Sunday, March 18, 2018

'The Gifted' Triumphs as an 'X-Men' TV Series

Like with Legion, I was turned off by the trailer for The Gifted.  Based on that, I thought it was going to suck.  But when it finally arrived late last year, the general buzz was that it was actually quite good (Fox should replace whoever is making their trailers).  Thus, my interest was piqued.  But I was already juggling a lot of shows to watch that time, so I only got to see the pilot – which I thought was pretty solid – with the intention of watching the rest of the season once it finished and when I finally got the time.  Now, if I had decided to weekly follow the series then, it would have definitely made my list for top 20 TV shows of 2017.

Yes, The Gifted is one of the best shows of the 2017-2018 TV season.  Having recently binged it in one sitting, I found it very addicting.  Per TV standards, it has high-quality production value and special effects.  The writing is generally smart and superb.  The characters are great, complete with compelling character arcs, outstanding character moments, and tenable dynamics developing among them.  It has well-executed storytelling, believable performances, engaging drama, and exciting spectacles.
Moreover, it’s probably the best “X-Men” show on TV since X-Men: The Animated Series.  Now, by that, I don’t mean that it’s better than Legion – there are some artistic and storytelling heights in Legion that The Gifted hasn’t come close of reaching.  But as far as reflecting the intrinsic themes of “X-Men”, The Gifted knocks it out of the park.

Fox’s X-Men continuity is quite a mess.  So it’s difficult to pin-point how this show fits with the movies as well as with Legion.  But, at this point, fans have learned to live with this franchise’s continuity issues and just enjoy the movie or show being watched.

Anyway, in The Gifted, the X-Men have gone missing, and their vision and ideals are inherited by the “Mutant Underground”, who work to save mutant fugitives and refugees from the government’s anti-mutant agency, the Sentinel Services.  However, the main focus of the show is on the Strucker family, whose lives are thrown into a tailspin when they discover that their children have developed mutant abilities.  Forced to go on the run from the Sentinel Services, they eventually find themselves aligning with the Mutant Underground.
This series isn’t really significantly based on the X-Men comics.  Thus, it’s able to do its own thing.  However, it still manages to make satisfying references to the source material without compromising its sense of originality, while – most notable of all – impeccably carrying the essence of what the X-Men is all about.

X-Men characters Lorna Dane a.k.a. Polaris, John Proudstar a.k.a.  Thunderbird, and Clarice Fong a.k.a. Blink are main characters of the show, being key members of the Mutant Underground.  They may be just B-list X-Men but they are fantastically realized here that it was almost as gratifying as if they had been Storm, Gambit, and Rogue.  (Also, I was crushing hard on Polaris.)  Meanwhile, the original-for-the-show main characters – Marcos Diaz a.k.a. Eclipse, the Struckers, and the main antagonist of this season, Jace Turner – are also so well-written and well-acted that the fact that they have no comic book counterparts never truly had a downsizing effect on how I deemed them.  In addition, there are also some X-comics characters, like Sage, Shatter, and Beautiful Dreamer,  among the supporting cast – which was fairly pleasing to me as a comic book fan.  But what delighted me most is the show’s inclusion of the Stepford Cuckoos a.k.a. Three-in-One later in the season.
The Gifted may be more straightforward and conventional than Legion, but that doesn’t mean it’s not profound and bold.  And it may not be as sophisticated and ambitious as Legion, but it’s nonetheless stylish and imaginative.  It’s a riveting and thought-provoking superhero drama series.  And, again, as an X-Men show, it’s a triumph.

Season one ended on an emphatic, game-changing note.  And I’m giddily looking forward to where the second season will take this thrilling, meaningful show.

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