Image: Fox via YouTube

Fox’s first X-Men movie paved the way for the current age of comic book movies that we’re living in. But after 17 years, 10 different movies, one soft, but significant reboot, and a high-concept television show, the live-action X-Men universe has gotten... complicated. But The Gifted executive producer Matt Nix has a clever answer to how his show does actually fit in with the movies—and how all of Fox’s other mutant-centric offerings do, too.

During last night’s The Gifted panel, Nix explained how, following the events of Days of Future Past, it’s been established that there are an infinite number of potential timelines within the X-Men that have the potential to take different forms. The Gifted, Nix said, is but one of those timelines—one where the X-Men have gone missing—and also happens to feature different versions of some characters, like Blink, that we’ve already seen.

Said Nix:

“The idea is that this is definitely its own universe. We’re not in the same exact timeline as any particular movie or comic, but that said we do share some characters with the movies and comics. The idea is we’re doing our own thing. As they say, there are many streams.”

As riveting as it is to hear The Defenders make half-hearted references to Captain America and Thor, the shared-ness of the MCU has proven to be as much a curse as it is a blessing over time. In being so expansive, Marvel’s universe can at times be unwieldy and difficult to cross-pollinate within—particularly across the film/television divide. What’s more, for all of its effort to make its films feel different from one another, Marvel flicks can (and do) largely feel derivative of one another to varying degrees.

In a clever way that honors comic book tradition, Fox’s various X-Men projects are avoiding the problem entirely by simply having their sets of mutants play within their own discrete, but fundamentally related sandboxes. It gives them the flexibility tell a variety of wildly different stories like Legion and The Gifted while also pulling from a deep well of source material that can be adapted and molded in unique ways.

No, it’s not be the perfectly-packaged, tidy universe that Marvel and DC are convinced that we’ve become accustomed to, but it’s a genuinely interesting and sensical way to capitalize on a set of stories that we all love.