There’s never been an X-Men show quite like The Gifted. Even though it doesn’t star any A-list mutants, the show captures the spirit of the X-Men as well as any adaptation ever has. Using a surprising mix of Marvel’s minor mutants and obscure X-Men facts, the Fox series has established a pitch-perfect mix of family drama and mutant superheroics. While the show might focus on new human characters like Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker’s Reed and Caitlin Strucker, it’s also given meaningful roles to several characters who never seemed destined for the screen.
With all of these leftover pieces of the X-Men’s legacy, The Gifted has built an exciting world that can even surprise lifelong X-Men fans. Now, CBR is breaking down all of The Gifted’s Easter eggs, cameos and obscure X-Men references. From comics and cartoons to film, The Gifted has included nods to a shockingly wide range of X-Men stories. Whether you’re a newer X-fan or a certified X-pert, this list will unravel some of the show’s incredibly deep pulls from the X-Men’s history. While we’ll be focusing on the show’s first season, we’ll also be looking at how some of these points might shape The Gifted‘s second season and beyond.
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains comprehensive spoilers for the first season of The Gifted.
17. DAYS OF FUTURE NOW
While The Gifted isn’t a part of any preexisting X-Men timeline, the show’s world is strikingly similar to the dark tomorrow of X-Men: Days of Future Past. In that 2014 film, mutant-hunting Sentinels turned the future into a dystopian nightmare inspired by Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s iconic 1981 Uncanny X-Men tale. While The Gifted takes place now, it’s already featured that timeline’s hallmarks like Sentinels, mutant power-inhibiting collars and the assassination of anti-mutant U.S. Senator.
The show’s main mutant heroes also look a lot like the future X-Men from Days of Future Past. Both teams feature the portal-creating Blink, who’s played by Jamie Chung on the show. While Blair Redford’s super-strong Thunderbird leads the Mutant Underground, his comic book brother Warpath was in the film’s future X-squad. Sean Teale’s light-blasting new character, Eclipse, also takes inspiration from Sunspot, the cinematic X-Man who was called Eclipse in an alternate reality.
16. THE MAGNETO FACTOR
Even though Magneto hasn’t actually appeared in The Gifted, his legacy still plays a major role in the series. Beyond leading the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the show’s Magneto is also the father of Emma Dumont’s magnetic Polaris. Like her comics counterpart, Polaris believed that her stepfather, who died in a plane crash, was her biological father until her true biological parentage was confirmed. Still, she kept a medallion featuring Magneto’s helmet that she had been given as a child.
The Gifted‘s unseen Magneto was also said to be a “king” in the Hellfire Club. While Michael Fassbender’s Magneto fought the Hellfire Club in the movie X-Men: First Class, the Master of Magnetism joined the Hellfire Club in comics in the 1980s. In Chris Claremont and Kevin Nowlan’s New Mutants #51, Magneto became the Hellfire Club’s White King, and he briefly became the Club’s first and only Grey King.
In The Gifted, most of the characters who were members of the X-Men in comics play pretty big roles in the show. However, that hasn’t been the case for one relatively major comic book X-Man, Sage. Created by Chris Claremont ad John Byrne in 1980’s X-Men #132, Sage served as Charles Xavier’s secret agent for years, posing as Tessa to infiltrate the Hellfire Club. After that mission ended, she joined a few different X-Men squads over the years.
Even though Sage’s comic book counterpart was a main cast member of series like X-Treme X-Men, Hayley Lovitt’s Sage has mainly been the Mutant Underground’s tech support and occasional strategist. While her mutant “computer brain” makes her ideal for that work, it’s still a mostly supporting role for one of the few card-carrying X-Men on the show. While she defected to the reformed Hellfire Club, it’s unclear where her true loyalties stand.
14. WHAT HAPPENED IN DALLAS
Most of the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants disappeared after a mysterious event in the world of The Gifted. The July 15 incident resulted in a large explosion in Dallas, Texas that inspired Coby Bell’s Jace Turner to join the Sentinel Services. While the full details of this incident haven’t been revealed yet, it could point towards a major X-Men story.
