Right now Marvel has a plethora of successful television shows running on various platforms, from Jessica Jones (Netflix) to Cloak and Dagger (Freeform). Honestly, there are too many to count! It can be difficult to keep up with all of the content considering their expansiveness. However, there is one show that almost everyone has forgotten about — The Gifted (Fox).
Based on the X-Men comics, the show is similar to Marvel’s Runaways in terms of subject matter. Both shows are available to watch on Hulu. Moreover, The Gifted was completely left out in a recent article ranking “all 11” Marvel shows, which included Runaways.
This snub is surprising considering the series was just renewed for a second season based off of its respectable ratings. Its premiere last October had almost 5 million viewers; its finale only a little less than that. The error could be due to Runaway‘s status as an official part of the MCU, while The Gifted is only connected to the X-Men film series as an alternate timeline.
The Gifted‘s First Episode – ‘eXposed’
Written by showrunner Matt Nix (Burn Notice, The Good Guys) and directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, X-Men: Days of Future Past), the series opener is a solid introduction to the circumstances of this alternate universe. The show revolves around the Strucker family going on the run after the parent’s discovery of their children’s mutant abilities.
Instead of opening to this family, however, the episode begins with police in pursuit of Clarice Fong (Jamie Chung). The mutant, better known as Blink, recently escaped prison through the use of portals.
Beginning during a tense scene with a familiar character being hunted by authorities is an effective way of getting the audience into the show’s theme. Actress Jamie Chung’s Asian descent may strike a chord with those familiar with police harassment suffered by people of color all over the country. An apt way to continue the X-Men’s reputation for reflecting social issues in the real world. But more on that later.
Mutants in the Supporting Cast
Members of the Mutant Underground are also on Clarice’s tail, trying to help her. Among the diverse group are John Proudstar/Thunderbird (Blair Redford), Lorna Dane/ Polaris (Emma Dumont), and Marcos Diaz/ Eclipse (Sean Teale).
Their respective powers are tracking and supernatural strength, controlling magnetism, and absorbing and emitting photons. All of which are shown off with exceptional CGI. No surprise, but visually satisfying.
It is impossible to doubt the gravity of the situation, seeing mutant powers of full display in a battle against police. Thankfully, no characters made snarky quips. Barring spoilers, the episode raises the stakes by moving the plot along quickly.
“Meet The Struckers”
The suburban main characters aren’t introduced until after the title sequence. First seen is Andy Strucker (Percy Hynes White), placidly sitting on a hallway floor. He doodles a sketch of a snarling wolf.
In the background, we listen to his parents Caitlin (Amy Acker, Angel) and Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer, True Blood) speaking to the high school guidance counselor about their son being bullied. It is impossible not to hear the concern in their voices as they describe events that have transpired.
Unsurprisingly, the guidance counselor offers only useless answers instead of any real help despite, or because of, the strict “No Tolerance Policy”. Bullying is an epidemic in schools today where nothing is done to help the victims. In response, Reed menacingly threatens to sue the school if they don’t help his son. Nix keys in the audience onto the protective, assertive, and, above all, wealthy father archetype on display.
Nest, there’s a hard cut to Andy’s blonde sister, Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind, Gotham) video-chatting with her boyfriend about what outfit to wear to school. An all too accurate sight. But her boyfriend is respectful and it isn’t over the top. She’s just a normal contemporary teenage girl.
A scene at the breakfast table portrays Caitlin as the inquisitive, supportive mother. The brother and sister duo then devolve into a disagreement when Andy refers to mutants as “Muties”. Lauren’s character reacts akin to a young person today calling-out a relative for using the “n” word or a similar slur. Their relationship seems strained, but later more friendly after Lauren helps Andy sneak out to go a dance.
Reed Strucker reveals his job as a district attorney and prosecutor when he enters a holding cell to speak to a chained mutant criminal. At first, he’s cold and unlikeable. Next, he shows human dignity and provides solid advice to a client he doesn’t despise based solely on their genes.
The suburban family is mostly stereotypical, but the Struckers are dynamic characters and not too cliche to be believable.
Coming Out — Mutant Style
Soon, Andy and Lauren demonstrate their powerful abilities, to disastrous results. At first, Caitlin is uncomprehending and incredulous, like a mother learning her son is gay. She cries, “Why didn’t you tell me?” But like queer youth today, mutants live in fear of suffering ostracization and hate from those who should love them the most.
Thankfully, the Struckers opt to go on the run from authorities rather than turn their backs on one another. Mutant prosecutor Reed even tries his best to use his work connections to help his children escape imprisonment. It is refreshing to see a family go to bat for each other no matter the costs.
The Underground What?
X-Men’s story is notorious for running parallel to social issues. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X influenced Professor X and Magneto, respectively. This trend rightfully continues in The Gifted as mention briefly earlier with bullying and homosexuality.
Eventually, the Struckers link up with the Mutant Underground, an organization the government has wrongly deemed a terrorist group for helping those in need. The organization resembles the Underground Railroad or the Black Panther Party of the 60s.
The premise of the first episode, a privileged white family losing their status and becoming part of the persecuted, allows a natural way to teach audience along with the Struckers, the realities of civil injustice going on in the world. Especially based off of one’s race, sexuality, or gender.
However, Nix’s writing is not clunky or heavy-handed. It’s hard not to sympathize with superheroes and recognize injustice for what it is.
Overall, the first episode of The Gifted sets up the story beautifully. The storytelling is solid and not stagnant throughout the rest of the season and until the finale.
Although the purported main cast is not diverse, the minority supporting characters are not left in the dust at all; furthermore, all of the characters are well developed and intriguing. It’s a mystery why this show is so underrated. Every episode is available right now on Hulu. Catch up before the second season premieres later this year!