Well, time for things to go cuckoo for Cuckoos as we enter the winter finale for The Gifted. This is “eXploited.”
The episode begins with a flashback two months ago at a political rally as Senator Matthew Montez, played by David Norona, talks about the growing mutant population that threatens American values and rights. Mutant crime is high and getting worse. Montez has created laws to stop those who would use their powers to do harm. If reelected as Senator, Montez pledges to win this fight against mutants.
Inside, though, Montez wants a larger base. Nearby, Esme, under an alias, tells Montez that he’s got an upcoming meeting with Trask Industries and she would like to sit in on it. She can, long as she stays silent. Then Esme hears voices in her head telling her to escape. At the same time, Montez reveals that his phone call is about Sentinel Services, which is expressing concern about mutants infiltrating the campaign.
Indeed, Esme flees just as Sentinel Services enter the building, all while she keeps hearing voices in her head.
In the present, the group fights on how to attack Sentinel Services. Lorna wants to shed some blood, plus she and Reed have seen the facility already, but Reed and Caitlin are cautious. John interrupts the argument, saying that everyone captured is part of their family. It’s still a matter of time before the captured mutants are turned into HOUNDS.
Marcos reminds everyone that they’re in this together, so they should send out some scouts. So Sage and Shatter will be sent out.
Andy and Lauren stew in their cells, though when Andy grows angry and activates his powers, his collar sends a shock through his body. As for what happens next, no one knows, but they’re both scared. Andy wonders if they could have used their powers, as he feels them being imprisoned is his fault. But Lauren agrees says he made the right call and saved innocent lives. But now, who saves them?
Turner interviews Sonya about the attack on the power station and then asks about the last time they met, as he’s fully aware of her taking the memory of the last few days of his daughter’s life. He had to be reminded by his wife that his daughter was dead for four years, so Jace has had the opportunity to lose his only child all over again.
Sonya insists that was an accident and apologizes, but Jace doesn’t want an apology. He wants her to pay and this is personal for him. That’s all for questioning. He asks if she’s familiar with the HOUND program, and of course she does based on the memories she’s seen.
He leaves the interrogation room and overlooks another officer speaking to Clarice, who is quite talkative and doesn’t buckle in fear. The officer offers her a deal and knows why she was at the power station
Turner calls Dr. Campbell, who has been discharged from the hospital thanks to one of the mutant assets. When Campbell learns that Jace isn’t making progress, he tells Jace that he wants to send the mutants over. Clarice and Sonya will be sent, but the Struckers haven’t been processed. Campbell reminds Turner of their deal in exchange for information about the mutant underground. But Turner needs all of the prisoners.
At the underground, Caitlin and Reed weigh their options- all while Esme listens from a distance and goes through Reed’s mind- but it won’t be enough to get the kids out of a government facility. She enters and tells them that they’re right. This is a human problem, so it needs a human solution. Esme has been thinking about Agent Turner, as Reed has faced him before. Turner might be the only one who can do something.
If the mutants can be taken out of the lab. They’d be put in prison, but it’s better than being injected. What Andy and Lauren can do, in the wrong hands, could change everything.
Marcos and Lorna discuss the situation, though Lorna still wants to take action. Marcos asks if Lorna is being too hard on the humans, since they came from the human world. Lorna doesn’t see it that way, given that humans still hate mutants. Reed and Caitlin have kids, but Lorna’s going to have her own kid, too. And the world that child will grow up in isn’t going to be fair.
In their cells, Clarice and Sonya wonder what happened to Lauren and Andy. Sonya talks about her past work at a battered woman’s shelter- before anyone knew she was a mutant. And the women had been through hell. Sonya would pull the terrible memories from their minds and she’d love to do the same now, but Clarice thinks about when she was in the mutant detention center.
She got out after almost making a portal to a highway. But to Sonya, this feels impossible. Clarice advises her to not give up, and reminds her that John will figure something out.
Over at the underground, Reed and Caitlin discuss their risk, noting that jail would at least be slightly better than at Sentinel Services. Their plan is to leave without anyone noticing, and Reed suggests approaching Turner at his home, given that the files had the names and addresses of agents. Oh, and they’ll need a damn good argument.
Andy and Lauren are brought before Dr. Campbell, who explains that their new are to measure their biometrics and to learn the extent of their abilities. He up their connection to Andrea and Andreas von Strucker, believing that the two have inherited their abilities. Plus, Reed has been exploring his father’s past, including his grandfather’s history at Trask Industries.
