The Gifted: I’ve Missed These Ensemble X-Men Works

Synopsis: The Struckers live in a world where mutants are heavily policed in the interests of public safety. Like most people, they never really think about it–not even the father, whose job is to prosecute mutants for using their powers. But then they find out both of the Strucker children are mutants, and will face the same scrutiny their own father has turned on people just like them. With the government closing in on them, the entire family is forced on the run–but they’ll never make it without the help of the mutant underground.

Series: First season is airing.

I’ve Watched: Up to episode 6.

Verdict: Great show thus far.

I’m so happy this is actually good. The Inhumans show being underwhelming is one thing, but the X-Men are my childhood. I needed this show to be good. And fortunately, it is. It’s engaging, and filled with personable characters.

As is appropriate for an X-Men property, the show features an ensemble cast, each of whom contributes to the show. Each character is distinct, and drawn in such as way as to make them interesting. Even with almost a dozen of them vying for space, the show does an excellent job of making them easy to connect to:

John/Thunderbird

“Do you realize what you’ve done?”

John is the leader of this faction of the mutant underground, an Apache ex-Marine with a sense of justice. He manages to walk the line between steady and approachable, but struggles over whether to prioritize morality or expediency. He wants to do the right thing–he doesn’t initiate any of the ‘ends justify the means’ stuff. But he does allow himself to become an accessory to them, after putting up a token protest. It’s interesting to wonder which way his character will ultimately go. Will he decide the consequences aren’t worth it, and put his foot down on finding a better way? Or will he become more extreme, realizing that if he allows his friends to make those hard choices, he should shoulder some of the burden himself?

The way that the story is going, it’s easy to imagine the plot driving him towards the latter. But the way he is as a person? His personality seems like it would naturally drive him towards the former. Either way, I really like this character.

Lorna/Polaris

“You want forgiveness…? Ask the hundreds of families whose lives you and your friends ruined. Don’t ask me.”

Lorna comes in like a total badass, it’s awesome. Unfortunately, she gets taken out of the action almost immediately afterwards to provide motivation for the Struckers and the mutant rebels to work together. But a few episodes later she makes a comeback, first getting to tell off a dude who thinks he deserves a chance just for realizing he’d done wrong, then breaking everything with her powers. (Her magnetic powers are also pretty cool. Just throwing that out there.)

I’m not really into the plot making Lorna pregnant to make her capture seem more urgent–it’s an artificial way to create drama–but other than that, she comes off as a great character, with a seriously memorable flair to her.

Marcos/Eclipse

“I did what I had to do. Okay? So back off.”

When we first meet him, Marcos comes off as the nice guy next to his edgy girlfriend, Lorna. As the show goes on, as he becomes more desperate, that nice guy facade starts cracking. He’s going on an interesting journey, where he compromises his morals to save the people he loves most. And he continues having to pay that price.

It’s bound to change him, one way or another. As of now, he’s heading towards a breaking point, and there’s no telling who he’ll be after he reaches it.

Clarice/Blink

“I’m going to make this a lot less complicated.”

Clarice is a sarcastic loner, almost as new to the mutant underground as the Struckers. She comes in with no attachments that we know of, driven only by survival. Her powers–to create portals between two points she can see–are immensely useful for both infiltration and retreat. She’s a huge asset to the mutant underground. But there isn’t anything keeping her there, other than expediency. This creates a source of tension between Clarice–who’s willing to help, for now–and the decision makers in the underground, who need her to be invested.

I’m immensely excited to learn more about her character, and watch how her conflicts with the other characters get resolved. I really want to watch her begin to form actual relationships with the other protagonists, a feat that seems like it would be both hard-won and satisfying. She has so much potential, on so many levels. Her personality is initially intriguing, but with so much left to be revealed. Her personal journey in finding a connection to the mutant underground feels like it has a lot of interesting ground left to travel. And her powers are somewhat unstable–which is immense amounts of fun.

Sonya/Dreamer

“This is a war, Johnny. In case you forgot.”

Sonya’s priority is the people she loves most. She does genuinely care about others, but if she has to do the wrong thing to an acquaintance to save a friend, she’ll do it. And unlike her kind-of-but-not-boyfriend John, she won’t agonize over it. She’ll find a way to justify it.

It probably doesn’t help that most of the ways her powers can be used–especially when it comes to fighting back against the government–are inherently unethical. She doesn’t seem to have the full telepathic powers of a Jean Grey or Professor X, but with enough time, she can modify memories or sift through someone’s mind. Both times we’ve seen her use those powers have produced consequences for her targets.

This makes her not-relationship with John all the more confusing, because he’s standing on the other side of that line. Normally, I’d think that two characters like Sonya and John were on a moral collision course. But anytime they start talking about it and John raises objections, Sonya manages to talk him around to the practical arguments about the luxuries they don’t have, and they never actually argue about it. But the conflict doesn’t go away, either. It’s clear neither of them have changed their minds–they just care about each other too much to want a fight. How on earth they’re ever going to resolve their issues when they’re too afraid to push, I don’t know, but I’m waiting to find out.

Reed

“I told myself that I was doing my job.”

The prosecutor who locks up mutants, only to discover his own children are mutants–and to save them, he needs the help of the very people he’s helped persecute. Reed has to prove himself to a lot of people. The leaders of the underground. The refugees his family must share space with. His own children.

Switching sides like this isn’t completely easy for him, but it’s made a bit better because he knows where he stands–and that’s wherever his family needs him. Still, between his expertise in how the government will target his new allies and the weight of everything he used to believe, there’s plenty of conflict to be had.

Caitlin

“There are ways to fight that don’t involve battles.”

Amy Acker is an awesome actress whose work I’m familiar with from several Whedon projects. The Gifted hasn’t even come close to utilizing her full versatility, although depending on where her character goes, they might get there.

Caitlin is a relatively normal person, albeit with exceptional willpower. She believes in a kinder world, and it’s taking her longer than the rest of her family to adjust to the reality her kids will face. That optimism isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the naivete is making life a little harder. I hope she keeps the optimism–and the determination that lets her make active use of her skills–even as her worldview will undoubtedly be challenged.

Lauren

“For weeks, you were saying it was a miracle we didn’t die…it wasn’t a miracle.”

Lauren has successfully hidden her abilities from her family for three years, revealing them only once her brother manifests his powers. That actually makes for an interesting dynamic, especially considering her father’s job. She’s been listening to her family repeat society’s accepted views about people like her for years, when they didn’t know they were talking about her, too. She’s barely spoken about this with her mother, and not at all with her father. It’s a conversation I’m waiting for. Because he’s the reason she never confided in her family. But he’s been focusing on the more pressing issues of his son’s uncontrolled powers, and never had a moment yet to address why his daughter didn’t trust him.

Andy

“Why should we have to hold back when nobody else does?”

A mutant only coming into his power, Andy’s control is nebulous. There was one moment with his power that I loved–where he sent out a shockwave to push back a bunch of aggressors, and a lesser force also knocked back his allies behind him. It was helpful overall, but still a visible demonstration of his imperfect control.

As both the youngest and the newest mutant on the show, he’s also the least likely to understand why he shouldn’t lash out as badly against others as they do against him. His father is trying to teach him things like teamwork, and not always using his destructive power as a first resort. But there are also moments when Andy is fiercely, furiously determined to use his abilities. And when he loses control of his emotions, things can get messy fast. It remains to be seen whether Andy learns the right lessons about controlling himself before he makes things worse. Like with so many of the characters on the show, he could go either way.

Overall

I am really enjoying this, and intrigued by most of the characters. There’s a lot of potential for conflict, and many of the protagonists are facing some serious choices about who they want to be. The dynamics between them are fun and complicated.

And of course, there’s the personal nostalgia factor. I was so excited to see the character of Sage pop-up–I adored her in X-Treme X-Men as a teenager. It’s also cool to hear recognizable names like Polaris and Blink, that haven’t been focused on as much outside of the comics yet.

In short, there aren’t that many new shows out there which manage to keep my attention, and I am so pleased this one came along

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