20th Century Fox has had a good run of box office success with its ownership of Marvel’s X-Men characters, creating their own universe of mutants that do not coexist with the other Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’ve toyed with bringing some of the more well-known X-Men characters to the small screen but that could risk damaging the box office for the films, so they’ve delved into different mutant stories (and the MCU films are not allowed to use the term “mutant”) first with the successful series Legion on the FX Network and now with The Gifted on the Fox Network.
The Gifted is set in the X-Men movie universe shortly after the X-Men have disappeared (or gone into hiding) due to the newly implemented government laws. As the new series opens, a young woman is being chased by the police. What she doesn’t know if that she’s also being tracked by a team of mutants who want to take her back to the protection of the Mutant Underground. Unfortunately, rescuing Clarice (Jamie Chung) results in the group’s leader Marcos/Eclipse (Sean Teale) being shot in the arm and his girlfriend Lorna/Polaris (Emma Dumont) to unleash her rage and distrating her enough for the police to gain the upper hand and take her into custody.
In a parallel story, we’re introduced to Reed and Caitlin Strucker (Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker) who are visiting the principal’s office in regards to their son Andy being bullied. The principal seems to not want to take the issue seriously, giving them a lot of mumbo-jumbo about zero tolerance but when Reed threatens legal action, the principal is visibly shaken. And that, presumably, is because he knows Reed Strucker is a lawyer who works as a prosecutor of mutant criminals. He’s even taken on the prosecution of Lorna, but he offers to cut her a deal if she’ll give up her friends in the Mutant Underground. Showing her some paperwork, Lorna is visibly shaken.
The Strucker kids, Andy (Percy Hynes White) and big sister Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind), go to a school dance — even though it’s probably not the best venue for the bullied Andy. Of course he runs into his bullies who drag him into the locker room showers where they turn on the hot water in an attempt to scald him. Andy’s rage gets the better of him and the high school dance suddenly becomes the prom from Carrie, except everyone gets out of the building. At home, the kids have to confess to their mom that they both have the X-gene. And then the government’s Sentinel Services show up to take the kids into custody. They manage to escape and then Caitlin has to break the news to Reed that his children are the same as the people he’s been prosecuting. With Sentinel Services on their trail, Reed knows the only people who can help him are the members of the Mutant Underground. In exchange for their help, Reed will do what he can to get Lorna released. And, by the way, she’s pregnant which makes Marcos even more invested in helping the man who has done so much damage to his people. This puts the Strucker family on the run and sets up the rest of the season of The Gifted.
The premiere episode manages to move along pretty quickly considering its telling an origin story, introducing the members of the Mutant Underground and the Strucker family, and then bringing them together as uneasy allies. It’s actually more successful in building this story over the course of an hour than Marvel’s Inhumans did with its two-hour premiere. All Marcos has to say to put us right in the middle of this world is that the X-Men are gone. You don’t even have to know a thing about the movies to jump right into this series. We can even casually overlook this massive space the MU has that no one from Sentinel Services can find when Marcos says it’s a long-abandoned building, the last place anyone would look (in reality, I think that’s the first place anyone would look, but we can go with it).
We know enough about the mutants and their powers from the pilot, and all of the actors do very good work, but the real stars of this story are the Strucker kids who basically have to come out to their parents and hope they don’t just turn them over to the authorities. Caitlin is shocked but she goes right into mom mode when her kids are threatened, and Reed is faced with questioning his career. But the kids come first and they will do anything to protect them. Both White and Lind are terrific as Andy and Lauren, first with their sibling rivalry — they actually argue over social studies — but Lauren really does care for her little brother, risking her own life to get him out of the school before anything worse happens. I liked how the two bonded while on the run, she showing him how to get free snacks from a vending machine … which goes terribly wrong when he tries with his as yet uncontrolled powers. And just in the space of the opener, the entire family bonds even more as their lives change and they suddenly become fugitives (luckily Reed has his partner on the inside, played by Toks Olagundoye, who may be able to help him evade Sentinel Services and get Lorna out of prison).
It was a pretty action-packed premiere with some good acting, good special effects and a good story (my only quibble was some of the ugly cinematography that rendered a lot of the scenes with the Strucker family a bit muddy in coloration). If they can keep building the intrigue week to week, Fox will have another mutant hit on its hands.
What did you think of the season premiere? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.