By Christian Holub
February 26, 2019 at 10:00 PM EST
Eliza Morse/FOX
S2 E16
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Well, here we are at the end of season 2.

Every episode this season has started with flashbacks, and this one is no different. The finale starts by showing us the Strucker family’s reactions to the infamous events of 7/15. We still don’t see what exactly happened on that fateful day, but we do see Reed and Caitlin watching news coverage of it at home alongside a very young Andy and Lauren. In fact, we learn that the day’s events are what inspired Reed to join the ranks of corporate mutant hunters in the first place. But we also get other flashbacks over the rest of the episode, showing the Strucker family at other moments of their lives. We revisit that time Reed “rescued” Lauren from a party after her powers activated for the first time, and how his paranoid anti-mutant rhetoric made her afraid to ever come out to her parents.

In the present day, the Struckers have other problems. For one thing, the Mutant Underground’s hideout is besieged by Purifiers. Andy and Lauren think they might be able to break out by using their Fenris powers, but this episode makes the interesting choice to mostly sideline the Strucker siblings. Before they can even finish having a debate about whether it’s ethical or not to use their devastating powers against Purifiers, they’re kidnapped by the Inner Circle! The Cuckoos take control of them telepathically to force them to use Fenris for Reeva’s plan, and they’re able to sneak in using Fade’s invisibility. Remember that guy? The invisible bartender who acts like a dick in every scene he’s in? When Marcos learns what happened, he has a hilariously understandable response: “God, I hate that guy.”

Reed, Caitlin, Marcos, and Lorna need to find the Struckers, but they need to get past the Purifiers first. That’s where John comes in. Knowing that Jace Turner has a maniacal obsession with him by this point, John figures he’ll be able to draw the Purifiers’ attention and fire while his friends escape. He’s right about that, but he does a little preparation beforehand. We finally get to see him go Full Thunderbird, putting black paint under his eyes and grabbing a hellishly sharp hatchet. We cut between him and Jace for a few seconds as they each prepare for the confrontation in a very Pocahontas-like way. And then, after a long season of the Purifiers constantly winning every confrontation, John proceeds to wipe the street clean with their bodies. They all come at him, and they all get thrown over cars, hit with a mailbox, punched unconscious, or strangled with their own chain weapons. His friends have no problem rushing through the blockade after that.

Eventually, Jace takes a few blows and has to go into hiding. Luckily, he’s not the only one who’s been hurt by the Purifiers. Erg shows up, and the two put aside their differences long enough to absolutely wreck these fascists. The Purifiers already know not to attack Erg directly, so John does it for them. A few punches charge up Erg’s eye enough to blast all of Jace Turner’s minions into unconsciousness. That leaves the two J’s, and one handgun isn’t enough to slow down John at this point. He jumps off a wall, tackles Jace to the ground, and just starts pummeling his face. I’ve waited a long time for this catharsis, but of course, a bloody Jace has to ruin it by begging John to kill him. That’s what he’s wanted all along, you see — to see his daughter again. This show is so good at pulling the rug out from under you and making it hard to cheer for revenge, violence, or easy answers. Jace has done so many horrible things to so many horrible people, but you can’t even have the satisfaction of killing him for it because that’s all he’s wanted all along.

Thunderbird doesn’t give him the satisfaction.

NEXT: You want to know my secret, Reeva? I was never in control

The Cuckoos finally get the Strucker kids where they want them. They use their triple telepathy to force the two to touch hands, using their combined Fenris powers to destroy Sentinel Services headquarters. We’ve barely seen the Sentinels this season as the Purifiers mostly took their place in the plot, but if they’re still anything like they were under Dr. Roderick Campbell last season, I don’t take the destruction of their office building as any great tragedy.

The tragedy, of course, is the Cuckoos forcing them to do this. It’s not only a betrayal of Reeva’s propaganda about the mutant utopia (as a place of liberation and free will), it’s also a horrible corruption of the Frost sisters themselves. The whole tragedy of their imprisonment was that humans forced them to do things they didn’t want to do and killed their two sisters when they disobeyed. So how are the Cuckoos any different from their old captors?

Luckily, the Frosts are not monolithic. This season we’ve seen Lorna develop a friendship with Esme, the first Cuckoo we ever met. That comes in handy now. After the attack on Sentinel, the Frosts find themselves confronted by Lorna, Reed, Caitlin, and Marcos. Lorna reaches out to Esme, building on the fact that Esme told her the Frosts’ history earlier, and gets her to relinquish control just long enough for Marcos to blast the other two and release Andy and Lauren. I like that Lorna’s big moment this season was about connection and empathy, as opposed to last season where her spotlight moment was assassinating Montez and Campbell by destroying their plane. Mutants contain multitudes!

With Andy and Lauren safe at home, the others storm the Inner Circle’s fortress. Caitlin once again proves that she’s the most hardcore revolutionary around by unloading a clip into Fade’s chest — don’t have to worry about that guy anymore! It all leads to a climactic clash that I’m actually kind of annoyed I didn’t see coming. Reeva’s power makes other mutant powers unstable, which means it’s almost impossible for another mutant to beat her — that is unless you never had any control over your powers to begin with! To keep his kids safe, Reed confronts her alone. She does her scream, and never realizes that she’s about to get what she paid for. She wanted the Strucker family’s power, and now she gets it, blasting in her face at full force. We see her body disintegrate, just like a Dragon Ball Z villain, as Reed vanishes in an explosion of energy.

While the others pick up the pieces and come to terms with Reed’s death, they suddenly get another surprise. Blink finally appears out of a portal. She’s not dead after all! But we don’t learn where she’s been or what she’s up to. All we see is that the world on the other side of her portal is on fire, and she needs everyone to come with her. It’s the most comic book X-Men ending imaginable, and I love that.

That’s what I enjoyed about this season. It got off to a slow start, but the concepts it introduced were so true to the spirit of X-Men comics that The Gifted might honestly be one of my favorite ever onscreen X-Men adaptations. But it played with those concepts in a way that would make sense to any viewer. You don’t need to have read dozens of comics to understand Lorna’s relationship with her absent father (who, one more time for the sake of clarity, is MAGNETO!) or the Cuckoos’ lingering trauma from the loss of their two sisters. And though we don’t necessarily go to comic book TV shows for social analysis or political insight, I thought this season had an interesting take on the dynamics of both revolutionary and reactionary politics in the forms of the Inner Circle and the Purifiers, respectively.

The show’s focus on Reed and the Struckers is always what pulled the show back from going too out there or comic-y. As a result, I often found him to be one of the show’s least interesting characters. So now that he’s gone, I can’t wait to find out where the show goes next. What’s on the other side of that Blink portal…?

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