The Gifted Is the Best Show You Aren't Watching

As the options for scripted TV continue to balloon to nauseating proportions, more and more good shows are not able to break through the noise and find the audience they need to survive. This TV season, Fox's The Gifted seems to be careening into that dreaded fate. That's a tragedy because The Gifted is really good TV.

The series is set in the X-Men universe, but Marvel's famous mutants are nowhere to be seen. Instead, the show centers on the Strucker family, which is forced to join the mutant underground after teenagers Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White) are forced to reveal their powers at a high school dance. Lauren, Andy and their parents must go on the run to avoid being detained by Sentinel Services, the government agency in charge of rounding up "dangerous" mutants. Strucker patriarch Reed (Stephen Moyer), who works for Sentinel Services, must trust the people he has spent over a decade prosecuting to save his kids from the same fate he's sentenced so many young mutants.

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From a numbers perspective, the show kicked things off in early October with a respectable 1.48 rating in the adults 18-49 demo and came just shy of 5 million overall viewers, but the stats have only dropped from there. While these numbers are leagues above Marvel's other fall outing Inhumans, The Gifted tied its season low (0.8 in the demo, 2.8 million viewers) with this week's fall finale. That is not good news.

So, how does a Marvel show about mutants fall into this kind of rut?

Being a Marvel production means that you get a big budget and access to a mind-boggling array of comics to pull stories from, but it also means that you're saddled with Marvel-sized baggage. For The Gifted, that means the "Everything is connected" attitude of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which the show is not part of. It's not part of the Fox X-Men movie universe either (at least not yet). The mere idea that the show could be connected forced early promotion of the show to focus on whether the X-Men or Deadpool would appear in the series, and if so, when and how. Outside of the possibility that Magneto is Polaris' (Emma Dumont) father, the X-Men are only mentioned in the series -- but that is one of the show's greatest assets.

The Gifted focuses on how mutants survive in a world that has turned against them. With the X-Men in hiding, the show is allowed to focus on the street-level heroes. The audience can see the themes and concepts play out without getting distracted by Easter Eggs or arguing about how The Gifted fits in a larger film universe. The semantics aren't important but the story is. The mutants on The Gifted aren't trying to save the world, just each other. That kind of grounded storytelling is what makes the show one of the best superhero shows on TV.

The series understands the golden rule about genre shows: characters first, effects second. Things started with two parents concerned about their son being bullied at school, which made us immediately sympathetic to Andy's plight, and we understand that the Struckers are parents who care about their children above all -- no matter what Reed's job is. The bullying attack on Andy at the high school dance showed how extreme his torment has actually been and his super-powered freakout felt deserved. We care about the kid in distress and we are on board with whatever measures need to be taken to save him. Meanwhile, the mutant underground was introduced as they saved a scared homeless comrade while losing their most valuable fighter in the process, so we immediately understood the stakes for these people who can't control how they are different.

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The Gifted balances the scale with their "antagonist" Sentinel Agent Jace Turner (Coby Bell). He's not an evil man bitter that he doesn't have cool powers. He's a father who lost his young daughter because of reckless mutants. He doesn't just think they are dangerous -- he's seen firsthand what happens when mutants lose control and he wants to save anyone else from experiencing his pain. Even if you don't agree with Turner it's hard not to see things from his side of the board, which makes watching his tango with the mutant underground that much more intriguing.

This is not to say that The Gifted shrimps on effects in favor of dialogue. It performs extremely well when the explosions or superpowers need to happen, but the mutants only need their powers when necessary -- whether it's for survival or important character moments. For instance, the effect of Polaris and Eclipse (Sean Teale) combining their magnetism and solar powers is a beautiful replica of the Northern Lights and absolute #relationshipgoals. If you're here to see mutants be mutants, you definitely won't be disappointed -- even if you don't recognize their names from the movies or comics you enjoyed as a kid.

Even if the series has no definite ties to the MCU or Fox's X-Men movie universe, the pace of the show still feels cinematic. In contrast to fellow X-Men show Legion on FX, which is tailor-made for the cerebral comic book fan, The Gifted is for the emotional popcorn eaters of the world. Creator and executive producer Matt Nix has created a high-octane thriller that expertly hinges each episode into the next so the show feels more like a 13-hour movie than an episodic sludge.

