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The Gifted - Threat Of eXtinction - Review: “Deadly eXperimentation”

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Week after week The Gifted is only getting better. In this episode, they delivered some of the most powerfully poignant material yet while also doing a lot to build up the mythology of the series. The team is becoming more solidified than ever as everyone has been almost entirely integrated into the underground now. There have been some tensions in some of the dynamics, but this episode took the opportunity to confront several of those issues head-on. All around this was one of the most emotionally intense episodes yet with some really cool action sequences.

Everything kicked into full gear when Marcos, Clarice, and John went to recover a group of mutants who barely escaped getting caught when Sentinel Services targeted their refuge. It is in this recovery that Esme (Skyler Samuels) reveals that Chloe (Michelle Kim) didn’t seem right. Esme, a telepath, was quite right in her reading of Chloe who turned out to be one of the plants sent out by Sentinel Services to take down the underground movement from the inside out. Thanks to Esme’s warning the team was able to take control of the situation before Chloe ever had a chance to do any damage. They also now know the latest ploy being enacted by Sentinel Services and can work to avoid falling victim to it. Once they had Chloe back at the compound and in custody they learned some very important things about her and those like her who have been the subjects of Roderick’s evil mad scientist experiments.

Chief amongst what they learned is how the mutant captives have been turned against their own, by forcing them to become addicted to a drug called Kick. Apparently, Kick is a mutant street drug that gives them a rush of feeling invincible and their powers are strengthened. It’s also apparently very addictive and Roderick has used it to condition the captives to turn against their own kind in order to get their next hit of the drug. There seems to be more to it than just the addiction, but it is a big part of the torture they have been subjected to. Both Chloe and Gus/Pulse seemed genuinely distraught at what they had been forced to do. They couldn't verbally communicate but it was all in their eyes as the emotion came pouring out in their dying moments. Neither of them would live to see the end of the hour, but they both left a huge impression that will surely fuel the team moving forward.

Chloe, despite starting out as an enemy combatant, left a profound impact on all those who tried to help her. She also gave them, thanks to Esme, some very critically important information that might lead them to Trask Industries and therefore to the headquarters of Roderick's nefarious work. After finding out what happened to Chloe, that her husband was killed and her daughter kidnapped, the team seems more driven than ever to ensure that what happened to her and her family doesn’t happen to anyone else. Chloe’s daughter is out there all alone and likely in serious danger in the custody of the Sentinel Services. Hopefully, the team will be able to locate her when they finally make a move against Trask and Roderick. It would be nice to see something good come from Chloe’s sacrifice. It’s quite telling in the way that this show is written and the way the performers deliver on the material that the audience could feel an emotional connection to a character that never even got to speak a single word.

This episode also introduced the aforementioned Esme who seems like she could be both a valuable asset and a loose cannon with her own agenda. As a telepath, she has an ability to really connect with people as was demonstrated with Caitlin. They forged a pretty fast bond as Caitlin treated Esme’s wound. It was also nice to get confirmation on how much Caitlin is valued within the group. They bonded so quickly that it was Esme who Caitlin thought of first when they realized Chloe was unable to verbally communicate with them. But there is an edge of mystery to her that makes her a bit of a possible concern. She noted that Sentinel Services has her family and we’ve all seen how reckless people can be when those they love are in trouble. Esme seems like the type who might try and pull something stupid in order to try and protect those they love. Even Marcos wasn’t invulnerable to that as he risked everything to save the woman he loves. Esme is a really interesting character and thanks to Skyler Samuels making some smart acting choices, after just a single episode she's made the character one worth rooting for pending she doesn’t end up doing anything to risk the underground. If she’s smart, and it seems like she is, Esme will offer her services in exchange for the underground team helping her. Skyler Samuels is a proven actress in this genre and she could be a great asset to the show should they keep her character around for a bit.

Another character introduced was Norah (Liza Fagin) who was at Clarice’s former foster home when Sentinel Services raided it killing her foster parents. Poor Norah witnessed everything and is understandably haunted by what she saw. Clarice feels responsible for what happened there and as such she took a pretty big leap of her own to try and help Norah. At the start of the hour, Dreamer tried to talk to Clarice and was quickly shot down. Whatever friendship they might have had was non-existent in that moment. But that all changed when Clarice understood that a lot of good could be had from Dreamer’s ability. Clarice likely won’t fully forgive the intrusion into her own mind anytime soon, but to help Norah she pushed those feelings to the side by reaching out to Dreamer to take away Norah’s memory of that horrific event.

It’s good that Clarice and Dreamer might at least be back on track towards friendship. Dreamer, at least in this episode, is clearly remorseful for what happened. Though, to be fair, the writers seem to be on different pages regarding how Dreamer feels about Clarice. In some episodes, she’s tried very hard to make up for what she did and in others, she’s been downright dismissive of Clarice. It seems like the individual writers might have different takes on the character and it does make for a bit of a whiplash effect regarding the character, one week she’s one way and the next completely different. Dreamer is a terrific and complex character and Elena Satine has made fabulous acting choices to make her even more compelling, but the writers need to get on the same page regarding how they write for her. This caring compassionate version of Dreamer is definitely the most compelling and where Satine really best shines in her portrayal. Thankfully the ridiculous love triangle was absent from this episode and the hour was all the better for it. The characters have enough going without spending time concerned with that sort of drama.

