Julien Neaves, Editor
A few years ago I checked out the first season of X-Men spinoff series The Gifted (2017-2019) and I really enjoyed it. It is set after the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants have mysteriously disappeared and the Government is cracking down on mutants via the agency Sentinel Services. The focus of the story is the Strucker family, who fall in with the Mutant Underground to protect their twin mutant teens, as well as the leaders of the Underground. There was a second season but I didn’t catch up on it until recently via Disney+ (not a paid endorsement by the way, though I am open to discussions). And because it was on Fox it sadly got the axe after the sophomore season and (of course) on a major cliffhanger.
Now I was thinking of reviewing the second season like I did the first but because I suspect many people have not watched it (which is sad to be honest) so I decided to do a teaser article instead. So with a mild SPOILER ALERT let’s look at two reasons The Gifted isn’t a great X-Men spinoff and three reasons it is:
Not Great #1 Manage Your X-Pectations
The major draw of the show is the fact that it is an X-Men spinoff but that is a double-edged sword. Yes there are several references, characters, and a couple groups from Marvel’s merry band of mutants, but if you are expecting to see major heroes or villains from the comics then appear then prepare to be disappointed. Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm or Beast do not make cameos and we never see battles involving Magneto or Mr Sinister. The characters we do see are a bit fringe and most would only be familiar to comic book fans rather than people who only know the franchise via the films or animated series. So yeah, while this is an X-Men spinoff, it is not an X-Men SERIES. So coming in you will have to manage your expectations.
Not Great #2 All That Angst!
The show is set in a world where mutants are hunted and persecuted so you know it’s not going to be sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops 24/7. And while it is interesting to see characters go through stress and trauma and then come out stronger, it does get to be a bit much at times. Yes, you’re suffering, we get it! And this is more of an issue in the decidedly darker second season. I think if the Powers That Be had included a little more lightness it could have balanced things somewhat. #justsaying
Great #1 Mutants Old and New
Now let’s get into the positives. The characters here may be lesser known or completely new but the series handles them all very well. In terms of comic-based characters you have Magneto’s magnetism-controlling daughter Lorna Dane/Polaris (Emma Dumont), teleporting mutant Clarice Fong/Blink (Jamie Chung of Sucker Punch and Lovecraft Country), John Proudstar/Thunderbird (Blair Redford) who has superhuman strength, durability, enhanced healing and superhuman senses, the telepathic triplets the Frost Sisters (Skyler Samuels) who are based on the Stepford Cuckoos from the comics. In terms of new folks we have photon absorbing/manipulating mutant Marcos Diaz/Eclipse (Sean Teale), Burn Notice’s Coby Bell as mutant hater Jace Turner, and the four members of the Strucker Family: father Reed (True Blood’s Stephen Moyer), mother Caitlin (Angel’s Amy Acker), mutant son Andy (Percy Hynes White) who can tear objects apart with a form of telekinesis,, and mutant daughter Lauren (the lovely Natalie Alyn Lind from Gotham) who can create forcefields.
Whew, that was a lot of characters, and I didn’t even include them all. But I will say that each feel fleshed-out and relatable, and this is thanks in no small part to the stellar acting and characterisation. If I had to choose my favourites I would choose Moyer and Acker (their chemistry is incredible and I wonder if they compare notes about being on vampire shows), Dumont as bad girl with a big heart Lorna, Teale as edgy Marcos, Bell as the haunted Turner, and Chung as the always fun and frequently sarcastic Clarice. But everyone here showed up to work and nobody phoned in their performances. And I appreciated that.
Great #2 Power X-Treme!
What’s the coolest thing about mutants? If you said “their powers” then DING DING DING DING you win the prize. Not a real prize, mind you. We ain’t got the budget for that. But yeah, it is all about the powers and that is one thing The Gifted nails. Now don’t let the misleading title fool you; the show is not about a group of mutants in a school learning about their powers and fighting the occasional bad guy. It is about mutants running for their lives from an oppressive and lethal government agency, contending with a violent group of mutant-hating bigots, or battling other mutants with some not-so-nice plans. And this setup leads to some pretty awesome fights and action set-pieces enhanced by some very solid special effects work.
It is also great to see how each character utilises their ability, whether they are a veteran at it like Thunderbird or Polaris, or only now learning to master it like the Strucker twins. So if you like to see mutants using cool powers in cool and interesting ways then The Gifted has got you covered. And yes, I still hate the title.
Great #3 Intelligent and X-citing Stories
My strongest recommendation to watch The Gifted is simply it’s a dang good show. Not the best show, but definitely a few notches above average. And a big part is the very strong writing. I mentioned earlier about the characterisation but the plotting is also extremely well done, especially when it delves into themes like bigotry, terrorism, oppression, tolerance, nature versus nurture, identity, and acceptance. The story moves along at a relatively brisk pace and it always feels like something is happening. And there is always some twist or something new to keep the viewer engaged. When I binged the second season recently I was hooked episode to episode. I truly couldn’t get enough. But sadly that was all there is to get.
Even though the series got cut short there is still a lot of great show in just two seasons. Both seasons have a self-contained arc so even though I am not happy the show has ended I still felt satisfied story-wise. And if you’re interested in a fun and engaging story set in an X-Men(-ish) universe then let me present you with the gift of The Gifted. Again, not a real gift. Budget and all that.
So are you a fan of The Gifted? Sound off in the comments. You can check out more X-cellent X-Men content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.