Yesterday I railed on about getting away from superheroes and here I am today reviewing another superhero series. Right up front, I gotta say The Gifted is head and shoulders above Inhumans. The Gifted is about underdog outsiders whereas Inhumans (if you didn’t read yesterday’s review) follows the exploits of outsiders who set up an oppressive regime and then fight over it.
The Gifted—a continuation, or perhaps spin-off, of X-men—centers on two groups. First we have a family caught between love and the law, not that there’s any question these parents will follow their hearts and protect their kids from overzealous goon squads. Up until now, the dad was a lawyer who prosecutes mutants… until he discovers he’s raised two of his own. And this leaves room for him, somewhere down the road, to try litigating his way out of this mess only to sink them all into deeper trouble.
The second group, those already-outlawed mutants, are organized enough to have a headquarters and occupy themselves with seeking out new mutants so they can be brought into the fold.
The balance of personalities is here, but we have to look beyond the nuclear family unit to find them all. If not for the gifted outlaws, this series might sputter and fail by mid-season for lack of variety, personality-wise… even though the story and plot might keep it going until this balance is fully in place, but let’s leave further discussion of that for later.
Naturally, not all the actors have grown into their characters yet, but the groundwork is in place. I’m sure it’ll blossom over the next few episodes until they give us characters we can sink our teeth into.
Bryan Singer’s directing is a cut above. I won’t say that nothing got away from him, but if anything did, it was impossible to detect during a single viewing. A second viewing might give me something to pick on, but most viewers won’t watch this again until the series hits Netflix, DVD, or some other streaming service, so why bother? This was a very satisfying show to watch with compelling scenes and appropriate transitions.
With a wealth of emotional hooks, The Gifted has lots to work with. First, there’s the shock of two (until now) straight-n-narrow parents who find themselves forced into defying the law to protect their children. Second is the whole underdog vs. authority angle. That’s rich soil for growing character empathy.
Finally, we’ve got the daughter who kept her mutant powers secret for three years along with the son and a third orphan character who are both new to this whole mutant thing. Can you say, ‘loose cannons?’ I can see these three characters dashing around the decks in up-coming episodes to unintentionally foil plans and generally up the emotional ante.
First episode plots can, by their very nature, be awkward. With a universe to establish, along with major players on both sides of the empathy wall, it’s like wading through a pit of alligators making it all work while grabbing an audience by its shirtfront. The Gifted does all this without resorting to talking heads, “as you know” speeches, or metaphorically handing out scorecards. This show lets plot do its job visually.
I didn’t even mind the show opening with the well-worn trope of a high-speed car chase because less than a minute in, we’re exposed to the show’s major hook—mutant powers at work—and at scene’s end, practical and CG effects meld to twist this into a not-your-average-car-chase sequence.
The rest of the episode throws advantage back and forth between good guys and bad, keeping everyone on their toes right up to the final scene. All the groundwork is laid for a series with serious legs (meaning this show could easily see a 10th season).
I didn’t pick out any scene business, dialogue, or character reaction that was lacking, out of place, or over the top. The writing is tight—aided by top-notch video editors, I’m sure—giving cast and crew a good blueprint to work from. Once the writers and actors get used to each other, this could be a very fine series.
Maybe it’s not that I’m tired of superheroes, but tired of seeing them done poorly. The Gifted takes what worked in X-men—minus the formality—and brought it together with a cast of characters and a premise both dripping with empathy. I’ll be following this show until such time as it forgets that these are people first and super-beings second… if that ever happens. With Matt Nix at the helm (creator of Burn Notice, one of my favorite shows of this decade) I have hope that this won’t happen. Perhaps working for Marvel will give Mr. Nix the elbow room he needs and he won’t be forced to run season arcs that blow conflict out of proportion and destroy the episodic flavor of what could be an Emmy-winning series.