The Gifted is almost halfway through its first season, and things are looking good for FOX’s latest X-Men TV series. While it’s not receiving the same level of critical acclaim as Legion, The Gifted has definitely built up a solid fanbase who are thrilled to see more mutants on screen.
The Gifted follows a family after they discover their children are mutants and end up on the run from the Sentinel Services; a government organization dedicated to tracking down ‘dangerous’ mutants and bringing them in. The family is helped by the Mutant Underground, turning their personal story into a way to tell the larger story of the Mutants vs. Sentinels.
These Sentinels, however, are not the ones that fans might expect from the comics or other depictions of the universe on screen. Rather than enormous humanoid machines, these ‘Sentinels’ are a branch of the US government, and while they have some cool tech, they have nothing like the classic comic Sentinels… yet. With six episodes to go and a second season all but confirmed, are the original Sentinels going to be making an appearance in this world? Or is The Gifted going to keep things a little more realistic, for the moment?
The Sentinel Services of The Gifted are, in many ways, like any other TV-universe government agency. There are a lot of suits, policies, procedures, and mysteriously angry higher-ups. However, in The Gifted we get to see the agency from both sides, as Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer) actually worked for the government and dealt with prosecuting mutants brought in by Sentinel Services. He believed that the mutants convicted were legitimate threats to public safety, and that mutants who did not pose a threat would be left to live their lives. However, it soon becomes clear that Sentinel Services hunt down all mutants – including children who cannot control their powers.
To do this, the Sentinel Services has access to all the usual agency resources: firearms, transport, lawyers, money, satellites, etc. In addition, however, they also have some unique and impressive tech. Sentinel Services has developed collars that nullify a mutant’s powers, so that when they are caught they can be put into a normal prison with no special requirements. They have also figured out how to weaponize a captured mutant, Pulse (Zach Roerig), and use him to neutralize all mutant abilities within a limited area. They also have robots that, while significantly smaller than the classic sentinels, can be sent into dangerous areas and are packing heat. It’s likely that Sentinel Services has some other tech that hasn’t yet been revealed, as well.
The Sentinels And The Wider X-Universe
In the broader X-Men Cinematic Universe, Sentinels have also appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past, as well as in the Danger Room in both X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Apocalypse. In Days of Future Past, it was established that Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) was the one who created the Sentinels in the ’70s, when he was given the go-ahead by the US Government for a Sentinel program after mutants were revealed to the world. In the original timeline, Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence) blood was collected and analyzed, allowing Trask to update his designs to create Sentinels that adapt to mutant powers and attacks. This led to a dystopian future where the mutants were being wiped out; a future that Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) traveled through time to prevent. In the current timeline, Wolverine succeeded, and the Sentinel program was disbanded after Mystique saved the President, convincing the government that mutants are not all bad.
The appearances of the Sentinels in the Danger Room in X-Men: Apocalypse is the same as that of the Sentinels from the ’70s, suggesting that these robotic mutant-hunters have not been re-developed since then. This means that there are no newer versions of the Sentinels in the present day, at least within the primary timeline of the X-Men universe.
Grounding The Gifted
Given that the full-on classic Sentinels have appeared in the X-Men universe, why haven’t they been a part of The Gifted from the start? Producer Lauren Shuler Donner confirmed that The Gifted is intended to feel like part of the X-Men universe, and the government opposition to mutants is a core part of that, so why not bring the Sentinels back for the first season?
Beyond practical reasons (such as the budget that would be required to make full-size Sentinels work on the small screen), a big reason for this is certainly that although there are mutant powers on display, The Gifted is an extremely grounded show. There are no superhero costumes, most of the mutants only use their codenames occasionally and stick with their real names the rest of the time, and the problems facing the mutants are very real, human, problems. The fight between Sentinel Services and Mutants feels like a fight between fugitives and government agents, not one between superheroes and supervillains. Full-size Sentinel bots just don’t really fit with the tone of The Gifted in the way that slightly advanced government tech does.
More Mutant Powers To Come
That’s not to say that the Sentinels will never show up, though. One of the best parts of The Gifted is seeing new mutant powers on display, which means that as time goes on, future episodes may include more super-powered stuff and less gritty realism. Polaris (Emma Dumont) is particularly fun to watch as she uses her magnetic powers to do anything from a romantic little flight to a breakout from a prison van. Similarly, Eclipse (Sean Teele) and Blink (Jamie Chung) are a whole lot of fun to watch when they are using their abilities. The kids, Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy Strucker (Percy Hynes White) had a stand-out moment when they learned to combine their powers so that Lauren could focus Andy’s to help save their Dad.
It’s likely that if The Gifted continues to gain popularity, and gets a bigger budget to go with a second season, there may well be more focus on the powers in seasons to come. And with more focus on the powers, it makes sense to increase the tech available to Sentinel Services to match. It’s still highly unlikely that anyone is going to be strapping into a spandex suit anytime soon, but there’s nothing to stop The Gifted getting a little less grounded as time goes by.
The Gifted As A Sentinel Origin Story
One possibility for future seasons would be to use The Gifted to show the development of the Sentinels; a move that would allow for Sentinel Services to slowly develop new tech to combat the rising strength of the Mutant Underground. At the start of The Gifted, the Underground is still very new. It’s established that not long ago, the Underground was just Polaris and one other person, and it has already grown to a fairly solid threat in (we assume) only a few years. With Sentinel Services becoming more and more ruthless and the Underground continuing to grow, it would be fascinating to see this battle be the thing that leads to the introduction of classic Sentinels over the whole X-Men universe.
A slow-burn origin story for the Sentinels would not only allow Fox to introduce these classic figures on a grander scale, but would work perfectly with the way that The Gifted is already telling both sides of the mutant/government story, and showing Sentinel Services use of mutant powers for their own ends. It’s also been hinted at that one of the Strucker kids could be heading down a dark path, as Andy becomes increasingly volatile, and uses his powers best when he is angry. Could this lead to an event that convinces the government to dust off the Sentinel program that Trask started in the 70s? There is absolutely no guarantee that the classic Sentinels will ever show up on The Gifted, but it would certainly be an interesting twist to the tale if the heroes were the ones who sparked their creation.
The Gifted continues with “boXed in” on Moday, October 30 on FOX.
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