We lose some familiar faces on The Gifted this week, and gain some familiar faces as well. eXploited would have been the season finale under the original 10 episode order, and it feels very much like one. The stakes are high, loyalties are in question, and the game changes in the final act.
We start with a flashback to two months ago, when Esme was posing as a campaign aide to an antimutant senator, using the name Stacy. Or Stephanie, depending on who you ask. She’s just talked herself into a meeting between the senator and Trask Industries when she gets a telepathic distress call.
Her family has been discovered and captured. Sentinel Services knows where she is, and are on their way. Esme/Stacy scurries away from the Senator’s location as quickly as she can, while telepathic voices urge her to hurry and to find a way to rescue them.
Back in the present day at Mutant Central, the arguments are dividing along the usual lines. Johnny and Marcos calm everyone down and agree to send Shatter and Sage as scouts at Sentinel Services and Trask while they continue to work on a plan.
Everyone retreats to their corners. Caitlin and Reed debate over possibilities within their network of acquaintances who could help. Esme is eavesdropping outside the door and sifting through Reed’s mind. She interrupts their conversation to suggest that they talk to Jace. Maybe he could be convinced to bring the mutants back to Sentinel Services. A life in prison would be better than a life of torture and experimentation.
Esme: “Just think about it. Your kids, what they can do- in the wrong hands, that much power could change everything.”
Why do I have the feeling that Esme has a particular set of “wrong hands” in mind for Andy and Lauren, perhaps even her own?
Lorna broods over Sonya’s captivity. She believes in striking back hard and fast, damn the consequences. She thinks the Struckers are fools for thinking talk can solve anything.
The Struckers sneak out of the mutant compound with a car and supplies so that they can talk to Jace in his home. As they drive through Jace’s suburban neighborhood, they’re reminded of their old neighborhood. Reed wonders how many would be okay with the experiments going on at Trask. Caitlin says that she thinks most of them would be. She and Reed admit that they were fine with pretending, until it affected their own kids.
At Jace’s, Caitlin gets out a gun. Her father taught her how to use one when she was four, she’ll be fine with it. Jace’s doorbell rings and his wife Paula answers. Jace reluctantly lets them in to talk. They tell their side of the story, trying to elicit sympathy from Jace. He won’t listen, but after a minute, Cait notices that they’re making progress with Paula, so she shifts focus.
Cait speaks to Jace, and especially Paula, calmly, but with emotion. She explains the details of the Hound program, and reminds them that it’s being used on their children. That’s enough to make Paula question Jace’s actions.
Meanwhile, Esme tells Johnny, Marcos and Lorna, that she overheard Cait and Reed making plans to talk to Jace. She makes it sound like they came up with the idea completely on their own, and that she was against it. Johnny decides that they could try to rescue the mutants if the Struckers convince Jace to transport the mutants back to Sentinel Services tonight.
Marcos and Lorna continue to argue over how much violence and risk is acceptable. Lorna will go to any lengths to win this fight, while Marcos has already lost too many people to violence and vengeance, both in the Cartel and in the Underground. This is becoming a serious issue between them, as the war worsens and Lorna grows angrier.
Andy and Lauren are still wearing mutant collars and are now locked up in cells at Sentinel services.
Jace interrogates Sonya, then tells her that she took the memories of Grace’s death from him, so he’s had to relive it. Sonya is genuinely upset and apologizes, saying it was an accident. Jace doesn’t care about her remorse. He’s sending her to the Hound program at Trask, where she’ll get what she deserves.
He calls Campbell to let him know that Sonya and Clarice are ready for transport to the lab. Campbell insists that Lauren and Andy be sent at the same time. Jace hesitates, but Campbell offers him information on the Mutant Underground, so he relents.
Sonya and Clarice comfort each other through the bars of their cells. Sonya is depressed, worried that her powers have never done any good for anyone. Clarice assures her that Johnny will come for them.
Campbell puts Lauren and Andy into wet suits with sensors, then has them taken to an adamantium lined testing room that he believes is indestructible. He has a shockingly limited imagination for a mad scientist.
