Fox’s The Gifted aired its first episode tonight and it was really good! I didn’t suffer through Inhumans, but if Inhumans‘ reviews were bad, they’re about to get worse with the inevitable comparisons to Fox’s similar but better show. I enjoyed The Gifted so much I figured I write a few reasons why you should check it out and one reason why you should watch something else on Monday nights at 9.
It’s Set in the X-Men Universe
There are no tights or worn white tanks to be found here (here’s to you Logan), but this show is solidly set in the X-Men movieverse. (I mean, it was directed by Bryan Singer, so.) It’s kind of like the Netflix MCU shows, especially with the way they vaguely reference the movieverse, while staying allergic to any names you actually recognize.
I don’t know much about the comics — and we all know the movie-verse has screwed with a linear sense of time — but the show doesn’t really require you to. The X-Men we know have all “disappeared” — which I believe was referenced in Logan as well, which is set in the future from here — so you don’t need to wonder where Storm or Cyclops or Wolverine are. In fact, there are new characters mixed in with ones from the comics but the alternate universe of it all means you don’t need to know their backstories to jump in. Lots of the Mutant Underground team are (apparently) old hats (Blink, Polaris, and Thunderbird (top), but the Strucker family is all new. You just need to know that mutants are a public secret and shady government agents are after them.
I asked on Twitter if Lorna was related to Magneto, because of her powers, and was quickly told yes, but even with my basic knowledge of the universe, I was able to make the leap. And if not? I’m sure the show will give away that little detail sometime down the road. The show tells you what you need to know and has little Easter Eggs for those already deep down the X-Men rabbit hole (I REALLY dug the cartoon theme song ringtone. I kinda wish my phone had that ringtone…).
It Has a Diverse Cast
The Gifted‘s cast is an ensemble group with different factions coming together or becoming enemies: Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker and their kids and The Mutant Underground teens/young adults all versus the shady government agents hunting the mutants. And all the factions feature actors of different shades and backgrounds, including Sean Teale, Jamie Chung, Coby Bell, and Blair Redford, who is of Native descent.
What I found immediately interesting was how the show made a reference to the way discourse about mutants is infiltrating and evolving in society (“muties” “that’s racist!”), much like it does for other identities, and how people are figuring out what’s okay and not okay to say, especially when a group is the focus of public persecution. While the X-Men comics are often metaphors for societal differences — and the movies’ 2-hour time frame can’t capture all the minutiae of society — I hope this series doesn’t ignore that not only are many of these character mutants, they are people of color, women. There are layers to their identities, and their mutant-ness isn’t the only thing affecting their progress in society. But so far, I am pleased with the representation in the universe. Even one of the shady government agent types, Coby Bell, who comes to the family’s door, reminds me of Cory Booker (and now you can’t unsee it either, ha).
Y’all Amy Acker is here and apparently old enough to be a mom. She’s 40 years old, so having teen children is definitely not out of the ordinary at all (and even if she were younger tbh), but remember Fred? That was like 15 years ago, so we’re all definitely getting old. When did that happen? But Amy Acker is amazing in everything she is in and I already feel warm and protected with her as the show mom. Amy’s character, Caitlin, and the Struckers kind of makes this show a family super-drama (pour one out for No Ordinary Family), but one that combines the blood family of the Struckers with the found family of the Underground mutants and the eventual combination of the two — something kind of rare in TV. I’m excited to see Amy have more to do in future episodes and am definitely happy Fred/Whiskey is back on genre television.
And One Reason Not To
It’s Fox. Nuff Said.
Okay, I’ll say more. Fox always does this. They start off strong and hook us in before breaking our hearts. Firefly, Sleepy Hollow, Pitch, and Almost Human are just a few well-hashed examples. TV Tropes even has a category on a subpage on it, where it says, “Ever since the dawn of the 21st century, Fox has gained a reputation of canceling and/or screwing over an extensive number of television programs for whatever reason, regardless if the show is good or not to critics and audiences.” They’re really not exaggerating. Somewhere later down the season, Fox always manages to screw it up. The writing gets weaker, the characters become shells of who they once were, they don’t advertise it well and wonder why ratings are low, or they just cancel it and don’t provide strong enough reasons why. Fox is a bait and switch lover, and I am starting to get tired of falling for it. So I am cautiously not getting too attached. If Fox too often breaks your heart, you may want to bow out of this one.
But all in all, I really enjoyed the pilot. I wasn’t checking for the show much before today — I think Inhumans took up all the “new superhero show” space in my brain and we all saw how that went — but after seeing a few positive reviews ahead of time, and a few tweets telling me it was worth it, I checked it out and was glad I did. It’s added to the DVR. I kind of wished the premiere were two hours long, but from the preview for episode two, it looks like they knew what they were doing. The Gifted was enjoyable, kept the plot simple, didn’t require too much knowledge of the movie- or comics-verse, and had solid characters who I am already invested in. (By the end, I was dismayed by the cliffhanger!) My only concern is the network which doesn’t have a good track record for keeping shows like this on the air. Let’s hope that FOX and the creative team don’t mess this one up.