Fox’s The Gifted Season One Review: X-Men Light

by Eric Onkenhout

The Struckers’ mutant powers are legendary. Now, they must join other mutants to fight off those who want them destroyed.

This article contains plot points for The Gifted Season One.

The Gifted season one, a television series on Fox, is loosely based on the X-Men characters originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Plot lines experienced in The Gifted were initially laid down in the 2014 film, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Although some characters are first seen in the pages of comic books, many are original to the series. Matt Nix, the producer of The Gifted, wanted to steer away from the X-Men film series to have a more free-ranging storyline. Where the films and comics generally tell stories with the X-Men encountering the outside world, Nix wanted to approach the story from the perspective of the outsiders who are learning about the mutant world. Many of the themes in The Gifted mirrored real-world issues, such as discrimination towards those who differ, or what’s “normal.” Human rights and the refugee situations also are the setting for most of the series. How feeding into fear can cloud judgment causing more harm than good. Just like most comic book stories, The Gifted season one is a moral story full of lessons of what seems right for some may be very wrong for others.

Who are The Gifted?

The Gifted

Unlike most other Marvel television series, The Gifted season one is not based on any one comic book series (or part of the MCU for that matter). Characters or plot lines of other shows like Daredevil, Iron Fist, Runaways, or Cloak & Dagger can all be found within the pages of specific comic book runs; not The Gifted. The characters were picked from random X-Men series’ from the late 1960s to the early 2000s, making any continuity challenging to grasp. Before watching, it may be helpful to know a little of who has come before and where they started.

Clarice Fong (Blink): Played by Jamie Chung. Blink made her first appearance in X-Men #317 (1994). Although this was her first appearance, Blink’s assertive character in The Gifted appears to be based on her appearance in the Age of Apocalypse series (1995).

John Proudstar (Thunderbird): Played by Blair Redford. Thunderbird made his first appearance in Giant Size X-Men #1 (1975), and can also be found in X-Men #94-95, and Chaos War.

Lorna Dane (Polaris): Played by Emma Dumont. Polaris made her first appearance in X-Men #49 (1968), and can also be found in X-Men #60, Giant Size X-Men #1, and the second X-Factor series.

Sonya Simonson (Dreamer): Played by Elena Satine: Made her first appearance in Power Pack #12 (1985).

Dr. Roderick Campbell (Ahab): Played by Garret Dillahunt. Campbell made his first appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #23 (1990).

Augustus (Pulse): Played by Zach Roerig. Pulse made his first appearance in X-Men vol.2 #173 (2005).

Is The Gifted Worth Watching?

The Gifted season one is one of the best superhero-based television shows of the late 2010s, and definitely worth the time. The casting for most of The Gifted was decent, especially Natalie Alyn Lind (Lauren), and Percy Hynes White (Andy). Too many shows now portray teenagers as impetuous know-it-alls that add nothing to the story other than the occasional wisecrack. Yes, that sounds accurate for teens, but not all are like that. The Gifted’s, Lauren and Andy are realistic teenagers, who were born with mutant powers and are doing the best they can to do what’s right. They do argue and disagree with their parents (This isn’t The Waltons), but for the most part, they are cooperative kids.

Another highlight is Emma Dumont as Lorna. Her portrayal of Lorna, or Polaris, is at times, heartbreaking and exciting. Props also have to be given to Sean Teale (Marcos) whose emotions are consistently boiling just below the surface. The stoic Coby Bell gives a rock solid performance as the no-nonsense Sentinel Services agent, Jace Turner. Not everyone was perfect, however. The characters of Carmen Guerra and Dreamer were rather weak and annoying and served little purpose. The effects were better than expected for a network television series. The dialogue went unnoticeable, which is a good sign. Only bad dialogue stands out like a sore thumb. If it’s good, it should blend right into the story.

The Gifted Season One Episode Guide

“eXposed” S01E01

The Gifted
The first episode of The Gifted season one, directed by Brian Singer and written by Matt Nix starts high on the intensity with Blink on the run from the cops. She is eventually taken in by a group of fellow mutants. One of them, Lorna, gets taken captive. It’s clear right away The Gifted, at least from the start, isn’t shy on the grittiness. “eXposed” has Singer’s fingerprints all over it from the low light to the high budget.

