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“eXodus,” the third episode of The Gifted, is the one that shows some of the limitations of the network TV format for an X-Men property.
Still reeling from Reed Strucker’s arrest by Sentinel Services, his wife and children leave the safety of the Mutant Underground to find political help to release him. Meanwhile, Reed makes his own deal with Sentinel Services to show the agency where the Mutant Underground is hiding in exchange for his freedom. As this is going on Clarice Fong, AKA Blink (Jamie Chung), is struggling to use her powers and John Proudstar (Blair Redford) offers to tutor the young woman.
Even by the standards set up in the first two episodes of The Gifted, “eXodus” it is a small-scale affair. This is most indicative of the action sequence in the episode – if it could be called that. During this sequence, a house is surrounded by a group of anti-mutant vigilantes and the mutants fight back by firing some heat beats before getting chased down a quiet rural road. This is lackluster for a superhero show especially compared to the competition like the Arrowverse, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Marvel Netflix shows. “eXodus” still has some impressive special effects, but these moments are used sparingly, an example of the show just trying to use its budget carefully.
The best part of “eXodus” is the social themes, just like in the previous episodes. Continuing from the previous episode, Caitlin Strucker (Amy Acker) still harbors belief and hope in the political system: she seeks Reed’s brother, Daniel (Jeffrey Nordling) and uses whatever connections he has to free her husband. But she has to face the harsh reality that there are few sympathizers to the mutant cause and a lot of enemies. She is shocked by the extent of discrimination that mutants suffer, seeing the harsh reality beyond her middle-class existence. The militia that arrives on Daniel’s doorstep armed with guns may as well be dressed in white hooded cloaks and burning a cross.
Lauren Strucker (Natalie Alyn Lind) also suffers from the anti-mutant abuse. In the first episode she is shown to be more aware of the discrimination that mutants face and she even tells off her brother for using the term “mutie.” But she was the pretty popular girl at school so it is only after being exposed as a mutant that she is subjected to anti-mutant prejudice: one of her former classmates proudly posts a picture of graffiti on the Strucker house.
The other theme of the episode was some of the mutants learning how to use their powers. Scenes between Blink and Thunderbird were similar to Xavier and Magneto in X-Men: First Class where one of the characters says they can only use their powers when suffering from extreme emotions and the other teaches them there is a better way – that raw emotion is an unhealthy way to tap into one’s powers. Andy (Percy Hynes White), the youngest member of the Strucker family also suffers from bouts of anger: in the first episode it was established that he was being bullied and he could only use his powers during an outburst. He advocates robbing a bank and fighting the vigilantes and he seems to take pleasure from destroying one of his cousin’s trophies. He’s a Brotherhood member waiting to be recruited.
So far The Gifted has worked better when looking at the series as a whole rather than individual episodes. “eXodus” continues to add to a wider story and world that has been set up and there are story threads being opened at the end of the episode. It also continues with the social commentary but “eXodus” lacks the spectacle that other superhero shows offer.