This week, The Gifted continues to explore its central theme of family. The main theme of this season is the question of protection: How far is too far when it comes to protecting family? How much pain and suffering is it okay to cause others in your quest to save or avenge your own? How far can you go before you become the monster?
But there is also the question of who counts as family, and the necessity of making hard choices. Will you be able to live with yourself if you don’t go far enough to help someone, save someone, or catch someone? How do you find balance?
One of the best things about this show is that we’ve been given both sides of the conflict all along, and with extreme and reasonable characters on both sides. Jace’s need for revenge is very understandable, but now, after this episode, he’s faced with destroying a family that he knows, and a father who loves his children the way Jace loved Grace.
Except Andy and Lauren won’t die the quick, clean death that Grace did. They’ll be tortured and exploited for as long as Campbell wants to use them, then murdered, with their bodies left to rot somewhere.
You could see it in Jace’s face at the end of the episode, when he realized who he’d caught. He’d finally reached the point where he had to ask himself, “How far is too far?”
The episode opens on a flashback to a family picnic one year ago. Lauren has already developed powers, but Andy hasn’t. Andy convinces Lauren to try out his skateboard. When she falls, they grab hands. There’s an intense power surge between them. It’s the beginning of their Fenris powers.
Reed is spending the current day rethinking his entire childhood. Finding out his family history and that he’s a mutant changes everything. He shares the details of his dad’s confession with Caitlin, who’s shocked.
The Underground’s leadership meet to discuss what they’ve learned about Trask. Esme, the telepath, pushes hard for an immediate attack. Most of the others argue that they need to take their time and prepare carefully, or a rescue attempt could end in disaster.
Johnny is conflicted. He’s still beating himself up over allowing Pulse to fall into Campbell’s hands. Esme is exploiting that guilt. Sonya wonders how Esme even knows about Pulse, but Johnny assumes it’s because she’s a telepath and read it from his mind.
That night, Andy shows Lauren a book with a chapter about the Fenris. They were most active in the 1950s and were part of a criminal organization known as the Hellfire Club. They disappeared fleeing from the Xmen.
Esme causes Lorna to have a nightmare in which everyone she cares about, including her newborn baby, are being held captive in the lab. Lorna wakes up screaming and destroying the bedroom with her powers.
Campbell is in the hospital with severe burns, including over his face. He’s refused medical treatment, in favor of having his pet mutant use powers to heal him. Campbell lays in the bed and moans while the mutant works.
Jace decides that the Underground’s next move will be planning an attack on Trask. Agent Weeks is skeptical and thinks Jace is overstepping again. Jace insists that they begin preparations to investigate and defend the lab. No doubt Campbell and his drugged coffee have something to do with Jace’s certainty and willingness to break protocol.
Sage figures out that the lab employees have a regular bar that they favor after hours. Sonja and Lorna plan to visit and question an employee in security or operations to try to get the information they need to plan an attack.
Marcos wants to go with Sonja in Lorna’s place, but Lorna points out that you don’t send a guy and a girl to pick up guys. Depends on the guy, I suppose. You wouldn’t think a girl with green hair would be so heteronormative.
Caitlin has a mini meltdown over everything that
Dante Reed’s father kept from him, and wonders how their lives would be different if they’d known all along. Caitlin somehow thinks it would have been better for the mutant knowledge to have been out in the open, or for Lauren to have told her mutant prosecutor father the minute she got powers.
Reed’s father gave them many extra years of peace and normal life, in exchange for whatever use Reed’s powers could have been in defending them. Same with Lauren. They would have ended up exactly where they are now, no matter what they did. Caitlin’s continued denial proves that.
Reed responds by reminding Caitlin that they did the best they could with the knowledge they had. Then he tells her about the Fenris, and that Andy and Lauren share the Fenris powers. Caitlin’s day is not going well.
Caitlin gets up to go tell Andy and Lauren about the Fenris right that minute. Reed feels that would be like handing them a loaded gun. Reed apparently doesn’t understand that they’ll discover their powers on their own, sooner or later, just like Andrea and Andreas did. Better that they explore their destructive powers in a controlled environment first.
Sonja and Lorna have a few drinks with a security shift leader from Trask. He’s very chatty. Lorna knocks him out and Sonja gets security passcodes using her powers.
Caitlin and Reed have Lauren and Andy try holding hands in the basement vault. On their second try, they glow and get windblown. The building starts to rattle. Reed breaks them apart. Lauren tells her parents that they were about to demolish the building.
The Underground meets again to go over the intel from the guard. The lab is highly fortified against mutants, as expected. Sage has discovered one weakness. The power substation that supplies the lab isn’t guarded. If they can shut the power down, they’ll have a few minutes to get into the lab before the emergency systems come online. Esme gets upset that they aren’t going through with the plan right away. Johnny tries to clam her down.
