Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
The Gifted, premiering Oct. 2 on Fox, is an X-Men TV show. It doesn’t fit specifically into the X-comics, X-cartoons or X-movies – but samples a little bit of each.
The Gifted does take place in the same universe as the X-Men movies, but won’t connect directly to them. (Sort of how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. references and builds on the Marvel movies, but doesn’t interact with them.) There are definite connections – one by blood – to major movie X-characters, who probably won’t ever show up. (Sort of how the lead character on Legion is the son of Professor Xavier, which is only implied and never confirmed.)
Instead, Gifted is set in some indefinite time after mutants have appeared, after “X-Men” has become a household word, after the team itself has disappeared – and after the government has decided to round up and incarcerate all mutants through something called “the Sentinel Services.” Like the comics, movies and cartoons, this is a world that hates and fears that which is different.
The Sentinels should sound familiar, as in almost all X-incarnations they are giant mutant-hunting robots. The Sentinels on “Gifted,” however, are quite a bit different than what we’ve seen before – and whether they precede or follow their gargantuan brethren is yet to be seen.
One last caveat: Showrunner Matt Nix told Entertainment Weekly The Gifted won’t be a search for the X-Men. It is instead more of a project about family. It’s a family with really unusual problems, but those problems, like many elements in the X-universe, work as both adventure story and metaphor.
The family in question are the Struckers, consisting of father Reed (played by Stephen Moyer of True Blood), mom Kate (Amy Acker of Angel), daughter Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind of Gotham) and son Andy (Percy Hynes White of Night at the Museum 3). They are more or less an ordinary family until it turns out the kids are mutants, forcing the entire gang to go on the run in search of underground mutants to shelter them.
For the record, Lauren Strucker’s power is of the Invisible Woman variety, where she is capable of force fields and such. Andy Strucker’s powers are less well defined, but things tend to go “Boom!” around him.
Which is what you’d expect from someone named “Strucker” in a show based on Marvel Comics. In those comics, Wolfgang von Strucker was Nick Fury’s Nazi nemesis in World War II, and the founder of Hydra. Two of his children, twins Andrea and Andreas, were mutants called “Fenris,” whose powers only worked when they were in contact. On “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” the Strucker family appeared briefly, but was wiped out fairly early on.
So will these Struckers have anything to do with those other Struckers? Well, Gifted” isn’t required to follow comics storylines, and probably won’t. Besides, Fox doesn’t have the rights to Hydra, Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D. or any of the other necessary elements. But it’s hard to believe that a show produced by Marvel Television would use that particular name accidentally.
So who will we see? As you’d expect, we’ll have a lot of characters the movies have no plans for, and whose powers don’t require a lot of special effects. But that doesn’t mean they are second-tier, or even unfamiliar:
* Lorna “Polaris” Dane is definitely A-list. She first appeared in “The X-Men” comics in 1968, and has, off and on, been a big gun on a variety of X-teams in the decades since. She is the daughter of Magneto, and has his magnetic powers. She was featured in the “Wolverine and the X-Men” animated series. She dated Alex “Havok” Summers, the brother of Cyclops, for years. Oh, and she has distinctive green hair. She’ll be played by Emma Dumont on “Gifted,” complete with emerald tresses.
* John “Thunderbird” Proudstar is another illustrious X-name. He was both a mutant and a Native American, with enhanced speed, strength, durability and senses. That sentence was worded in the past tense, because Thunderbird debuted in 1975, only to die in his third appearance. Fortunately his brother James had the same powers and took on the “Thunderbird” code name, later changing to “Warpath” and becoming the backbone of various X-teams. The “X-Men: Days of Future Past” movie featured James, but the TV show will feature John (played by Blair Redford).
Jamie Chung will play Clarice “Blink” Fong, a.k.a. Clarice Ferguson in Fox’s The Gifted, a teleporter with hot pink hair.
* Clarice “Blink” Ferguson is a comics fan favorite. She first appeared in comics in 1994, a mutant who could teleport “in the blink of an eye” using portals – and died almost immediately. A Clarice from an alternate universe then appeared, and starred in a book called Exiles for a while. Then the real Blink reappeared, not dead after all (hey, it’s comics). Blink also appeared in the Days of Future Past movie, played by Fan Bingbing, and on the Wolverine and the X-Men animated series. Jamie Chung will play Clarice, retaining the hot pink hair and strange, green eyes of the comics.
* When the supervillain Ahab first appeared X-Factor comics in 1990, he was a mutant hunter from the apocalyptic future of “Days of Future Past.” He’s also another veteran of Wolverine and the X-Men. Eventually we learned his birth name was Roderick Campbell – which happens to be the name of a mutant hunter on The Gifted, played by Garret Dillahunt. No points for guessing he might eventually favor harpoons.
* Shatter was introduced in 2002, a super-strong mutant who lived in the sewers of New York City with The Morlocks – mutants who were too disfigured to “pass” among humans. Another Wolverine and the X-Men veteran, he’ll be played on TV by Jermaine Rivers.
* Dreamer (Elina Satine) is another Morlock, one who can manipulate memory. She was called Beautiful Dreamer in her 1985 debut, which is really unfortunate, because DC Comics has a completely unrelated character named Beautiful Dreamer who has been around since 1971! Anyway, Satine is a grizzled veteran of superhero TV shows, having played Mera on Smallville and Loreli on S.H.I.E.L.D.
* Sage is one of the most messed-up characters in Marvel Comics, and that’s saying a lot. When she first debuted in 1980 she was a minor character called Tessa, and appeared to be one of the many half-dressed – and presumably sexually available – servants of Hellfire Club leader Sebastian Shaw (called “The Black King”). But decades later the character was re-written, revealing that she had been a spy for Professor Xavier within the Club since the early days of the X-Men. This retroactive continuity – or “retcon,” in comics parlance – didn’t square with her many other appearances, where Xavier didn’t know who she was, even in private, and he and the X-Men failed to rescue her despite countless opportunities. That left her to the not-so-tender mercies of Shaw for decades, not to mention when supervillain Elias Bogan kidnapped her, tortured her and branded her with bleeding eyes tattoos. Thanks a lot, X-Men! Anyway, she was eventually rescued by Storm around 2001 and changed her name to Sage. Her powers are ill-defined, but include an “organic computer” mind, minor telepathy and other mind-related abilities. She’ll be played Hayley Lovitt, who had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in Ant-Man, and hopefully her back story on TV will be simpler (and less cruel).