Does The X-Men World Work On The Small Screen?

Fox

How best to frame Fox’s The Gifted, the latest TV show based on a Marvel comic, and specifically mutants from the X-Men corner of the Marvel Universe? How about this:

The Gifted is much better than Inhumans, but it’s not nearly as good as Legion.

There’s a pretty wide continuum of both quality and ambition among the current wave of comic book TV shows, and The Gifted falls pretty squarely in the middle. Based on tonight’s pilot episode (the only one Fox screened for critics), it gets the basics down and doesn’t try to deliver more than what you might expect, for better or worse.

Written by Burn Notice creator Matt Nix, with a pilot directed by Bryan Singer, The Gifted take place in the same fictional universe as the X-Men films directed by Singer and others. But just as the Marvel Netflix shows take place in the same reality as the Avengers movies, but on a much smaller scale, The Gifted focuses on mutants who are too obscure to attract the attention of Professor X and friends.

The pilot introduces two sets of characters who eventually intersect. One is a group of young mutants — mostly X-Men C-listers like superstrong tracker Thunderbird (Blair Redford), teleporter Blink (Jamie Chung), mistress of magnetism Polaris (Emma Dumont), plus an original character, Eclipse (Sean Teale) who can… weld things, I think? — trying to live off the grid in a climate of anti-mutant hysteria where they have no rights and can be locked away forever without cause. The other is the Strucker family(*), led by parents Reed (Stephen Moyer) and Caitlin (Amy Acker), plus teenagers Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White). Reed is a prosecutor who specializes in mutant cases, which makes it karmically fitting when he discovers that his kids are both mutants — their powers, like Eclipse’s, are still somewhat sketchily defined, but he has telekinetic abilities and she can make shields out of thin air — and has to go on the run with them.

(*) The Struckers, like Quicksilver, are among the few Marvel characters whose film rights simultaneously belong to both Fox, which has all the X-Men and related properties, and Marvel itself. So one version was featured in Avengers: Age of Ultron, with Thomas Kretschmann playing a more traditionally evil version of the family patriarch Wolfgang, while The Gifted has Moyer as this cuddlier, Americanized guy.

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