The Struckers discuss Lauren and Andy’s experience in the vault. They became one mind while they were holding hands. Andy thinks that they should practice using this power. Reed objects, because Andy can’t control his individual power and people will get hurt. Andy gets defensive, because Reed’s answer is always that Andy shouldn’t use his powers. He storms out of the room. Lauren follows to calm him down.
Lauren and Andy discuss how amazing and consuming the Fenris power is. They remember the time they felt it briefly in the park, before Andy’s powers even manifested. Both admit that it was all they could think about from then on, causing them to have trouble with school work. They worry that this means that they’ll turn out like Andrea and Andreas.
Lorna and Marcos work on plans for the attack, then move on to talking about Lorna’s nightmare. Lorna’s worried that the Underground Waystation won’t hold. Marcos swears that he’ll protect her and their child, but Lorna knows that he might not be able to. Esme eavesdrops on their conversation, then interrupts with an idea for the battle plans. She suggests that they use Andy and Lauren.
The team go over their plan with the Struckers. Andy and Lauren will take out the transformers the same way they took out the prison transport bus. Sonja and Clarice will go in with them. Reed and Caitlin insist on being their security handlers in the truck.
Johnny, Marcos, Lorna and Esme will go into the lab as soon as the power is cut. Esme looks smugly satisfied that the team is using her idea. She is so definitely a plant, and was explicitly told to make sure that Andy and Lauren were part of the strike team.
The lab strike team arrives at their staging area. Esme drops and almost damages a detonator, but Lorna catches it. Lorna is rough on Esme, telling her this is more than just an adventure. Esme looks into Lorna’s mind, and sees Lorna lashing out after Marcos got hurt saving Clarice.
Esme: “Have you ever been so angry about someone you love getting hurt that you would do anything to stop the pain? That’s why I’m here. For the people I love in that building. I can’t leave them. They’re a part of me.”
Well, that’s suitably vague, isn’t it. We haven’t heard any details about her family to make her story more plausible. Instead, she’s keeping the leaders off guard by bringing up painful thoughts on a regular basis. The “anything” that she’s willing to do will likely include turning other mutants in.
The substation team arrives at their destination. Caitlin gives a helpful pep talk by telling her kids that this mission is a parent’s worst nightmare. Blink portals the team past the outer security, up to the substation building.
Jace and Ed examine the results of the lab investigation. Everything appears normal, except for a security worker who called in sick. Jace has already noticed that the power substation is the lab’s weak point. He quickly concludes that the security worker could have been used for his knowledge, then given amnesia. He sends reinforcements to the substation.
Sonja guides her team through the substation using the security worker’s hazy memories. She uses her powers when they have a run in with one of the security guards.
Jace sends a remote Sentinel to search the substation. Caitlin sees the Sentinel on her screen and warns the team. They run, but there are too many guards and Sentinels. One of the spider remotes gets Clarice. The others keep running. Sonja is captured next.
The lab team sees security going on high alert and figures out that the power station team has been compromised. They retreat back to their cars. Johnny has to pick up Esme and carry her away while she screams.
Caitlin tries to go help the kids, but Reed stops her. They’ll just get captured too, and they won’t be able to help anyone.
Andy and Lauren stop running so they can use their Fenris power. They hold hands and begin to power up, but then Andy pulls away. If they use their power here, everyone in the building will die.
Jace and his strike force find them moments later. He forces them to kneel, then has power suppressing collars placed on them. They’ve been captured by Sentinel Services. Caitlin and Reed are devastated.
Esme is way too intense and impatient for this to only be about her family. For sure Campbell has her family and promised he’d reunite them if she brought in as many mutants as possible. In the last episode, Chloe was a decoy to allow Esme to gain the Underground’s confidence. So, can Esme be saved and turned back to the mutants’ side, or is she a lost cause like so many of Campbell’s mutants?
The Hellfire Club is the new Hydra. The Von Strucker Twins either went into deep hiding or died and have been reborn somehow, as happened in the comics. I’m going with them hiding and aging very slowly due to their powers. They will be the ones who are sponsoring Campbell’s research. What shadowy criminal organization wouldn’t want to control mutants with enhanced powers? What mutant supervillain wouldn’t want to enhance their own powers?
Reed continues to struggle with his racism against mutants. We know now that it was passed down from his father, based on his father’s intense fear of his own family. Even though Otto never spoke of his work to eradicate mutant powers or his fear and hatred of mutants and his parents, his attitudes still came through. Reed’s life’s work ended up being similar to Otto’s. He used the law instead of science to eradicate mutants, but he had the same goal.
Reed seems to save his biggest fears about powers for his son, just as Otto did, and was doing so before he knew his father’s history. It raises the question of whether Reed was meant to be a telepath or empath of some sort, and still has latent powers that could be switched on. He seems to be very good at instinctively knowing how to get under people’s skin, which served him well as a prosecutor. It makes him an understanding father and husband when he uses it for good. but he often uses it to manipulate people, such as Lauren’s illusionist boyfriend Wes.