Dallas usually isn’t a hotbed for superhero action, but it was the center at one of the X-Men’s first major comics crossovers, “The Fall of the Mutants.” During that 1988 storyline, the X-Men seemingly died in Dallas while fighting the Adversary, an ancient mystical entity. Although they were instantly revived, the X-Men’s deaths were broadcast on live TV in Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri’s Uncanny X-Men #226. While the X-Men relocated to the Australian Outback, the rest of the world believed that they were dead for years.
13. THE STEPFORD FROSTS
While Skyler Samuels’ identical telepathic triples might be called the Frost Sisters on The Gifted, they’re called the Stepford Cuckoos in Marvel’s comics. When Grant Morrison and Ethan Van Sciver created the Cuckoos in 2001’s New X-Men #118, there were originally five sisters who were the cloned daughters of Emma Frost, the Hellfire Club’s White Queen. Although Esme and Sophie Cuckoo died, Mindee, Celeste and Phoebe have served as the X-Men’s young telepathic powerhouses.
Like their comic book counterparts, Esme, Sophie and Phoebe Frost share a telepathic hive mind. In addition to giving their names as the Cuckoos, the Frosts also said that they were like “Three-In-One,” which is one of their X-Men codenames. In addition to their name change, the show has teased their connection to the White Queen by linking them to the Hellfire Club and diamonds. In comics, Frost and the Cuckoos can all transform into diamond.
12. THE HOUND PROGRAM
In the post-apocalyptic comic book future of “Days of Future Past,” the cybernetic Ahab used mind-controlled mutants called Hounds to hunt other mutants. In The Gifted, Garret Dillahunt portrays Dr. Roderick Campbell, Ahab’s monstrous human precursor. Although Campbell shares some of Ahab’s facial scars, the Trask Industries researcher doesn’t have the cybernetic peg leg and energy harpoons that define the comic book villain.
Since he was created by Walter Simonson and Jackson Guice in 1990’s Fantastic Four Annual #13, Ahab and his Hounds have been government-sanctioned mutant hunters. In that world, Ahab brainwashed mutants into becoming his Hounds and branded their faces with massive claw-like tattoos. The Gifted‘s Sentinel Services Hounds also have tattoos, but they’re less noticeable circular designs on their wrists. In a possible forerunner to the power-adaptive Sentinels of X-Men: Days of Future Past, Campbell has also developed a way to combine his Hounds’ powers through bio-tech manacles.
11. MEET THE MORLOCKS
Since they were created by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith in 1983’s Uncanny X-Men #169, the Morlocks have been Marvel’s unluckiest mutants. Their grotesque mutations forced them to hide from the world in Manhattan’s sewers, and their numbers have been decimated in stories like “The Mutant Massacre.”
Despite that, several minor comic book Morlocks have had fairly major roles as Mutant Underground members on The Gifted. While Beautiful Dreamer didn’t leave an impression in comics, Elena Satine’s Dreamer was The Gifted‘s primary telepath before her shocking death. Jermaine Rivers’ crystal-skinned Shatter has already made more appearances in episodes of The Gifted than he has in comics. Although the mostly invisible Trader died in his third comic appearance, D. James Jones’ character is still alive in the Mutant underground. Renes Rivera’s super-strong Sunder was critical in helping the Mutant Underground’s members escape Sentinel Services in the season finale.
Even though mutants can do things that normal humans can’t even dream of, Grant Morrison and Ethan Van Sciver gave them a dangerous new way to amp up their powers even more in 2003’s New X-Men #134. The drug Hydrocortisone D, better known as Kick, gave mutants five hours of extra power along with a highly addictive, sometimes deadly psychological rush. After Kick was revealed to be the aerosol form of the sentient mutant bacteria Sublime, it vanished overnight.
