Does everyone have to be a mutant?
We’re already overwhelmed by superheroes in every facet of pop culture, but the number of X-Men and mutant spinoffs is getting absurd. We’ve got the screwball comedy of “Deadpool,” the noir and Western vibe of “Logan,” and the upcoming “The New Mutants” promises to be in more of a YA vein. If FX’s “Legion” was the dark, Lynchian take on mutant kind, “The Gifted” is Fox’s soppy, family melodrama.
Fox only provided the pilot of “The Gifted” in advance, but with a premise this thin, it’s hard to imagine how “The Gifted” milks this for even one more episode, let alone a full season. It focuses on an ordinary family instead of a team of heroes, but it can’t be bothered with being anything more than a bland origin story.
In this initial episode directed by the otherwise reliable Bryan Singer, the X-Men have vanished, and mutants unable to control their powers are being rounded up as criminals. A new underground alliance of mutants has formed with a mission to rescue other mutants on the run. While they attempt to rescue one mutant, another, Lorna (Emma Dumont), gets captured.
But the lawyer prosecuting her, Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer), is also on the run. His two teenage kids, Lauren and Andy (Natalie Alyn Lind and Percy Hynes White), have just been revealed as mutants, too. Reed strikes a deal with the underground group’s leader, Marcos (Sean Teale), to break Lorna out of jail in exchange for getting his kids to safety.
The show could have slowly built to the reveals. Instead, we get hackneyed chase scenes, and Joss Whedon-esque snark shoehorned in. “I think you might be a mutant too with some sort of snoring ability,” Reed’s wife Kate (Amy Acker) says at one point. The groan-worthy dialogue isn’t helped by a lifeless performance by Moyer or Acker’s character being reduced to just a worried mom.
“The Gifted” doesn’t even have cool action to fall back on. How dumb are these mutant powers? The pilot’s centerpiece scene is a school dance where some bullies drag Andy into a locker room and douse him under the showers. He screams and moans in agony and causes an earthquake… but he can also bend metal?
His sister’s power isn’t any less vague. She can condense air into these translucent bubble shields… but can’t manipulate anything else?
“The Gifted” gets lamer. One mutant bends her fingers into arthritic contortions to create some ugly purple portals. Another emits light from his hands, a superpower rivaled by any smartphone. And the Lorna character has jet black hair and a caustic, bitter attitude that feels stolen from Jessica Jones.
Even the Stan Lee cameo is a big yawn.