The tournament is well underway. Marvel vs Fox. Round One: The Big Screen. A strong start, with Fox scoring big with the first few X-men movies, but soon struggling to keep up as goal after goal came in the form of the MCU. Despite a fantastic shot by Fox in extra time with the sublime Logan, it was a clear win for the Avengers in the Battle of the Blockbuster.
And so came Round Two. Street level. The Battle for TV Ratings. With a grand total of eight shows already in the bag, along with Runaways and The Punisher still to come this year alone, Marvel would seem to have a very clear lead. But Fox are determined not to be deterred. The X-men universe is a rich resource waiting to be mined, and what we’ve seen in the movies is merely the tip of the iceberg.
I’m starting to mix metaphors… This is what happens when I try to talk sports…
Fox launched their first X-men extended universe show, Legion, back in February to much critical and audience acclaim, proving to the fellas over at Disney that they were not out of the race yet. Now they are back with The Gifted, a “family adventure” based around a few more of Charles Xavier’s merry mutants.
At some point after the events of whatever the heck timeline we’re now in in the X-World, mutants are in hiding. No-one knows if the X-men, or even the Brotherhood, still exist, and those with powers are forced underground, lest they be ensnared by Sentinel Services, the government body responsible for the control of pesky mutants.
In the pilot episode, we are introduced to both sides of the war; the “Mutant Underground” includes fan favourites finally brought to the screen such as the magnetic Polaris (Emma Dumont), bruiser Thunderbird (Blair Redford) and teleporter Blink (Jamie Chung), along with a new character created especially for the show, the light-bending Eclipse (Sean Teale). Sentinel Services, meanwhile, is headed up by family man Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer), who, after discovering that his own children are mutants, has his world turned upside-down as he realises everything he has worked for in his professional career could completely destroy the life he has at home.
There are some great performances from our core mutants; Dumont is great as the rage-filled Magneto-lite Polaris, and Chung’s portal-jumping Blink is a delight to watch. Teale’s Eclipse is an intriguing new addition, and, not having the weight of fifty years of comic book backstory, is a nice fresh face to have in the mix. Visually, each of the team brings something cool to the table, and, especially considering we’re in the TV world here, the effects team have done a great job in bringing their powers to life. Blink’s portals are really well designed, and Thunderbird’s tracker vision (Apache spider-sense?) is slick. The Struckers’ story is, at first glance, a little too similar to that of the Bennetts in Tim Kring’s Heroes, and, for the time being at least, the powers of the twins seem a little undefined, but I’m sure in time things will begin to come together.
As far as pilot episodes go, The Gifted doesn’t quite pack the same punch as Legion, but it’s a solid start. Wheels are being set in motion, and it captures well the heart of what the X-men have always been about; teens struggling with adolescence, said struggle manifesting in awkward moments of “mutation”, and dealing with a world that hates anything that’s different.
Fox has the ball again. Let’s hope they can keep running for the touchdown.
That’s how sports works, right?
The Gifted, Sundays at 9pm, only on FOX
Created by: Bryan Singer and Matt Nix
Starring: Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, Natalie Alyn Lind, Percy Hynes White, Coby Bell, Sean Teale, Blair Redford, Jamie Chung, Emma Dumont