Despite assurances that The Gifted exists in its own "stream," separate from the X-Men film franchise, it's difficult for continuity-conscious comics fans to resist the urge to search for connections between the new Fox drama and the dystopian future of 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past or the bleak setting of this year's Logan. But with this week's episode, the series begins flesh out its fictional universe and place markers along a timeline that's different from the movies.
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As we learn in the second episode, "rX," mutants aren't a "new" phenomenon; their existence has been publicly known for decades. Although the crackdown by the U.S. government on their activities is a recent development, mutants have long struggled for acceptance, their efforts becoming entwined with other civil-rights movements. There's enough of a history that they're not just the targets of Sentinel Services but, more far commonly, of subtler forms of discrimination, from strangers, from medical professionals and from family members.
Here are the ways The Gifted has stared to lay out a timeline distinct from the rest of the X-Men movie universe.
The July 15th Incident
Discussed previously by creator Matt Nix, and vaguely referenced in the series premiere, the cataclysmic event tied to the disappearance of the X-Men and Magneto's Brotherhood and to the restrictions on mutant activities is given a name in "rX": the July 15th incident. It's The Gifted's version of 9/11 or 7/7, only involving a battle between rival groups of mutants.
Separated from his family and taken into custody by Sentinel Services, federal prosecutor Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer) is interrogated by Agent Jace Turner (Coby Bell), who's willing to use whatever leverage he can to learn the whereabouts of the Mutant Underground, whom he views as a terrorist group. When Reed protests that they're not like the Mutant Liberation Front, Agent Turner replies, "I lost my daughter in the July 15th incident. She was 7 years old. Her name was Grace. People talk about the X-Men, they talk about the Brotherhood. Here's the thing: I'm never gonna know if the blast of energy that killed my kid came from a good mutant or a bad mutant. And guess what? I don't care."
Those comments don't pin down a year for the July 15th incident -- there's a sense, though, that a little time has passed -- but there's an implication that the X-Men and the Brotherhood were directly involved in whatever happened. We can probably safely assume that not all of the members of those two groups died in the incident, which suggests they're either in hiding or incarcerated in some kind of government black site.
South African Apartheid
To help tighten the screws on Reed Strucker, Sentinel Services brings in his mother Ellen (guest star Sharon Gless) for questioning as a potential co-conspirator. Agent Weeks asks about her ex-husband, who apparently lives alone in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before diving deep into her history of civil disobedience: "You supported the mutant-rights movement. You protested the South African government."
"I marched against apartheid in 1984," Ellen clarifies. "They were oppressing all kinds of people -- not just the mutants!"
It's a brief exchange in a scene that's more about how far Agent Turner is willing to go to wrest information from Reed. Nevertheless, it reveals much about the setting of The Gifted, in which South Africa's four-decade institutionalized system of segregation apparently wasn't aimed only at separating blacks from whites (and, in the process, ensuring rule of the white minority), but also at isolating mutants from humans.