Tonight, Fox and Marvel begin a new saga set in a TV-friendly offshoot of the X-Men universe with The Gifted, a show about a young family on the run from a government seeking to capture and control America’s Mutant population. Not sure what’s happening, who’s who, and why no one’s running around in Spandex yelling “To me, my X-Men!”? We’re here to help.
Just like the recent Legion TV series, The Gifted doesn’t particularly adapt one specific storyline from the comics, but even in comparison, it’s much more loosely connected to its source material than Legion was. The Gifted is adapting an idea from Marvel’s Mutant comics, one of the most persistent ones: Humanity sucks and, out of fear and hatred, turns on the fledgling Mutant population.
By the time The Gifted begins, it’s set in a United States where Mutants are no longer allowed to live as free people, and they’re being hunted down by the Government to be interred in correction facilities. It seems to be implied that there’s at least some kind of Mutant Control Act that mandates the imprisonment of Mutantkind, although one isn’t really mentioned in what we’ve seen of The Gifted so far. The MCA was a popular story point during the X-Men comics in the ‘80s, a controversial piece of legislation championed by Senator Robert Kelley.
Kelley’s plans for Mutant registration most famously appeared in the 1981 storyline Days of Future Past. In the two-part saga, the X-Men had to stop an assassination attempt on Kelley after being warned by a future version of Kitty Pryde that Kelley’s death would lead to a dystopian timeline where most mutants were captured or dead, hunted down by the gigantic robots of the Sentinel Program. Although the X-Men prevented the timeline from occurring, Kelley’s dreams of anti-Mutant legislation would eventually come to pass by the mid-‘80s—but his new Mutant Registration Act barely had an impact on the X-Men storylines, and was eventually dropped altogether in the ‘90s.
While, obviously, there are going to be Mutant characters in The Gifted, don’t expect heroes like Wolverine or Storm, or villains like Magneto and Mystique, to be on the show. The first trailer for The Gifted made that much obvious, when one of the characters flatly stated:
The X-Men, the Brotherhood, we don’t even know if they exist anymore.
So in The Gifted’s world, teams like the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants did exist at one point, but they’ve vanished in the face of the US government’s tightening grip around Mutantkind. Since the first trailer, showrunner Matt Nix has told the press that the event that caused the X-Men and the Brotherhood to vanish is the one that causes humanity to turn to a distrust and hatred of Mutantkind in the first place:
The X-Men are gone. The Brotherhood is gone. Most of the powerful classic mutants are not around. People don’t know where they’ve gone. They are shrouded in mystery. It comes out gradually over the course of the series that there’s been a cataclysmic event, a bit of a 9/11 event, that caused enormous social upheaval and a lot of hatred towards mutants. It’s somehow related to the disappearance of the X-Men and the Brotherhood.
And even if they do show up at some point, don’t expect them to be the versions seen in the movies, even if this is a show airing on Fox. As show creator Matt Nix explained at San Diego Comic-Con this year, The Gifted is only related to the movies in that it is set in one of the many, many timelines established in X-Men: Days of Future Past. So no, you won’t see Sophie Turner showing up as Jean Grey or anything.
As is befitting of a story loosely inspired by both the comic and movie versions of Days of Future Past, The Gifted does at least have one iconic creation from the comics in a major role... but they look very different.
A blink-and-you’ll miss it moment in the trailer reveals the taskforce that’s hunting down rogue Mutants is actually called Sentinel Services, named after the previously mentioned Sentinels—gigantic, blue-and-purple robots builts by the Government to hunt down and capture mutants. (Or, more often than not, kill them.) The Sentinels of the show, however, are very, very different to their comic counterparts, as you can see by the gif above—they’re more like little spider-y drones than the hulking robotic titans of the comics, but their job is pretty much the same: Find and help capture any mutants they can.
Even though The Gifted is mostly focused on a new story, not every member of its main cast is a new character. In fact, several lesser-known Mutant characters from Marvel’s comics play major roles in the show. The tiny Mutant resistance features a few: Blink (Jamie Chung), a purple-haired mutant who has also appeared in the X-Men movies and has the power to open up portals for people to travel through; Thunderbird (Blair Redford), a Mutant with superstrength and mild foresight that lets him track people; and Lorna Dane, a.k.a. Polaris (Emma Dumont), who can manipulate magnetism—and, as she was in the comics, is actually the daughter of Magneto, something The Gifted will explore as it progresses.
They’re joined by a new character created entirely for the show, Eclipse, also known as Marcos Diaz (Sean Teale). Eclipse appears to be the leader of the small network of rogue Mutants we meet early in The Gifted, and has the ability to manipulate light, emitting beams of it from his hands—which makes him similar to certain comic book Mutants, like Sunspot.
The real main cast of the show lives squarely in the “New to Gifted” camp. Parents Caitlin (Amy Acker), and Reed (Stephen Moyer) Strucker discover both their kids, Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White), are Mutants, forcing them to go on the run together. Lauren’s been aware of her ability to project shields she can use to defend herself and manipulate the environment around her for some time before the events of the show. Andy’s powerful telekinetic abilities awaken in the first episode, but he has a much harder time controlling them than his sister does. We don’t know much about Caitlin, but we know that Reed actually works with the Government and Sentinel Services to prosecute and detain Mutants before he finds out about his kids—the trailers show him talking to Polaris after she’s captured in the show’s opening minutes.
There’s still a lot we don’t really know about The Gifted, honestly, especially since most of the footage we’ve seen is from a small portion of the first episode that establishes the premise. Is there a larger Mutant resistance out there that helps the Struckers flee? What’s the endgame of Mutant Control, anyway? What actually happened to the X-Men? Presumably we’ll start getting at least some of the answers when The Gifted begins on Fox tonight.