Relationship drama wasn’t totally absent from the episode as Lorna and Marcos had to deal with their own issues stemming from the deal he made with Carmen. Thankfully the writers of this show, for the most part, know that drawing out relationship drama stuff for too long hampers the flow of the story, so they don’t let stuff like this linger for too long. Now if they can just apply that to the love triangle and end that mess sooner than later that'd be great. Other than that, they constantly keep everything and everyone evolving which is a nice approach. This way of going about things keeps the story from going stagnate which happens far too often in serialized shows. In regards to Marcos and Lorna, the drama that left a rift between them wasn’t drawn out for long. This episode was the first full episode to really deal with the fallout of Lorna learning about the deal Marcos made and by the end of the hour, their encounter with Chloe had left them with a new perspective on everything. Lorna seemed to be able to accept why Marcos did what he did even if she likely still doesn't fully approve. They aren’t a perfect couple and they fight and bicker, but at the end of everything, their love always pulls them back together. They will certainly make amazing parents if their child is ever allowed to be born. Since babies notoriously cause production issues for shows the odds aren’t terrific that Lorna’s pregnancy will be successful, but it would be so great if one good thing could come from all they’ve been through. Surely these writers could find a way to successfully incorporate an infant into the story. It will be interesting to see how that plays out, but at least Lorna and Marcos seem as strong as ever after they overcame some very tense interactions in this episode.

While all of those aforementioned things were very important to the story they all pale in comparison to the storyline of John and Reed going to see the latter’s father, Otto (Raymond J. Barry) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is here where the nefarious origins of the Strucker family are revealed. Anyone with even the most basic knowledge of the comic book X-Men universe knows that Andrea and Andreas von Strucker were a notoriously evil sibling duo whose combined powers could inflict unspeakable destruction. Turns out that Andreas is Otto’s father and therefore Reed’s grandfather. Otto is a mutant like his father, but he fought back against his dad in order to not become an evil monster like he saw his father. So when Reed was born Otto feared his own son would continue the family legacy, so he set out to create a serum to eliminate the X-gene. He could never master how to make it work on a broad spectrum, but he did manage to make it work for his own son. Reed almost died as a result and while it seemingly did prevent him from developing powers it didn’t prevent him from passing along the gene to his own children.

It was truly sad to see how Otto’s guilt over hurting his son set into place a decades-long rift between father and son. Seeing how much Otto truly did love his son made it all the sadder. He thought he was doing good and he ended up causing pain. Then, if all this wasn’t enough, it was Otto’s work that inspired Roderick to embark on his current horrific escapades. He took Otto’s research to suppress the X-gene and turned it into an experiment to enhance the X-gene. Now it’s quite obvious why Roderick wants Andy and Lauren so badly. He knows the potential they have and he knows that if he can amplify their power these two can be even more powerful than their great grandfather and great aunt. They could be the ultimate weapon for Roderick to use against the whole mutant population and the world in general. With them, Roderick could feasibly take over the world, which, let’s face it is the ultimate end game plan for basically every comic book villain ever. Otto’s final warning to his son to protect Andy and Lauren from outside forces and the world from them was about as ominous a message as any father could receive about his children. How Reed will act on everything he learned is uncertain, but everything he found out is certainly bound to change his entire approach to everything that is going on.

At the start of the episode, we were shown just what Andreas and Andrea were capable of. Then we saw how much destruction Otto left behind. He was even able to overcome the lockdown Pulse had inflicted on the area. It cost him his life, but he left behind considerable damage and even managed to deal a minor blow to Roderick. If the older generations of the Strucker family were capable of all this there is no telling what Lauren and Andy will do as they develop the connection between their abilities. Andy once again in this episode showed his draw towards violence. So far he’s only used it to protect his family, but there is a darkness in him that could very well lead him to be even more powerful than his great-grandfather was and perhaps even more dangerous. Given what Reed now knows will he be able to prevent his own son from carrying on the legacy of destruction that his own father fought so hard against and died for? As the kids watched their parents embrace during their father's sad return they locked hands, a troubling comparison to the other powerful sibling duo in their family. The continued development of that bond and trying to keep Andy on the straight and narrow are sure to be big plot points for the rest of the season and it’ll be interesting to see what comes of that.

This episode had a lot of great emotional moments. It also spent a lot of time building up the mythology of the show. Esme plays a big part in the next episodes, so it’ll be fascinating to see if she works well with the overall team or if she ends up causing trouble for them. Andy’s still a wild card and Reed’s entire understanding of his life has been turned on its head. This episode ended on an emotional note showing all the various relationships that have been strained reconciling in one way or another. That usually means that things are about to go crazy and friends and couples are about to be torn apart and challenged in unimaginable ways. This episode kicked things up a notch, so hang on because everything is likely about to implode.

Don’t miss the next all-new episode when it airs Monday, December 4th at 9/8c on FOX.

Hit the comments with your thoughts about this episode. Did you like the Strucker family background that was finally explained? Will Marcos and Lorna be able to have their baby? Will Esme be a good addition to the underground or a liability? Can they really stop Trask Industries before it’s too late?

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