Their collars are turned off, and Campbell tells Andy and Lauren to hold hands and use their powers. They refuse, so he shocks Lauren. They still refuse. He has Clarice and Sonya brought to the lab as leverage. Sonya tells them not to join hands, even while she’s held at gunpoint. Campbell shoots her in the chest, and she collapses, apparently dead.
When he points the gun at Clarice’s head, Lauren and Andy give in and use their powers. They go further into the process than they ever have before. They look as though their arms are on fire. They destroy the sensors in the wall, the lab room adjacent to the testing room, and melt the adamantium before their collars are turned back on again.
Despite their rocky start, Clarice and Sonya had become friends. Clarice grieves for Sonya in her cell. Lauren blames herself and Andy for giving in to torture. She feels Sonya died for them, and they gave Campbell what he wanted anyway, meaning she died for nothing. She could tell that he got whatever he was looking for from their display of powers.
She’s right. Campbell asks his lab tech if they recovered biometrics.
Tech: We were able to isolate the bonding agent that contains the same amino acid as the other siblings. Do you think we’ve done it?
Campbell: We’ve done it. We now have a weapon that provides a solution to our mutant problem. A permanent one.
Jace arrives to reclaim his mutant prisoners, having rethought the legality of the mutant exchange program. Campbell isn’t thrilled with this turn of events, but he’s got other matters to deal with, so he hands over the mutants for now.
Shatter alerts Johnny that Sentinel Services is at Trask to pick up the mutants. They quickly plan their attack, but without Clarice and Sonya, some positions are empty. Esme offers to get close and take out the guards.
When the Underground team gets to the rendezvous point, Marcos and Esme go to the gate alone to meet the SS vehicles and take out the guards.
Cait and Reed return to Headquarters and are met with hostility. They’re told what Esme said about them, and explain that everything was her idea. They realize she’s up to something, but don’t know what it is yet.
Jace and Ed pull up to the gate to show the release authorization forms, with the transport van behind them. Esme tazes Marcos unconscious. She takes control of Agent Ed’s mind and makes him turn off the mutant collars. Next she has the guard on the bus and Ed shoot the other guards and themselves.
Once Esme’s taken care of the immediate threat, she walks toward the van. The prisoners have been unlocking their restraints. The first two out of the van join Esme. They are identical to her, including sharing her powers. All three act in sync to force the rest of the guards to go to war with each other.
Marcos wakes up and runs back to Johnny and Lorna, but is at a loss to explain what’s happening. The rest of the prisoners exit off the bus. The triplets approach them, and in perfect unison, say, “Time to go boys and girls. The fun’s just starting.”
Esme and her sisters are based on the comic characters code named the Stepford Cuckoos, clones who were originally quintuplets, but are now triplets.
What was Esme’s original goal in infiltrating the Trask meeting, before her sisters were taken? Was she collecting information on Campbell’s research for herself, or others? Could she be part of the Hellfire Club, or working for the Fenris?
The Stepford Cuckoos clone mother, Emma Frost, was the White Queen of the Hellfire Club, so the connection is there to exploit. It can’t be a coincidence that they’re bringing up these names that would lead in a direct line from Andy and Lauren to Andrea and Andreas, should the Fenris want to find their descendants.
They’ve made it obvious that Esme had motives of her own all along, but this is not even close to anything I imagined. She’s seemed intense before, but now she seems like an evil doll, something that should look benign but is somehow terribly creepy, even demonic. It’ll be interesting to get to know her sisters, assuming they have their own personalities outside of the hive mind.
The Montez campaign slogan is “Human choices for a human future.” His campaign crowds are small, so it’s not working well.
Trask Industries can get prickly about having uninvited guests in the room during meetings. Montez must be discussing the unethical side of the business.
I can’t imagine the destruction Lorna will loose on Trask when she discovers Sonya’s dead. I expected Sonya to die, because she was only a recurring character and she needed to make way for Johnny and Clarice’s relationship, but it’s still sad to see her go. She ended up adding a warm, even-tempered voice to the mutant dynamic that I’ll miss.
There is also the possibility that her death was a fake out. The gun could have had drugged rubber bullets that allowed Campbell to secretly keep her for the Hound program, the way he faked Pulse’s death then turned him into a Hound.
I’ll miss Ed Weeks also, Jace’s SS partner and voice of sanity. It appears the time of reason and restraint on the human side is over.