As if we don’t have enough superheroes on TV already, Fox now brings us ‘The Gifted’, an official spinoff of the ‘X-Men’ feature film universe. Even with a pilot episode directed by franchise mastermind Bryan Singer, the show compares very poorly with this year’s other ‘X-Men’ spinoff, ‘Legion‘.
Granted, the two shows are working toward different aims. ‘Legion’ is much more self-consciously arty, and airs in a late time slot on cable targeted at an older audience. That show doesn’t even overtly draw attention to its connections with the X-Men. ‘The Gifted’, on the other hand, is far more mainstream and ‘tween oriented. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I just wish the execution were better.
Keeping the various timelines in this franchise straight is a difficult task. ‘The Gifted’ takes place in the modern day, in a world where mutants are known and ostracized from society. At least so far, none of the characters have any direct interaction with Professor X, Magneto, or their respective super teams, though the X-Men and the Brotherhood are both name-checked. Instead, they mostly try to stay under the radar of a government agency called Sentinel Services that’s hunting for them.
Off the bat, we’re introduced to three members of a group called the Mutant Underground. Marcos, a.k.a. Eclipse (Sean Teale), can shine super bright lights and weld stuff with his hands. His girlfriend Lorna, a.k.a. Polaris (Emma Dumont), has magnetic abilities similar to Magneto. Thunderbird (Blair Redford) is a Native American with super tracking skills (stereotype much?). While trying to help a girl named Calista, or Blink (Jamie Chung), escape from the police chasing her, Lorna gets tazed and arrested. This brings her into contact with Atlanta prosecutor Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer), who offers her a deal if she’ll turn on her friends. Lorna won’t have any of it.
Little do Struker or his wife Kate (Amy Acker) realize, but both of their teen children are mutants right under their noses. When son Andy (Percy Hynes White) gets bullied at a school dance, he goes full Carrie White and unleashes a telekinetic shockwave that shakes the building apart. That forces his sister Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) to come out as mutant and use her forcefield-projecting power to save him from himself. After they run off and return home, the incident is labeled a terrorist attack and goons from Sentinel Services come for them. Mom Kate won’t let them touch her precious babies and slips away with the kids. Soon enough, Reed has to throw away his career to join them on the run.
The family meet up with Marcos, looking for help and sanctuary with the Mutant Underground. They all wind up cornered in an empty parking garage by Sentinel Services, which unleashes robot spiders straight out of ‘Minority Report’ to attack them. Eventually, Blink uses her power to help almost everyone escape by creating a portal that can teleport them to safety. Reed, unfortunately, gets shot and left behind as the portal closes.
I’ll give it this much: Of the two new superhero shows premiering within days of each other, ‘The Gifted’ isn’t as awful as ‘Inhumans‘. That doesn’t make it good, though.
The show is very professionally mounted with good production values, and tries to keep cheese to a minimum. It’s just not very interesting. The characters are bland, their super powers derivative, and their situation highly clichéd and predictable. Between the ‘X-Men’ movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and numerous knockoffs including ‘Heroes’, we’ve seen all this before. (Honestly, Natalie Alyn Lind even looks like she could be Hayden Panettiere’s younger sister.) Even with A-List feature filmmaker Bryan Singer behind the camera, the premiere episode feels tired and uninspired, and does little to nothing inventive in any way. I was bored sitting through it and saw no evidence that it might perk up in the future.