Gifted Post-Mortem

Yeah, it’s been several weeks since I made a new WordPress post. I’ve had plenty of thoughts over that time. None of them fit or required WordPress. Some of it’s been over on my Twitter account.

But that’s not why I’m posting now. This is a post-mortem for the show Gifted.

The show started out with a lot of promise. In season 1, the show had all the foundation it really needed for potential success. It started off rocky. Most first seasons do, including incredibly successful shows. Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 1 is much different from Buffy the Vampire Slayer at its height. It takes time for creatives to determine where they really want to go with characters and concepts.

Unfortunately, Gifted wasted what it had and from what I heard, got much worse in season 2.

The show put too much emphasis on the Struckers. I think that’s something a majority of people felt. As a lead-in to the show’s concept, the Struckers were bland (even with Amy Acker) but could’ve been tolerated til about halfway through season 1. At that point, they should’ve started slowly taking a back seat to the main focus of the show. The usage of the Struckers in the first place felt like someone involved thought white audiences needed a white family at the core demonstrating the show’s version of white guilt to get into it. That kind of concept works best sneakily working as a subplot. Making it the focus detracted from the potential of the show’s diverse cast, and for some came off preachy in the wrong way.

The show’s handling of character death was another big issue – which I was very loud and clear about when they killed off Dreamer. The problem wasn’t merely that characters were killed off. It’s how it was done. Other, better shows will have the episode focus on that character, or make that character’s death part of a HUGE event that people will talk about endlessly. Gifted killed characters for a mix of shock value and to push other characters’ stories along with no love or respect given to the departing character. Fans generally don’t like to get deeply attached to a character only to have them offed out of nowhere with no catharsis of any sort to deal with it. The show being based on comic books doesn’t mean it’s great to follow terrible comic book tropes that are part of the reason comic book sales are often so low.

This was especially a problem with Dreamer’s death. It became all the more apparent to me post-death that she was the secret heart of the show. Like most “secret heart” characters (e.g. Rosa in FF4), her importance was completely lost on most people who stuck with the show – especially the show’s writers and showrunner. In comedy terms, it’s like having an act that needs the “straight man” trope and you remove him cause you think he’s not adding any jokes. In reality, everything else loses its impact without him.

Resurrecting Dreamer or saying she wasn’t killed off would’ve been the best option. Second best would’ve been bringing in a new character to fill the role and keeping them. Gifted did neither.

Another obvious issue: the show wasted Polaris, Esme, the characters’ potential, and Emma Dumont and Skyler Samuels.

I didn’t watch season 2. In fact, I stopped watching Gifted with the episode that they killed Dreamer. But I did see some things. I heard Lorna was treated very poorly in season 2, in part to promote Reeva. I also saw Dumont talk about how she didn’t like what the show was doing with/to Lorna, but as a professional, she understood the need to have balancing among all the characters in an ensemble cast.

There were two huge problems here.

One, providing balance doesn’t mean “Let’s make this character look pathetic and stupid so the other characters can look great.” That’s another shitty comic book writing trope that needs to die in a fire. TV audiences hated that approach because TV audiences expect better writing. A lot of them likely abandoned ship when they saw the show was going to be terrible just cause comics like to be terrible.

Two, Polaris had rapidly become a huge fan favorite character in season 1. There was toooooons of enthusiasm for her. When you have a fan favorite character, you don’t tear them down to make another character – especially a newcomer – look good at their expense. You capitalize on that enthusiasm and raise the stakes. Gifted failed.

By comparison, when Negan arrived on Walking Dead, Rick and Daryl had low moments. But they weren’t written horribly out of character to make Negan look good. They were presented with terrible situations, they behaved as they normally would, they went through trials and emotions and eventually found their strength again in themselves.

In general, Emma Dumont and Skyler Samuels brought a lot more to the table than the show seemed willing to acknowledge and respect. Their enthusiasm was infectious. Doing things that made their enthusiasm suffer led to fans losing interest. Not doing things to spread that enthusiasm stifled momentum into getting new viewers. The show had a gold mine and blew it up looking for coal.

I even remember when Skyler Samuels joined the show, but before Dreamer’s death soured me to Gifted, I specifically told another fan in private that Skyler would be a much bigger boon than most people realized. She was amazing on Scream Queens. Apparently the showrunner and writers understood that only enough to add her as a regular, but not enough to make the most of her alongside Dumont.

Meanwhile, if the show had done things right, the other characters – Blink, Thunderbird, Eclipse, Dreamer, Sage – could’ve risen up to a much higher level of interest over time.

There’s still been some talk about the idea of the show landing on a streaming service like Hulu. If the show persisted in its current model, I think it would only last as long as one limited series, at absolute most one more season (though I’m really padding it when I say that). Probably just enough for the show to give a comfortable conclusion after the cliffhanger.

For a Gifted revival/continuation to actually be more than that, the showrunners and writers would need to make a LOT of changes to what they’ve been doing for the last season and a half. They’d have to basically reset to halfway through season 1. Or, the show would need an entirely different showrunner, and maybe different writers (depends on if the current showrunner steered the writers in the wrong direction from what they would’ve wanted).