The two are then hauled off to a testing room that’s no Danger Room, but still better than Lorna’s makeshift rooms. The walls are lined with the indestructible metal known as adamantium, which was taken from some abandoned facility. Huh. How about that? The two will face sensors, join hands, and test their powers. Lauren refuses, so her collar is activated. Andy refuses as well, so Campbell will have to do this the hard way.
On the road, Reed and Caitlin wonder how their fellow man would react to the ongoing persecution and experimentation of their fellow men and women not too far from their current location. Caitlin wonders if they can go through this plan, but Reed believes he can get through Turner, who may be angry, but is at least reasonable. Caitlin pulls the gun out of the glove compartment, just in case.
Marcos and Lorna go over the plan when Esme again interrupts the conversation to tell them about the Struckers wanting to talk to Jace Turner, which she found out when she read Reed’s mind. Well, that’s not good news.
Speaking of, Paula asks Jace about his day, but he’s just a bit exhausted. He won’t talk about it, and she hates that he’s carrying this on his shoulders. She suggests he take time off and that he not end up like his father. Then the doorbell interrupts the conversation. Jace then finds the Struckers at his door. With a gun.
Esme shares the Struckers’ plan with John and it turns out there’s a chance Jace may be transferring the mutants soon. Esme thinks it’s possible that the Struckers can convince Jace, but Lorna still wants to take action. Naturally.
Reed and Caitlin assure Jace that this isn’t a kidnapping. It’s just about their children and the other mutants being tortured. Reed believes Jace is a good man based on his record, and as a father, he knows the pain of seeing his child dragged into a war. He says that Dr. Campbell’s program isn’t right and reminds Turner to uphold the constitution, even though the work in the facility has been upheld by Congress.
Lorna and Marcos debate their attack plan, though Lorna doesn’t want to bank on human decency. Marcos has seen a lot of killing and doesn’t see this differently the cartel- he doesn’t want that kind of future for them. Lorna vows to never accept living in fear.
Still in the testing room, Andy and Lauren continue to sit and refuse to use their powers. They can still be shocked if they refuse, but Lauren wonders why Campbell wants the two to combine forces. They figure someone will save them, but then Campbell appears on screen and asks if the two will comply. If not, he’ll provide additional motivation.
As such, Sonya and Clarice are brought in alongside Campbell, who is handed a sidearm. Again, Campbell tells the two to combine their powers. When Sonya implores the two to stand strong, Campbell fires and shoots her. Again, as he turns the gun on Clarice, he orders Andy and Lauren to face the sensors.
With no other option, the two join hands and nearby reading show a massive spike in power. They turn their attention to the adamantium wall, and Campbell wants the two left alone since the wall is indestructible. Except it’s not, as Andy and Lauren soon shatter it.
Reed and Jace debate the legality of this issue, but Jace won’t help anyone who threatens his families. He maintains the kids are terrorists and it doesn’t help that his daughter is gone. Whatever the circumstance, Andy and Lauren are at least fine, even though that’s not a justification for experimenting on them.
Caitlin steps in, acknowledging how upsetting this is for Jace. She was terrified when he came to her home for the kids and while she’d rather not be here, she’s seen what the program does- how the mutants are pumped full of drugs and put under mental conditions where they do what they are told, and then they kill everyone they love. In Caitlin’s eyes, that’s worse than death. And with that, the Struckers leave.
Jace prepares to call a Sentinel Services team, but Paula asks if what the Struckers said is true. To her, she wouldn’t want Jace doing this in their daughter’s name.
At the facility, Clarice sobs in her cell while Andy and Lauren talk of how Sonya died for nothing- killed like she wasn’t even a real person. Andy reminds Lauren that she said they have to be strong, but Lauren has given up. Whatever Campbell wanted, they just gave it to him.
Campbell receives the biometrics and is glad to now have a weapon that will solve the mutant problem. But then receives a call letting him know that Sentinel Services has arrived.
Indeed, Jace makes a surprise visit and asks about why the room is in shambles. He’s been reviewing the status of the detainees and believes this isn’t legal, so he’s ready to take the mutants. Campbell explains that due to an incident, Sonya didn’t make it. Jace will talk about that incident after he takes the detainees back to Sentinel Services.
We return to the underground as John got word from Shatter that Sentinel Services is at Trask with a transport vehicle. Seems the Struckers did it after all. The plan is to surround them on the road and they’ll have one or two minutes. Esme offers to go in herself in the hopes that she can read one of the guards to get a sense of their situation.
They meet up on the road with Shatter, who reports that he’s spotted some Sentinel Services vehicles. John tracks that the mutants are being evacuated, so the group heads into the woods to execute their plan.
