As Lorna grows frustrated with the Inner Circle, Esme reveals some traumatic events from her sisters' past
As an X-Men fan, one thing I really love about The Gifted is how it weaves in all these threads from X-Men comic history that I never in a million years expected to see on TV, while still making sure the nerdy callbacks don’t distract from the main story. This episode, in particular, reveals some important, comic-accurate backstory for my favorite characters on this whole dang show: The Frost sisters, a.k.a the Cuckoos.
As we’ve been doing a lot this season, this episode opens with a flashback. We see Esme and her sisters collared, ordered by some sadistic human doctor to read the minds of their fellow mutant prisoners. We won’t get the full impact of this scene until later in the episode, but in general, it’s a good reminder that many of the mutants involved in the Hellfire Club have already experienced the worst that humans can offer, so maybe their violent attitudes aren’t totally unfounded.
In the present, we get a look at the Cuckoos’ room, with their three beds arranged ingeniously in the center like the spokes of a wheel. Esme’s sisters are berating her for making them wear “last season’s look” again in order to cover the burn scar she got from Marcos, but soon there are more pressing matters at hand. While Andy and Rebecca are hitting it off and developing a cute relationship, Lorna is growing increasingly frustrated at Reeva’s secrecy. The Inner Circle’s mutants are being put through repeated Danger Room simulations, testing their abilities against holographic SWAT teams and the like, without Reeva ever explaining why such preparation might be necessary. Why, for that matter, is Rebecca necessary to this mission? Lorna is used to being a leader of the Mutant Underground, not being left in the dark.
Reeva stays tight-lipped, but Esme eventually sees Lorna’s point and takes her to see their target: A bank. Now, see, here’s another reason I love The Gifted: It connects its characters and their struggles to real-life history. At this point, it might be second only to Black Lightning in that regard. Esme connects this bank with mutant-flavored versions of ‘70s Latin American military dictatorships and ‘90s drug epidemics. Everything seems to be going fine until Esme and Lorna get back to base, and the Cuckoo starts humming a tune Lorna recognizes as the lullaby she sings to her baby. Taking this as evidence that the Frost’s have been inside Dawn’s head, Lorna starts choking Esme with her own necklace, stopping only once Reeva breaks in and activates her power. Lorna is, obviously, extremely pissed off. So what do Reeva and the other two Frosts want to do about it? Why, control her telepathically, of course! I’m sure that will go great. If there’s one thing magnetic-powered mutants love, it’s being affected by another mutant’s telepathy.
NEXT: Something shatters
Back at Mutant Underground headquarters, John is trying to teach Reed how to control his powers. The upside is obvious: A power so destructive might come in handy, and who knows what it can do when properly channeled? Certainly, it can be more useful than just crashing cars and almost killing people at random. Although John chides Reed for thinking he can accomplish 30 years worth of training in a single afternoon, a small bit of coaching does help Reed awaken his powers enough to melt a radiator. There’s no time for more training, though, once John and the others get a report that the Mutant Underground’s Baltimore station is coming under attack by Jace Turner and the Purifiers.
Thanks to a Blink portal, John and company arrive at the station just as the Purifiers are ready to move in. Even though I still hate Jace, I do appreciate his attempts to reel in the Purifiers and keep them from going over the top with violence. Rather than storm the base outright, he has them shoot smoke bombs in order to draw the mutants out, at which point they can be rounded up and delivered to the proper authorities. John’s first instinct is to use a Blink portal to get everyone out, but the smoke ends up stronger than they expected and Clarice gets knocked out. There’s only one option left: Reed has to summon his powers and break through an underground tunnel so they can all escape. Our old friend Shatter, who has been running the Baltimore station since the end of season 1, volunteers to draw the Purifiers’ fire in order to buy time. This ends about as well for him as you’d expect, but Shatter does get to unleash some cathartic violence on one of the Purifiers, crystallizing the crazed fascist and then breaking him apart. That’s enough cause for Jace to break his no-killing rule, and he fires a reinforced bullet strong enough to break through Shatter’s crystal skin and kill him. Thankfully, it is enough for Reed to break through the tunnel and lead an escape.
Back at Hellfire Club HQ, Esme comes to apologize to Lorna. This is where we get the X-Men comic revelation I teased at the top of this post. Just as in the comics, there weren’t always three Cuckoos; there used to be five. When they were the slaves of that evil doctor, he kept two of the sisters in confinement as hostages against the others’ good behavior. When they finally rebelled one day, controlling the minds of armed guards until their tormentor was a bullet-loaded corpse, the two other sisters paid the price. That experience changed Esme, and now she declares that she won’t let anything similar happen to Dawn. She’s on Lorna’s side. Does this mean we might start to see an inter-Cuckoo civil war of some kind? Can’t wait to find out…