“The Gifted” is from the creative team behind the “X-Men” films and it hits all the familiar beats of that franchise. People with mutant powers live in the shadows while those accused of unlawfully using their abilities have gone underground to survive. What is less familiar and makes the show a good addition to the genre is its focus on a family. In this version of the story, a couple discovers that their children have abilities and their worldview is suddenly turned upside down. Add strong performances and fast-paced action to this interesting premise and “The Gifted” sets itself apart.
Reed (Stephen Moyer) and Caitlin Strucker (Amy Acker) are a suburban couple with a teenage son and daughter. He prosecutes mutants who break the law. She works as a nurse. When the bullies who have been tormenting their son Andy (Percy Hines White) cause him so much stress at a school dance that he channels his latent mutant power and destroys the gym, his sister Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) uses her power to get them to safety. A mysterious government department called the Sentinel Services quickly arrives at the Strucker home to take Andy and Lauren so the whole family goes on the run. Using Reed’s contacts to find the mutant underground, a group they mistrust, the Struckers are faced with a new and unsettling reality.
Seeking protection from people he has spent years prosecuting shakes Reed’s rigid sense of right and wrong and Moyer plays Reed’s awakening with believable emotion. Acker similarly succeeds with her portrayal of Caitlin who learns that the “crimes” committed by mutants are often based on survival in a society that shuns them. In a world that isolates mutants who can’t pass for human, is stealing food wrong? As Caitlin starts to ask herself these questions, it’s easy to ask yourself the same.
The story also gives our likeable suburban couple, who are a surrogate for the viewer, a reason to discover what they are really made of when faced with a very personal challenge. Suddenly, the world of mutants that was only remotely connected to their lives is now intimately tied to their family through their children. What happens when the other, the outsider, who they could so easily ignore, is not so “other” anymore?
Making you think about the ethics of stealing in order not to starve or realizing that life profoundly changes when the person who is impacted by an awful event is you and not a stranger on the news is compelling enough to make this series more than a collection of action scenes linked together with special effects. The characters of the mutant underground all have something at stake and are multidimensional. If you are skeptical about yet another show featuring Marvel characters, make “The Gifted” an exception.
“The Gifted” is on Mondays at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing’” and the recently released “The American Television Critic.” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.