I’m still mourning Dreamer. But Elena Satine is always a “pro”, and how the show doesn’t just treat her as disposable. But at the same time it’s not backing away from a shock twist like that.
The last ten minutes were completely riveting.
Garrett Dillahunt is still one of the best casting choices thus far. He’s so polite in his creepiness that it’s infinitely worse.
The interaction and argument we got between Eclipse and Polaris was exceptionally played on both sides. When you hear Sean Teale’s voice crack, you immediately clutch your heart. Right?
Percy Hynes White and Natalie Alyn Lind are going to be stars. Their acting in the jail cells was phenomenal.
To be honest, Esme wasn’t very convincing. However, the last few sequences were really something else.
Equally unconvincing was the Turner/Reed/Caitlin roadtrip, which was saved only by Amy Acker’s tearful last plea before the Struckers left.
There was a sure lot of plot to fit in, and tragedy of course, but it just didn’t feature as much of the MU as desired. The episode still worked, but Thunderbird, Sage, and to a lesser extent, Polaris and Eclipse, were missed.
Reed, for the last time, stop being such a pain in the bum. Patience. Wearing. Thin.
The Gifted came close to perfect at times and then not so much at others, but one thing it’s kept is its compelling, seductive allure. Trust us: we’ll be back in January for the surely epic double-finale.
Okay. Yep. We criticised last week’s The Gifted (snoozeworthiness is always a good reason, right?). But this week gave us something to chew on.
A midseason finale. This was always going to be a biggie. With Dreamer (Elena Satine), Blink (Jamie Chung), Andy (Percy Hynes White) and Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) captured by Sentinel Services, it sends the Mutant Underground spiralling. Perpetually shady Esme (Skyler Samuels) does not help matters. She snoops around every corner, a perfected smirk ready when no-one’s looking. Furthermore, she has the MU in her hands like putty because with Dreamer out of the equation, she’s the only mutant we know of with mind-altering powers.
And that’s when we lost it like a lunatic. (It was very premature).
Firstly, Esme gives the humans a bit of a push. And of course it succeeds. Reed (Stephen Moyer) and Caitlin (Amy Acker) attempt to appeal to Turner’s (Coby Bell) humanity, Esme pushes the eternally headstrong Polaris (Emma Dumont) and Eclipse (Sean Teale) into action.
RELATED l The Gifted Roundtable [1×09]
However, as Esme’s ‘plans’ kick into place, Dr. Campbell (Garret Dillahunt) is finally delivered his big prize: the Strucker twins. In a shock twist, he mercilessly kills Dreamer as leverage for the twins to demonstrate their inherited powers. Meanwhile, Turner seems to have been swayed by Caitlin’s impassioned speech, much to Esme’s relief. Instead of playing team, she tases Eclipse and goes rogue in hijacking the Sentinel Services forces.
Just when you think Esme’s gone John McClane in order to save the mutants, she goes a step further. Instead, it appears she’s using her powers to manipulate the gang of mutants in the van. And now we can’t even begin to think of if she’s working for Campbell, or she really is John McClane, because frankly, our brains are fried (by all that hellfire…). So finally, we can actually sympathise with Turner post-Dreamer.
And the double-bill finale is all the way in January? Aren’t the Sentinel Services supposed to be torturing mutants, and not viewers?!
The Gifted wonders: are you born bad because of the X-gene or in Orphan Black terms, is it nature or nurture?
This has surely been a question posed since the mention and revelation of who Andreas and Andrea von Strucker were. Terrorists, yes. But the show (let’s leave the comics for now) never clarify whether the von Strucker twins were always meant to be terrorists and simply took advantage of their powers.
We know power can corrupt even the best of people. We also know that, and it’s of great misfortune to use the phrase, some people are just…born bad. But is it fair to compare Andy and Lauren to the von Struckers besides the obvious: their powers? It’s clear morality is strong in both of them. And even when they nearly lose themselves, one pulls the other back.
If there’s an X-gene for such mutations, can there be a gene for morality too? And that’s only a theoretical, perhaps dumb science question. However, doubt was smeared thickly last episode. Caitlin and Reed wondered if they’d raised the kids properly; Andy and Lauren mulled over whether they’d become like the von Struckers inevitably due to nature.
Is there an answer?
No. No, there isn’t.
What’s frustrating is that The Gifted have ample opportunity to poke and prod these issues further. The show so far has brought up numerous important debates in society. And left it there. We’ve had a peep in to segregation, discrimination, bullying, child exploitation, nature versus nurture–but no endgame. At this rate, it’s tiring. To bring such topics up is brave, undoubtedly. But to carry on the conversation is so important. Furthermore, The Gifted may even find that tapping deeper into those themes will lead invariably to deeper character development, too.
So, Esme, we don’t know what the fudge is your plan and we don’t how if we’re fudging against or for your plan, but oh good lord.
So let’s do a headcount: we’ve got Esme 1, Esme 2, and–Esme 3, will you stop smirking—
Like we may have Cuckoo’d about in our previous review, it’s revealed–finally–that not only is Esme up to no good, she’s also not…one. More like a three-in-one. Something along the lines of the hot-headed descendants from the X-Men Universe’s Emma Frost. And in this episode, she holds nothing back. After messing with the minds of armed soldiers to assume friendly fire and kill each other and themselves, Esme (or…The Esme’s?) struts up to the van of mutant prisoners. In a truly chilling, blankly expressed, unified voice, she says, almost nonchalantly:
The Stepford Cuckoos: “Time to go, boys and girls. The fun’s just starting.”
