An X-Men television series that doesn’t feature the likes of Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm or Professor X, and instead focuses on the exploits of a family created specifically for this show. Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it? In fact, it sounds like the type of live-action comic book TV series we’d get back in the ’90s.
But you know what? Not only does the series premiere of The Gifted work, but it proves that Fox can do the X-Men justice.The Uncanny Premise
Where in Fox’s convoluted X-Men timeline The Gifted takes place, I’m not sure (and to be honest, I’m not sure I want to think too much about it). What we do know is that the X-Men and the Brotherhood’s whereabouts are unknown. These rival mutant groups’ devastating battles were enough to force the U.S. to embrace more drastic measures to keep everyday humans safe (don’t get any crazy ideas, Mr. President). The amended Patriot Act allows Sentinel Services, a mysterious government agency, to take mutants into the custody in the interest of the public’s safety.
The Mutant Underground, a nationwide network of gifted individuals, is in direct opposition to Sentinel Services and local police. Their mission: to keep their mutant brothers and sisters safe. We first meet MU members Thunderbird (Blair Redford), Eclipse (Sean Teale) and Polaris (Emma Dumont) when they rescue Blink (Jamie Chung), and end up losing Polaris to the police in the process.
Meanwhile, Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer), a district attorney who works to keep dangerous mutants off American streets, suddenly finds himself closer to the ongoing conflict between species when his two children, Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes), are revealed to be gifted.
Now on the run from the all-powerful Sentinel Services, the Strucker family finds itself allied with the MU.What Astonishes
There’s a lot to like about “eXposed,” written by series creator Matt Nix and directed by the X-Men’s cinematic mastermind Bryan Singer. First, Singer redeems himself after the incredibly embarrassing X-Men: Apocalypse. The tone of this series is more akin to that of the first X-Men film, and the grounded tone perfectly suits this story about everyday people. One can only hope Singer learned the errors of his ways and is on his way to once again becoming the great storyteller we know he can be.
Next, this series showcases some great characters and strong acting. Moyer is among the show’s standout performers. Reed is a conflicted man trying to do the right thing–until his No. 1 priority becomes keeping his children safe from the very people he once worked with. And those kids–not at all annoying! Whiny, fireworks-blasting Jubilee, Lauren and Andy are not.
On the mutant front, Eclipse and Polaris are the breakout characters. While Eclipse is basically Sunspot, he’s got enough to edge to become his own man in no time. And his girlfriend Polaris has never been cooler. This is definitely Magneto’s daughter–capable of going from calculating and collected to completely savage with her green-tinged magnetic powers. Dumont’s wide, emotive eyes only add an additional layer of intensity to the character who far too many comic writers don’t seem to know what to do with. Can’t wait to see more of Ms. Dane!Ultimately, I think what I liked most about The Gifted is how it managed to touch on so many of those classic X-Men themes the movies don’t always have time to explore.
For instance, we’ve got people casually using the word “mutie,” only to be told they’re being racist. There are mutant powers manifesting in moments of extreme stress. And there’s talk of running to places where mutant laws aren’t as strict, like Mexico.
Too often, Xavier’s students are battling major threats, or in space duking it our with cosmic empires. The Gifted takes the focus to the streets–to the mutants who don’t get to live in a posh mansion and wear blue and yellow uniforms. We’ve seen the X-Men battle Apocalypse in live action: it was… underwhelming. I fully welcome an intimate break from all the CGI. Please, no more Quicksilver sequences–just give me a good story, where characters show off their powers trying to get snacks out of a vending machine, only to totally destroy said vending machine.
If anything, this series reminds viewers why mutants need Charles Xavier.
What Isn’t Extraordinary
Like I said, there’s a lot of good here, mostly due to the tight focus on a small cast of characters. A common X-Men problem (both in the comics and on the big screen) is how quickly stories suffer under the weight of a ballooning cast. Let’s hope The Gifted stays grounded and doesn’t introduce too many new mutants.And while the effects look great, I hope we’re not stuck with drone-like Sentinels. Would giant robots work in the world this show has established? probably not… but give us something a little cooler than tiny spider bots I could play with at my mall’s Sharper Image.
Finally, I wish this series had a cool title sequence. The ’90s X-Men cartoon’s opening titles are iconic–this show deserves the same! Oh yeah, fans of that ’90s X-Men theme song should also listen closely for a little Easter egg.
So What’s The Point, Bub?
While Legion proved to be a visually striking series (and Aubrey Plaza’s just all-around awesome), it didn’t take long for it to get… confusing. The Gifted may not be as trippy, but the storytelling is enjoyable, straightforward and more aligned with those classic X-Men stories about protecting a world that hates and fears its saviors.
Man, we sure have come a long way since that Generation X TV movie aired on Fox in the ’90s, haven’t we?
Still on the fence about watching “The Gifted?” Here are the first six minutes of “eXposed.”