The Mutant Underground let a cuckoo into their nest, and the results were fatal—both for the underground, and for Sentinel Services. Esme finally began to reveal her allegiance in “eXploited,” and it’s to none of the sides we’ve seen thus far on The Gifted. No, this is something else…
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Tonight’s midseason finale began with a flashback, one that sees someone who looks an awful lot like Esme, but who goes by the name “Stacey” infiltrating the campaign of an anti-mutant senate candidate. Before Stacey has a chance to finish her mission, she is telepathically warned (presumably by one of her sisters) that her cover has been blown.
Fast forward two months later and Esme has embedded herself in the Mutant Underground, subtly manipulating the mutants there into doing her bidding. First, she gets Caitlin and Reed to go on a crazy (albeit successful) mission to convince Agent Turner to transfer Sentinel Services’ captured mutants away from Trask Industries and Dr. Campbell’s psychopathic experiments, then she gets the Mutant Underground folks to lead her to the transport.
From there, Esme takes the reins, and she’s much more powerful than she has led her new “friends” to believe. She not only has the power to read others’ minds, but to control them. By forcing the Sentinel Services agents to shoot each other and then themselves, Esme breaks her two identical sisters out of the prisoner transport shuttle, breaking out Andy, Lauren, and Clarice in the process, along with a handful of random other mutants.
The fun is just beginning, the Stepford Cuckoos (the canonical name for the telepathic triplets) tell their new maybe-minions. Could Esme & co. be working with the Brotherhood, Magneto’s clan of extremists? Or do the cuckoos have another allegiance? For now, one thing is for sure: They’re not Team Mutant Underground. Esme never once let the gang in on her plans, and she does not seem to be planning a big reunion now that she has rescued the Sentinel Services’ mutants.
While Esme’s plan was arguably good for Clarice, Lauren, and Andy, it was too late for Sonia, who was murdered in front of her fellow prisoners and friends to convince the Strucker siblings to use their powers. In doing so, Campbell said he got everything he needed to fix the mutant problem. Does this mean he knows how to replicate the “cure” that suppressed the mutant gene in Lauren and Andy’s dad? Or does he have different solution in mind?
While Sonia’s death was frustratingly teased in the promo for tonight’s episode, it was still affecting. This is a character that has been with us from the beginning of the show and, while she has made a few questionable choices (namely, giving Clarice false memories to motivate her into saving Johnny), she was a good person. She used her final moments to tell Lauren and Andy not to give Campbell what he wanted, a rebel to the end.
If we had to see Sonia go (and, you have to admit, it does raise the stakes here), then I’m glad the story was told through the Sonia/Clarice dynamic, which has grown to be an interesting one. Sonia may have violated Clarice’s mind shortly after they first met, betraying her trust, but they grew to be allies.
Seeing Clarice first comfort Sonia, and then mourn her death was particularly affecting. The Gifted has rarely been so invested in showcasing the devastating effects of conditions like imprisonment, loss of rights, and corporate murder technically committed under the authority of the U.S. government, and the show is all the stronger for it.