WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Gifted Season 2 episode “iMprint,” which debuted Tuesday on Fox.
Easily the most interesting characters on Fox's X-Men spinoff The Gifted, the telepathic Frost sisters have succeed by manipulating, or simply killing, anyone who stands between them and their goals. They're cold, calculating and occasionally cruel, and with this week's episode, "iMprint," we begin to understand why.
In the episode's opening flashback, we're introduced to Esme, Sophie and Phoebe eight years earlier, as young lab subjects, or prisoners, forced to use their combined abilities to pry secrets from the mind of a mutant. When young Esme begs not to be made to uncover the location of the man's family, the doctor replies, "You know the rules, Esme. Do you care about his family, or yours?"
That, combined with the glimpse of five beds in the girls' cell, should provide a clue as to where this is going. But there's an added twist, drawn from the Frost sisters' Marvel Comics origins.
Her arm scarred by an earlier encounter with Eclipse, Esme (Skyler Samuels) is now physically different from her sisters, who now ridicule her for because they're forced to where long sleeves so she can hide her injury. However, that may only be an outward symbol of more significant changes occurring within Esme.
Using her telepathy to quiet Lorna's crying baby, if only so she can try to manipulate her mother once more, Esme feels genuine love, perhaps for the first time. Well, at least she says she did. It results in her letting her guard down, to inform Lorna that the mysterious target the Inner Circle is plotting to attack is Creed Financial, the institution behind the lab that created her and her sisters.
Yes, as in the comics, where they're more commonly known as the Stepford Cuckoos, the Frost sisters are clones. Of course, on The Gifted, there's no indication -- beyond perhaps their surname -- that they're clones of Emma Frost, aka the White Queen.
However, also like in the X-Men, there were once five Frost sisters. Rebelling against their captors eight years ago, Esme, Sophie and Phoebe used their telepathy to make the lab's guards shoot the doctor before turning the guns on themselves. They escaped the lab, but at a cost: As Esme reveals later in the episode, each time the Cuckoos were taken from their cell for power exercises, two remained behind, "as leverage." When Esme, Sophie and Phoebe staged their escape, their sisters Celeste and Mindee were killed using the devices in their power-suppression collars.
"I felt death," an emotional Esme relates to Lorna. "I was a part of my sisters when they died. I felt the pain, and the terror, like it was happening to me. I would do anything -- anything -- to protect your daughter from that."
In the comics, it's Sophie and Esme, rather than Celeste and Mindee (also known as Irma), who die, under wildly different circumstances, leaving the Three-in-One.
Airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT, Fox’s The Gifted stars Stephen Moyer as Reed Strucker, Amy Acker as Caitlin Strucker, Sean Teale as Eclipse/Marcos Diaz, Jamie Chung as Blink/Clarice Fong, Coby Bell as Jace Turner, Emma Dumont as Polaris/Lorna Dane, Blair Redford as Thunderbird/John Proudstar, Natalie Alyn Lind as Lauren Strucker, Percy Hynes White as Andy Strucker, Skyler Samuels as the Frost sisters and Grace Byers as Reeva Payge.