The Gifted was announced around the same time Legion was on the air, and if you saw my Legion review or my Top 10 TV shows list, you’ll know how much I loved that show. The Gifted is far more straight forward X-Men based show, though admittedly without the X-Men themselves and instead a cast of lesser known or original mutants. It’s a perfectly fine show that’s faithful to the core idea of the X-Men franchise, but it also plays it very safe. Let’s have a look as its first season, then, shall we?
Two ordinary parents take their family on the run from the government when they discover that their children have mutant abilities, and join an underground community of mutants who have to fight to survive.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
I found a cast promo image again! Handy.
Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer) – Reed works on “fairly” taking down mutants who are a potential “threat” to the regular human populace. Little does he know his family, both above and below him in the family tree, are anything but regular humans…
Caitlin Strucker (Amy Acker) – Caitlin is Reed’s faithful wife and loving mother… and to be honest that’s pretty much her role in the entire series.
Lauren Strucker (Natalie Alyn Lind) – Lauren has discovered she has mutant powers, the ability to create barriers from hardened air, but is keeping this a secret knowing full well what her dad’s job is…
Andy Strucker (Percy Hynes White) – Andy is a mutant-in-waiting, all he needs is an unpleasant mental push to awaken his abilities…
Marcos Diaz / Eclipse (Sean Teale) – Marcos is a mutant who has the ability to manipulate light. He was once apart of a shady underground mafia, but was recruited to the mutant underground, where is now involved romantically with the lady who recruited him in the first place…
Lorna Dane / Polaris (Emma Dumont) – Polaris has control over magnetism and has been with the Underground for some time, and has always been on the edge of what’s right and wrong in terms of dealing with those who come after them.
John Proudstar / Thunderbird (Blair Redford) – John has also been with the underground for some time, and acts as the group’s de facto leader due to his strong and cool head. He has mutant abilities involving tracking, strength and steel-hard skin.
Clarice Fong / Blink (Jamie Chung) – Clarice has had a harder time that most mutants as he ability not only gave her teleporting powers, but also inhuman looking eyes, making it harder to “blend in” to regular society.
Roderick Campbell (Garret Dillahunt) – Campbell is the head of Trask Industries, a company thought long dead that specialises in weaponising mutants in order to kill other mutants. These brainwashed soldiers, known as “Hounds”, is the personal pet project of Campbell…
The Stepford Cuckoos (Skyler Samuels) – Identical triplets all with the ability to mind read, and mind control. Two of the three are kidnapped by Trask, eventually leading to the one remaining to have to come up with a plan. They’re also members of the mysterious Hellfire Club…
Jace Turner (Coby Bell) – Jace lost his young daughter in a mutant-related disaster, and how since dedicated himself to bringing them down. He works for Sentinel Services, a branch of the government specialising in taking down mutant threats.
Plus many more!
Polaris during her stay in prison… Which I forgot was a thing at the start of the season…
The X-Men were created as a response to racism in America at the time, and the main thing The Gifted gets right is that unfair “us vs. them”, “painting an entire race with the same brush” kind of sadly realistic racism, with people wrong and right on both sides of the fence. It’s upsetting to say that an all-human rally with a prominent political figure featuring in the two-part finale was a rather realistic scenario in today’s society…
The relationship between Marcos and Lorna, or Eclipse and Polaris if you will, is the highlight of the show to me. Marcos’ shady past coming back to light in the middle of the season, and Polaris goes from underground member to mentally unstable prisoner, to “bad ass” underground member to straight up Magneto-ing up the place in the finale, and it’s all justified and well written. The fact she’s pregnant and wants to create a better world for her and Macros’ baby “by any means necessary” is up there with her father’s want to create mutant equality by any means due to his experiences with being a Jew during WWII. Not as historically awful, obviously, but as motivations for “going bad” go, it’s up there as the most logical. The cliffhanger of her leading a Brotherhood of Mutants style group (under the Hellfire Club banner) against both the human government and the mutant underground already sets up a far more interesting sounding season than we got here.
It’s safe to say that a lot of the other mutant cast aren’t deep, relatable characters, but get their job done. Blink is sympathetic at times, given her harsher upbringing, and “Thunderbird” is a plain and generic brave leader type, but good in the role, good enough that you’d believe people following him. Sonya, a mutant who can implant or take away memories, was also interestingly on-the-line in terms of morality, so it was shame to see her kick the bucket during the course of the season.
As with a lot of these shows, some of the “villains” are the most fun or interesting to watch. Sentinel agent Jace is a sad character to watch, so distraught by the loss of his daughter by accidental mutant hands (seemingly…) that he hunts them all down to get “justice” to her death. At one point his memories are altered by Sonya and he’s left believing his daughter is alive, leading him to find out she’s dead all over again, which was pretty awful to watch (in a good drama way). On the less serious end of the spectrum, the “Stepford Cuckoos”, as they’re actually never called in the show, are good fun, with the three of them finishing each other sentences and generally being a good sarcastic villain trope. The fact that the mutant underground joins up with them towards the end due to the whole “enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing leads to some good dialogue as well, and of course to the betrayal of Polaris and a few other characters, including Andy Strucker.
I liked the little nods about the mysterious past of this world. Both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants were mentioned as things that are no longer around, and Polaris’ dad is a key part of her character development, even if the word “Magneto” was never once uttered. The Sentinel Services also referred to a disastrous “robot period” as well. It’s fun to think of what events must have happened for this version of the X-Men only world for it to be left like it is.
The Struckers all trying to act at the same time… with mixed results.
The overall plot of the series is a simple X-Men formula, it has a group of mutants (“The Mutant Underground”) struggle to lead normal lives under the ever-present threat of the Sentinels (in this case, “Sentinel Services”, a government agency rather than giant robots) and Trask Industries, who end up using mind-controlled mutants against them for some super-powered showdowns. It works fine, but it’s quite generic, and frankly a lot of it was done better in the first season of Heroes…
The Struckers are pretty damn dull, which is a problem as they’re the centrepieces of the show! Reed, no matter if he’s shocked, scared, angry or happy seems to have the same expression on his face and tone of voice, that tone being dull or uninterested, and Caitlin pretty much does nothing but stay behind and worry about her husband or children, and has little character because of it. The children, Lauren and Andy, are a bit more interesting, especially as they have super-powerful abilities if they hold hands, but by the end of the series Andy is disillusioned enough to go with Polaris to the Hellfire Club and leave his family. That bit was good, but for most of the series they were just bratty teens, falling in love or having a strop… or both.
I have to also say that Roderick Campbell and his schemes to take down the mutant threat via his Hound program was … possibly too generic, for me. Some of the “seen it before” character archetypes are fine, but this was a bit too… safe. But too plain, for me. He did a good job as the man in the suit giving orders, but I won’t be sad if he doesn’t return (and given his plane was destroyed by Polaris mid-flight, I hope that he won’t!)
You know it’s bad when you’re seeing triple instead of double!
The Gifted is a rather bog-standard affair. It got the tone of the source material correct, but the cast of characters and the plots were all so generic and plain that the show became a “I’ll put it on to kill 45 minutes” instead of must see. The set up at the end of this series gives me hope that the now confirmed second season will be better, but as for season one? Average.