The Gifted: eXploited


THAT mission went well…

The mid-season finale for The Gifted starts off with things looking bad, and ends with them being even worse. At the end of last episode, a good chunk of the team was captured by Sentinel Services. Now, the ones that are left have to figure out how to get their friends back and not get caught up in all-out war with the government. But, not everyone feels that way, as various weaknesses are “eXploited.”

The opening flashback is about the campaign of Senator Montez, who is running for re-election on a rabidly anti-mutant platform. One of his volunteers keeps maneuvering to get closer to him, and it’s not hard to recognize Esme, the telepath of questionable morals who has been hanging out with the team of late. She gets some very distressed warning via telepathy and runs, just ahead of the Senator’s security getting tipped off they’ve been infiltrated by mutants. As she runs, Esme, who has been going by Stacy, hears, “Find us!” over and over in her head.

In the present, to no surprise at all, Polaris wants to just openly assault Trask Industries to free the others. Reed asks if she’s crazy, and she pointedly says she doesn’t like that word. That may be a nod to her occasional mental issues in the comics. Everything devolves into bickering until John slams his hand down, breaking the table and getting silence as he thunders, “ENOUGH!” He makes the valid point that there’s no more yours or ours. It’s all ours now. Polaris continues to mock Caitlin’s desire to find a peaceful, “normal” solution, and they finally settle on sending Sage and Shatter in as scouts.

At Sentinel Services, the kids are collared with dampers. Andy, rarely the voice of reason, gets himself worked up to the point his powers kick on slightly, at which point his collar zaps him. They never really try it, but personally I’m really curious if those dampers could stand up to the kids when they join powers. Grandpa Otto was able to power up despite Pulse’s ability, after all. They try and figure a way out of the mess they’re in.

Turner is questioning Dreamer, who turns out to have a last name, too: Simonson. She blithely maintains they got lost. Turner rages at her about reliving the death of his daughter because of her power, and she looks genuinely regretful, saying that was a mistake. He’s quite understandably not feeling sympathetic. In the next room over, Ed is trying to question Clarice, and getting nowhere fast. Campbell starts pushing Turner to give all the prisoners to him, especially the Strucker kids.

Back at the Refuge (I get to name it if they won’t), Reed and Caitlin try and come up with a useful course of action. Esme the psychic eavesdropper sticks her nose (and mind) in, scans their memories, and suggests they go approach Turner, parent to parent. Not having a lot to lose, they decide to sneak off and do this. How many times has Caitlin snuck off now? I think if I were John, I’d have a guard put on her by now. Marcos talks to Lorna, and she’s really pissed off that her best friend Dreamer is a prisoner. She’s also still mocking the Struckers’ point of view, and Marcos tries to point out she’s not being entirely fair.

Dreamer and Clarice try and reassure each other, and we get a bit more background on Dreamer. They’re both scared. In a very nice touch, Clarice points out that John loves her and will find a way to free her. Considering the history involved, that was really kind of her.

Now dressed in really odd, almost superhero-style suits, Lauren and Andy are brought to Campbell. He wants to test their powers. Lauren tries to do all the talking and feigns ignorance about them being able to share/link their powers. Campbell doesn’t buy it and hustles them off to “testing,” which doesn’t sound fun. They are locked in a room that Campbell claims has an adamantium lining reinforcing the walls. Explaining where he got it sounds like it touches on the Weapon X facility, where Wolverine was changed. Campbell demands they cooperate with his tests, they refuse, he zaps one of them, they still refuse, and he comments on hoping for the easy way. No, that doesn’t sound ominous at all.

Reed and Caitlin close in on the Turners’ home, talking over their plan. We learn a bit more about Caitlin’s background, which they seem to enjoy parceling out in little bits. We didn’t even learn she was a nurse until a few episodes in. As they discuss, Lorna and Marcos get manipulated by Esme, who seems to really enjoy the experience and falls back on her default setting: lurking and smirking.

The Turners’ nice quiet evening at home gets interrupted by gun-toting uninvited guests: the Struckers. As they start talking, Marcos and Lorna tell John what’s happened, and Esme keeps throwing gas on the fire. That girl needs to go.

The Turners are understandably not happy at the intrusion into their home. It’s interesting to watch Paula Turner’s sympathies shift slightly when Caitlin mentions Jace Turner bursting into her home, weapons out. I get the feeling the Turners are going to need to talk a few things over when they get the chance. Turner remains defiant, and Reed does what he can to appeal to him as a father.

Lorna is ready to rush ahead with the raid on Trask, and Marcos is worried. He mentions what he saw, and went through, when he was working for the Cartel. I don’t blame him for being concerned. And he doesn’t know what’s coming, either.

The kids are still being held in the testing room, and Campbell ups the ante. He brings in the cuffed and power-drained Dreamer and Clarice. You know how a lot of villains do empty posturing or long, drawn-out threats that give the heroes time to do something? Campbell is both smarter and more ruthless than that, and we lose a character here. Enraged, the kids fire up their powers, and manage to scare the technicians, and damage the adamantium, which is technically impossible. They are terrifyingly powerful.

The Struckers and Turners finish up their couples’ night, with the Struckers having made some really good points. Paula Turner in particular looks very unsettled. The Struckers slip away, leaving some doubt in their wake. As they make their escape, the remaining prisoners at Trask are upset and depressed and saddened by their loss.

Things start moving really quickly here, but a lot happens in the time left. Campbell has learned something important from the kids’ demonstration, but Turner and his agents show up before Campbell can do much about it. They insist on taking the prisoners back, and Turner isn’t happy to hear he’s going to be missing one. The mutants hear about the transport from their spies, and set up to ambush the convoy. With a combination of different powers, the mutants start closing in on the convoy.

Back at the Refuge, the Struckers compare notes with one of the ones who didn’t go to Trask, and they all start realizing they’ve been set up and manipulated. There’s a really ugly fight, and Esme shows her true colors and who she’s been so desperate to rescue. She is indeed part of a small group from the comics, like I had guessed a bit ago, and she’s not a remotely nice person. She utterly destroys the prospect of any kind of peace, or even a cease-fire, between the mutants and Sentinel. The episode ends with a lot of nasty going on, and things are really uncertain for everyone involved.

What I liked: Ok, I hated the character death, but it was well done. It was a harsh but simple illustration of how driven and ruthless Campbell is. Then again, Esme shares those qualities. Maybe we should let the two of them fight it out and leave everyone else out of it. John trying to not let them cross a line, and Marcos’ worry about doing just that make perfect sense. While I was against it at first, the Struckers’ field trip almost worked and might have led to a more reasonable solution.

What I didn’t: Esme is just out and out evil. I don’t care what her motivations are; her word choice and actions prove it. Wholesale slaughter isn’t “fun.” I wish the kids had tried harder to get free, but I can understand why they didn’t.

You can tell the writing is good when you know what’s coming, know it’s going to be ugly, can see how it’s going off the rails, but are still invested to see the details of the train wreck.

I thought this was a nicely done episode. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5, and I’m really eager to see them come back after the break and try and pick some decent pieces out of this rubble.