This week's episode of The Gifted is unique from all of the rest because it definitely feels like the entire series might actually be a stealthy supervillain origin story. The Stepford Cuckoos are playing an incredibly long game that no one else in the Mutant Underground seems to realise.
It was clear from the jump that as The Gifted's first season progressed, the show's connection to the X-Men's mythos were only going to become stronger and more complicated. While individual members of the X-Men were not explicitly mentioned by name, the episode deftly introduces not one, but two more classic X-Men villains who, at one point in time, went toe to toe with Professor X and his students.
In the episode's opener, we're introduced to The Gifted's take on the Purifiers, the paramilitary, terrorist organisation founded by Reverend William Stryker. Unlike their appearances in the comics where the Purifiers are frequently seen using all manner of high tech weaponry to accomplish their goals, The Gifted's Purifiers are more of a garden-variety hate group who intimidate people they identify as mutants. The moment where Blink realises that she and her human boyfriend have been trapped and cornered in a parking lot is terrifying enough, but the scene becomes that much more devastating when Blink realises that her boyfriend has no interest in defending her because she's a mutant.
But it isn't really about Blink's relationship issues, especially considering the Mutant Underground is still reeling from Dreamer's shocking death and struggling to understand what to make of Esme and her sisters whose last names are revealed to be Frost. We also learn that in this universe, the Cuckoos are established members of the Hellfire Club - an organisation that nearly everyone seems to know about in a massive deviation from the X-Men comics. Much like Sentinel Services, the Hellfire Club is hellbent on bringing the Strucker kids into their ranks, but unlike the Sentinels, Esme and her sisters seem to be chiefly interested in advancing a pro-mutant agenda.
Jace Turner is not good at giving speeches.
Back at the Mutant HQ, everyone is divided on how to handle what the Cuckoos did, and with good reason. Because they murdered so many human guards at Sentinel Services, some of the refugees reason that the organisation will only crack down on the mutants harder, while others see what the telepaths did as a godsend that set many of them free from certain death and experimentation.
It's the scenes between Esme and Polaris that stand out the most, not just because of the excellent performances from Skyler Samuels and Emma Dumont, but also because of what their interactions hint about The Gifted's future. Out of all of the various X-Men media that's been released as of late, The Gifted's stakes feel the most dire and perilous given Sentinel Services' plans to take their Hound program nationally before offering it to other countries' governments.
The Gifted's mutants are very much in danger of becoming extinct if the groups opposing them get their way and both Esme and Polaris clearly understand that. It's that kind of cold, calculating clarity that made their parents such excellent survivors and villainy just might run in the family.
- Blink's ex-boyfriend is a piece of shit.
- It's really cool that the Cuckoos don't always speak in unison and seemingly disagree with one another from time to time. It's a bit disappointing that there are only three of them, but honestly having five telepaths running around probably would have been overkill.
- Agent Turner's little speech at the funeral comparing mutants to the devil was...it was a lot.
- Fun fact: Apparently, pregnancy boosts the strength of mutant powers. I have this awful feeling that Polaris is going to miscarry and go full-on Magneto, but we'll see.
- Andy Strucker got WRECKED by that janky, highly unsanitary Hound technology.