The Gifted is the first of the hero shows back from winter break. “3 X 1″ picks up shortly after the tragic events of the previous episode, “eXploited.” While some shows might gloss over the losses, the writers on Gifted are better than that, and they have a nicely woven together scene.
Before that happens, they open with another flashback, this time in Athens, Georgia, two years ago. Clarice is out on a date, and ends up running afoul of the Purifiers. These folks seem to be the Neo-Nazis for mutants, running around in black hoodies with white crosses on them. They don’t just talk nasty, taking some ugly action that sends Clarice running off, and I’m pretty sure it was her last date with that unimpressive man.
The next scene involves Esme and her sisters, going to check in with someone they apparently work for. The man, who I don’t believe is ever named in the episode, is not happy with the their actions at Trask. In turn, the sisters seem singularly unimpressed by his disapproval. Their eeriness is played by them all being dressed alike and finishing each other’s sentences. Aside from their chilling indifference to killing people, the other noteworthy part of this scene is that the man works for the Hellfire Club. In the comics, that’s a group of wealthy mutants who are most often seen as opponents of the X-Men and pretty much always bad guys.
After the sisters make their report, the show has a really nicely done scene. With a series of cuts, they go back and forth between the funerals for Sentinel Services Agent Ed Weeks, forced to kill himself by Esme and her sisters, and Dreamer, Sonya Simonson, shot by Dr. Campbell in an effort to compel Lauren and Andy Strucker to cooperate with his tests. It’s a moving scene, and shows how, no matter how opposed they are, both sides mourn their losses and are itching for revenge. They do a good job of making you have some sympathy for both sides, and realizing that whatever chance they had for peace has been pretty thoroughly destroyed by Esme and her sisters. At the end of the funeral, John is both saddened and focused, and says he is going to make sure the Hound program is ended, since it’s now arguably claimed his girlfriend and best friend. Clarice is clearly worried about John. How much of that is residual from Dreamer messing with her mind I’m not sure.
The adult Struckers continue to display an unrealistic and, in my opinion, selfish mind-set. Worried about the tension caused partially by Esme and partially by their sneaking off yet again, Reed and Caitlin are now pushing to continue with their original plan: running away to Mexico. The kids are not happy about this. Reed tries to make the case that refugees in Mexico need help, too. Sure, Reed, but look at it this way: where you are now, you’re surrounded by people with powers and training who are helping you. You have on idea what awaits in Mexico. I think this is a really bad idea, as do the kids. The argument is broken up by Shatter running in and warning everyone they have incoming. It’s not Sentinel, not yet. But it is Esme and her sisters, who say they’ve come to talk.
They warn the Hound program is expanding, and it needs to be stopped. Most people aren’t happy to see the sisters return, especially Marcos, who speaks up the most against them. Then again, he’s also the one that got Tazed by Esme. The sisters tell the Underground that the humans will come for them all, and then leave, letting the others think it over.
Agent Turner visits his daughter’s grave, but even here he can’t get any peace. Dr. Campbell shows up, and, in my opinion, plays on Turner’s feelings. Campbell says he’s sorry for Turner’s loss, and calls Turner a good man for taking the mutants out of Trask. Turner blames his good impulses for Ed’s death. Campbell them mentions his research is entering a new and critical phase, and he wants Turner’s support.
There’s a lot of disagreement in the Refuge, and even Andy and Lauren aren’t really seeing eye to eye. She’s all in favor of continuing their classes, and doesn’t think it’s a good time to be there with Esme and her sisters running around. Andy argues it might be the best time, and wonders why their mother started the school if she was just planning on leaving. A fair question, if sulkily phrased. As he leaves, we see what he’s been working on: a very well-done sketch of a wolf’s head, somewhat ominous given their terrorist great-grandparents went by Fenris.
Sage briefs the team on what she’s managed to learn about the triplets: Esme, Phoebe, and Sophie (in the comics, there are five of them). She mentions they’re a hive mind, stronger together, and they are wealthy. Their last name is given as both Frost and Cuckoo. In the comics, they are collectively called the Midwich Cuckoos, and Emma Frost, a powerful telepath, is one of their mentors. Clarice is pleased to hear they infiltrated the campaign of an anti-mutant bigot who has ties to the Purifiers we saw in the opening. The numerous background mutants are arguing about what to do next, and Clarice seems to be siding with the Cuckoos.
Lorna, too, wants to work with them, and Marcos isn’t happy about this. They debate this for a while and she storms off. While following her, Marcos sees the Struckers packing. Marcos is upset and tells them he wants them to stay, but Reed and Caitlin aren’t listening. Marcos reluctantly helps them pack to go to the next station as the first part of their trip, and Clarice also tries to persuade Lauren to stay. Andy is clearly pissed off about the whole thing, and doing a fine job of teenage sulking.
At the Trask facility, Campbell is going on about his new research, and what he’s learned from the Struckers, and, indirectly, from the Cuckoos. Turner asks if all this is legal, and Campbell plays word games about it being within the company mandate, and that he can handle the Department of Justice. Campbell wants to demonstrate his newest discovery in the field, and dangles the chance to take down the Underground before Turner, who of course takes the bait.
