The Gifted recap: 'threat of eXtinction'
Finally, we get some answers!
Dr. Campbell has been muttering for weeks that the Strucker children bear some resemblance to a prior set of mutant twins who were apparently very dangerous. In this episode’s opening scene, we get our first look at them: two beautiful young blond European siblings, hanging out in London in 1952 when suddenly they’re raided by that era’s version of Sentinel Services. They appear to be outmatched, but when the two mutants hold hands, they unleash a torrent of light and destructive power.
The journey to finding out what that flashback was all about begins in the present, with Reed Strucker. Now that the Mutant Underground know that the brainwashed “Hounds” like Pulse were experimented on by Trask Industries, Reed is determined to use the only connection they have to that company: his own father, Otto. This is complicated a bit by the fact that Reed hasn’t seen Otto in decades. Andy and Lauren have never even met him, even though he’s alive and well in upstate New York. When asked why, Reed explains that he was hit by a near-fatal sickness as a child, and his father didn’t even bother taking him to the hospital. Caitlin calls him a “difficult man.”
So John decides to escort Reed to see his father, but first they have to make a pit stop. With Sentinel Services in overdrive, now even church sanctuaries are being raided for mutants. John and a couple other Underground members arrive at one nearby to pick up a handful of mutant refugees, but unfortunately there’s a Hound among them. Thank God one of the other mutants, Esme, is a telepath and was able to detect this speedster’s treachery. And thank God even more that the Underground fighters have gotten so damn good at combining their powers. Although the speedster seems unbeatable at first, Marcos soon traps her between two sunbeams. That allows Blink to open a portal right above her head, through which John comes crashing with all the righteous fury of…well, a Thunderbird!
With that settled, John and Reed head upstate, while their comrades take the Hound back to base to find out what makes her tick. Also, yes, any of my fellow X-Men nerds out there will probably recognize the young, blond telepath Esme as one of the Stepford Cuckoos! I’m guessing we won’t be seeing her other four telepathic “sisters,” but it’s still a great nod to a more recent X-Men era that doesn’t always get much love in these big-screen adaptations.
That’s not even the only call-out that the Grant Morrison era of X-Men gets in this episode. Later, when interrogating the speedster, Marcos realizes she’s acting like an addict. The power-enhancing mutant drug Kick, first created by Morrison, is apparently part of the Sentinels’ brainwashing regimen. (Recap continues on page 2)
Well, it doesn’t take very long to see why Otto Strucker (Raymond J. Barry) is estranged from the rest of his family. This guy is a mean old bastard, immediately getting into a political fight with John while refusing to give Reed any information about Trask. But maybe some of this is bitterness and sadness; you start to feel for Otto when he talks about how he’s never met his grandchildren. Once Reed starts telling him about Andy and Lauren (even showing him a recent family photo), Otto starts to open up — especially once he learns about their powers. He takes Reed upstairs and shows him some family photos. We soon learn that Andy and Lauren’s incredible powers didn’t just come from nowhere — they are, in fact, the great-grandchildren of those mutant siblings we saw in the opening flashback!
Andreas and Andrea Strucker, Otto names his parents. Individually they had the same powers as Andy and Lauren (telekinesis, forcefields) but together they were Fenris, a nearly unstoppable power. Otto was horrified by their actions and determined to stop it from ever happening again. That’s what drove him to Trask, where he tried desperately to find a cure for the X-gene. He never could make a general serum, but he did succeed in removing one person’s X-gene: Reed himself! That was the source of Reed’s childhood sickness. It’s also the source of their later troubles; Otto felt so guilty about inflicting such pain on his son, he could barely look him in the eyes, while his wife was driven away by his hard-kept secrets. All that heartbreak and suffering, and it was all for nothing, because the Fenris powers have been incarnated once again.
Unfortunately, Reed barely has time to process this life-changing information before Dr. Campbell arrives, with Pulse and other troops in tow. The situation looks hopeless, but Otto resolves to meet with the Sentinels himself, because “maybe I can do something.” He sure can! When Campbell refuses to take no for an answer, Otto lights up his nuclear-level energy powers. Despite his probably-infrequent use of his powers, Otto is so overwhelming that not even Pulse can contain him. The resulting blast sends that creepy mad scientist Campbell crawling and mumbling away like he deserves, while the Sentinels’ ultimate anti-mutant trump card gets toasted to a crisp. Thankfully John gets one last moment with his best friend Pulse, which he uses to swear revenge for what the Sentinels did to him. Reed isn’t so lucky; his dad is already dead from gunshot wounds.
That’s quite an emotional roller coaster of a day. No wonder Reed is so shaken when he gets back to his family after burying his father. But he’s so emotional, he doesn’t even see Andy and Lauren holding hands. On top of their teamwork interrogating the speedster earlier, this is exactly what Otto was worried about…
Coolest power use: Definitely that Eclipse/Blink/Thunderbird team attack to take down the speedster. I’m constantly impressed by all the amazing power combinations this show keeps coming up with.
Dumbest Reed(‘s dad) move: Since Reed was mostly just a receptacle for exposition this episode, I’m giving this superlative to his dad, who sacrificed his relationships with his family for a mad experiment that didn’t even work. Mutant powers aren’t the only thing that runs in the Strucker family.
Most impossible choice: Again this goes to Otto Strucker, who almost killed his son to remove his X-gene. He believed this was protecting Reed, but was it his choice to make?