The Gifted finale recap: 'eXtraction'/'X-roads'
A lot of things came full circle in The Gifted’s season 1 finale. One of them, apparently, is Dr. Roderick Campbell’s lifelong mission. Ever since he had to watch his brother die slowly of cystic fibrosis, Campbell has dedicated himself to protecting humankind from dangerous genetic mutations. Anyone familiar with the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler will know that metaphors about “unclean” genes and diseases are staples of fascist rhetoric, and Campbell completes the image by giving a rousing speech about how regular humans once banded together to wipe out their Neanderthal rivals, and they can do it again. As if that weren’t already going “full fascist,” Campbell is now on his way to a conference called Humanity Today, to speak to politicians and other well-connected attendees of the anti-mutant hate-fest.
Campbell should know, however, that he has a big target on his back. As he’s the main mind behind the Hound Program, the Cuckoos are determined not to let him get to D.C. So, they’re working together with the Mutant Underground to infiltrate the event’s security detail and grab Campbell when they get the chance. Esme and her sisters try again to sow division among the mutants by pointing out Blink used to have connections to the Brotherhood, but once Blink stops them from telepathically torturing a kidnapped anti-mutant official, that officially makes her “one of us” in Thunderbird’s eyes. As a bonus, that connection allows Blink and Thunderbird to cap off their season-long tension with a kiss.
Unfortunately, the plan to grab Campbell doesn’t go great. Thunderbird, Blink, and Eclipse all jump him when he comes out of an elevator at the convention’s hotel, but his Hound bodyguard gives them some trouble (you may remember him as the guy who induced a stroke in the nosy Department of Justice official a few weeks back). By the time Thunderbird finally takes him down along with the other guards, the mutants are hit with the unpleasant arrival of an elevator full of children. Campbell grabs one of the kids as his hostage and makes his escape, forcing the mutants to retreat with their tails between their legs. The mutants may scream themselves red arguing about not using violence against innocent people, but it’s clear that their enemies have no such compunctions, making for a rather uneven life-or-death struggle.
The Struckers aren’t part of the kidnapping team because they’re too busy protecting Reed’s mother. Determined to get all possible information on Otto Strucker’s X-gene research, Campbell is sending the Sentinels to round up everyone with any connection to Trask. Luckily the Struckers are able to smuggle their grandmother to safety in time, but not before revealing some big tensions between Andy and Lauren about how aggressively they should use their powers against their enemies. Lauren respects the values of the X-Men and wants to use her powers to protect people, but Andy has a more aggressive attitude. For now, the Mutant Underground remains an uneasy alliance. (Recap continues on page 2)
Hour two of this season finale finally brings in Jace Turner, and he’s determined to finish off the Mutant Underground once and for all. To that end, he’s got a new pair of fused Hounds whose combined powers make them impeccable trackers. After picking up the Struckers’ trail at their grandmother’s office, Jace and his Sentinels head straight for the mutant headquarters. The usual guard tactics don’t work — one of the mutants tries using his fear-inducing powers to keep the Sentinels away, but Jace has already faced his greatest fear two different times. He’s not giving up now, and he tells his men to push through.
That means it’s finally time for the full-scale evacuation of the headquarters. Andy, Lauren, and a shotgun-armed Reed take up defensive positions at the windows to hold off the Sentinels’ SWAT team while Caitlin leads a crew to excavate the base’s gigantic vault and make an escape route to the outside. That works for a while, but it’s a different story once the Hounds get sent in. Luckily, Andy and Lauren are finally ready to unleash their full power. After the mutants escape through the tunnel, the Fenris kids use their combined glow power to destroy the headquarters completely — preventing the Sentinels from following their trail, and wiping out all their Hounds in the process.
Then comes the coup de grâce. The Gifted began with Polaris getting captured by the Sentinels. Since then we’ve seen her learn of her pregnancy, suffer through jail time, and return to struggle alongside her mutant comrades. But Polaris is done struggling; she’s done waiting for the better, more peaceful world once promised by Professor X and the X-Men. The X-Men are gone now, but Polaris is ready to change the world and make it safer for her coming child — and the X-Men’s gospel of peace and understanding is far from the only school of thought by mutants. All the Cuckoos’ talk about Polaris’ father has gotten to her, and in a flashback we even see her playing with a purple medallion. In case you had any lingering doubts about her magnetic heritage, this medallion is shaped just like Magneto’s iconic helmet. The Master of Magnetism himself would doubtless be proud of Polaris for using her powers to bring down the plane carrying Dr. Campbell and the anti-mutant Senator Mendez (just in time, too, since these villains were ready to cement their alliance alongside both the Hound program and Mendez’s planned presidential run), but her teammates are less pleased.
The humans are now on the back foot, with Campbell dead and Jace Turner resigned from Sentinel Services. At the same time, the mutants are splintering as well. Polaris isn’t the only one persuaded by the Cuckoos’ aggressive philosophy. When they crash the Underground’s regroup meeting in Tennessee (shout out to the sign in front that says “J. Kirby,” a reference to X-Men co-creator Jack Kirby), Polaris and the Cuckoos bring several mutants to their banner of a renewed Hellfire Club. Even Andy decides to leave his family and join up with them, which means we’ll be seeing a very different dynamic in season 2 of The Gifted. The remaining Underground will probably make for an X-Men/Brotherhood-type dynamic against this hip new Hellfire Club, and we’ll have to wait and see what new tricks Jace and the Sentinels can bust out. (Recap continues on page 3)
Thanks for reading along with me this season! I enjoyed The Gifted way more than I expected. Here’s our last round of superlatives!
Coolest power use: The Strucker kids finally unleashing their powers at full glow has to take the cake, though it’s always cool seeing Polaris’ green energy in action, whether wiping out cell phone service or bringing down a full-sized plane. Now there’s an adaptable power.
Dumbest Reed move: N/A this time. Reed actually had a lot of great moments, including his rousing speech to the besieged mutants. Look how far we’ve come.
Most impossible choice: To kill Campbell, or not to kill him? Polaris went the former, and it’s honestly hard to blame her. Serving justice and not harming innocents are fine goals, but in a life-and-death struggle for the shape of the world, they require sacrifices of their own. Polaris wasn’t willing to make them anymore, and in doing so she stopped both a true-believer ideologue from taking aim at the presidency and a brilliant mad scientist from figuring out the mutant cure. But it was certainly a major choice, and I can’t wait to feel more of its impact next year.