Review: The Gifted (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK)

Not as good as Legion

The Gifted

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Sundays, 9pm, Fox UK. Starts October 8

You have to hand it to Marvel. Having a few critical failures isn’t stopping them from marching on regardless, mining decades of comics for new TV shows. Sure, the shiny lustre has come off its Netflix shows, tarnished by the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil, Marvel’s Iron Fist (why? It’s great) and Marvel’s The Defender’s. Its ABC shows are pretty ropey (Marvel’s Inhumans), cancelled (Marvel’s Agent Carter) or lurching along like a zombie that should have already died (Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD).

But the X-Men keep it going. Sure, that’s without actually including any X-Men, but X-Men-free X-Men shows seem to be working for it. This year, we’ve already had the truly magnificent Legion, one of 2017’s best new TV shows and so auteured by Noah Hawley you’d really have to work hard to spot it’s an X-Men show.

The Gifted

Now we have The Gifted, which comes from the pen of Matt Nix (Burn Notice, The Good Guys) and which doesn’t feature even one X-Man. Although it does mention them and include their ringtone.

It sees Stephen Moyer (Ultraviolet, True Blood, The Bastard Executioner) and Amy Acker (Angel, Person of Interest) playing a happily married couple in a post-X-Men universe – that is, the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants appear to have disappeared somewhere after a 9/11-style event that saw lots and lots of people killed. Not all the world’s mutants have disappeared, though, and the government’s so hacked off, it’s set up all kinds of laws and agencies to police mutants, keep them under control and make sure they don’t go around killing people. Moyer is also a district attorney charged with dealing with rebel mutants, although he tries not to think too hard about what happens to them once they go through the system.

Acker and Moyer have two teenage kids: the popular Natalie Alyn Lind and the bullied loner Percy Hynes White. Wouldn’t you know it, they’re mutants! Oh noes. And when White accidentally comes into his new powers quite publicly, it’s not long before Coby Bell (Burn Notice) from Sentinel Services is at Acker and Moyer’s door, looking to bring them both in.

What’s a futuristic police state family to do, hey?

Here’s the first six minutes, followed by a trailer

Special?

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by this. Matt Nix, Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, superheroes and great word of mouth should have made this a slam duck.

But… it’s just so been there, done that. Whether it’s because the X-Men universe has been so thoroughly mined or Legion gave us such an exciting and imaginative new slant on it, watching The Gifted just made me feel like I’d seen it all before.

Sure, Moyer and Acker are appealing and work well together. Sure, there are some great effects. But sitting through the pilot, I sat there thinking “Oh yes, that’s that scene with Magneto in X-Men“, “Hmm. Bit like The Matrix that”, “Gosh, is Jamie Chung playing Blink? Cos that’s a lot like X-Men: Days of Future Past“, “Gosh, have they cribbed that bit from Magneto’s plastic prison in X-Men 2?” and so on.

It didn’t feel like it was doing anything new. Heroes was more imaginative and this is basically just Noah Bennett’s sub-plot spun out into a whole TV show. And Jack Coleman’s a far more interesting actor playing a far more interesting character than Coby Bell.

I like that it’s trying to be “realistic”, or as realistic as one can be with superheroes in a quasi-futuristic setting. I like that we actually have a relatively happily married couple. And if all you want is to watch Matt Nix pick up the X-Men trainset, shunt trains around on the tracks then put it all back in the box, The Gifted might work for you.

But if you want to watch something new and exciting that’s set in the X-Men universe, on the strength of this episode, I’d say please watch Legion instead. Or even watch the first season of Heroes instead. There may be better to come and The Gifted is certainly made well enough to suggest that possibility, so I’ll stick with the next couple of episodes at least. But don’t be expecting anything anywhere near as good as those two shows when you watch this.