Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Gifted Series Premiere, "eXposed," REVIEW (SPOILERS)

Image Courtesy en.wikipedia.org
I haven’t watched a lot of FOX’s Marvel content recently.  In fact, apart from the “old” Fantastic Four movies, the original X-Men trilogy, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I actually haven’t watched any of their most recent offerings.  In part that is because I got into the MCU movies and didn’t particularly feel like adding another massive universe on top of that.  In part, I just wasn’t interested in the X-Men.  When FOX announced Legion on FXX, I decided not to watch—mostly because we don’t actually receive FXX!  When FOX announced another X-Men-related TV series I kind of shrugged it off until they announced Matt Nix as the showrunner.  I really liked his work on Burn Notice, but I hadn’t heard his name in years since that show ended, so I decided to give The Gifted a chance.

And I’m glad that I did.

The Gifted certainly suffers from some of the same flaws that any TV pilot will have:  the characters are not well developed at the beginning of the episode and the world is pretty loosely defined.  However, none of these things really distract from the story, and they are all likely to improve over time; in fact, they all improve over the course of the pilot itself!  The two kids, Lauren and Andy, go from boring and unexciting at the beginning of the episode to interesting and dynamic characters as soon as their mutant powers come out.  The world is, of necessity, nebulous and unknown at the beginning of the episode; by the end, we have a much better idea of what precipitated the series and why mutants are being hunted.  In fact, the world-building is done so smoothly that you almost don’t realize what is happening.

At some indeterminate time in the past, both the X-Men and Brotherhood were active and engaged in battles against each other.  As civilian casualties mounted, public outrage precipitated a series of anti-mutant laws.  The Mutant Underground was formed just before the most severe laws were formed, and shortly thereafter both the X-Men and the Brotherhood disappeared.  At this time no one knows if either mutant team still exists.  Instead, there is a Federal agency called the Sentinel Squad (or something like that) which hunts down mutants and makes them disappear, and this is what Cody Bell’s character (Agent Turner) works for.

The characters who get the most development in this episode are definitely the Strucker family.  The father, Reed, is a prosecutor assigned to the Mutant Task Force, who is responsible for prosecuting arrested mutants.  However, unbeknownst to him, both his children are mutants:  Lauren can manipulate air and water to form force fields (thus far, at least), and Andy basically makes things explode.  They weren’t overly interesting at the beginning of the episode—the parents felt too perfect and Andy was too much of a stereotypical bullied loner—but as soon as Andy’s powers manifest at the dance, the family suddenly becomes far more interesting.  Suddenly Reed’s profession is entirely at odds with his family’s safety, and he is forced to use what he knows of the Mutant Underground to try to save his family.  If there’s anything to complain about in the pilot it is this:  Reed shifts gears from prosecuting mutants to running from the Sentinels to save his kids a little too fast.  I would have expected a little more of a moral struggle from him, considering that he’s been locking up mutants.  Hopefully this will come in later on as he is imprisoned alongside some of the mutants he has prosecuted.  On the subject of the Strucker family, I think my favorite moment may have been Lauren trying to help Andy learn to control his powers:  it reminded me of the times I tried to teach my younger siblings to ride a bike or play baseball.

The mutant characters are also pretty interesting, though we don’t get too much in the way of introductions.  The two whose names we learn (or at least that I remember) are Marcos and Lorna (Polaris).  The teleporter and guy with enhanced senses are pretty much just there in this episode, but that’s not much of a surprise.  I expect them to receive a little more depth in future episodes.

As with any live-action comic book-based TV series, we need to talk about the special effects:  are they any good?  And the answer in this case is, Yes.  The Gifted has some of the best effects work I’ve seen, and that’s pretty impressive when you consider just how many characters require some form of special effects.  It certainly helps that they seem to use a lot of practical effects—that helps them avoid the “completely render an entire landscape and make it look obviously rendered” pitfall that Inhumans fell into with Attilan.  Of course, considering that this is a pilot (and supposedly studios will pay extra for a season premiere/finale), we probably need to suspend judgment until next week before deciding if the effects are really that good.

The Gifted definitely earns itself another week of interest.  The characters are compelling, the story engages me, the effects are good… just about everything works out for this pilot episode.  The final sequence left me confused—who escaped and who was left behind?  Was it just Reed?—but that should be explained pretty quickly in the next episode.  If I were going to make it clearer, I would probably have made the lighting/set design significantly different in some way between the two locations so that it would be clear which characters are in which location.  But that’s a nitpick.

Overall I am glad that I decided to give this series a shot.  In fact, I may be looking forward to the second episode of The Gifted more than the third episode of Inhumans.  But that’s probably because I saw The Gifted more recently!

Did you watch The Gifted?  Who is your favorite mutant?  Let me know in the comments!

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