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"I want a propulsive, central story, where we're doing lots of stuff. It's what makes it fun for me," Nix told TV Guide. "The other thing is I have three kids, and they are 15, 13, and 11, and what they watch is binge-worthy shows. That's what they care about...To be honest, that was a huge influence for me. I'm watching things with them, I'm watching how they watch. I'm watching their reactions to what I'm doing. They're very sweet kids, but they're pretty ruthless. They'll tell me if they think something is boring."

That's a winning perspective to have on television in 2017, except when you're trying to knock it out of the park for broadcast. It's entirely possible that The Gifted could see huge second season returns as The CW's Riverdale did between its first and second season with Netflix binges (The Gifted is available on Hulu and on Fox.com) -- but will Fox see those numbers in time to make the right renewal decision?

Don't risk it! There are three episodes left in The Gifted's first season, with the holiday season in between before the show returns on Jan. 1. That is plenty of time to binge the first season (it'll go quick) and be ready for the tail end of the show's first run. The is the superhero show you have been waiting for. Don't let it go eXtinct before it's reached its full potential.

The Gifted airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.

This article originally appears on TV Guide.com.

Comments (33)
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Jan 05, 2018
Ohh, no no no no...
After canceling so many really good and popular Sci-Fi TV Shows, Fox completely lost my trust.
I am not gonna start to watch this one for sure even if it half-good as you promised.
Because, when I really get to love it and wait for next season Fox gonna cancel it.
NO MORE.
Bye-bye, Fox....
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Jan 11, 2018
Don't worry. It's not half-good.
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Jan 03, 2018
The Gifted is a show I want to like, being a big fan of superhero everything, but it's making it very hard. I'll try to explain what bothers me the most.

Mutant powers can be turned off, cured or combined. This is something that really annoys me every-time and everywhere it happens. Mutant powers come from something inside someones DNA, to disable that with a collar is stupid. Having a scientist combine two mutants powers with a stupid bracelet is even worse. I know, we mere humans need something to level the playing field in a fight against mutants, but this is lazy and scientifically idiotic.
The Struckers are not a likeable family at all and they have way too much screen-time. And they could have been so much more interesting. Now we are stuck with a self-righteous dad who only wants to run and a very annoying kid in Andy. It's also making it very hard to like Caitlin played by Amy Acker, and that's just proof that the character and writing is flawed, because it's impossible not to like a character played by Amy.
Sentinel Services, Trask Industries and Jace are very one dimensional. I like to like and understand the bad guys and where they're coming from. Magneto being a for example. Sure Jace his daughter was killed in a mutant attack (boohoo), but to go all terminator on all mutants and don't care that they're also human beings is stupid.
The Mutant underground is amateur hour and a mess. Eclipse, Polaris and Thunderbird have no leadership structure. Every episode they're all over the place, no structure, makeshift plans, are easily manipulated, go on separate side missions and don't seem to agree on much. They miss a leader, a tactician, someone who thinks ahead, but none of them fit that role.
It's on Fox, don't get invested in shows on Fox because they have a habit of cancelling shows out of nowhere, leaving you with half a story.
I guess what bothers me the most is most of the show
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Dec 29, 2017
i read the article and watched the show . it is not even close as good as you guys said... ofcourse you can always say its my opinion but being expert... if you are writing for TV.com ...atleast be authentic...

and for TV.com.. *sarcastic claps* real quality stuff being shoved up on eveyone's behind!!!!
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Dec 13, 2017
I'll echo the sentiments of everyone else here, which is kind of funny since that seems to be the same thing the Gifted is doing with other superhero based series. The show certainly isn't bad, but it isn't anything spectacular either. It's perfectly okay, probably my go to example of a recent show that is of average quality.

There's a lot of superhero based shows on the air right now, and there's plenty of examples in the past as well. In this particular instance, I'd even add that there have been plenty of supernatural based shows as well. I bring that up because those shows typically have the same plotline, supernatural based people being on the run or forced underground etc.

Anyway, the reason those shows continue to retain viewers even if they are repeating a lot of the same plots as other shows is because the show itself has personality. The Gifted just doesn't have that. It reminds me a lot of the Tomorrow People (I think that was the name of it) from a few years ago. The show was fine and I watched it from week to week, but I pretty much forgot it existed the moment the episode was done.
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Dec 13, 2017
If this is considered really good tv them i'm good with sticking with average tv

I watch the first 4 or 5 and it was just as bad as Heroes Reborn - terrible characterisation, awful acting, the worst main characters on TV today IMO (that family is soooooooooooo boring) and the same shit, different week kinda episodes

Sorry - but no - we don't need to watch this when there are better shows on TV - Agents of SHIELD is what needs viewers - not this dross
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Dec 13, 2017
Or... Maybe the drop in numbers is a good indication that the show isn't that good?
It's not bad per say, but it's just not that good either.

