With our screens packed with a full slate of comic book based films and TV shows, it can be difficult deciding which ones to dedicate time to. Fox’s The Gifted is just one of several new shows to debut this fall, and it’s been quietly chugging out some of the most refreshing writing in the superhero genre. Created by Matt Nix and set in an alternate universe where Sentinel Services have beat back the X-Men, the show makes a strong case for itself as the fall show to check out. With an intriguing premise, a diverse cast, and a tone that’s more lighthearted than Marvel’s Netflix offerings but more socially aware than the X-Men films, The Gifted has found itself a comfortable little niche. With the show already halfway through its first season, here’s five reasons to get caught up on The Gifted:
The cast is diverse
In The Gifted’s world, the X-Men are missing. Narratively speaking, that's a good thing. After 10 X-Men movies featuring more or less the same characters, removing them from the picture allows other characters to shine—especially characters of color. The Gifted introduces us to three fully-realized characters of color with Eclipse, Blink, and Thunderbird, instituting a refreshing change of pace considering how often the people of color were pushed to the margins in the films. (Visualized perhaps most clearly in Days of Future Past, where all the mutants of color were literally locked outside.)
The prominent Thunderbird role is particularly notable, not only because Native Americans have the lowest levels of representation in media, but also because his character was killed just three issues after his introduction in the comics. (The creator has promised John will not meet the same fate in The Gifted, and already he’s surpassed his comic book counterpart.)
It resonates with civil rights issues
Because the show is more diverse, the marginalization allegories feel more applicable than ever. There are many lines within the show that echo civil rights issues. The racial profiling of black Americans by cops, the way ICE targets immigrant children for deportation, how Muslim Americans are often treated as foreigners and suffer intense discrimination, and even the use of racist language—“muties”—all find allegories in The Gifted.
One episode features mention of “the Wall," as well as a mutant underground that serves as a direct reference to the Underground Railroad. There’s even a scene where Thunderbird, an American war veteran, is accused of being at fault for a terrorist attack simply because he’s a mutant. That we side with Thunderbird and his righteous anger is one of the things that makes The Gifted’s writing so powerful and valuable.
It features strong women
In the wake of Wonder Woman’s success, there’s been a hyper focus on how, and how often, women are represented in the superhero genre. The Gifted is not lacking in this regard, featuring several strong, well-rounded female characters; I can easily say that the women more or less run things in this show. Polaris, Blink, Dreamer, and Sage are all headstrong and well-written women with vastly different personalities, motivations, and moralities. (They also, can I just say, have killer ombrés and outfits.) Amy Acker and Natalie Alyn Lind are also standouts as Caitlin and Lauren Strucker. Between the two Strucker siblings it’s clear Lauren is the more grounded and methodical one, and Caitlin proves that you don’t have to have powers to be a valuable member of the team.
The romance is so real
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that The Gifted feels as if it’s aiming for the CW audience, and as a result the show features plenty of romance, angst, and drama. For some that may be a deal-breaker; if you’re like me though, and subsist on that kind of drama, that’s one of the reasons to keep tuning in. One of the mainstay romances is between Eclipse and Polaris, and guys, when they hold hands and Polaris’ magnetism collides with Eclipse’s sunlight, they make an aurora borealis. The show also teases a relationship between Blink and Thunderbird; while it seems a little silly to point out, I can think of literally no other show that features a romance between a Native American character and an Asian character, and that in itself makes The Gifted feel that much more unique.
It’s all about the importance of family
Romance aside, one of the most enduring messages of the show is the importance of family. The main plot centers around Reed Strucker, a mutant prosecutor, who finds out his two children are mutants themselves. Rather than reject his children for being different, a story we often see in the X-Men films, and one that echoes many in real life “coming out” accounts, he goes on the run with his whole family, which eventually leads them to link up with Thunderbird. The love and acceptance the Strucker parents show their kids is one of the standouts of the show, as is the mentorship that Caitlin shows all the orphaned kids in the underground who were abandoned for similarly “coming out.” The different relationships between the Struckers and the rest of the mutants are all wholesome and heartening, and frankly it’s exactly what everyone needs right now.
What do you love about The Gifted? Sound off in the comments!
Images: 20th Century Fox
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