The group of mutants brings Blink to the Mutant Underground, which is the X-Men’s version of the Underground Railroad. The acting is impressive for a network television series. For example, at a school dance, Andy Strucker discovers his mutants powers while being bullied. Percy Hynes White shows high intensity during this scene. Andy’s older sister, Lauren, who also has mutant powers, explains to their mother that mutants discover their abilities in times of stress. Meanwhile, an organization called Sentinel Services that is responsible for arresting harmful mutants, comes to their house to take the kids.

There are still some unsteady spots to shore up before the series moves forward. Amy Acker’s Caitlin isn’t given nearly as enough to do; she also sways from disbelief to dismay, then gets stuck there. The way some of the powers are performed will need to be tweaked, from the actors’ end—the reliance on hand gestures means everyone’s come up with their signature move, with varying degrees of success. However, there’s also an exciting (yet daunting) development by the episode’s end that suggests The Gifted season one is evolving along with its mutant characters.

“rX” S01E02

The Gifted
Directed by Len Wiseman and written by Matt Nix. One small detail that The Gifted season one does is telling the viewer where each scene is, sort of like a play—it gives the setting. It’s small and not uncommon detail, but it is appreciated. Any info that helps ground the viewer is always a big plus. To be a mutant in the Marvel Universe is to be exiled, persecuted, or arrested. The Gifted doesn’t suffer from Hallmark Channel-ish acting like Runaways or parts of Cloak & Dagger does on occasion. Unlike Runaways, The Gifted aim’s its content at an older audience, and so that snarky dialogue and patronizing parenting are thankfully missing. The reason for Jace Turner’s hatred of the mutants isn’t unfounded. His seven-year-old daughter was killed by a mutant blast, clearly giving him the emotional value he deserves. He’s not just a bad guy for the heck of it. He has his reasons.

Meanwhile, Polaris is brought to jail for mutants and humans and is required to wear a collar around her neck that deters her from using her powers. She can use them, but if she does, the collar causes her great pain. Soon after she has a confrontation with the jail boss in the courtyard, and refuses her offer and gets beat as a result. She disregards the collar and uses her powers to toss a table at a couple of inmates. In a wincing moment, while lying on the ground, Polaris gets kicked in the stomach by the boss who knows she’s pregnant. The Gifted has laid the groundwork that this isn’t going to be a lighthearted family series. It’s not a coincidence that admitting at being a mutant is akin to coming out in the 1950s. Disbelief, rejection, denial are all feelings mutants have experienced even from family. By the end of this episode, a scientist named Roderick Campbell wants to talk to Turner about a mutant attack in Rio in the 1960s.

“eXodus” S01E03

The Gifted
Directed by Scott Peters, and written by Rashad Raisani. Turner as the Sentinel Services agent is a person that deserves respect for playing someone so determined. At the same time, he hates the mutants, then again he feels he has a good reason too. At first glance, Thunderbird seems like that a macho, muscular guy who thinks with his pecs. He’s a stable leader of the mutant underground that wants to help Clarice control her powers. There is a burgeoning relationship here. Caitlin leaves the underground with her kids to find her cousin Daniel who has connections that could help. Turner appears to be working with Reed to get his family back in exchange for capturing the rest of the mutants. However, Reed is secretly working against Turner. He knows mutants aren’t evil, but feels pressure from Turner. The Gifted moves at a steady pace; moments of intense action are mixed with quiet dialogue that assists in character building—it doesn’t linger too long on one storyline. It juggles Reed’s, Andy and Lauren’s, the mutants (Polaris in particular) all pretty well, and all are equally interesting. When Daniel’s, neighbors get wind of the mutants in their neighborhood, they arrive on his doorstep bearing arms. It is a reincarnation of the marching torchbearers in Frankenstein all over again. The Gifted is to the X-Men as the Defenders are to the Avengers—a smaller group with lesser powers that focus their energy on more local issues. According to Daniel, Turner has taken Reed and a mutant (Polaris) to a secret facility.

“eXit Strategy” S01E04

The Gifted
Directed by Karen Gaviola and written by Meredith Lavender and Marcie Ulin. “eXit Strategy” begins two years earlier in a flashback. Thunderbird and his friend Pulse attempt to rescue mutants from a Sentinel Services relocation center but Pulse seemingly dies from a gunshot. Marcos shows he’s not afraid to do what he must to help those that he cares for — even asking his ex-girlfriend, Carmen for help. Carmen, who runs a drug cartel, provides info on where Reed and Lorna were taken. What’s her game? Is she still in love with Eclipse? She makes it easy to see why Eclipse left her. She’s a weak character who slinks around in a black dress trying her hardest to act evil or desirable and fails miserably. In contrast, Lauren is a fresh character partly because Natalie Alyn Lind does a great job portraying her. Lauren is proactive and wants to do her part, thankfully keeping any snide teenage remarks out of it. Carmen will help Marcos as long as he does what she wants when she wants it. A slightly unhealthy deal to say the least. So he’s her slave? Eventually, Thunderbird discovers that Pulse is not dead. He’s now helping Sentinel Services to capture mutants.

