WARNING: This article contains spoilers about this week's episode of The Gifted, "eXit Strategy," which premiered tonight on Fox.
The Gifted once again opened an episode with a flashback, only this week not necessarily to further establish the world of the Fox drama, but instead to introduce a minor X-Men character who later returns to play an important role in the story and, presumably, the larger mysteries of the season.
Gus, aka Pulse (played by Zach Roerig), initially appears like little more than a warning of what can happen when the Mutant Underground attacks a Sentinel Services facility. The best friend of Thunderbird (Blair Redford), Pulse covered the group's escape from a mutant relocation center, only to seemingly be among those killed in the crossfire. However, he reemerges -- much to Thunderbird's surprise -- as part of the Sentinel Services convoy transporting Polaris (Emma Dumont) and Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer).
Like his Marvel Comics counterpart, Pulse can disrupt electrical systems and mutant abilities, making him the ideal weapon for fending off an ambush by the Mutant Underground. That is, until he's knocked unconscious by Thunderbird, interrupting Pulse's power-dampening field, and exposing a mysterious tattoo on his wrist.
The symbol doesn't appear to have a direct correlation to any from Marvel's X-Men comics, but we have a few theories, some more convincing than others.
He's One of the Mutant-Hunting Hounds
Introduced in 1981 in Uncanny X-Men #141, the Hounds are mutants from the dystopian "Days of Future Past" timeline who are brainwashed to hunt down other mutants so they can be captured and imprisoned in government internment camps. The symbol on Pulse's wrist isn't an overt reference to those characters, but Hounds' faces were "marked," or tattooed, with somewhat-similar radiating lines. Likewise, Pulse appears in his later scenes on The Gifted to be brainwashed or otherwise under mind control.
What's more, the introduction of Garret Dillahunt as mutant researcher Roderick Campbell certainly opens the door to the arrival of the Hounds. Better known to X-Men fans as Ahab, the Campbell of the comics is a cyborg who, in an alternate timeline, became leader of the U.S. government-sanctioned Hound program. The character's role on The Gifted so far has been limited, but we do know he has contracts with Sentinel Services -- although for what, precisely, is unclear.
The Gifted Is Teasing Its Take on Project: Nimrod
The tattoo bears at least a passing resemblance to the head of Nimrod, the pinnacle of Sentinel technology from the X-Men's "Days of Future Past" timeline. The mutant-hunting robots were introduced surprisingly early in the comics, within two years of The X-Men's 1963 debut, and have since been featured prominently on animated television, in video games and in live-action films. First appearing in 1985 in The Uncanny X-Men #191, by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr., Nimrod is the prototype for that dystopian future's next generation of Sentinels, the product of the appropriately named Project: Nimrod (after the mighty hunter of the Bible).
Just as The Gifted has reimagined the Sentinels as Sentinel Services, a division of the Department of Defense that hunts rogue mutants (sometimes with the help of robotic spiders), perhaps the series is repurposing Project: Nimrod.
He's an Adherent of Magneto's Philosophy
There's little denying that the symbol on Pulse's wrist also evokes Magneto's helmet, which renders him immune to all but the strongest of telepathic attacks. Although the headgear is an incredibly practical accessory, particularly considering his longtime rival is one of the world's most powerful telepaths, over the decades it's come to serve as his emblem.
The Brotherhood of Mutants has already been mentioned on The Gifted as existing alongside the X-Men and the Mutant Liberation Front, and we know the series will eventually acknowledge Magneto's relationship to Lorna Dane, aka Polaris. However, it's unlikely a mutant used by the government (even against his will) to hunt other mutants would be tattooed with Magneto's symbol. Unless ... it's the equivalent of a prison tattoo, embraced by some inmates at mutant detention facilities to broadcast their adherence to a certain philosophy -- Magneto's philosophy.
Airing Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox, The Gifted stars Stephen Moyer as Reed Strucker, Amy Acker as Caitlin Strucker, Sean Teale as Marcos Diaz/Eclipse, Coby Bell as Jace Turner, Emma Dumont cast as Lorna Dane/Polaris, Jamie Chung as Blink/Clarice Fong and Blair Redford as John Proudstar/Thunderbird, Natalie Alyn Lind as Lauren Strucker and Percy Hynes White as Andy Strucker.