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FOX’s Familiar, Yet Compelling “The Gifted” Premieres Monday Night (Review)

Fast-paced, well-acted and unquestionably compelling, “The Gifted” should resonate with premiere night viewers.

Emma Dumont in The Gifted | Ryan Green/FOX

FOX’s “The Gifted” premieres Monday night.

In a TV marketplace that includes numerous superhero/comic-themed series, “The Gifted” does not register as particularly gamechanging or groundbreaking. It does not reinvent the superhero genre, let alone elevate the state of dramatic television.

It does, however, make for a very entertaining viewing experience. Fast-paced, well-acted and unquestionably compelling, “The Gifted” should resonate with premiere night viewers.

Ahead of Monday’s premiere (9PM ET/PT), we’re pleased to share a quick breakdown/review:

What to know:
“The Gifted” centers on the “X-Men” universe, in which mutations have provided some individuals with supernatural abilities.

Society does not welcome these individuals; the pilot actually includes some obvious (but not overbearing) parallels to real-life discrimination. Worse, the government (and agencies like Sentinel Services) is actively hunting and imprisoning mutants.

We are introduced to mutants on two fronts. We meet members of the “Mutant Underground,” who provide a secret network of assistance for mutants. This group includes (or comes to include) John (Blair Redford), Lorna (Emma Dumont), Marcos (Sean Teale) and Clarice (Jamie Chung).

We also meet members of the Strucker family. Reed (Stephen Moyer), the family patriarch, is a district attorney whose job includes prosecuting mutants. He and wife Caitlin (Amy Acker) have two children: Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hines White).

Unbeknownst to Reed and Caitlin (and the rest of the world), Lauren and Andy are mutants with supernatural powers.

An incident at a high school dance exposes their secret, and forcing the Strucker family to flee for safety. Their effort to evade Sentinel Services brings them into contact with members of the Underground.

Why you should watch: “The Gifted” is essentially a “best of both worlds” hybrid between season one of NBC’s “Heroes” and The CW’s DC Comics series. If you like either, you’ll almost certainly enjoy Monday’s “The Gifted” premiere.

The family element — real, ordinary people dealing with the impact of having supernatural abilities — mirrors that of the former. “The Gifted” nods to the “Heroes” dilemma of having a central “mutant” character’s father work for the opposition.

Consisting of attractive twentysomethings with a bit of attitude, the Underground dimension should resonate with those who enjoy The CW’s superhero shows.

But while it may feel familiar, “The Gifted” never feels like an imitation. It boasts its own style and its own voice.

It also boasts a very committed cast that quickly — and successfully — brings so many characters to life within the span of an hour. No cast member delivers an amazing, revelatory performance, but all possess enough charm, credibility and investment to create recognizable, relatable characters.

The blistering pace gives Monday’s premiere little opportunity for intense characterization, yet the actors breathe life into each one. We may not know a lot about any individual character, but after a single hour, it already feels like we know them.

That is an impressive achievement for any show, let alone one this action-oriented.

Other items of appeal include connection to the “X-Men” franchise (some of the aforementioned characters should be familiar to fans) and a decent cliffhanger ending in Monday’s premiere.

Sentinel Services is also positioned as a compelling threat. Not simply a showcase for a “charismatic big bad,” the group seems to have legitimate resources — and thus a legitimate capability for confronting the mutants.

It’s an energetic, engaging series. It, for all intents and purposes, is worth watching.

Why you should pass: The success of “The Gifted” is a tale of execution rather than concept. It is a good show, but it is not a brilliant or unique one.

The core concept is unremarkable. There is no particularly exciting “twist” on the format or subversion of expectations. It’s a solid superhero/comic series for those who are interested in that genre.

Those who are not fundamentally interested will doubtfully hate the show — they may even really like it — but they will not feel any unparalleled affinity for the program. This is a show, not a pop culture “event.”

“Familiarity,” of course, may seem like an obnoxious criticism. Isn’t it enough to simply be enjoyable?

For some, yes. But in today’s era of “peak TV,” it is hard to fault one for requiring a show be utterly fresh and truly brilliant before committing their time.

“The Gifted” does not meet that high standard. It does, however, represent a solid new entry in the crowded superhero/comic landscape.

And it represents a strong addition to FOX’s lineup.

“The Gifted” premieres Monday at 9PM ET/PT.

Written by Brian Cantor

Brian Cantor is the editor-in-chief for Headline Planet. He has been a leading reporter in the music, movie, television and sporting spaces since 2002.

Brian's reporting has been cited by major websites like BuzzFeed, Billboard, the New Yorker and The Fader -- and shared by celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj.

Contact Brian at brian.cantor[at]headlineplanet.com.

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