WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Gifted’s two-part season finale, which debuted Monday on Fox.
Fox’s The Gifted has packed with references to the larger X-Men mythology, some of which are pertinent to the drama’s central storylines involving the Strucker family and the Mutant Underground. Others, however, are little more than mere Easter eggs intended to reward die-hard fans. For instance, this week’s Season 1 finale briefly introduced an obscure Marvel Comics character, and gave a nod to X-Men co-creator Jack Kirby. But there was also a name mentioned in passing that could offer a clue to Season 2.
The Strucker family, led by father Reed and mother Caitlin, has spent this season barely one step ahead of Sentinel Services following the very public revelation in the pilot that their children Lauren and Andy are powerful mutants. While they found allies in the Mutant Underground, their struggle was complicated by the discovery that Reed’s grandfather and aunt were Andreas and Andrea Von Strucker, the mutant terrorists better known as Fenris, and that his own father Otto, a longtime employee of Trask Industries, conducted experiments to suppress the X gene in young Reed. Otto was killed earlier in the season in a confrontation with Sentinel Services, which in the finale sought Reed’s mother Ellen, in hopes of finding her ex-husband’s missing research notes.
The Struckers reach Ellen first, intent on taking her into hiding, and learning what she might know about Otto’s work. She refuses their help, opting instead to stay with a friend in Florida, but offers up the name of Otto’s former research partner: Madeline Risman.
Although there’s no Madeline Risman in the Marvel Universe, there is a a geneticist named Deborah Risman, introduced in the 2000-2003 animated series X-Men: Evolution as the creator of the Wolverine clone X-23.
Although X-23 later gained popularity in Marvel comic books, and in the 2016 film Logan, she made her debut in 2003 on X-Men: Evolution. In the series, Risman worked for Hydra but, upon her defection to S.H.I.E.L.D., admitted she did so only for “the chance to push genetics past what conventional science had ever seen.” With DNA “acquired” from the Weapon X program, Risman successfully cloned Wolverine on her 23rd attempt — with some genetic variations. Namely, the clone was female and mentally unstable.
However, once X-23’s story was reworked for comics, Risman’s name was changed to Dr. Sarah Kinney, who worked for The Facility. While she seemed to be the project lead on X-Men: Evolution, she is a subordinate to Dr. Martin Sutter in the comics. Further, she’s forced to compete with Sutter’s sadistic protege, Dr. Zander Rice. Regardless, both versions of her character are similar to the Gabriela role from Logan, in that they care for X-23 and eventually free her.
Having said all of that, there’s another X-Men character with the last name Risman who could play into the plans for The Gifted: Matthew Risman, a mercenary recruited by William Stryker as part of the Purifiers, an anti-mutant organization with religious overtones. Seeing as the Purifiers were introduced in flashback in this season’s final episodes, it’s possible Madeline Risman has a connection to the group.
As Logan director James Mangold is reportedly developing an X-23 movie, it seems unlikely we’ll see that fan-favorite character on The Gifted. However, the mention of Risman could lead to the uncovering of connection between Trask Industries and the Weapon X program (already referenced, if indirectly, on the series). One thing is certain, though: Ellen’s mention of Deborah Risman won’t be forgotten when The Gifted returns in the fall for Season 2.
Returning in the fall for Season 2, Fox’s The Gifted stars Stephen Moyer as Reed Strucker, Amy Acker as Caitlin Strucker, Sean Teale as Eclipse/Marcos Diaz, Jamie Chung as Blink/Clarice Fong, Coby Bell as Jace Turner, Emma Dumont as Polaris/Lorna Dane, Blair Redford as Thunderbird/John Proudstar, Natalie Alyn Lind as Lauren Strucker, and Percy Hynes White as Andy Strucker.
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