I’ve always suspected that a TV show would be a better fit for the X-Men than movies are. After all, the X-Men are supposed to be a diverse group full of different talents, specialties, and personas, but the movie adaptations have mostly just focused on Wolverine as a leading romantic hero. But now that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has taken his final bow (in Logan, earlier this year), the franchise is freed up to pursue more open-ended forms of storytelling.
I’m really happy with The Gifted; can you tell? The show is only one episode in, but so far I think it works super well and has lots of potential — and also builds on Logan in interesting ways. For instance, as in Logan, the X-Men here are gone, and nobody knows where they’ve gone.
One reason I think The Gifted works well is it doesn’t dawdle with retelling stories you already know, but instead adds depth and speed. Right away we’re plunged into the familiar sight of a lone mutant getting chased by authoritarian police; such scenes have long been used to establish mutants as a hunted and hated minority, on par with many real-life groups. In this day and age, the most obvious metaphor is illegal immigrants — but, of course, unlike actual immigrants, Blink (Jamie Chung) has the ability to make trans-dimensional portals through space and time. The makeshift Underground Railroad of mutants that shows up to help is similarly empowered. Marcos Diaz (Sean Teale) is capable of manipulating powerful light energy, John Proudstar (Blair Redford) can track other mutants (helpful!), and Lorna Dane, a.k.a. Polaris (Emma Dumont), can control magnetic forces. Does that last one sound familiar? It should — in the X-Men comics, Polaris is Magneto’s daughter, and she inherited his trademark powers.
Thanks to their powers, this mutant team is able to save Blink — albeit at the cost of Lorna, who is injured and captured by police in the escape. Right away, the show establishes a very real underdog dynamic. There will be no free lunch here; saving one person means sacrificing something or someone else.
After that intro, we meet the family at the core of the story. Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer) works in mutant detention and helps bring in Polaris, but is currently more focused on troubles at home. His son Andy (Percy Hynes White) isn’t talking to him anymore, even though he complains about bullying at school. Little does Reed know that both of his children are the exact same kind of person he’s spent his life hunting, torturing, and killing. He soon learns the hard way, though, when Andy’s powers explode at a school dance, nearly destroying the entire building and ending any pretense of secrecy.
Tired of being kept on a tight leash at home, Andy sneaks out to the dance with his older sister Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind). Unfortunately, Andy is immediately swarmed by bullies. This, of course, is the second most common depiction of mutants. If they’re not refugees running scared, then they’re almost definitely a lonely kid getting bullied at school.
Unfortunately for said bullies, Andy has had enough, and the forced shower torture soon causes him to lash out with his powers, which strongly resemble telekinesis. The whole school starts caving in and coming down, but luckily Andy has his older sister to protect him. Lauren demonstrates her own skills, forming a forcefield to protect them from falling debris as they escape. Like Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four (another Marvel property still in the Fox camp), Lauren can use her forcefields to push things around as well as protect herself: a useful, multi-purpose, cool-looking power. (Recap continues on page 2)