“BoXed In” S01E05”

The Gifted
Directed by Jeremiah Chechik, and written by Jim Campolongo. “BoXed In” begins with a flashback to the day Turner’s daughter dies during a mutant rally. The Gifted does a great job showing a soft side to the antagonists. It doesn’t make Turner any more likable, but it gives Turner a foundation. The chemistry between Polaris and Eclipse that has been slowly developing into something very passionate and real, despite the time they spent apart while Polaris was in jail. It shows there was something way before that. Tucker does not try to be an overeager jerkwad, at least for now he’s the “big bad” (Campbell isn’t there enough to qualify yet), but he makes it easy to almost root for him just for the sake of his daughter, but not quite. Turner’s wife, Paula (Frances Turner) begs her husband to come home. He says he will, “When the job’s done.” Marcos and Lorna have a touching conversation about their baby while driving, and how much Marcos wants to be a father. Sean Teale puts everything he has into Marcos. Turner is a diet-Wilson Fisk. Not quite as evil as Fisk, but has a similar purpose of bringing peace to humanity in a not so peaceful way. Marcos and Lorna capture Turner during a traffic stop. More exposition here as Turner’s daughter died at a peaceful protest, due to the actions of a few mutants who went too far. “No one had to die,” says Turner. Andy, Reed and Caitlins younger child, is probably one of the most authentic characters in The Gifted; he acts as a real teenager would. Andy doesn’t try to be overly smart or wise and doesn’t try to be an adult. He’s a kid and says what kids say.

“Got Your SiX” S01E06

The Gifted
Directed by Craig Siebels, and written by Melinda Hsu Taylor. Just shy of halfway through the first season of The Gifted and it has already proven that it is one of the better comic book based series in recent memory. The storyline is intriguing and emotional. Clarice confronts Thunderbird about the false feelings/memories in her mind. This scene, in particular, is pouring with emotion. The performance put forth by Jamie Chung is enough to convince the audience to tune in week after week. “Got Your SiX” opens with a flashback of Thunderbird raising money for veterans. After a guy accuses them of causing more trouble than good for being mutants, a drive-by tosses a bomb at them. John picks up the explosive and throws it away. The Gifted addresses very topical subjects like terrorism and refugees.

The effects aren’t mindblowing, but they suit what’s necessary to tell the story, mainly because they blend in with the story so well, such as floating water, opening portals, and flashlight hands. Clarice is a much stronger character than her comic book debut portrays her to be. She knows about Dreamer planting the false memory, and she confronts Thunderbird about it. She then leaves the compound, making herself less of an issue. Despite the often breakneck pace, The Gifted Season One has scenes like Andy and Reed in the back of a tractor-trailer bonding. After a not so thorough police search, they move on their way. Polaris starts to train the newcomers on their powers for combat, at Caitlin’s dismay. Lauren is developing a relationship with another boy mutant, Wes, who can perform optical illusions. Andy enjoys destroying things which could turn into a problem later on. Dreamer is a bit of a flake. She plants false memories in Clarice about Johnny, and then hits on him herself? Lorna has a Jessica Jones vibe to her—they may even shop at the same clothing store.

“eXtreme measures” S01S07

The Gifted
Directed by Stephen Surjik and written by Michael Horowitz. Despite the variety of writers and directors in this series, the characters stay pretty consistent throughout, which is a huge plus, and also very rare. The episodes don’t alter much from one to another in terms of identity. Each episode starts with a flashback to establish a backstory and a history between the characters. “eXtreme measures” has the first cringe-worthy network TV effects moment, when Wes is showing Lauren the mountains in an illusion. It was 90s television-esque, reminiscent of the fake road through the back window in car driving scenes.

