As we've watched the Mutant Underground and Sentinel Services try to outsmart one another this season, The Gifted has given both sides a chance to flex their muscles and use their respective power against one another. This week's episode "eXtreme measures" smartly switches things up by having both sides turn their focus (and power) inward in ways that both help and harm them.
Technically speaking, Eclipse's mutant ability allows him to absorb and manipulate light to varying ends, but it's fair to say that the man has some sort of almost inhuman power to attract emotionally-intense women. "eXtreme measures" opens with a flashback to Thunderbird and Polaris' first meeting with Eclipse before he joined the Mutant Underground. The scene is brief, but it's charged with meaning because it's in that moment that Eclipse first made the decision to give up his life working for Carmen's cartel in favour of fighting for his fellow mutants.
The flashback is contrasted by Eclipse's present self, who is being pulled back into Carmen's orbit after asking her for assistance in freeing Polaris from prison. It's clear that Eclipse believes he only went to Carmen because of his commitment to Polaris and their unborn baby, but his decision to keep Polaris in the dark about his actions is the first of many ways "eXtreme measures" sets everyone up to negotiate the power dynamics that exist within their personal relationships.
Polaris' being free gives Carmen the chance to collect on Eclipse's debt to her and demand that he assist the cartel with a drug run that he's reluctant to become involved in. But as much as she's drawn to him, Carmen also has a kind of magnetic pull on Eclipse that he can't quite resist. A blend of honour, responsibility and raw attraction brings Eclipse back to Carmen, and the pair are both simultaneously invigorated and put on edge by their reunion. Eclipse has power, Carmen has money, and they both know that they're much more formidable when they work together, but at the same time they're keenly aware of their old toxic habits that eventually led to Eclipse leaving.
Elsewhere, Blink, Thunderbird and Dreamer are dealing with a twisted love triangle of their own. As Blink continues to keep Dreamer at a distance for altering her memories, she also grows increasingly closer to Thunderbird who has concerns of his own about Dreamer's actions. Isolated, Dreamer watches as her inability to undo the mess she created with her powers puts more and more distance between her and Thunderbird, all while he's helping Blink gain even more control over her powers. The Gifted makes you understand where Dreamer, Blink and Thunderbird are all coming from, but "eXtreme measures" is careful to complicate their dynamic in such a way that reminds you that they're all capable of hurting one another.
The episode also lives up to its title in the most interesting way when it focuses on Agent Turner, who's still reeling from having his memories manipulated by Dreamer and losing Lorna to the Mutant Underground. At this point, Turner has been broken by mutants who used their powers against him, but rather then letting Turner become an even more embittered mutant-hater, "eXtreme measures" puts him in a position where he gets his first taste of what it's like to have mutant powers that you can't control at one's disposal. A visit from the Department of Justice about the legality of Sentinel Services' programs prompts the shadowy organisation to bring in one of its "mutant assets". As a rep from the DoJ tells Turner and a group of other Sentinels that mutants still have legal rights that they are violating, the mutant asset intervenes and gives her a mild stroke, much to Turner's horror.
Perhaps for the first time in his life, Turner's beginning to realise that the conflict between humans and mutants isn't as cleanly divided as he once imagined. There are people on both sides who are able to exert force and power onto one another regardless of whether they have abilities. The revelation unsettles Turner, but he similarly realises that he's powerless to extricate himself from the war that he's committed to, even as he begins to question his side's motivation and morals.
It's funny that when you think about it - "eXtreme measures" is really just a filler episode that doesn't add all that much to the season's larger plot about the Strucker family or the Mutant Underground's plans to escape Atlanta. It's an episode about relationships and introspection whose beats easily could have been re-worked into other places within the season, but if this is what it looks like when The Gifted needs to take a breather, than I'm all too fine to let it rest for now.
- Weirdly, this episode featured more than a couple of nods to NBC's Heroes. You have shady agents teaming up with people who have powers and a teenage girl sneaking off with a charming boy named Wes against her father's wishes.
- Speaking of Wes, Reed's immediate decision to write him off as a threat after learning that he'd been arrested before coming to the Mutant Underground makes no sense. Literally all of them have been homeless and on the run from people who want to kill them, and Wes' crimes are totally understandable given the circumstances.
- Polaris' crappy Danger Room is once again an utter delight. This week's lesson: Dodging bricks.
- TRASK INDUSTRIES. The Gifted's had its connections to the X-Men scattered here and there throughout the season, but learning that Reed has a direct connection to Trask Industries is one of the most explicit and potentially consequential for the series.