tek's rating: ½

The Gifted, on FOX
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Caution: Spoilers.

This is apparently connected to the X-Men movies, but set in "an alternate timeline where the X-Men have disappeared." And neither the movies nor the show are going to make any particular effort to acknowledge or fit in with each other's events, so I'm not even sure what the point is of saying it's connected to the film franchise. In any event, since I don't read X-Men comics, I'm not familiar with any of the characters on the show. Also, after watching the first season, I had to figure out where to put my review. I could have gone with my "super heroes" section, since it's based on comic books... but that doesn't feel right to me, because none of the good guys on this show have any chance to do any remotely super-heroic stuff, since they're mostly staying in hiding and fighting for their very survival. I could have gone with "action," like I did with another comics based series, "Agents of SHIELD" (to which this show is completely unconnected), but despite there being a fair amount of action in the series, it doesn't really feel to me like an action show. Or I could have gone with "drama," like I did with "Gotham." There's definitely a lot of drama in this series. But ultimately I decided on "paranormal," because that's where I had put my review of "The Tomorrow People," another (unrelated) show with a similar premise.

Season one
Anyway, there's a mutant named Clarice Fong, aka "Blink" (Jamie Chung), who can create portals, which she used to escape from prison in Atlanta. She's pursued by police, but is rescued by members of the Mutant Underground. In the process, another mutant named Lorna Dane, aka "Polaris" (Emma Dumont, whom I know from Aquarius) is captured by the police. Her case will be prosecuted by District Attorney Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer). Reed, meanwhile, is married to a nurse named Caitlin (Amy Acker), and they have two teenaged kids, Andy and Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind, whom I know from several episodes of Gotham). Andy is often picked on by bullies, and one night while they're beating him up during a school dance, his mutant ability manifests, causing a great deal of damage to the building. It then turns out that Lauren has known for some time that she herself is a mutant, with the ability to project force fields. Andy and Lauren will both be blamed for what happened at the school, because despite there being supposed laws in place to protect mutants' rights, it's still illegal to do any damage or harm with a mutant ability, even if it's accidental (and/or in self-defense, apparently). So, Sentinel Services, the law enforcement agency that deals with mutants, shows up at the Struckers' house to take them into custody. The kids and their mother manage to get away and go on the run, and Caitlin calls Reed to tell him what has happened. Reed then makes a deal with a member of the Mutant Underground named Marcos Diaz, aka "Eclipse." Reed will help get Lorna (Marcos's girlfriend) out of prison in exchange for the Underground taking in his kids and protecting them from Sentinel Services. The four Struckers later meet up with Marcos and Clarice, the latter of whom opens a portal to get the Struckers to their hideout. Unfortunately, Sentinel Services show up and capture Reed. So his family may be safe, for now, but he's no longer in any position to fulfill his promise to get Lorna out of prison. Reed undergoes interrogation by an agent named Jace Turner. However, it's not long before events allow Reed to get away and rejoin his family in the Underground. Also, the Underground eventually manages to help Lorna escape from Sentinel Services. Subsequently, she trains some of the younger mutants (including Lauren and Andy) to better control their powers.

There are a few other members of the Mutant Underground who we get to know, to various degrees. The leader is John Proudstar, aka "Thunderbird." We also get to know John's girlfriend, Sonya Simonson, aka "Dreamer." And a woman named Sage, who works with computers, which she mainly uses to keep tabs on the authorities' efforts to find the Mutant Underground. And... for now, those are the ones who seem most important. At one point, Sonya uses her telepathic power to give Clarice one of her own memories of her relationship with John, because it was necessary in a crisis situation to help Clarice use her power to rescue John. Unfortunately, this left Clarice with romantic feelings for John that weren't her own, but which she couldn't shake. This naturally made her angry at Sonya, and would make Clarice unsure if she should even remain with the Underground. Meanwhile, there's a research company called Trask Industries, the head of which is Dr. Roderick Campbell (Garret Dillahunt). Trask sometimes does some joint work with Sentinel Services, so Campbell will have some interaction with Agent Turner. Campbell has developed a project where he basically brainwashes mutants into serving his interests. These mutants are called "Hounds," and Sentinel Services uses them against renegade mutants. Campbell is also particularly interested in getting his hands on Lauren and Andy Strucker, because they are the great grandchildren of Andreas Von Strucker. Andreas and his sister Andrea were mutants known together as "Fenris," who could combine their individual powers, which multiplied them exponentially. They were also members of a terrorist mutant group called the Hellfire Club. Campbell wants to study Lauren and Andy to see if their own abilities can be combined the same way their ancestors' could, and he also hopes to find a way to use that knowledge to combine powers in his Hounds.

