Not all mutants are created equal. This was the lesson at the heart of “threat of eXtinction,” which dropped some major bombs about the Strucker family line and the epic powers that Lauren and Andy apparently possess. All it took was a visit to Grandpa von Strucker’s antique shop to blow this thing wide open… um, figuratively speaking.
While The Gifted is not following the Strucker family storyline from the comics to the letter, many of the themes of that nefarious, all-important family are still at play here. It turns out Otto, Reed’s dad, is the son of Andreas von Strucker, one half of Fenris, an evil brother-sister duo of mutants feared not only be humans, but by other mutants.
But the plot thickens! Andreas and his sister Andrea (yeah, they’re parents weren’t the most inventive namers ever) had the same powers as Andy and Lauren, which means Reed’s kids are even more powerful than anyone knows. When they hold hands, they can emit some kind of massive explosion. Or at least that’s what it seems like from Otto’s martyrdom. The old man sacrifices himself to help Reed and John escape, turning himself into a bomb that even a jacked-up Pulse is powerless to stop. That’s how powerful the Struckers are.
The Strucker family legacy lies not just with Andy and Lauren, but with the drug Otto helped develop. It turns out his work at Trask Industries revolved around finding a cure for the mutant gene. He was only ever successful at producing one (which, is that a thing in science… only producing one dose of a cure?), and he used it on his son before Reed could develop mutant powers.
That’s right! Reed Strucker, mutant prosecutor and all-around Sentinel Services sympathizer (until recently) would have been a mutant if not for his father’s interference. This has got to be making Reed feel all sorts of things. Personally, I’d be pissed if I found out I could have been a superhero, but my dad gave me medicine that stopped it, nearly killing me in the process. But, you know, that’s just me. I get that this whole mutant identity thing is pretty complicated.
While Otto’s choices were 100% the actions of a man driven slightly mad by the parents who tried to turn him into the next generation of killing machine, you can also understand where he’s coming from. When he tells Reed goodbye, his words of advice re: his grandchildren are: “Protect them, son. Protect the world from them.” Dude’s made some bad choices, not the least of which was ditching his wife and kid without telling them any of this, but he isn’t a monster.
Otto’s sacrifice not only results in his own death, but in the death of Pulse, who is taken out in the explosion. (Campbells is also seemingly injured… in the face. Here’s hoping for some kind of Phantom of the Opera mask when next we see him.) While John mourns over Pulse’s body and Reed over his fathers’, I couldn’t help but wish we had gotten the chance to know both of these characters a bit better. This episode packed so much information into 60 minutes through exposition, there was barely any time to feel the repercussions of these reveals.
Still, the knowledge that the Struckers are so powerful, that Reed could have been mutant himself (and maybe still could be?), and that the drug Campbell has been injecting his captured mutants with originated with Otto’s mutant “cure” are all excellent reveals with repercussions that will no doubt spiral out far past this episode.
Elsewhere in the hour, Caitlin used her medical superpowers/empathy to treat Chloe, a mutant previously captured by Sentinel Services and addicted to Campbell’s drug. At first, the Mutant Underground treats Chloe as a simple threat, but Caitlin convinces them to give her a chance. Before Chloe’s death, they learn a bit about Campbell’s plan to send his mutants undercover. Or at least that’s the conclusion new mutant Esme, a telepath, might be able to extrapolate from the data she collected in Chloe’s brain. For now, it’s just a sad, rushed story of Chloe’s mishandling by Sentinel Services.
Esme and Chloe weren’t the only new mutants to come under the Mutant Underground’s umbrella this episode. We also meet Nora, a girl who escaped from the same foster home Clarice once called home. Nora is haunted by the memories of seeing her foster family killed, so Clarice asks Sonya to take them away for her. It’s a small olive branch from Clarice to Sonya where previously there was only bitter, yet restrained hostility on Clarice’s part after Sonya’s betrayal.
Lorna and Marcos also somewhat reconciled this episode. For most of the episode, Lorna continued to be understandably pissed at Marcos for lying about his work for the cartel. While they don’t seem to come to any real resolution on that matter, they are driven back into each other’s arms after watching the death of Chloe. It seems the reminder of how close death could be for any of them was enough to stop them from wasting time apart… at least for one night.
All in all, “threat of eXtinction,” was a much better episode than last week’s dull installment, though notably rushed in some of its major plot progressions. With the deaths of Pulse, Otto, and Chloe; the revelations about the Strucker family; and Lauren and Andy’s holding hands at the very end, this episode very much felt like the relative calm before the storm.
Was Otto right to try to suppress the kind of power the Struckers can possess? Will Campbell find a way to recreate Otto’s “cure”? And how much longer can the Mutant Underground keep running from Sentinel Services? The Gifted is not showing any signs of slowing down as it delves deeper into Marvel mythology. Hold on tight, mutants.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good