WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Season 2 premiere of The Gifted, “eMergence,” premiering Tuesday on Fox.
One of the difficulties of superhero movies and television series in general, and the X-Men franchise in particular, is the onscreen depiction of inherently non-visual powers. Actor James McAvoy has joked that conveying Professor Xavier’s telepathy requires him only to hold his hand to his temple and stare sternly into the distance, and Deadpool 2 director David Leitch had initial concerns about how Domino’s “luck” powers would translate to film. Fox’s The Gifted occasionally encounters its own problems in that area, most notably in the confusing representations of John Proudstar’s ambiguous foresight/tracking abilities, yet largely succeeds in using the glowing eyes of the Frost sisters to signal the use of their mental powers.
However, the drama stumbles again in the opening scene of its Season 2 premiere, “eMergence,” which had a tall order to fill in establishing the status quo of the Hellfire Club’s governing Inner Circle, only to immediately upend it, and introducing Grace Byers as new primary antagonist Reeva Payge. Viewers are given a good idea of who she is (a mutant who has clawed and scraped her way from the slums to the Inner Circle), what she wants (a utopian mutant homeland), and even what she’s willing to do to achieve her goal (kill, for starters). But when Reeva unleashes her superhuman power on the other members of the Inner Circle, everything gets a bit … hazy. Was she singing at them?
Well, yes… sort of.
Reeva is based on an obscure X-Men comics character introduced in 1994 as a member of the Inner Circle of the New York City chapter of the Hellfire Club. In the source material, she can generate a high note with her vocal cords that permits her to alter brain chemistry, resulting in painful distortions of reality, dizziness and hallucinations. The Gifted has seemingly streamlined that as “sonic blasts,” akin to Black Canary on Arrow.
That helps to explain the shaky camera work as Reeva opens her mouth to launch the coup, and why the other members of the Inner Circle double over and hold their heads in pain. There may be limitations on her power, however, as the three Frost sisters (Skyler Samuels) take advantage of the confusion, pull out guns, and circle the table, executing the leaders of the Hellfire Club as they go.
Considering we saw the Frost sisters, aka the Stepford Cuckoos, use their own powers in Season 1 to trigger a massacre, we’re left to wonder why they didn’t take a similar approach in this scene, no muss, no fuss. But then again, Reeva is now calling the shots. Literally.
Airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT, Fox’s The Gifted stars Stephen Moyer as Reed Strucker, Amy Acker as Caitlin Strucker, Sean Teale as Eclipse/Marcos Diaz, Jamie Chung as Blink/Clarice Fong, Coby Bell as Jace Turner, Emma Dumont as Polaris/Lorna Dane, Blair Redford as Thunderbird/John Proudstar, Natalie Alyn Lind as Lauren Strucker, Percy Hynes White as Andy Strucker, Skyler Samuels as the Frost sisters and Grace Byers as Reeva Payge.
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