Marvel comics fans finally have an X-Men show that feels like an X-Men show in The Gifted. It doesn’t matter that the real “X-Men” are gone or that a young Blink (Jamie Chung) is having some issues with her abilities — actually, that’s what makes the whole thing feel so genuine. The Gifted is a better Marvel show than other recent Marvel-based shows Legion or Inhumans because the stakes feel enormously real.
The Gifted is serving a completely different vibe from its supposed contemporaries Legion — convoluted-verging-on-unrecognizable as an “X-Men” show — or Inhumans — a notably cheap take on a group of B-movie Marvel heroes — by actually telling a story about everyday mutants. These mutants, two teens learning to use their powers and a group of misfits fighting the system, are not overwhelmingly powerful, they don’t live in a decked-out mansion in upstate New York, and they definitely don’t have Wolverine or Professor X on their side.
Fox’s The Gifted is more accessible than any other Marvel television show currently airing. The X-Men are gone, and this show wants to explore what it means to be an average, everyday mutant.
The first episode of The Gifted, “eXposed,” sets up a family-driven drama that actually takes into account the X-Men’s original intended metaphor for both civil and LGBTQ rights. The Strucker family fights to stay together; the father, Stephen Moyer’s Reed Strucker, is a district attorney who prosecutes “dangerous” mutants, and the kids, Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White), are inundated by mutant abilities. When Reed and his wife, Kate (Amy Acker), learn of their kids’ powers, they’re thrust out of their place of privilege.
Suddenly, the Strucker family is on the run — they’re just like the “troubled” people Reed has been prosecuting for years and are actually forced to rely on those people for help. The basic humanity exhibited in just the first episode of The Gifted probably feels familiar to fans of Marvel’s X-Men comics.
So many people picked up X-Men comics looking for stories of people who didn’t belong, people living outside the norms of society who were persecuted by their own government. That’s what The Gifted, at a base level, delivers on, much more so than Legion or Inhumans.
Inhumans, a critical failure, tells the story of the Inhumans royal family collapsing upon itself on the surface of the Moon, which is, uh, about as unrelatable as it gets. Meanwhile, Legion follows David Haller, Charles Xavier’s son and one of the most powerful mutants in Marvel history, as his superpowers manifest as various forms of mental illness; it just doesn’t actually feel like a comic book show. And while it’s cool to talk about the real effects of mental health on television, stylizing these problems as a superpower has its own set of issues.
If you’re looking for a mutant-based story with a diverse cast of characters, The Gifted is the show you want.
The Gifted airs Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on Fox.