With Lorna (Polaris) and Reed in immediate danger, it's time for the Mutant Underground to go on the offensive — but the clock's ticking. In this week's episode of The Gifted, titled "eXit Strategy," John and his scrappy team of misfit mutants devise a plan to save Lorna and Reed from Sentinel Services before they're shipped off to a mysterious ultra-secure facility, "a place where the people who go don't come back." There's only one problem: They have to stop a military convoy to do it.
Sounds easy enough for a group of super-powered beings, right? Well, seeing how leader John Proudstar could only enlist the help of five of his fellow mutants after Sage (a.k.a. "the human computer") determined the terrible odds stacked against them, it's actually easier said than done.
"This is what it's about when they've had enough, and they go on the offensive," Blair Redford told MTV News ahead of the episode. For the lifelong X-Men fan — and he has the stack of comic books in his apartment to prove it — this was a huge deal. (And not just because Thunderbird gets to flex his super-strength.) "I remember reading that first speech that Thunderbird gives the whole crew at the beginning, and it's one of those epic moments that reminds you that when the odds are stacked against you, as the team leader, you have to amp everybody up."
"I'm not going to compare it to this," he added, "but it's like that Braveheart speech. Maybe a little more tactical."
With an explosive showdown with Sentinel Services on the horizon, it's safe to say that the stakes have never been higher for the Mutant Underground. But John (Thunderbird) and Marcos (Eclipse) aren't alone; they've got Blink, Dreamer, and Harry (a mutant who can go invisible) by their side, as well as the Struckers. In fact, Lauren and Andy's combined power — in which Lauren can use her force shield to focus Andy's destructive energy — is key to the mission's success. That is, if everything else goes smoothly. (That's a big "if.")
Although the hour is heavy on the mutant action, it does dive into a bit of John Proudstar's past with a flashback to the Underground's last harrowing battle against Sentinel Services, in which there were several mutant casualties. However, it appears as though the government agency now has a dangerous secret weapon in their arsenal: Pulse (played by Zach Roerig), a mutant who has the power to disable other mutant abilities. While Redford couldn't speak to the specifics of Thunderbird and Pulse's dynamic, he did confirm that there will be even more "glimpses into John's past" in future episodes.
But first, John, or Johnny, has some personal drama to deal with now that Blink is walking around with a memory of a kiss that isn't hers. In order to save Thunderbird and Eclipse from a group of hostile pursuers in last week's episode, John's ex Dreamer planted one her own intimate memories with John into Blink's mind, which, in turn, inspired the magenta-haired mutant to use her portal powers to rescue the team. Of course it also created a nasty mortal dilemma in the process.
"It's one of those things where you kind of wonder what their relationship might have been like had nothing happened," he said. "If that memory hadn't been sewn into her brain, what would be the natural status of their relationship together? But the three of them are all connected now, and eventually, they're going to have to tell Blink what happened."
"I don't think [Blink] is going to be very happy to find out," he added, foreshadowing the "tension" ahead for ThunderBlink.
Thunderbird and Blink's burgeoning friendship may have been compromised, but Redford's easy offscreen chemistry with Jamie Chung couldn't be anymore chill. Their jokey rapport tends to find its way into their scenes together, oftentimes at the director's or writer's request.
"We're just always joking around and picking on each other, and that just carries on throughout rehearsals when we're getting ready for a scene," Redford said. "Her and I probably improvise more than anyone else I work with on the show."
Case in point: When Thunderbird went into tracker mode in Episode 3, and without missing a beat, Blink indifferently replied, "Oh, this is your thing." Not only was that not scripted, but according to Redford, Chung's first take was "Did you have a stroke?"
For Redford, however, the best part of playing a character like John Proudstar — aside from the free comics — is his unwavering optimism in the face of adversity. In a world in which mutants are being prosecuted simply for existing and their only protectors, the X-Men, have vanished, it would be easy to lose faith. Or to let one's fear and mistrust become all-consuming. But John still believes in the peaceful future the X-Men once promised.
"Eclipse and Polaris are a little more cynical about the idea of coexistence between humans and mutants," the actor said. "But John is still hanging onto the idea that it's something that's attainable. No one can see the future, so who knows if that kind of thinking betrays him, but that's his goal. That's what he's fighting for."
To get a sense of what the others are fighting for, meet the characters of The Gifted in the video below: