The Gifted: An X-Men Series Embracing the Mantle of An Embattled Minority

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, who will face the 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–whose friends Strucker senior has personally prosecuted.

Series: Season one is completed at 13 episodes, and there will be a second.

I’ve Watched: The first season.

Verdict: It’s great.

I’m really enjoying this show. I’ve already talked about the awesome, badass characters that really bring life into every scene. But the situations those characters are put in, and the way The Gifted allows them to react, contributes much to the experience. This show is complex and nuanced, because everyone–from the protagonists to the worst of the bad guys–is looking out for their own. That’s their motivation. They’re trying to protect their people, no matter what that means for everyone else. (And naturally, this provides an easy justification for some terrible abuses.)

The Gifted is showing mutants treated like an embattled minority, in a way that I haven’t seen handled in an X-Men property before (and I’ve encountered a lot of X-Men properties).

The Strucker parents have several conversations about how they’d lived their lives before joining the mutant underground. They had dug their heads into the sand and refused to see what was happening to mutants, up until their own children started experiencing it. They were complicit, even without meaning to be–and the important realization is just how easy it was to be complicit. It was the most natural thing in the world for them.

Because one of the most dangerous things about prejudice, is that it isn’t hard. It doesn’t take effort. Not being prejudiced–as much as that’s possible–is what’s hard.

The protagonists–our minority that find themselves faced with paltry legal protection–struggle with questions like, how extreme do they get? They’re being rounded up and thrown into prison on the slightest of reasons, there are secret government facilities that experiment on them–so what does that mean for their principles? Some of them still want to keep from hurting innocent people no matter what. Others decide that they don’t have the luxury of principles, and their innocent people will get hurt if they try–and why should the innocent lives of non-mutants matter more than the innocent lives of mutants, anyway? Still others are angry–absolutely furious–and want to employ more extreme tactics.

The show gives us enough of where each character is coming from, that it’s easy to understand all of their perspectives. And The Gifted lays out the consequences of every action, including the ones we like to consider the most moral. There are no easy answers here, no blueprint of the ‘right thing to do’ which will magically make things better instead of worse–especially without making whatever the protagonists choose to do vilified.

It reminds me of the issues looked at in this post from Writing with Color, Black Abuse Victims & Issues with Portraying Nonviolence as superior, that talks about the nonviolence of the Civil Rights Movement and the strategy of fighting back by the Black Panther Party.

Apart from the show’s stark wrestling with prejudice and control, the plotting is genuinely entertaining. Every new twist is so much fun. With the X-Men canon to draw on, any X-Men show can bring in an assortment of intriguing characters–but The Gifted uses this resource effectively.

One particularly interesting wild card is introduced as a side character. Then the show starts to give us hints that she might have ulterior motives, leaving us guessing as to what they could be. The entire lead-up to the reveal of her identity and motivations was so interesting, because we didn’t know what she was going to do next. I didn’t even realize that I did, in fact, know who she was from the comics, until we met her compatriots.

The Gifted introduces fascinating characters with all kinds of motivation, and really allows their conflicts to grow. And there is plenty for them to be conflicted over, plenty to pull them apart. This is a wonderful show, and I’m super excited for season two.