Carmen Guerra’s overly shadiness is too much. She screams “temptress,” but it’s not what this show needs, and it doesn’t fit at all. Thunderbird tracks down Clarice, to convince her to come back to the underground. He’s successful once they both discover that the road she saw in her portals led back to her childhood home, where the Sentinel Services killed everyone inside. A hound, mutants working for the Sentinel Services makes a Department of Justice (DOJ) official have a stroke when she attempts to stop Campbell and Turner from using legal actions against the mutants. Lorna and Dreamer follow Marcos to Carmen’s place. Wes isn’t just a run-of-the-mill walking hormone trying to get with Lauren, he is turning out to be more complicated than expected which is satisfying. There’s always that one team member that strikes out on their own, usually to help the team but in a way, they wouldn’t understand so they keep it a secret. That’s Marcos here. Lorna now knows he’s been helping his old flame. She’s not happy.

“Threat of eXinction” S01E08

The Gifted
Directed by Steven DePaul and written by Carly Soteras. Sentinel Services continues to come after the mutants; not much has changed since the second (or so) episode. This entire first season, it seems, has been a set up for future seasons. The Gifted peaked early and has plateaued since about episode four. The Gifted Season One would have benefitted either from a shorter season or an event to catapult it to the climax. Having said that, “Threat of eXinction” starts with a cool fight scene between a hound and Marcos, Clarice, and Thunderbird. Probably some of the most eye-popping effects since the premier. This episode marks the first appearance of a Stepford Cuckoo ( a group of telepathic triplets) named Esme. Dreamer attempts to get memories from a captured hound who moves like a blur, but she can’t hit moving targets. Seriously what good is she other than screwing with minds of stationary people?

Reed’s father, Otto Von Strucker, a former employee of Trask Industries, took mutants and purposely addicted them to mutant drugs called Kick. Otto’s father and aunt were mutant terrorists collectively called Fenris. Otto mysteriously asks Reed if his kids held hands since learning of their powers (This will be revisited later). Otto’s job was to suppress the X-gene in mutants, starting with his son, Reed. Sentinel Services arrive to search his antique shop. As Campbell is about to interrogate Otto, his mutant powers overcome Pulse killing both and injuring Campbell. The episode ends with Thunderbird and Reed burying Pulse, and Otto. Reed returns to his family with news of his father’s sacrifice. Lauren and Andy hold hands for the first time since they discovered their powers, and a strange glow emanates from their physical touch.

“outfoX” S01E09

The Gifted
Directed by Liz Friedlander and written by Brad Marques. Lauren and Andy investigate their family history, looking for anything about their grandfather. Lorna awakes from a nightmare in fear of her baby. The new focus in the series is Trask Industries and taking them down. Reed and Caitlin have their kids test out their powers while holding hands. Just before the roof is about to blow off Reed separates them. Esme has a plan to use Lauren and Andy to take down Trask Industries. It seems like the mutants contradict themselves sometimes. They want to be treated the same but use their powers for manipulation against each other, or they can’t control them at all. The mutant underground is a motley crew; one moment all in agreement, others, at each other’s throats As the mutants move onto the Trask plant, Turner predicts their plan and acts. It wouldn’t be a shock if Turner became overzealous in his hatred for the mutants. Then again, he seems entirely under control in every situation. The loss of Reed’s father, the captured mutant Chloe, and the chronically un-rescued Pulse don’t really affect the episode-to-episode but put together in a single episode; they do illustrate the collateral damage sustained by the mutant community at this point in the timeline.

“eXploited” S01E10

The Gifted
Directed by Craig Siebels, and written by Jim Campolongo. “eXploited” starts with a political anti-mutant/Montez re-election rally. The typical fear strategy aimed at mutants and how they’re trying to steal rights from humans. Back at the underground Polaris wants to attack Trask, while Reed and Caitlin want to take a more cautious approach. In a phone conversation with Turner, Campbell expresses his interests in the kids to learn more of their power. Campbell places the kids in a small room surrounded by walls of adamantium ( an indestructible metal and also the material in which Wolverine’s claws are made of). The acting has held up and even impressed on occasion, Emma Dumont especially. Her fiery attitude contrasting her love for her baby is versatility at its finest. Campbell shoots and kills Dreamer (Not a huge loss) because she’s urging Lauren and Andy not to listen to him. They eventually give in and destroy the adamantium walls which is supposed to be indestructible. Shortly afterward, Turner tells Campbell he’s taking the mutants back to Sentinel Services. The mutants take this time to attack, but Esme betrays them. Through her psychokinesis, Esme tricks the SS guards into killing each other. Esme then releases her identical sisters Phoebe and Sofia Frost, daughters of Emma Frost. Skyler Samuels is perfect as Esme; her demeanor does a complete 180° from her first appearance to now. Nice one!