While it’s not a living, evil virus, Dr. Campbell has used another form of Kick to control the Hounds on The Gifted. Trask Industries turns its mutant prisoners into Kick junkies. While the severe withdrawal symptoms can be fatal, the drug makes the Hounds compliant and gives the mutants massive power increases for their missions with Sentinel Services.
Even though he used to be a member of the Mutant Underground, The Gifted‘s viewers met Zach Roerig’s Pulse when he was acting as one of the Sentinel Services Hounds. With his mutant ability to short out electronic devices and disrupt mutant powers, Pulse was an especially useful member of the Mutant Underground until his capture. To the horror of his best friend, Thunderbird, he died after being caught in a blast of mutant energy.
In comics, Pulse, who was also called Augustus, had an extremely brief tenure with the X-Men. Created by Peter Milligan and Salvador Larroca in 2005’s X-Men #173, he was originally a thief who worked with Mystique. When the shapeshifter disapproved of Rogue’s relationship with Gambit, she brought Pulse to the X-Men, hoping that her adopted daughter and Pulse would hit it off. After sparks didn’t fly with Rogue, Pulse left the X-Men after helping them defeat Apocalypse.
8. THE MUTANT UNDERGROUND
Before the X-Men disappeared, they established the nationwide Mutant Underground and made John Proudstar, Thunderbird, one of its main leaders. While there’s not a direct counterpart to the Mutant Underground in comics, a few different X-teams have used similar names in the past. Charles Xavier quietly developed a private information-sharing organization called the Mutant Underground Support Engine that was mentioned a few times in the 1990s. In 2003, Cable also formed the short-lived Underground, a small team dedicated to taking down a revived Weapon X Program that was torturing mutants.
With its nationwide reach and numerous branches, the Mutant Underground’s closest forerunner might be the X-Corporation. Created by Grant Morrison and Leinil Francis Yu in New X-Men Annual 2001, this international organization had branches in major cities around the world. Each location was staffed by a few veteran X-Men allies who dealt with local mutant issues.
Even by the X-Men’s uncanny standards, Fenris is a pretty weird concept. Fenris was originally the name for Andreas and Andrea von Strucker, two villains who were created by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr. in 1985’s Uncanny X-Men #194. When they made contact with each other’s skin, they could generate massive energy blasts. Like their father, Hydra leader Baron von Strucker, they caused trouble all around the Marvel Universe. After Andrea died, Andreas joined the New Thunderbolts as the slightly more heroic Swordsman.
In a move that made some longtime X-fans hesitant about the show, The Gifted follows the Strucker’s similarly-powered descendants, Natalie Alyn Lind’s Lauren Strucker and Percy Hynes White’s Andy Strucker. The original Fenris siblings, portrayed by Paul Cooper and Caitlin Mehner, made a brief cameo during a flashback to the 1950s, when the mutants caused a reign of terror throughout Europe.
6. OLD SCHOOL X-MEN SHOUTOUTS
Even though The Gifted seems more interested in the future of Marvel’s mutants, the show has featured a few explicit references to the franchise’s past. Like every other Marvel production, The Gifted also featured an obligatory Stan Lee cameo when the X-Men co-creator walked out of a bar in the series premiere. The show honored Jack Kirby, the X-Men’s other co-creator, by making one of the Mutant Underground hide-outs “J. Kirby’s Feed Store.”
Eclipse’s cell phone rang with the iconic notes of the theme song to X-Men: The Animated Series. As series created Matt Nix said, it was an inside joke that stayed in as a callback to the beloved animated series. The show’s second episode fleetingly mentioned another major piece of 1990s X-Men lore, the Mutant Liberation Front, a chaotic villain team created by Rob Liefeld and Louise Simonson in 1990’s New Mutants #86.
