Out of all of Fall’s new shows, I thought there would be a few vying for the top spot. But this year there is a clear winner, rising above the rest in every way possible. Congratulations to Fox’s newest Marvel drama: The Gifted.
Premiered on October 2 on FOX Rating:
Family adventure series The Gifted, tells the story of a suburban couple whose ordinary lives are rocked by the sudden discovery that their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive.
The Gifted warrants its own post – there’s that much to say about it. First, addressing the elephant in the room – superhero shows are a dime a dozen now. Some are interesting (Jessica Jones, Legion) or just very entertaining (The Flash, Arrow, Agents of SHIELD) and others are catastrophes (Inhumans). If you are into superheroes it can be a little much, too much even, and if you’re not into superheroes it can be annoying and “Ugh, this again.” But I challenge superhero fans and non-fans to check out The Gifted, which is not only unique but is the only show on right now that fully understands and stays true to the original concept of the X-Men: being on the outside, looking in.
The Gifted has two main stories. First there is the whole mutant thing. This show is set in an alternate X-Men universe, but the X-Men have been missing for quite some time. There are no more superheroes or supervillains – just a bunch of super humans coming into powers they don’t understand and an anti-mutant sentiment that seeks to eliminate all mutants – whether they have dangerous powers or harmless ones – men, women and children.
This storyline is excellent. The special effects are the best of any other show I’ve ever seen. They’re movie-grade where most superhero shows’ special effects border on cornball. Next, this features new characters and doesn’t need any backstory, it just dives right in. Since it doesn’t lean on anything that’s been done, it is entirely new, which makes if fresh and original. In an overwhelming docket of superhero shows, this is almost amazing to pull off. Next, it really goes back to base idea of the X-Men. The idea of being outsiders. This show explores this with little exposition however. It doesn’t get into preachy speeches or in-your-face dialogue. Instead, it simply shows us a world that is unlike, and yet eerily similar, to our own. This has to be applauded.
Built into this story is a strong “on the run” story, because really that’s the show’s main plot and focus. It’s about government agencies and private military contractors hunting down mutants, often in their teens, jailing them, killing them or turning them into weapons to be used how these agencies see fit. It’s suspenseful, fast-paced and at times a little heartbreaking. How can a show in this overly wrought genre have drama that is moving while not going into the melodramatic? I’m not sure, but The Gifted, pulls this off nicely.
The second story is about a family, learning about what it means to be family, by blood and those we choose. It’s about a family really understanding who each other is, and what they mean to each other. The Struckers are the central characters and each member has a pivotal role to play.
Stephen Moyer plays the patriarch/father Reed Strucker. Reed is a prosecutor who makes a living jailing mutants, who are innocent with the exception of existing. Talk about irony, when he learns his children are mutants. Moyer’s character undergoes the deepest transformation so far in the series. He is a man in crisis, struggling with everything he thought he knew, and realizing he knew next to nothing. He has to make up for what he has done, and reckon with his past life while finding a new normal.
Amy Acker (whom I LOVE) plays the mother Caitlin Strucker. While she was less intolerant of mutants, she was certainly ignorant to their plight. Her character really comes into her own once she finds refuge with the mutant underground. She is constantly thrown when she hears about how many mutants were rejected by their parents and kicked out of their homes, not understanding how a parent could ever do this to their child. She doesn’t understand why mutants can’t go to the hospital when they are injured, their extreme fear and suspicion of law enforcement, their need for training in combat and the need to stay hidden. She realizes how little she knew and watching her character struggle with this reality with the heart of a mother and caregiver (lucky for the underground, she’s a nurse), and you can see her heart break as every new revelation sinks in. I would have loved to see Acker kick ass as she thrived in pretty badass roles in the past (Angel, Alias, Person of Interest) but at the same time I’m happy with her role here, as she is certainly the heart that bridges mutants and the humanity that isn’t all bad, but simply doesn’t understand.
The Strucker children are played by Natalie Alyn Lind and Percy Hynes White respectively. Lind starring as the daughter is the mutant who has known she was a mutant for a long time and kept that fact hidden from her parents. For this reason, the revelation carries an extra sting for her parents, particularly to her mother, who realizes her daughter didn’t feel safe sharing a part of who she was with her family. But because Lind came into her powers a while ago, it means she has also mastered them. She is in command of her abilities while able to expand them and ready to save the world with everyone else. I love that. Her brother on the other hand has just come into his powers, whose abilities are particularly destructive. He plays the role of the newly awakened mutant whose life is upended as he tries to grapple with and control his powers.
The marriage of these two primary storylines along with the irony when they’re paired together is another thing that elevates this show. With either of these storylines alone, The Gifted would still be solid and perhaps ahead of the rest, but with both, The Gifted is truly a gift.
Whether you’re a superhero fan or not, everyone can relate to being an outsider at some point, and redefining what it means to be a family. This is why everyone should give this show a chance. Get ready to be pleasantly surprised. 😉