“3 X 1” S01E11

The Gifted
Directed by David Straiton and written by Melinda Hsu Taylor. “3 X 1” starts with Clarice on a date with her boyfriend two years prior. As they are leaving the theater, a crowd gathers around literally torching her car. It’s amazing what fear will do to society. A social commentary if there was one. Turner gives a speech at a funeral for Sentinel Services guards, while Marcos does the same for Sonya. The two funerals are meant to mirror each other obviously, but also show how similar they are, regardless of they’re opposing beliefs. So similar that it appears they are attending the same funeral. Campbell equates what he’s doing to dropping the atomic bomb — doing what has to be done. Thanos much? As sisters go, Lauren is pretty level headed and sees that their parents are trying to do what’s best for her and Andy. She is not the typical rebellious teen. “3 X 1” drags on, the pace, a strong suit in the series thus far, moves at a snail’s pace here. It’s building up to the season finale, but the tension isn’t there.

The Frost sisters approach Andy and Polaris respectively, to recruit them into helping them rebuild the Hellfire club, of which Lorna’s father was the leader. Not a ton of action in this episode, that is until Turner and Campbell attack the underground with hounds who are linked using the techniques learned from experiments done on Lauren and Andy. They wear a device on their hands that mix their blood which allows them to use their powers collectively to destroy the underground building. Andy suffers a concussion, but Lorna, Clarice, Marcos, and Johnny rescue them with help from the Frost sisters, who informed Sentinel Services of their location (Sneaky!). The Gifted Season One runs full speed towards the last two episodes; the real conflict brewing may be between the showmanship of its best, pulpiest moments and the obligatory earnestness of its endless trust plots.

“eXtraction” S01E12

The Gifted
Directed by Scott Peters and written by Michael Horowitz. More of the same which isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t necessarily forward the plot. The Gifted has lost a little steam these last two episodes. Polaris, Eclipse, Thunderbird, and Clarice join the Frost sisters at a safe house where Esme explains that when the X-Men established the underground before their disappearance, their rival group the Brotherhood established the new Hellfire Club before their demise. The Gifted Season One is suffering from having a more extended season than it probably should have. The underground mutants infiltrate the conference with the Frost sisters to abduct Campbell but flee when he uses children as human shields and Sentinel Services arrive. The season is building up to a confrontation between Sentinel Services/Turner and the underground. A side plot where the Strucker parents talk to a family member whose story amounts to little of much interest and the Strucker kids recycle the same arguments that more compelling characters already have feels almost like a parody of The Gifted’s worst tendencies involving its family-drama side.

“X-roads” S01E13

The Gifted
Directed by Stephen Surjik and written by Matt Nix and Jim Garvey. Andy is on the edge of going too far with his philosophy towards humans. He wants to attack the humans as a preemptive strike. Meanwhile, his mother who is also human doesn’t appreciate his racial profiling. Polaris, who struggles with mental illness, fears for the life of her baby in a world of humans fighting to rid the world of mutants. The Sentinel Services attacks the underground with what seems like a small unit of armored SWAT soldiers. They’re fighting mutants with crazy powers, why not come at them with everything they have? Once Sentinel Services uses their hounds, they eventually break in, but not before the mutants escape out through a tunnel. Lauren and Andy volunteer to bring down the building to cover their tracks, possibly sacrificing themselves in the process. Caitlin knowing this, give a less than convincing “this is not goodbye” (Which translates to better you than me) before running to safety.

The kids bring down the building on top of the hounds, surviving the battle. In the act of vengeance, Polaris destroys the plane carrying Campbell and Montez. The underground regroups in Nashville, where Polaris and the Frosts arrive seeking recruits for the Hellfire Club. Several choose to join them, including Fate, Sage, and Andy. Now that the show has gone and drawn the lines between characters that they’ve been tracing all season, there’s the hope they can take this opportunity for its smaller stories to get more nuanced and idiosyncratic than this year’s endless arguments.

The Gifted Season One—The Verdict

The first season of The Gifted is excellent and comes highly recommended. Some who are well versed in the Marvel Universe will have extra background knowledge. But it’s not necessary to know every minor detail to enjoy The Gifted, especially because most of the cast are either minor characters or original to the series. The plot moves along; although some scenes may drag a bit, they are there for a reason. The real life social issues create many poignant moments that give each scene special meaning. After the season finale, it’ll be interesting to see how the mutants handle a split alliance. Season two review is coming soon!

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