*This review may contain some spoilers*
“The Gifted” starts off grounded, and then slowly transitions into the more well-known X-Men territory. At times, it captures much of what makes the X-Men film and comic books great. But it is hurt by occasional lacks of direction and operating on a television budget.
The story takes a while before it really takes hold. It begins as a family on the run drama that turns into a rescue mission. It’s really only after Roderick Campbell and his Hounds come into the forefront that the heroes of The Mutants Underground and the Strucker family finally have a tangible conflict that carries the show through the second half of its short season. Unfortunately, there’s much wheel spinning and repeated story beats that bog things down. Seems like every other episode there’s another rescue mission. And characters have the same arguments over and over. There’s also the side plot about Eclipse making a shady deal with his old cartel buddies that never pays off. Neither does the romance between Laruen and Wes.
The action sequences are generally lackluster. There are typically one or two cool uses of superpowers, and then mostly a lot of mediocrity. The effects look fine, just never that elaborate. Again, much of this seems to be tied to the budget. But, some of it is just lack of imagination.
What does work best for this show is the classic prejudice angle used by the X-Men franchise. There is are a lot of parallels between mutants fighting for their civil rights and the humans opposing them to other minorities fighting for similar human rights against bigots in the real world. While some of the humans on this series can be over the top, they are usually nuanced enough that you understand why they feel the way they do. Also, the X-Men films, the mutants must decide how far they want to go to fight for equality. This becomes much more interesting with the introduction of the Stepford Cuckoos (aka the Frost sisters) and the briefly-shown Hellfire Club.
Another strong aspect of the show is the characters. While it takes some time for most of them to gel, they become much more well-defined by the finale. Especially thinking back on the first episode, all the major character get a story arc and end up at a much different point then where they started. The Strucker family goes through the most changes, with both Reed and Caitlin changing the most. Laruen changers the least, and Andy’s more aggressive turn is telegraphed early on, but the way that they become the most powerful mutants is fun to watch, even if they do a poor job of portraying the true destruction they cause with their abilities. Probably the most interesting story arc is Polaris’. Even though the balked at revealing her true father’s name, it was still impactful watching her come into the same mentality that drove him.
Which brings me to another negative. I understand why we don’t see any major members of the X-Men or the Brotherhood, but it’s way too vague about what happened to them. We know there was some kind of violent protest, and then the X-Men set up the Mutant Underground, and then they vanished. I really didn’t need to many details, but just a little something to understand better what went down and how the underground got up and running. (There are some good flashbacks involving Mutants Underground members that fill in some of their backstories. They flesh out the characters a bit, but they still feel like we could’ve got a bit more.)
“The Gifted” has grown into a good entry into the X-Men mythos, and with the heroes choosing sides, the show has a lot of potential. With no hints towards what enemy they will face next season, it’s hard to get too excited about what comes next.
Season’s best episode: “eXpoited” (Episode 10): Things pick up. The Cuckoos and the Stuckers in all their glory and a main character is murdered suddenly.
Season’s worst episode: “eXodus” (Episode 7): The show stalls here, with the lame attempt to find political help and the overreacting, gun-toting neighbors showing up. Too many bad decisions made.
*** out of *****