Oh what a time it is to be a fan of superhero comics! Superhero movies are dominating on the big screen and in recent years the small screen has been increasingly invaded by these costumed folks. Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl have been making a splash for DC and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Jessica Jones and Daredevil have been doing it for Marvel’s MCU. But Fox was not to be left out and they first got into the action in February with the X-Men film franchise connected series Legion about the titular mutant. Legion’s eight episode first season received critical acclaim and this week Fox revisited that universe for their new show The Gifted.
The series is a set in an alternate timeline where the X-Men have disappeared and is centered on parents who go on the run with their mutant children from government forces. The film stars Stephen Moyer (True Blood) as district attorney Reed Strucker, Amy Acker (Person of Interest) as his wife Caitlin, and Natalie Alyn Lind and Percy Hynes White as their kids Lauren, the perfect high school student, and Andy, the bullied awkward kid, respectively. With a SPOILER ALERT here is my review of the premiere in three adamantium claw slices:
Slice 1 – A post X-Men world
As mentioned above the show is set in a world where the X-Men exist but have mysteriously disappeared. With the multiple timelines of the movie franchise it is unclear which of these the show is set in, but it does not seem to matter that much. I have a feeling that it is set in a time before the events of Logan but that’s just my crazy theory. In the show it is also revealed that the Brotherhood of Mutants have gone bye bye so we probably should not expect Magneto and his merry band anytime soon. New anti-mutant laws have been passed and they are being rounded up by the authorities and a shadowy agency called Sentinel Services. I see what they did there and I like it! There is also a mutant underground helping to ferry folks to more mutant friendly countries.
I really enjoyed the setting of the series. The X-Men comic has always been about tolerance versus bigotry and acceptance versus hate and this series seems to be focusing on this as their central theme. The character of Andy, before he discovers he is a mutant, uses the derogatory term “mutie” and his sister criticises him. Only later in the episode we discover that Lauren is also a mutant and has been hiding the fact from her family for years. And that is some deep stuff. The scenes where the parents learn their children are mutants are the most powerful of the premiere and showcase the not insignificant acting talents of Moyer and Acker. In just one episode this world has hooked me and I definitely want to see a lot more.
Slice 2 – Characters with X-factor
The episode opens with the popo hunting the teleportation mutant Clarice Fong/Blink played by Jamie Chung. The first live action iteration of the character was in X-Men: Days of Future Past and played by Fan Bingbing, whose name is just so much fun to say. Try it. You’ll see what I mean. Anywho the look of The Gifted’s Blink, with her streaked hair, vivid green eyes and scar (or birthmark) is intriguing and the uncertain character is likable. We also meet three members of the mutant underground: photon manipulating Carlos Diaz/Eclipse, who was created for the series; the Native American John Proudstar/Thunderbird, underground leader with enhanced senses; and the magnetism controlling Lorna Dane/Polaris. Yes, you read that right – Polaris! In the comics and the show she is the daughter of Magneto and an exciting addition to the show. I found all the underground characters unique and entertaining and look forward to diving deeper into them. Shout out to the black faced mutant. She looked cool. Also shout out to Coby Bell as Sentinel Services agent Jace Turner who did not have much to do in this episode but played stolid- no-nonsense-government-man well.
The heart of the show, however, is the Strucker family. Moyer is splendid as the conflicted district attorney who has spent so much time prosecuting mutants and now has to protect his mutant kids. His “chat” with Polaris in her plastic prison was a fun watch. Acker is great as the concerned mother and the scene when they come to take her children is downright riveting. I also really enjoyed the brother sister dynamic between Lind and White and the two young actors give solid performances. There is a scene where White’s Andy tells Lind at the dance “don’t get pregnant” and it felt like something a real brother would say to his real sister. Lind’s Laura rescuing him and later training him in his powers (to disastrous results) showed the strength of the bond between them and also let the audience know that the show is beyond just pretty special effects and big action.
Slice 3 – X-citing action
With all the family bonding and themes of bigotry and tolerance we still want to see some super powered beat downs and I found the portrayal of the powers pretty satisfying. Blink’s portals look decent, Eclipse lights stuff up well, Thunderbird goes all BraveStar (look it up kids) with his super sight and hearing, Polaris moves stuff about and Lauren’s bubble shield looks good. The only power I am not too clear about is Andy but I think it may be telekinesis. We’ll see. His angry, shouting, bully fueled power freak out at the school was nothing we had not seen before in the movies but it looked cool enough.
I loved the opening rescue and the epic final battle with those mini-sentinels. The quality of the effects overall were top notch and I felt like I was watching a movie and not a TV show. My my how far we have come from the failed Generation X pilot in 1996 or the wannabe X-Men show Mutant X in the early 2000s. I was optimistic about The Gifted when I first heard about it but I did not expect to like it as much as I did. If they can maintain the quality for the remaining nine episodes then Fox has a certified hit on their hands and one of the best superhero shows on television.
For more X-Men action you can check out my ranking of the Top X-Men films here.