If Charles Xavier and Magneto could see how well their children are doing on television, they would be a couple of proud papas. The critically acclaimed Legion on FX, created by Noah Hawley (Fargo) and centering on Charles Xavier's long-lost son David Haller (Dan Stevens), has been joined by The Gifted on FOX. The Gifted, created by Matt Nix (Burn Notice), is about a family forced to go on the run when their children manifest mutant powers, but also features Lorna Dane a.k.a. Polaris (Emma Dumont), the daughter of Erik Lehnsherr a.k.a. Magneto. Both series have strong family ties by design to the Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, respectively, of the mutant world.
Both Legion and The Gifted are in alternate universes from the continuity of the X-Men movies and from each other. Each is taking a different approach to its version of an X-Men universe. Legion explores the schizophrenia and dissociative personality disorders of its characters as its way into looking at the trauma and tragedy of having mutant powers. David Haller's mutant power to absorb the psyche and powers of others puts him into conflict with Amahl Farouk a.k.a. the Shadow King, a psychic parasite with control over the astral plane.
The Gifted takes a tack a bit more familiar to X-Men fans. The Strucker family live in a world that hates and fears mutants. They are hunted by a federal mutant-hunting agency called Sentinel Services that comes complete with malevolent spider-like robots. Luckily, a Mutant Underground has sprung up to protect and hide mutants on the run across the nation. In The Gifted, which is based in Atlanta, the Mutant Underground is run by Eclipse (Sean Teale), Thunderbird (Blair Redford), and Polaris, who also just recruited Blink (Jamie Chung) to their cause.
The X-Men and their evil counterpart the Brotherhood are directly mentioned in The Gifted. In this universe, the most famous name brand mutants are all 'gone,' possibly the victims of some unnamed event that the series will gradually reveal the details of. Legion established that David Haller's father is a bald mutant with powerful psychic abilities, though Charles Xavier has yet to be name dropped in the series. About to enter its second season, Legion does promise to explore some more locations and iconography like costumes from the X-Men movie universe.
As of now, The Gifted and Legion are toying with ways to maintain their ties to X-Men universe without actually showing the X-Men. With both series still being young, there's no doubt their individual storylines are enough to enrapture fans even if Wolverine, Storm, Mystique or the two mutant dads don't drop by. The Gifted's pilot had the added benefit of being directed by Bryan Singer, the biggest driving force of the X-Men film franchise since its inception. With Singer at the helm, The Gifted's first episode included a number of references and callbacks to the X-Men movies.
How long Legion and The Gifted can go without directly connecting to the X-Men is anyone's guess. There are a number of creative ways both series can continue to reference the X-Men, but eventually, having some major X-Men characters appear might be a demand from fans that neither series will be able to ignore. Even if the biggest names like Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Ian McKellan, Michael Fassbender, or Hugh Jackman prove impossible to get, Sophie Turner, for instance, is no stranger to television after her career as Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones. As Jean Grey, she would be at home in both Legion and The Gifted. Same with Evan Peters, who stars in American Horror Story: Cult. A television veteran, Peters could bring Quicksilver to The Gifted to meet his half-sister Polaris or appear in Legion to meet his father's best frenemy's son.
In the meantime, the X-Men will continue to be leather-clad elephants in the room for both Legion and The Gifted as both series continue. However, with both Charles Xavier's son and Magneto's daughter currently starring in X-Men-based TV series, it's worth remembering the third member of the X-Men's Big Three also has a kid. How long until a certain daughter of Wolverine who debuted in Logan gets her own TV series too?
The Gifted airs Mondays at 9pm on FOX. Legion season 2 begins on FX in 2018.