Eventually, the Underground rescues some refugee mutants, including a telepath named Esme Frost (Skyler Samuels). She later uses her ability to manipulate various members of the Underground to help liberate her family from Sentinel Services (or Trask Industries, I don't remember which). It turns out that she is one of three identical triplets, who want to rebuild the Hellfire Club. (Samuels also plays Esme's sisters, Sophie and Phoebe.) Unlike the Underground, they have no compunctions about killing humans, so most of the main mutants in the Underground don't trust them. However, they do end up needing to work together. And one or another of the Frosts, at various times, speak privately with various members of the Underground, trying to convince them to join. Most importantly, the Frosts are interested in Lorna, whom they believe is the daughter of an unnamed member of the old Hellfire Club, who was considered "royalty." (It's fairly obvious that the show is hinting that her father was Magneto, though that name is never specifically used.) Lorna doesn't seem particularly inclined to believe them. However, she does sometimes feel that the Underground isn't doing enough to try to change the world's bigotry against mutants. This can lead to some disagreements between her and Marcos. They do both want to build a better world for their unborn child. (Oh yeah, I guess I didn't mention that Lorna was pregnant. That's something that happened before the series even started, though by the end of season one, not enough time has passed for her to be showing, yet.) But they disagree on how to go about building that better world.

Well... eventually, Campbell does get his chance to experiment on Lauren and Andy. He also murders Sonya. And he develops technology to combine Hounds' powers. But before long, the Struckers get away. At the end of the season, Campbell convinces an anti-mutant U.S. senator named Montez to help him gain government support for his own plans. Meanwhile, the Underground tries to abduct Campbell from a conference, but fail. (Campbell points a gun at one of a group of children to stop the mutants from attacking him, though it doesn't seem like anyone else notices him doing this. That scene in particular pissed me off so hard, because it so clearly encapsulates how villains can be seen as good guys and good guys be seen as villains.) Subsequently, the Frosts convince Lorna to use her power to destroy a plane Campbell and Montez are on. Meanwhile, Turner leads a Sentinel Services task force to find and attack the Underground's secret headquarters, which Lauren and Andy end up destroying to cover the mutants' escape. Everyone later regroups at a mutant way station in Nashville, where the Frosts and Lorna then show up and ask for various mutants to come with them to join the Hellfire Club. Several people leave with them, including Andy sand Sage. Meanwhile, Turner's boss blames him for the failed assault on the Mutant Underground, which leads Turner to quit his job.

Well, I've left out lots of details, throughout the 13-episode season. But I definitely thought it was good. Of course, the public's mistrust and persecution of mutants in "X-Men" comics/movies/whatever, has always been a good metaphor for pretty much any sort of bigotry you care to name. And I think that makes this show particularly timely, in an era where there's lots of unjust hatred of various groups in the real world.

Season two
The main members of the Mutant Underground are believed to be dead, but Jace Turner believes they're alive, even if he can't prove it. And he struggles with trying to adjust to a normal life with his wife, Paula, since leaving his job at Sentinel Services. He just can't give up on wanting to find the Mutant Underground. And eventually, he finds himself getting involved, against his better judgment, with an anti-mutant hate group called the Purifiers. Meanwhile, the new Hellfire Club (or as they now call themselves, the Inner Circle) is led by a mutant named Reeva Payge. She has plans to create, I guess like a new country, where mutants can live openly and without fear. Lorna gives birth to a baby girl whom she names Dawn, and Marcos struggles with not being able to see his new daughter. Reed Strucker starts manifesting a dangerous mutant power he can't control, but he manages to keep it a secret from everyone for awhile. Lauren and Andy have shared dreams about each other. And while their parents still want to find Andy and bring him home, Lauren is sure he isn't going to change his mind about what side he's on. And the Mutant Underground learn about a group of sewer-dwelling mutants called Morlocks, led by a guy called Erg. John doesn't fully trust him, but Clarice thinks it's important to do whatever is necessary to get their help. Oh, and John and Clarice are now in a romantic relationship, which seems really weird, to me, considering everything that happened last season. The Inner Circle release a bunch of mutants from a psychiatric prison, in order to recruit one of the prisoners, a girl named Rebecca. She and Andy quickly become very close. But all the abuse she's gone through over the years has turned her into a killer, which Reeva can't accept... and that finally forces Andy to protect his allies from Rebecca, and he ends up accidentally killing her. The Inner Circle destroys servers that control all the mutant control collars in every prison in the country. This leads to a "mutant uprising," which is often mentioned but we never really see it. Also this season there's a guy named Benedict Ryan (Peter Gallagher) who has a conservative news/talk show on which he spreads anti-mutant propaganda. And the Struckers meet a doctor who used to work with Reed's father, and she provides them with medicine to temporarily suppress Reed's power. And eventually the Purifiers capture John, whom Turner interrogates. John insists the Mutant Underground hasn't been responsible for any attacks, that it's the Inner Circle, and the Mutant Underground have been trying to stop him. But when Andy and Lorna team up with the MU to rescue John, Turner believes John has been lying to him, which stokes his rage against mutants. At the same time, Andy gets a good look at what the Purifiers want to do to mutants, which seems to drive him to hate humans, just as much as some humans hate mutants. Reeva recruits a team of three mutant mercenaries named Max, Tico, and Heather, who were responsible for thousands of deaths on one of their previous jobs. Lorna really doesn't like the idea of working with them.

Well, a lot of other things happen throughout the 16-episode season, both good and bad. I don't want to spoil any more details, except to say that Reeva is finally defeated. And at the very end, it looks like a new storyline is being set up for next season. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled.

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