Simply, it’s a brilliant set-up for season two. There’s no way they can leave this gigantic plot-strand hanging. And we doubt it’ll be resolved in the double-bill finale. We don’t really even know what we’re up against. What’s nice about this reveal is that you didn’t need to be a comic book fan or an X-Men universe connoisseur to understand the plot at all. Not knowing of the Cuckoos’ origins makes you no less of a The Gifted fan.
Skyler Samuels gives a solid performance as Esme. And while being a comic book fan may reward you with some easter eggs, Matt Nix does an admirable job of including the entire audience. There’s no overly obscure reference that nobody will understand. Thus far, he’s created a detached world of his own, and Esme’s story that we’re so keenly looking forward to play out looks promising in how everyone will appreciate how utterly balmy that final scene was!
Caitlin and Reed pose an important question: tragedy is rife, but does ignorant bliss conquer the importance of knowledge of such atrocities?
Science-fiction often offers escapism. But importantly, it also offers us an insight into our own lives. One we may not have sought before. Yet, if mutants from the X-Men universe can contemplate such relevant issues, then is it truly our duty to neglect the ones that traverse not just across television but our lives too?
What The Gifted does so well is bring these issues to the forefront of the table. It’s never condescending. But when this exchange happens, it’s not hard to imagine it in any other household:
Reed: “I wonder how patriotic they’d feel if they knew their fellow Americans were being used as science experiments fifteen miles away.”
Caitlin: “Honestly? I–I think a lot of them would be fine with it. You think people couldn’t water the lawn or put up holiday decorations knowing people were suffering but…I did.”
Caitlin’s ashamed. But do we abandon her as one of the ‘good people’? Nope. Caitlin’s saved more lives than she’s condemned and the show’s not trying to blame her for her wrongdoing. Instead, she recognises and realises why she’s wrong. It may seem frustrating that Caitlin’s humanity sometimes apprehends the MU. But so often, it’s turned out to be its very strength. And in the MU’s campaign to fight against the misconception that they’re so different from their non-mutant counterparts, Caitlin’s humanity is key.
And if we look on the side of mutants, let’s dissect Polaris. Or Dreamer! They aren’t key examples of moral superiority, but do we count them as the good guys? Sure! Even after they tortured Turner and then screwed his memories? Sure! Nobody’s asking you to start sympathising with Dr. Campbell but it’s this endlessly grey middle-ground that everyone’s stuck in, that makes The Gifted so relatable.
FINAL VERDICT: The Gifted has suffered a rickety-ride over the past few episodes, but we eat our words because we’re currently clawing our faces off waiting for the double-bill finale.
Jim Campolongo’s script was the boost we needed after episode nine. It didn’t launch off like a rocket, like the first four or five episodes. Instead, the plot really was from Esme’s perspective in how she manipulated both the Struckers and Eclipse/Polaris into executing her plans into action. Not only is it a clever move to believably work the characters, because literally no-one can read Esme’s mind. But it’s also a fun way to finally reveal the start of whatever Esme’s planning, because she was honestly fooling no-one with her shadiness and smug half-smiles. Frankly, as exciting as the episode was, some of the twists (Turner in particular) felt a little too forced for time as we sprinted towards the midseason finale. Moreover, it’s a little disappointing that the supposedly top-secret MU could not even spot a shady-ass figure in their midst…at all. There are definitely creative licences to stretch believability, but everyone’s ignorance in regards to Esme was stupendous. Not even Polaris?
Craig Siebels’ direction offered us a creeping sense of dread combined with Campolongo’s script. And it completely paid off when Esme’s reveal finally came around, in a gory, sick manipulation of minds and, er, brain splatter.
However, now is the time we take our (invisible) hats off and propose a toast to the wonderful Elena Satine. We’ll take back all our doubts about you. Morally ambiguous, truly loved, and a great asset (and often foil for Dumont’s unapologetic Polaris), Dreamer will be missed. And you will be avenged. For sure.
Raise your hand if your ‘feels’ have been eXploited in any way during this episode:
- Blink, aka Jamie Chung, aka everyone’s hero: “It’s not impossible. It’s only impossible if you give up.” ALL HAIL THE MU QUEEN!
- What really defines a terrorist and what are the limitations to scientific experimentation when your brain is clouded with prejudice, hate and discrimination? On a darker road: how do we even know our brains are totally pure from that?
- I WAS BANKING ON NO MUTANT DEATHS!!! Now I’ll just have to sob until January. Merry Christmas, Matt Nix!
- How chilling was Esme/the Cuckoos’ last scene? What is their plan?! I’m starting to think less about working for Dr. Campbell and rather, Esme just…going roguer than rogue.
- Or let’s just say Esme be lightin’ up some hellfire in this cluuuuubb!
- Oh say what you will about Caitlin and her lack of mutant powers or whatever, but the way Amy Acker delivered that speech in Turner’s house was the best-delivered piece of dialogue on the show thus far. Without a doubt.
- I am praying–let us ignore the plot hole that I do not really identify with a religion–that the double-bill finale will resemble the quality of the first half of the season. The Gifted has slumped a lot, and I can still see a lot of promise story-telling wise for sure.
Catch THE GIFTED’s double-bill finale on JANUARY 15th 2018 on FOX, 9/8c.
So if you thought The Gifted wasn’t going to leave you pulling your hair out after its midseason finale...we got some news...After last week’s major trip-up in producing a filler so dull we would hasten to call it a filler, The Gifted gave us this. And we’ll promptly shut up and stop whining. It’s kind of like experiencing a peach bellini after chugging three litres of flat, soured cider. In other words, it was the perfect way to leave our tongues wagging shamelessly for more. Make sure you watch out for this week’s roundtable and we’ll return with our usual livetweets, roundtables and reviews for the season finale!
‘The Gifted’ Review [1×10]: “eXploited”