FOX’s brand new TV series The Gifted has brought us back into the world of the X-Men once again. This isn’t one populated with yellow and blue costumes, the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, or even the Brotherhood of Mutants though. In this world, the X-Men have disappeared and no one knows where they are, while ordinary mutants are being hunted by the authorities and the Sentinel Services, with no one to turn to save for a ragtag group of rebels called the Mutant Underground.
But like any good sci-fi story, the real meat and bones of The Gifted‘s plot so far lie in human nature and interaction: exploring how mankind would react to the presence of superpowered people, and what those people would do with their capacity for destruction.
Superhero stories often bring an extra layer of depth for their readers or audiences. What would we do if we had an immense power locked away inside us that allowed us to become a symbol of something stronger? The Gifted explores the reverse of that feeling, with characters who have to run and hide because of their genetic abilities. So far, the show looks to focus on three key themes that commonly crop up in X-Men canon.
Mutants have been an oppressed class ever since they were first introduced into comics. It’s part of who they are, it’s why they fight so hard to keep their place in the world. They’re constantly being attacked by governments and rogue security agencies, so they’re used to being the downtrodden ones in society. It’s a clever subversion of the superhero genre; for most characters who are given superpowers it means a flashy costume, a new love interest, and an arch nemesis. But with the The Gifted, these powers mean a quick getaway and the authorities breathing down the necks of the Strucker family.
The real-world parallels are something that The Gifted addresses right away. When Andy Strucker initially makes some very insensitive comments about Mutants and who they are, Lauren immediately calls him out on it. Even going as far to say “Racist much?”. And that deconstruction of opinion is fantastic. Because as soon as Andy realizes he and his sister are both Mutants, his opinion instantly changes. It shows us that on the outside, society thinks that it’s okay to ridicule someone for being different. Until that difference is thrust upon us unwillingly, and then we ask for sympathy. And although Andy may not have meant anything mean by his insensitive comments, there’s something ironic about the kid complaining about mutants then turning into a mutant. Before he knows it, Andy is thrown into an entirely new world. One where his father is separated trying to save him, and he now has uncontrollable and destructive powers.
The most heartwarming thing to pull out of the pilot episode is that family is the strongest bond of them all. Despite his prominent role in opression of mutants, Reed Strucker immediately walks away from his job because of the danger his children are in. That he chooses his family over his job with barely a thought makes the group’s separation from Reed at the end of the episode a little heavier, despite the fact that he was previously aligned with the “bad guys.”
It’s not just about the family the characters share blood with either. It’s about those you share some common bond with. Whether that be someone of the same race, with the same colored hair or even liking the same television show. Family can be a wide term. And in The Gifted, family is the rest of Mutant kind that aren’t out to kill or imprison everyone. That close bond definitely rings true with the Mutants from the safe house that we saw. We only saw a glimpse of the relationship between Polaris and Eclipse, but it was certainly tender and sweet. They were outside looking for Blink while it was heavily raining and he’s using his powers to keep her warm. It’s a small moment that gives us a window into their lives outside of being on the run from the authorities. There are characters in the X-Men movies that do have close moments, but the relationships in The Gifted already seem to have a little more depth than some of the interactions throughout the films. It’s clear that The Gifted is about how forging a family of your own can be just as powerful as the one you’re born into.
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