The Struckers arrive at Fairburn, the next station on the Underground. It seems empty at first, but Wes pops up and reveals he’s cloaking everyone; standard practice when they know someone’s coming. Wes is on security there, and very happy to see Lauren. Reed is even relaxed about Lauren going off with Wes. Andy stomps off on his own.
Later, the solitary Andy is found by Esme, who is planting seeds of disharmony, encouraging him to rebel against his parents. He sulks about leaving Atlanta, and she says he needs to act like Andrew von Strucker, not Andy, if he wants to be taken seriously. This isn’t going to go well.
At the Refuge, Lorna suddenly wakes up and goes outside. There, she chats with another of the Cuckoos, who hints that the rest of her is doing other errands. Ok, we know one’s with Andy. Where’s the other one? Lorna warns Esme, or whichever it is, that she pissed off a lot of people before. Esme (I’m calling them all that for now) counters that the Hellfire Club is Lorna’s heritage, and drops hints about Lorna’s real father. In the comics, after years of denying it, that’s finally been revealed to be Magneto. I’m not sure if that’s what they’re going after here, but they’ve been careful to not name any specific X-Men or any of their major foes so far. After Esme leaves, Lorna notices her hands are glowing, a bit more like when she and Marcos combine powers than her own usual energy signature.
Wes and Lauren are off on their own, stacking supplies. Wes tells her she doesn’t need to help, but she wants to. He talks about being glad to see her again. After some philosophical asides and teen mushy stuff, they end up kissing. I wonder how cool Reed would be with that.
At the Refuge, Lorna toys with her powers and then, with no effort, slams the big vault door shut, scaring everyone anywhere nearby. Marcos asks her what’s going on, and she says she’s changing. They go off to see John, who wants a decision about what to do when the Cuckoos come back. The team debates what to do next, with Lorna saying they need all the allies they can get, and John worried about staying true to the X-Men’s vision for the Underground. Even John and Marcos, who aren’t wild about siding with the Cuckoos, agree they need to take out the Hound program.
The Struckers are trying to find their way along the next stage of their journey, and Andy is still resisting. His argument with Caitlin ends when the Sentinels shows up outside, and Campbell gets to show off his new toy: two mutants joined by a manacle that combines and increases their powers. As the mutants start crushing the building, Andy goes down, and Lauren and Wes cloak and shield everyone, respectively. Lauren sees the gadget joining the two mutants’ hands together, and makes the fairly obvious connection to her and Andy’s power.
Somehow or other, the main team becomes aware of this attack, and take off driving as fast as they can. Reed tells them he and his family is pinned down, and it’s just them and Wes left. That’s not right, because we see other mutants getting blown out of the building by Campbell’s fake Fenris (Faux-ris?). The team arrives, and Sentinel’s crack troops have somehow managed to not set up a perimeter, so they just drive right up to the back of the building. Then Clarice portals them inside, even though she’s made a big deal in the past about not being able to go places she doesn’t know. So either she’s been here before, and why didn’t she just portal them without the frantic drive, or her power is changing? The team eventually manages to rescue the Struckers and Wes, who has exhausted himself and his power and is collapsed in a heap. The team retreats, not even trying what I think is one of the most obvious tactics against Faux-ris, but they are kinda freaked out at this point. Andy recovers from his wound to give them directions, and the Cuckoos are waiting for them with captured vehicles, and they didn’t even kill the guards.
Turner briefs his boss, the Director of Sentinel Services, about Campbell’s program. The Director has a lot of reservations, mostly political, because no one on that side really seems to give a damn about the mutants. Finally, he tells them to make a presentation, and Campbell predicts a glowing future for the Hound program.
Everyone else has retreated to the Refuge. Wes is dehydrated, but will be fine. Andy has a concussion, but isn’t interested in resting. Clarice admires Lauren for holding out as long as she did. The Strucker parents try to give Andy credit for saving the day with their escape, but he says he didn’t do it and indicates the Cuckoos. Those three are talking with John and his inner circle. Andy points out to Reed that they can’t leave with the Hounds out there. Reed reluctantly agrees, while John wonders how Sentinel Services found the other base.
The episode ends with the triplets, moving in perfect synch, going to report back to the man they were with earlier. He’s not pleased with how they’re operating, but they point out he’s not exactly risking himself out there. We learn about some things happening in the background, and likely where the third Cuckoo was while the others were with Andy and Lorna. They quote some of the man’s financial advisors, “No risk, no reward.” He does indeed give them a reward, which hints at his own powers to end the episode.
What I liked: The Cuckoos are ruthless, but very smart. The nods to their name and Emma Frost were nicely done. The hints at the Hellfire Club and Lorna’s parentage were really interesting. Wes was damned heroic trying to hold off Faux-ris, and it makes tons of sense that Campbell figured out to base his work on that after testing the Strucker kids. The funerals were well written and acted. I do wonder if they had Dreamer’s body, or just held a memorial without a burial.
What I didn’t: Lauren seemed a bit wishy-washy. The Strucker parents are being both foolish and selfish. I get that they’re scared, but they need to really think this through. I’d like the weird bit with Clarice’s power that I mentioned above clarified, and it was dumb Sentinel didn’t have a perimeter.
All in all, a really good episode. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. It was a great way to start up the shows post-break.