The Gifted rings in the new year with a fresh blast of X-Men canon. In a flashback, we see Blink on a date when she and her man are suddenly accosted by mean-looking people wearing giant white crosses on their clothes. These are Purifiers, anti-mutant fanatics who love nothing more than to beat, humiliate, and kill those they see as demonic aberrations. In Marvel comics, these Purifiers usually follow the demagogic rhetoric of Rev. William Stryker, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see if there’s a specific figurehead here. For now, they just serve to teach Blink a lesson about hate, and how awful it feels when no one dares to stick up for you.
That’s not even our only new dose of X-Men canon. Esme and her sisters go to make a report about their escape to a mysterious man behind a desk. This man identifies himself (and the blond telepathic sisters) as members of the Hellfire Club. Fans of X-Men: First Class may recognize the name as once belonging to Kevin Bacon’s campy supervillain team, but the organization has clearly undergone a makeover in the years since: fewer fetish costumes (at least so far…), more disguising themselves as members of the wealthy elite while secretly working to advance mutant interests. The latter motive means they are very much interested in shutting down Dr. Campbell’s Hound program. They currently lack the manpower to do that, but the sisters are confident they can recruit the Mutant Underground to help.
Meanwhile, both the Mutant Underground and Sentinel Services are still reeling from their last encounter. Jace gives a eulogy for his friend (who shot himself under Esme’s telepathic control) at the same time Polaris and the others say goodbye to Dreamer (shot by Dr. Campbell to force the Struckers to demonstrate their combined powers). While Jace laments that the mutants are acting like the angel Lucifer (using their special talents to elevate themselves above others), Eclipse promises that the mutants will continue to love and hope even as Jace and Campbell continue to treat them like lab rats and meat sacks. The whole thing is filmed in parallel and reminds me very much of the “Savages/Savages” sequence from Pocahontas.
The mutants have differing opinions about the Cuckoos (as I’ll be calling them — they could also be known as the Three-in-One or the Frost sisters, as they are apparently named after their comic book matriarch, Emma Frost). Most don’t appreciate the girls’ harsh tactics, especially the ones they directly betrayed, like Eclipse and the Strucker parents. Others, like Polaris, think that the mutants need to be aggressive if they want to survive. The Cuckoos return to headquarters to offer the mutants their help in taking down the Hounds, but they give them some time to think it over. The Strucker family is traumatized (the kids by Campbell’s experiments, the parents by Esme’s manipulation) and decide to make for Mexico as they originally planned. Their first stop will be Fairburn Station, another Mutant Underground hideout. (Recap continues on page 2)