this whole season has felt like it was hammering the same point, over and over again, a point that in the world we live in today turns out to be much more current and important than ever before.
A message of tolerance, of love, of understanding. And a grim view at what happens when we forget that, despite our differences, we are one and the same.
In this case it’s mutants vs. humans. In real life it’s Democrats vs. Republicans, white supremacists vs. actual people with common sense and human hearts. But it all leads to the same road, it all ends the same way – or, it continues to deteriorate if we can’t find middle ground.
(Not in the case of white supremacists vs. actual people with common sense and human hearts. There’s no middle ground there. There’s only right or wrong.)
Feels almost ironic, considering the message the show has been not so subtle in sending, that the season finale aired on Martin Luther King day. Because, despite the fact that one of the Frosts speculates that nothing brings people together like hate, the truth of the matter is, that’s just a pessimistic view of life.
The one thing that really and truly brings people together is love. It always has been.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” MLK said, and for all that this show sometimes spends too long on storylines we care little about and that it’s failed to deliver true nuance till this episode, it hasn’t failed that message.
And, because of that, we have to believe that, even in the midst of a rift like the one that ends this episode, this is not really an end. It’s a beginning. Hopefully, the beginning of this show being what we all wanted it to be, and more.
When does Season 2 start again?
Other things to note:
- Come on, Johnny, get off your high horse. This the season finale. Work with Clarice.
- “There’s no way they can come between us.” FAMOUS LAST WORDS, LORNA. FAMOUS LAST WORDS.
- “I can see your father’s power in you.” Can we say the name? Can we? MAGNETO, MAGNETO, MAGNETO!
- Don’t talk in the office with the glass doors!
- ALL THE FLASHBACKS TO THE X-MEN CARTOON.
- Marcos and Johnny BROTP for the win.
- “You fight the fight that’s in front of you.”
- And then Clarice and Lorna with the heart-to-heart. If this show has done one thing well is create not just believable romantic relationships, but actual, real friendships.
- All I needed to actually care about the Strucker family was grandma!
- Thunderbird protecting Blink is giving me feels that I didn’t think I could have.
- Polaris being canonly bipolar, and that being a thing that she has to live with, a thing she can talk about with the love of her life, and a thing that doesn’t prevent her from being a normal, functioning human, is a beautiful thing.
- “Hate me all you want once everyone’s safe, but right now you will MOVE.” Tell him Caitlin.
- A SEASON FINALE THAT CHANGES THE GAME WITHOUT KILLING SOMEONE I LIVE.
- Sean Teale got hotter and hotter the more desperate and noble Marcos got.
- Though hey Marcos, irony is you doing pretty much anything to save Lorna not a few episodes ago and now being all high and mighty.
- THIS ANGSTY SHIP IS GONNA BE THE DEATH OF ME. And I love it. I hate it, but I love it. Because this kinda angst I get. THIS kinda drama I get.
- Bring it. All of it.
The Gifted aired Mondays at 9/8c on FOX. It’s been renewed for a Season 2.
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