With the way the trend has been going with superhero properties taking over both movies and television it's easy for someone who is NOT a huge geek to ask, "Do we need yet another comic-book based TV show?" If they are referring to FOX's new show, The Gifted then the answer is a loud and proud, YES!
From Executive Producer Matt Nix (Burn Notice) and born of the already beloved X-Men Marvel Comics franchise comes a new take on an old question, 'How can mutants make it in today's society?' The fact that the tales of mutants trying to get by as outcasts in the pages of their world easily mirrors the same problems that our current culture is still dealing with on a daily basis with racial inequality and bigotry. Whether the relatable story is the reason so many successful movies have been birthed from these characters or it's just the fact that they were just really well created by Marvel Comics co-founders Stan Lee and Jack Kirby many years ago is something that can be debated at your local comic book store. For now, we're talking about The Gifted.
The pilot episode wastes no time in getting your attention as we're dropped right into a scene of one female mutant named Clarice Fong a.k.a. Blink (Once Upon A Time's Jamie Chung) who is fleeing from a police squad of cars in pursuit. Realizing she can't outrun them, she uses her abilities to open a portal so she can teleport away and closes it behind her before the cops can follow.
Cut to three other mutants who are in the area looking for Blink in an effort to take care of one of their own. The one with the tracking ability is named John Proudstar a.k.a Thunderbird (The Lying Game's Blair Redford), he is accompanied by Lorna Dane a.k.a Polaris (Aquarius' Emma Dumont) who controls magnetism, and her photon energy controlling boyfriend Marcos Diaz a.k.a Eclipse (Reign's Sean Teale). They find Blink hiding in an unoccupied warehouse and head inside to introduce themselves.
Understandably they startle Blink and even though they try to say they come in peace she only believes them when they demonstrate they have powers like her. But before they have any time to trade baking recipes, the cops have somehow found them and announce that they want everyone to come out and surrender.
After Polaris takes out all of their roof rack lights and Eclipse blinds the men with an intense burst they all make a break to run out the back. But unfortunately, there's always that one lucky bastard that causes trouble and one officer catches up to them and shoots Marcos in the arm. Enraged by seeing her love go down to the ground, Polaris loses herself in rage and lashes out at the officer with her powers by repeatedly whipping him against a dumpster. This, unfortunately, leaves her open for the rest of the police that are now upon them and they take her down with tasers. But this distraction does give the opportunity for the other three mutants to escape.
We now shift the story to the Strucker family that live what seems like a regular life in suburban Atlanta. Mother Kate (Person of Interest's Amy Acker) and Father Reed (True Blood's Stephen Moyer) are at their son Andy's (Percy Hynes White) high school talking to the principal about their son being bullied. While the principal tries to be blasé about the situation, Reed who is a district attorney threatens to take legal action if they don't fix the problem to his satisfaction. This scene immediately shows the strong dedication that these two parents have to their children.
Later on, we find Polaris locked up in a plastic prison cell at a place called the Garland Detention Center and who comes to visit her but Reed Strucker. Reed's job description apparently is prosecuting mutants who the government has deemed are dangerous felons. He tells Lorna that she is looking at some serious charges for assaulting two officers unless she gives him information on a reported mutant underground that is aiding dozens of mutant "fugitives" Lorna is loyal and true to her people and doesn't roll over on her friends. Dumont is a powder keg of strength and fortitude that only shows a moment of weakness when Strucker shows her the medical report, revealing she is pregnant. I can't wait to see what else develops for this character.
Meanwhile back over at the Strucker residence Andy and his sister Lauren (Gotham's Natalie Alyn Lind) are leaving to go to a high school dance because that's what normal teenagers do. When they get there Lauren goes off with her boyfriend, while Andy is left being a wallflower. Now we can't let these kids have any happiness, so it's not long before the bullies that have been terrorizing Andy find him at the dance and pull him into the gym shower room. They decide to blast him with the shower water and this triggers Andy's mutant powers to come out in a violent way. He makes the entire gym shake and bend like a metal pretzel, which causes all the students to panic and run outside. Lauren sensing that this is her brother's doing runs to his aid and is the only person able to calm him down.
Back at home Andy and Lauren sit down with their mother to talk about what just happened at the dance. Kate is so confused because she doesn't understand how this all happened so suddenly. She asks Andy why he didn't notice this change happening to his body. Lauren tells her mother it doesn't work like that, there are no signs that you're changing. When Kate questions her daughter's knowledge on the matter, Lauren informs her that she is also a mutant. That she has been one for several years now. This takes the scene in a very dramatic direction as Lauren explains to her mom that she never felt safe talking to her about it because of what their father did for a living. It's possible to see the similarities of coming out to their mother as a mutant in the same way a person might come out to their parents as revealing they are homosexual. They just want to be accepted by their parents who are supposed to love them but are afraid of losing them for being different.
Their conversation is cut short when a knock on the door is two men from a government group called the Sentinel Services, (great homage to the mutant-killing Sentinel robots from the comics) who are there to pick up Andy and Lauren and take them in for the "safety of the community." Kate tries to tell them that they are not going anywhere with them but when the men force their way inside, it causes the kids to react. Lauren throws up a shield to hold them off while they all run to the car in the garage. Kate quickly backs the car out of the garage, even as they are being shot at and speeds away. If you were not already invested enough this is when the show really takes off.
The story continues with Kate and her children meeting up with Reed and after telling him about their mutant secret he decides his family is more important than any beliefs he might've previously had. They are now on the run from the Sentinel Services and Reed has to quickly figure out how to get his children to the Mutant Underground Railroad so they will be safe. Moyer and Acker are a fine fit as parents who love their kids and will do whatever is necessary to make sure they escape to safety. The smart casting of putting two veteran television actors in such important roles was obviously not lost on Matt Nix and Co.
Lind and White work well as a brother and sister who have to lean on each other for support when they realize they not only share a blood type but a black mark on their selves among the rest of the society. Lauren tries to help Andy in learning how to use his powers and is always by his side trying to keep him safe. Somehow among all the craziness they even find instances to squabble like siblings demonstrating how their genes change nothing about their relationship.
The Gifted might not have all those X-men that you are familiar with from the movies but it still gives you characters that are courageous as much as they are compassionate for their fellow mutant kind. While it is mentioned that the real X-men have "disappeared" in this timeline, the likes of Eclipse, Thunderbird, and Blink do good service to hold up the mutant end of the show. They are not fully trained, badass, costumed superheroes but more so a small rebel group that is part of a bigger community trying to help out all their fellow mutant brothers and sisters. Marcos' sole purpose is to get Lorna out of prison and when Reed Strucker comes into the picture with information on her whereabouts he'll do whatever he needs to in order to get her back.
The pilot episode, directed by X-men alumni Bryan Singer (Days of Future Past especially), with producing credits from Len Wiseman (Underworld franchise), and Simon Kinberg (writer of Days of Future Past) shows that Fox did not go into this lightly and made sure to bring out the best-qualified people to make this a show to watch. This story worked because it just went back to basics with the franchise by taking the root of what makes mutants who they are and that is people who even though they are hated by humans still are good people who want to live a normal life. The problem is that no one will leave them the hell alone. My only worry is that this pilot was so good that I don't know if they are going to be able to continue with this excellence. Do you think they can meet this amazing standard every week?