The X-Men Cinematic Universe has been anything but simple. The timelines are all messed up thanks to conflicting performances, actors, and time travel. Much like the X-Men comics, the live action movies and TV shows deal with multiple timelines as well as alternate realities. Fox is really striving to create wholly unique X-Men content, acknowledging where the franchise seems to be successful. In the last two years, that success has mainly lied with Deadpool and Legion. Sure, X-Men: Apocalypse was a commercial success, but it didn’t immediately surprise audiences like Deadpool did. X-Men: Apocalypse felt predictable; it was a huge blockbuster, it was never going to be groundbreaking.
But after the success of the extremely violent Deadpool, Fox built on the R-Rated need audiences had by bringing us Logan. It was a comic book film without needing the costumes or the world ending final act. But it had a tremendous amount of heart, it was about a man learning to become a father. And you know, mutants, claws and violence too. Then we were given Legion. It’s a series that focuses on the son of Professor X, David Haller. The wild storyline, perceptions of reality and the confusing time frame were mind-bendingly brilliant. But The Gifted goes for a more relatable narrative concerning family. The biggest signifier of the timeline for the series is the disappearance of the X-Men. Showrunner Matt Nix explained how this affects the world of The Gifted;
“The X-Men are gone. The Brotherhood is gone. Most of the powerful classic mutants are not around. People don’t know where they’ve gone. They are shrouded in mystery. It comes out gradually over the course of the series that there’s been a cataclysmic event, a bit of a 9/11 event, that caused enormous social upheaval and a lot of hatred towards mutants. It’s somehow related to the disappearance of the X-Men and the Brotherhood.”
So using that as a basis, let’s take a look at when The Gifted could take place relating to some of the most recent X-Men films and TV shows. It’s clearly set in modern times, but when exactly does it take place? We have a few ideas.
Because there are numerous personalities living inside David, we see a warped perception of reality through his eyes across the series. The set design, costumes and even some of the soundtrack all have influences of the 1960s. But there are moments scattered across the season that show that David is a completely unreliable narrator. We see modern cars and technology that many of the characters use that just wouldn’t exist in the ‘60s. So maybe David is seeing the world in a ‘60s haze, but it’s actually closer to the present day/near future. After all we do see miniaturizing robots and spider-drones in each series so it makes sense that they would be set in the not too distant future by a few years.
The Gifted is without a doubt set in the modern day. Everything about their world looks relatable to the audience as something they recognize. And although Legion was more experimental than the usual comic book adaptations we’re used to, there were moments that could have been set in our present or the recent past. But we know that in the recent history of The Gifted, the X-Men and the Brotherhood were nowhere to be found, and their disappearance is treated like a “9/11 type event.” We only briefly saw Professor X in Legion, but we did learn about his battles with the Shadow King.
One of the defining things about the series was that it was disconnected from the X-Men, maybe because they had already disappeared by this point. It would explain Xavier’s absence and why he’s not around to help David. We simply weren’t told in Legion that the X-Men had disappeared because David’s problems with his mental illness took the main focus of the series. And in a world where the government were aware of mutants and not the public, maybe it was this cataclysmic event that brought mutants to the public eye.
Pre-Days of Future Past
Okay, this one is a little bit more confusing. X-Men: Days of Future Past saw the team from the original trilogy of movies interact with the younger versions of the characters from the ‘60s. It was actually quite well received commercially and critically, with many critics praising the characters evolution from X-Men: The Last Stand aswell as X-Men: First Class. The beginning of the film saw the original cast led by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen hiding out in the ruins of America as they’re pursued by the Sentinels. There are some new additions to the team, like Blink, Sunspot and Warpath. But they use Kitty Pryde’s abilities to evade capture.
The team are constantly on the run, and are even separated from each other to begin with before Professor X manages to contact Kitty Pryde. But what if the team had to disappear in order to escape the Sentinels in a huge climactic and destructive battle? During The Gifted, we’ve already been introduced to the ‘Sentinel Services’. They’re a government agency tasked with hunting down mutants. But what if they’ve already rolled out the ace up their sleeve, the Sentinel robots? We saw them deployed in Days of Future Past, but they could have recalled the idea to work on the concept and refine them before they become the brutal futuristic killers from the start of the film. The first episode of The Gifted already showed us that the Sentinel Services routinely deploy robotic drones to hunt down and kill mutants on the run. That could just be the handy, easily deployable robotic option. The bigger guns are only deployed for ‘threats’ like the X-Men. And since that’s why the team has gone into hiding with the Brotherhood, because they’re completely outmatched by the Sentinels. The future may not be so bright for mutants if we’re heading in this direction.
This year, we were treated to a dark and gritty western take on a superhero film. Although it’s a comic book movie, Logan feels more like a dark science fiction story instead. A beaten and broken Wolverine is nursing an ageing Professor X with Caliban, and they may be the last mutants alive. Although we never see the devastating incident that wiped out the X-Men, we slowly discover more about the tragedy throughout the film. It becomes clear that Professor X’s seizures have devastating telepathic effects for those near him, and that one of these seizures killed all of the X-Men. Although Logan seemed to be set a little further in the future, it’s not impossible that The Gifted could be set in the period between the Westchester Incident and the start of Logan. Logan does seem to be further in the future than The Gifted just by its use of technology, but there are definitely ways of working around that on a television budget.
The X-Men are gone, but it hasn’t been made public knowledge that it was a mutant’s powers that caused such a devastating catastrophe. And although The Gifted doesn’t seem as gritty as Logan’s final outing, it would be a great way to shift gear if the showrunners want to give the series some edge. There’s some great potential for The Gifted to get brutal; Andy Strucker’s powers seemed particularly destructive. And we’ve seen what happens to things that go through Blink’s portals if she doesn’t know where they’re going. Anything that goes through them get ripped in half. Don’t underestimate these characters.
Until the show tells us exactly when The Gifted takes place, we’re going to be left guessing for quite a while.
The Gifted airs Mondays at 9 PM on FOX.