All characters are a massive cliche one by one. I'm not sure what show the author of the article was watching saying they are developed when every single person is simple a walking trope.

Yeah, Yeah, people with powers. They are hunted down. What else is new?
The plot did not progress what so ever since episode 1.
The only thing that changes is who currently is imprisoned that they need to bust out.

True Story : Every time I refer to this show, I constantly call it "Runaways" by accident. I know that Runaways is an entirely different show, but seriously wouldn't it make more sense to call this "Runaway" and the other one The Gifted?

I mean here they are always "on the run" while Runaways seem to be more about a bunch of kids who are gifted but are not really on the run.

(Yeah, obviously the season will end with them running away but for the time being they stay put)
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Dec 13, 2017
For us veteran reviewers, practically everything is a trope. ;) If it ain't a trope, it's a reinvented trope.

Heck, look at Runaways. "Jock who is actually smart" is as much a trope as "Muscle-headed jock". "Feminist who secretly lusts after a guy" is as much a trope as "Girl who secretly lusts after a guy." If you've been around long enough, everything comes back around.

Westworld was aimed as new and unique. But (for instance) Anthony Hopkins was the kind of mad-scientist trope that dates all the way back to The Postmodern Prometheus.

But yeah, I don't find The Gifted that great. It's not bad. But it's basically Mutant X tied into the X-Men universe, with better actors and a bigger budget.
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Dec 13, 2017
Sure, there's nothing that's absolutely "original" but the thing about this show (I wrote Runaways again...) is that the tropes aren't generic tropes like the dumb\smart jock.

They are tropes of this specific type of shows. They just don't really bring anything new to the table at all.
As you said - Mutant X
Or Dark Angel or Heroes Reborn or really countless other shows doing the exact same thing.

To give the better analogy, Sene8 also did a similar thing, except they at least gave some fresh perspective.

Really the only thing that I would say was "fresh" here is the memory altering red haired one. At least with her, they brought in some dilemmas about using such power on people without their connect.
And when she realized she hurt the agent about his daughter there was actual character development going on.

Sure, other shows have done that as well (Xmen Evolution did something similar with Scarlet Witch) but at least it's not something that every show on earth has ever done.
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Dec 13, 2017
If The Gifted is the best show you're not watching, let it stay that way. Better than it being the worst show you're watching...
It's not bad. It's just not good. It's basically Twilight meets X-Men, with cheap predictive plot and a handful of actors who could be doing something more interesting.
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Dec 13, 2017
The very fact that it started with a high audience and dropped is an indicator of it's quality. If it started low and stayed there, it could be that people just hadn't heard about it. This way, the option is: People heard about it, thought it was interesting, watched it and found out they had better things to do.
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Dec 13, 2017
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Dec 13, 2017
I've been watching it and enjoying it and hope it can hang in there long enough to gain some traction.
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Dec 13, 2017
I am watching and I Love it. :-)

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Dec 13, 2017
"...with this week's fall finale."

There was no fall finale this week. Just ask tv.com.


The last episode was on 12/4/17, as above. Who are you going to believe, tv.com or a staff writer?
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Dec 14, 2017
Well, considering I watched the new episode on the 11th, I'm gonna go with "staff writer."
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Dec 16, 2017
The episode is now up at tvcom and presumably, tvguide.
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Dec 14, 2017
"It was a joke, I say, a joke." A variant on, "Who are you going to believe, TVcom or your lying eyes."

I saw the episode, too.

As the show's editor, I just can't post any information about it because even though I notified The Powers That Be over a week ago that the 12/11 episode was missing, Tvcom (and TVGuide) still have no listing for it.
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Dec 13, 2017
Heck, they don't list it at TVGuide, either.
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Dec 13, 2017
How do we know TVGuide "writers" are watching it?
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Jan 11, 2018
If they are posting stuff like this, then they are barely reading episode summaries.
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Jan 17, 2018
Looks like it.
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