Reed and Caitlin return to the underground where they learn from Trader that Esme shared their plan. But what Esme didn’t tell the mutants is that she suggested Reed and Caitlin go to Jace. The Struckers then learn that the mutants, having gotten a plan from Esme, are headed to Trask Industries.
Jace is ready to transport the prisoners. As Marcos scopes out from a distance, he receives a surprise taser shock from Esme, who has her own plan.
The guard at the gate calls in for approval just as Esme says telepathically that it’s time to turn off the collars. Immediately, shots are fired inside the transport bus. The guards open fire on themselves as Jace watches his fellow officers die. Esme then orders one guard to take the pin off the grenade grenade on of his belt and enter the nearby cruiser, which he does as the grenade soon explodes.
Esme springs into action as the collars are deactivated. Two mutants, looking very identical to Esme, join her as they order one guard to open fire on the others. As Marcos rejoins the others in the woods, Esme and her sisters tell the now free mutants it’s time to go- their fun has just started.
Just when it seemed like the mutants and some of the humans could reach common ground for the sake of helping one another, they find themselves divided yet again as the plan to rescue the captured mutants from Trask Industries crumbled thanks to one rogue element.
From the start, something hasn’t been right about Esme, whether her creeping on other conversations, inserting herself into said conversations, and suddenly being the most vocal at the underground in regards to taking action, even though she’s a newcomer. One would think the others would question such…enthusiasm, though I suppose that perhaps they let it slide because they have a common enemy in Trask Industries.
Pardon the pun, but with her insertion and powers, Esme has managed to eXploit the group for her own benefit, but also divide them in several ways. By telling Reed and Caitlin to speak with Jace, they’re out of the way so she can fudge the details when she tells the mutants of what they’ve done.
And just when Jace Turner was willing to cooperate, Esme’s interference has kept the escapees from returning, not to mention sown further seeds of hatred towards mutants.
By the way, yes, we indeed are finally getting the Stepford Cuckoos sisters. We’ve gotten hints at it but now three of them are together. This, combined with the name drops we’ve gotten of the Hellfire Club have me wondering if we get a reference to or name drop of their mother down the line. I’ll leave it there.
As Reed tells Caitlin, Jace can be reasonable. It helps that they both have children who were dragged into a much larger conflict, and like before, this helps make Turner a bit more sympathetic rather than just your traditional villain. He’s conflicted in going along with Dr. Campbell’s methods, but he also can’t just overlook what the mutants have done, not to mention Dreamer making him relive the horror of losing his daughter.
So it’s an interesting development to see him in such a bind. He wants to honor his daughter’s memory and fight against mutants, but at the same time, to learn and see what Trask Industries has been doing turns his mood sour. This makes it more unfortunate when, in the middle of transporting the mutants, it’s the actions of another mutant that gets several agents killed and could steer him back down a dark path.
Campbell is also in the business of exploiting. He’s dead set on using Andy and Lauren’s powers for his own purposes, but also not above exploiting their connections to the underground to get them to comply by any and all means. I didn’t expect Dreamer to get shot and was surprised to see her go down, but it helps cement Campbell as the true villain of this war right now.
Oh, and by the way, call it denial, but I don’t believe that Dreamer is dead. I could be wrong, but we don’t see what Campbell does with her body. Plus, he survived life threatening injuries in that explosion and didn’t receive medical attention. Who is to say the same resources that aided his recovery couldn’t also be used on Dreamer who, in turn, could be turned against the underground?
Either way you slice it, I don’t buy that Dreamer is dead. Not now.
Also, love the shout out to the Weapon X program. The show could easily have just left it at Campbell having adamantium, but then he acknowledges that yes, it came from an abandoned facility.
The X-Men and mutants are often an allegory for the discriminated groups in our own world, and those themes have been explored prior, but I do like getting the political view of it as well. Sure, we don’t have Senator Kelly in this timeline as far as I know, but Montez saying to his constituents that mutants threaten traditional American values and rights is as timeless as it’s ever been for how society deals with ‘lesser’ types.
That fear and hatred is exploited to stir up human animosity against the mutants, but that same hatred is also shared by some of the mutants, particularly Lorna, who refuses to fear. When I hear Lorna talk about not accepting human decency, I’m reminded of what Erik said in X-Men First Class when he said the real enemy was humanity. Given what she knows about mutant experimentation, the same is applicable here.
With the Stepford Cuckoos sisters reunited as they’ve further divided the humans and mutants, the war can only escalate here as the underground faces yet another setback We’ll see what kind of fun the Stepford Cuckoos have in store for the world when The Gifted returns in January. See you then.