Spoiler Warning for Episode 1 & 2 (If you’d like to see the first episode, you can at this moment download it for free on Amazon. Just search ‘The Gifted’ under Amazon Video.)
Marvel and Fox’s newest series, The Gifted, centers around a nuclear family whose lives are uprooted when the two children are discovered to have powerful mutant abilities; abilities that make them a target of the government. In order to protect their children, the parents seek the aid of an underground network of mutants who help others of their kind. While this show was created by the same people behind the X-Men movie franchise, it will be adjacent to the X-Men lore but won’t necessarily overlap.
After seeing first-hand all the marketing materials at New York Comic Con earlier this month, and even getting a chance to very briefly speak to some of the actors during my coverage of NYCC, I became intrigued with the show and gave it a try. I watched the first two episodes of The Gifted and was absolutely blown away.
One thing that I’ve always appreciated about the X-Men franchise is that it tells the story of the marginalized. Much like the X-Men movies, The Gifted manages to do this and draws parallels to social issues in our own world, without having to spell it out directly for us.
Taking a closer look at the first two episodes, we meet Reed and Kate Strucker (Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker), the non-mutant parents of two mutant children. Both parents, while always having been kind and sympathetic people, weren’t able to fully empathize with mutants until their own children were outed. In fact, Reed is a prosecutor that specifically deals with “dangerous” mutants. There were many moments in Reed and Kate’s lives in which they could have intervened to help others but did nothing. Eclipse (Sean Teale) asks Kate during a conversation if she would ever really have joined the cause for equality if not for her own children. Examples of the Struckers’ previous inactions are revealed through flashbacks.
We see the persecution of mutants from different settings and locations, like in a suburban bowling alley or an underfunded hospital in the middle of nowhere.
During the bowling alley flashback in Episode Two, we see a young mutant girl and her father trying to bowl while being harassed by a bunch of teens. The girl has an ability she can’t hide that causes her to vibrate at a high frequency. There was a bowling alley full of families, adults, and employees, yet none of them stood up for the girl and her father when they were being bothered. In any other setting, it’s very likely that someone would have intervened. To top it off, the mutant girl and her father are the ones asked to leave, rather than the aggressors. Any attempt at self-defense or other accidental expression of mutant abilities can easily be used against the mutant, as an excuse to charge them as violent and a menace to society.
In Episode Two, the doctor who patches up Eclipse’s wound is caring and gentle with Kate, but suspicious of Eclipse. The doctor ends up calling the police because he sees the mutant as being capable of domestic abuse; despite the fact that Kate truthfully denies it ever happening.
Even before his mutant powers first manifest, Andy Strucker (Percy Hynes White) is a loner who is constantly singled out and bullied in school. Yet, the school is unable to do much to protect one of their own students for being singled out, even though it’s very clear what’s happening.
There are several other instances of persecution as told by the other mutants in regard to their own experiences, or from the non-mutants speaking about mutant persecution that they’ve witnessed. The hospital, high school, and bowling alley are representations of how the systems in place, along with their laws or regulations don’t always work to protect the marginalized. While these concepts of equality exist in theory, in practice none of this ever really mattered due to prejudices of people in a system that works against these groups.
The Gifted also continues an idea that was originally introduced in the original X-Men movies, but while mutants get persecuted, those who are unable to physically hide their mutations face even greater persecution. The attractive and well-liked teen had a vastly different experience from the aforementioned girl at the bowling alley, or even with Blink (Jamie Chung).
There was some great action in the first two episodes, and while we can definitely expect to see more demonstrations of mutant powers, I really enjoyed the non-superpowered moments of the show. Watching the Strucker parents adapt to the life-changing event that would forever alter their views on mutants, and following this progression will be very interesting. Especially because Reed’s capture by the government may turn him against the mutants again, and may stunt his evolving views about those that are different. I’m also very curious to see how the show tackles Polaris’ bipolarism, which was hinted at already but not explicitly discussed yet.
The Gifted airs on Mondays at 9PM EDT. Check out the first episode for free on Amazon. Just search ‘The Gifted’ under ‘Amazon Video.’