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The Gifted is the second TV show to be released in 2017 based on the X-Men, and compared to Legion it is the more mainstream show.
In another timeline in the X-Men universe the use of mutant powers is outlawed in America and neither the X-Men or the Brotherhood are around. All that is left is an underground group of young mutants who help new mutants flee the United States. The Strucker family needs the help of these underground cells when their teenage children, Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White) have their mutant powers exposed. Unfortunately for the Struckers, the mutants are reluctant to help because the family patriarch, Reed (Stephen Moyer), is also a district attorney who is in charge of putting mutants in jail.
For fans of the X-Men movie series, The Gifted seemed promising because several members of the film series’s production team are involved with the series, including Bryan Singer, the director of four of the movies, who also directed the first episode. However, like Legion, The Gifted offers little connection to the film series and, considering how confusing the timeline in the movies is, it is best to think of The Gifted as an alternate timeline.
“eXposed” does the basics that would be expected from a pilot – sets up the characters and the world. The world building is where the “eXposed” excels by showing the political situation within this alternative reality, particularly in setting the series in Georgia. There were nice little touches to show how society would be impacted if mutants existed – like social science classes discussing mutant rights and “mutie” being used as a derogatory term (although this term has been used in many forms of the X-Men). The episode also makes a reference to a wall on the American/Mexican border – so Donald Trump existed in this world. X-Men has always been used to communicate themes about discrimination and The Gifted keeps up this proud tradition.
The X-Men movie series focused on aligning the struggles of mutants with LGBT rights, and The Gifted does the same. In X2, Bobby revealing he was a mutant to his parents was his coming-out scene and in The Gifted, mutants are barred from publicly using/exposing their powers, lest they offend or make the “normal” people uncomfortable. Andy suppresses his powers, so when he finally uses them it results in a huge emotional outburst – similar to the first episode of Legion when David and Syd swap bodies: there, Syd killed everyone in a mental hospital and here Andy destroys his school.
The first episode has a similar setup to X-Men: The Animated Series and Wolverine and the X-Men. Like those animated series, mutants are not just discriminated against – they are being rounded up and arrested with a particular focus on capturing young mutants. In X-Men: The Animated Series, Jubilee was captured by the Sentinels, and in Wolverine and the X-Men, the titular character had to save a group of mutants from the Mutant Response Division. The Gifted’s first episode even ends with one member getting captured – like what happened to Beast in X-Men: The Animated Series.
There are also shades of Heroes in The Gifted. For examples, “eXposed” opens with Blink (Jamie Chung) being chased by the police and she is forced to use her powers, the series is focused on two young mutants learning to use their powers with Lauren giving her brother a lesson, and, like Noah Bennett from Heroes, Reed is a father who seemingly works for the bad guys. However, The Gifted’s focus is much narrower (for now) compared to Heroes, a cautious tale of a series that threw its net far too wide, too quickly.
“eXposed” is an action-light episode and special effects are sparely used, but when they are used, it could easily rival a blockbuster film. The most impressive moments are when Blink uses her portal powers (which look as the movie versions in X-Men: Day of Future Past) and the end fight where our heroes have to battle a group of robots sent to capture them.
X-Men fans will appreciate the little Easter Eggs that were present in the first episode and rewarded people who have knowledge of the various incarnations of the franchise.
“eXposed” is pure set-up for the series to come and it does the minimum that a first episode needs to do: make the audience continue to watch. Yet, it is far from vintage X-Men at the moment.