5. THE PURIFIERS
As if the combined threat of Trask Industries and Sentinel Services wasn’t enough, The Gifted‘s mutants also have to deal with the mutant hate group, the Purifiers. When they were originally created by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson in 1982’s X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, they were a group who used religious extremism to justify their hatred of mutants. As their leader, William Stryker, became more militarized in the 2000s, the Purifiers morphed into a heavily-armed strike force that had roles in several major X-Men stories.
So far, The Gifted‘s Purifiers are more in line with their earlier, less militarized incarnation. In a flashback sequence, some Purifers confronted Blink in a parking lot and firebombed her car. While the show’s Purifiers are still fairly low tech, they were already wearing the cross-like shirts that their comic counterparts eventually adopted.
4. DOCTOR RISMAN
While plenty of scientists have tried to find a mutant cure, Raymond Barry’s Otto Strucker managed to develop a highly personalized one in The Gifted. Although she was never seen, Doctor Madeline Risman was his research partner at Trask Industries. While that name won’t be familiar to X-fans, a similar character, Doctor Deborah Risman, was the original creator of X-23 in X-Men: Evolution, the cartoon where the female Wolverine clone first appeared.
With the Risman reference, The Gifted may also be teasing another character from the X-Men’s history, Matthew Risman. Created by Craig Kyle, Chris Yost and Mark Brooks in 2006’s New X-Men #22, this Risman took over the Purifiers in comics after Stryker’s death. After he resurrected several other more prominent anti-mutant X-villains, he was killed by X-23. Given the role of mutant researchers and the Purifiers, either of these characters could have a presence in the show’s future.
3. EVANGELINE WHEDON
During a flashback in The Gifted‘s season finale, viewers were introduced to an unlikely representative of the X-Men’s legacy, Evangeline Whedon. In the show, the lawyer recruited Polaris to the Mutant Underground and revealed that she had mutant abilities that could transform her into a red, scaly form.
In comics, Whedon’s other form is a considerably more imposing 18-foot tall dragon. Created by Chris Claremont and Salvador Larroca in 2003’s X-Treme X-Men #21, Evangeline, who also went by Vange, was a lawyer who worked with the Mutant Rights Coalition. In comics, her bizarre transformation only takes place after she comes into contact with blood, and her private career effectively ended after she transformed in public. Since she helped Bishop and Sage get out of a legal jam, she’s served as the X-Men’s legal counsel in a handful of appearances.
2. THE NEW HELLFIRE CLUB
Along with X-Men, the Hellfire Club is one of the most influential mutant organizations in the world. While the Brotherhood left the Inner Circle of The Gifted‘s Hellfire Club with enough resources to furnish lavish safe houses, the Club is still in a fairly desperate place. The Hellfire Club got a much-needed injection of fresh blood when several Mutant Underground defectors joined it in the season finale.
Many of the Club’s new recruits have a history of switching sides in comics. While Sage secretly joined the Hellfire Club to serve as Xavier’s double agent, Esme Cuckoo left the X-Men for a new Brotherhood. As she’s struggled to deal with her heritage as Magneto’s daughter, Polaris has occasionally left the X-Men to train at his side. Polaris also became an unwilling villain when she was possessed by the evil entity Malice and served as one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen.
1. THE WEAPON X PROGRAM
Naturally, The Gifted wouldn’t be an X-Men show without obligatory references to Wolverine. Even though Logan isn’t likely to show up anytime soon, The Gifted made an explicit reference to the Weapon X Program and the 2003 movie X2. When the Strucker siblings were captured by Dr. Campbell, he told them that they were in a room made of adamantium that Trask Industries had found at “a defunct military instillation in British Columbia.”
As most X-Fans know, the Weapon X Program coated Wolverine’s claws and skeleton with the indestructible metal in the Canadian wilderness. While Weapon X was headquartered in Alberta, Canada in comics, the show places it in British Columbia, Canada. In X2 and the other X-movies, Weapon X was located at Alkali Lake, which is in British Columbia. Through it may not amount to much, this comment is a tantalizing tease of The Gifted’s connections to the larger X-Men universe.
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