Warning: SPOILERS below for The Gifted!
The Gifted has all the necessary elements and X-factors to be great but it hasn’t fulfilled its potential. FOX’s X-Men-without-the-X-Men series about mutants trying to survive in a world that hates and fears them premiered in October to decent ratings but it has steadily lost viewers each week with its December 11th fall finale episode falling to series lows. Many fans who sampled The Gifted thanks to the lofty promise of an X-Men TV series and the exciting pilot directed by Bryan Singer have scattered ever since. Unfortunately, this is because despite the series’ many gifts, The Gifted has proven to be boring.
Even without the name brand X-Men characters like Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, and Professor X, The Gifted started off well. Series creator Matt Nix leaned on many of the characters fans met in the apocalyptic future scenes of X-Men: Days of Future Past like Blink, Thunderbird, and Eclipse (the latter two were Warpath and Sunspot in the film, but The Gifted‘s mutants exhibit similar powers). The Gifted introduced an effective hook: a ‘normal’ nuclear family, the Struckers, who discover their children are mutants, which forces them to go on the run and join the Mutant Underground. The Gifted ably dropped fans into its universe where mutants are societal pariahs hunted and imprisoned by the government’s anti-mutant Sentinel Services – therefore, all of the familiar X-Men themes are in place. What’s more, the backstory of what happened to the X-Men has been teased via intriguing dollops of info throughout season 1.
The series also has a tremendous cast, with Jaime Chung’s sarcastic Blink, Emma Dumont’s dangerous Polaris (the daughter of Magneto), and Blair Redford’s proud and rock-solid Thunderbird as standouts among the heroic mutants. When the mutants use their powers, like the instance where Polaris and her beau Eclipse, played by Sean Teale, created an Aurora Borealis, the results are thrilling. Amy Acker and Stephen Moyer as Caitlin and Reed Strucker anchor the series as the human POVs for the audience plunged into this unsettling mutant world. Coby Bell’s Jace Turner, the agent in charge of Sentinel Services, is a complex and driven villain. In the rare moments Turner unleashes Sentinel robots on the mutants, the suspense is genuinely chilling.
With this intriguing universe populated by compelling characters set up so well, what went wrong with The Gifted and why have audiences found it so lacking to the point where many have quit the series?
A Cycle of Repetition
The Gifted dragged its heels instead of letting loose. The early episodes saw young mutants Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy Strucker (Percy Hynes White) indoctrinated into the Mutant Underground, which was focused on freeing Polaris from imprisonment by Sentinel Services. The Mutant Underground eventually rescued Polaris and brought her back to the safety of their headquarters, an abandoned bank in Atlanta. Since then, while there has been a pleasing exploration of the characters and their backstories, instead of escalating the superhero action, the series has set a tedious pace and has largely been a prolonged game of hide and seek, with Sentinel Services trying to locate the mutants’ refuge to no avail and the mutants content to evade detection.
Several excursions, such as the Struckers trying to get help from Caitlin’s brother Daniel or Blink leaving the Underground because of a breach of trust and going to search for her foster family, ended in the same way: a scramble to get back to the Mutant Underground headquarters as Sentinel Services give chase and fail to catch them. Sentinel Services, which has an unlimited budget, personnel, and sinister mutant-hunting technology at their disposal, unavoidably look like buffoons as they can’t find dozens of mutants hiding in Atlanta, nor can they hold onto a mutant whenever they do momentarily capture one. The mutants, meanwhile, don’t come off as very heroic in these situations. Their central motivation tends to be finding a way to get back to that abandoned bank and hide from the big, bad humans when things get hot.
Meanwhile, a lot of The Gifted‘s issues also stem from one of the biggest problems with the show: the Mutant Underground itself.
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