What seems most likely to me right now is something more like what happened to the Batman Beyond cartoon. Where one episode of Justice League Unlimited acted as a backdoor conclusion to Batman Beyond.

That’s all I’ve got now. New thoughts could spring up in the future.

Dreamer was garbage, she added nothing that other characters couldn’t replace. They should have killed her long before what they did.

Hi again.

What you’re really saying is that you were unable to see her value. You have options of trying to figure out her value, or accepting that some people see things you don’t. Instead, you’re opting to pretend your not managing to see a thing means that thing isn’t there.

This is an attitude I’ve seen before for other characters, including Polaris. It’s not any different from the guy online who, when I said Marvel needed to bring Polaris back from space, responded by saying she should be left in space and forgotten to “keep her away from characters that matter” (that’s not an exact quote, can’t remember exact, but it’s a general paraphrase).

You didn’t like her, you didn’t see the good in her, and that’s fine. You’re not required to like her or see her value. But I saw those things. I want them back, and if they were going to be taken away forever, then I wanted them to be put to bed in a respectful way that honored what was and could have been. That’s something I won’t budge on.

So me.

I like that Polaris has a live action version on Gifted. I like that, when I left off, she was being written very well on it. I had some things I didn’t like (pregnancy on first ep, prison happening too soon and missing full potential, etc), but I was able to set my dislikes aside for a variety of reasons. I like that the live action version of her is popular, as it shows her value.

But none of that changes how big of a problem the show’s handling of Dreamer’s death is for me.

I’m not someone that can turn a blind eye to things like that just cause my favorite character, in anything, is being treated great. It’s even worse cause I grew to really like Dreamer. But whether or not I have a deep personal interest in a character only means I’m more vocal.

I’ve never been a big fan of Edward in Final Fantasy IV and I still defend the character when people badmouth him as a worthless coward. In all honesty, Quicksilver is bottom of the “main four” of the Magnus family of my personal interest, but that didn’t stop me from calling out that he was depicted poorly in Secret Wars: House of M. That Lorna benefited from such a poor depiction didn’t change that it was wrong. 

I can’t let something that’s wrong have a pass just cause something I like has it made in that situation. I’m not one of those people. I’ve seen a lot of people let such things slide because they see good treatment as a competition where all other characters have to suffer for their favorite to stand on top, but I’m not one of those people.

If the shoe was on the other foot, Dreamer was the most popular character and Polaris got killed off the way Dreamer was, I would want to see fans of Dreamer do for Polaris what I’m doing now.

Not that I expect anyone else to think or feel or do things like me. I just wanted to lay out what my POV is. Why things are the way they are with me.

Dreamer’s death, support for her

It’s been a while since I properly said something about Dreamer’s death and how poorly The Gifted handled it, so I just really need to bring it back to the fore. I’m not dropping it.

Things have slowed because the show is out until Fall and its social media channels are practically dead. But my frustration and outrage are still very much alive, four months later.

Which is why I’m making this post of odds and ends of views people have expressed about her. Starting with a couple that are very recent.

And for the sake of full disclosure, the impetus of this is seeing one person out there who (not necessarily about Dreamer, just speaking generally) said they like how Gifted isn’t afraid to burn stories and concepts. This is to emphasize how even though as a general rule there’s some good in that, it was wrong in Dreamer’s case.

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These are the latest I found. User loved Dreamer, was her favorite, disappointed in her death.

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This is a general theme. These are not the only cases out there, though they’re the only ones that come up easily in the Twitter search I did (last being linked to via Twitter search).

I know for a fact there are a LOT more than just this because I found and posted them back when they were fresh.

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Again, Dreamer was a favorite for a lot of people. For some, she was the entire reason they watched. And reaction to her getting killed off, well…

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Aside from upsetting people, many want her brought back ASAP.

There are videos out there made as tributes to her, like this one published on March 24th by @anadearmas (post). People don’t make video tributes for “nobody characters” three months after they were killed off.

And if you look at the notes, you’ll see one reblog in there expressing frustration at how Dreamer was killed just to advance a romance between Thunderbird and Blink.

The view many have, and I’m sure it’s especially held by the people on the show who decided to give Dreamer such a disrespectful and poorly done death, is that Dreamer was a worthless extra. That she had no real value, that she could be killed off and nothing was lost.

But something was. Something really, really was lost when they decided to not only kill her off, but do so in the manner they did. It’s not just that they killed her off. It’s the way it happened. It’s the poor setup. The terrible framing. The execution so botched it didn’t look like they even put any thought or effort into it at all. They wanted to kill her, and making it happen was all that mattered to them.

Technically, you can say this post, these reactions, they’re all signs of good writing in that it got everyone to care this much about a character with so little comics history that she was effectively a new character made for the show.

But good writing isn’t just making you care about something. It’s also respecting the audience enough to not stab them in the back for caring. It’s recognizing they cared for a reason, they got invested for a reason, and rewarding that interest and care.

Which doesn’t have to mean “never kill the character.” It could mean kill them off with thought, and care, and respect. A character doesn’t have to live forever. They just need their value and impact acknowledged properly. Gifted failed to do that with Dreamer.