WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the midseason finale of The Gifted, "eXploited," which debuted Monday on Fox.
Even before her debut in the eighth episode of The Gifted, many viewers had deduced the mysterious telepath Esme was none other than one of the Stepford Cuckoos introduced in 2001 in Marvel Comics' New X-Men. The only questions that remained were what the manipulative character's true motivations are, and whether the we'd meet any of her sisters. While the answer to the latter arrived in this week's episode of the Fox drama, we may have to wait a little while for he former.
Created by writer Grant Morrison and artist Ethan Van Sciver, the Stepford Cuckoos were the five cloned daughters of the Hellfire Club member turned X-Man Emma Frost. Each a powerful telepath in her own right, they shared a hive mind and can speak and function as one. Following the deaths of Esme and Sophie in the comics, the remaining three sisters were diminished in power.
On The Gifted, where she's played by Skyler Samuels (Scream Queens), Esme arrived at Mutant Underground headquarters as a refugee fleeing a crackdown by Sentinel Services. Determined to free her family from Trask Industries, where they're marked for the Hound Program, which turns mutants into weapons controlled by the government. Using her telepathic abilities, Esme has repeatedly exploited the thoughts and memories of Mutant Underground members to move them toward a dangerous assault on Trask's high-security facility.
Those efforts came to a head in this week's episode, "eXploited," following the arrests of Blink, Dreamer and the Strucker siblings by Sentinel Services. She convinces parents Reed and Caitlin Strucker (Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker) that their best chance of saving their children is to pay a visit to the home of Sentinel Services Agent Jace Turner (Coby Bell). However, once they sneak out of Mutant Underground headquarters, Esme alerts the other, beginning a chain reaction that ends in bloodshed.
Caitlin's appeal to Agent Turner and his wife, who lost their child in the mysterious July 15th event, actually works, leading Sentinel Services to label the Hound Program as illegal and demand the transfer of the mutant detainees from Trask. But as the Mutant Underground plots an ambush of the Sentinel Services convoy, Esme offers to scout security and detect any Hounds that might complicate matters.
However, once Esme and Eclipse (Sean Teale) move close to the Trask Industries gate, she knocks him unconscious with a Taser and launches her own plan: to telepathically force the Sentinel Services agents to turn on each other in a flurry of gunfire and explosions. Blink and the Strucker children are freed from the prison transport, along with Esme's two sisters.
"Time to go, boys and girls," the smiling Cuckoos say in unison to the disbelieving mutant detainees. "The fun's just starting."
Why Esme took the mission into her own hands isn't clear, but she's certainly been single-minded in her determination to rescue her sisters. But in achieving her goal, she assured that Agent Turner and Sentinel Services will declare all-out war on Mutant Underground and, indeed, mutantkind.
Returning Monday, Jan. 1, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox, 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, and Percy Hynes White as Andy Strucker.