But then, neither does Reed Strucker's struggle with his suddenly emerging mutant abilities, suppressed in childhood by his father, nor whatever it is threatening the utterly unappealing relationship between Blink and Thunderbird. (Is it that he thinks she's having a fling with Morlock leader Erg, or that she helped out the group of outcast mutants without telling him?) And that reveals the core problem with The Gifted's second season. Most of the Mutant Underground were never developed as characters; instead, they merely filled cookie-cutter roles to serve the narrative: John Proudstar is the strong leader, burdened with upholding the X-Men's legacy; Marcos Diaz is the hothead, destined to buck authority; the powerful but unstable Lorna Dane embraces a less peaceful philosophy more in line with that of her never-named father (psst, it's Magneto); and Clarice Fong is the outsider, destined to form one side of an unconvincing love triangle. There were other members of the Atlanta safe house, of course, but most of them were little more than cardboard cutouts, representing those mutants who could never pass for human. They were so one-dimensional that when some of them were reduced to cannon fodder in a Season 2 attack by the Purifiers, their deaths elicited little more than an "Oh, yeah, that guy!"
It's telling that the two best episodes of the second season (by far) centered not on any remaining members of the Mutant Underground, but rather on Lorna and the Frost sisters. It's not simply because they dealt with their backstories -- similar flashbacks involving John and Marcos fell flat -- but instead because the audience has become invested in those characters; glimpses of their tragic pasts only help us to understand their actions in the present.
That's not to say the Inner Circle storyline hasn't had its problems. While Reeva Payge was finally given nuance with the episode "no Mercy," her plan to create a mutant utopia was as ill-defined as her superpower. And there's still no real explanation for why, when there are such powerhouses as Lorna and Andy at their disposal, the Inner Circle had to risk so much to free the teen sociopath Rebecca from a mental facility so she could use her oddly specific mutant ability -- she can twist objects, and people, inside out -- in a bank heist. (In a not-so-surprising (ahem) twist, the girl who killed her family ended up killing again, endangering everything they've been working toward.) In the end, Rebecca's accidental death, at the hand of boyfriend Andy, was as pointless as her introduction.
But most of the characters in the Inner Circle (Lorna, Andy, the Frost sisters, Reeva) are compelling enough in themselves that viewers could overlook most of the shortcomings of the storylines, at least in the moment. The same can't be said for the members of the Mutant Underground, who have demonstrated over the course of the past nine episodes that they aren't interesting enough to stand on their own. The only solutions would seem to be to flesh out those characters, or at least make them tolerable, tout suite (highly unlikely); wipe out the Mutant Underground, and shift focus to the morally gray Inner Circle (again, unlikely); or reunite the principal cast, so that one-half of show is no longer weighed down by the other.
If the promo for the midseason premiere is any indication, The Gifted may be making the first steps toward the latter, with Lorna warning Marcos of Reeva's plot to destroy the U.S. government (wait, that's what this was all about?), and Lauren's sudden (like, really sudden) tendency toward violence causing Reed to make a concerned face. Both hint at a reconciliation that could not only make the show's core "family" whole, but also begin a course correction. A ticking clock and a clearly defined mission, to take down the Inner Circle, would reinvigorate the Mutant Underground, and The Gifted, while an alliance with the Morlocks would give that group purpose, beyond fan service. And, while they're at it, return to one of the big mysteries of the first season: the cataclysmic July 15th event in Houston that led to the disappearance of the X-Men and the Brotherhood, and the crackdown on mutants.
But there's at least one major obstacle: Only seven episodes remain, leaving little time to get The Gifted back on track and salvage this second season. Unfortunately, not even the combined telepathic powers of the Frost sisters can make the audience forget what it's seen so far.
Returning Tuesday at its new time, 9 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.