The last few episodes of The Gifted have introduced us to a brand new character: the telepath Esme. She’s already proven to be a powerful ally for the Mutant Underground, with her telepathic powers allowing her to peer into the mind of one of Trask Industries’ Hounds. But can the Underground really afford to trust Esme, or is she actually a cuckoo in the nest?
Esme was introduced in Episode 8 as a refugee picked up by the Underground. She was part of a group who’d gone on the run after they were attacked by Hounds, and it was Esme who warned the Underground that they’d been infiltrated. She revealed that she’d sensed thoughts of treachery and violence, and even managed to point out the infiltrator. On the face of it, this kind of introduction should leave the telepath above suspicion. But it’s possible that was exactly the point; to win the mutants’ trust.
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For the viewers, the episode played an intriguing game. Fans who are familiar with the comics were already primed to expect a telepath. In the comics, the most famous Hound of them all is Rachel Summers, daughter of Cyclops and Phoenix, one of the most powerful telepaths of all. Attentive fans were immediately suspicious, and the episode deliberately took its time in revealing Esme’s name. When the name was given, fans relaxed. This wasn’t Rachel Summers after all; this was Esme Cuckoo, one of the Stepford Cuckoos, a triad of telepaths created by Grant Morrison back in the early 2000s.
But, again, was the narrative structure of the episode actually manipulating viewers as well? Were we right to be suspicious?
The next episode, “outfoX,” saw Esme establish herself as a trusted member of the Underground. Having peered into a Hound’s mind, she argued strongly that the Underground had a responsibility to end the Hound program. Disturbingly, Esme proved willing to do anything to achieve her goals. She mentally eavesdropped on all those around her, gaining the necessary leverage to get her way. She even cast disturbing nightmares into Lorna’s mind in order to manipulate the Underground’s leaders.
That kind of desperation simply had to be explained, and Esme did so. She told the Underground that her family were imprisoned in Trask Industries. Because they trusted her, nobody thought to ask the obvious question: How do you know that? It’s possible that the dying Hound Esme probed thought about her family as he breathed his last breath, but that seems unlikely. A more disturbing possibility is that she simply made that excuse up.
It’s possible that Esme is actually a Hound. By exposing the other Hound, she earned the trust of the Underground. What’s more, she also saw Thunderbird check the Hound’s wrist, meaning she’d know that the telltale Hound tattoos needed to be hidden. It would be easy for a telepath to prevent anyone seeing the mark, and in “outfoX” she wore long sleeves that would have covered it up anyway.
If Esme is a Hound, then her mission is surely to lead the mutants into a trap. We only have Esme’s word that the imprisoned Hounds will join the Underground in fighting against Trask’s men. In reality, she could easily be leading the Underground to a waiting army of brainwashed mutants who seek only to take them down.
The moment you question Esme’s loyalty, everything changes. If Esme is a Hound, the Underground’s attempt to break into Trask Industries was a mistake. They were playing into their enemies’ hands. Ironically, Sentinel Services’ interference prevented the Underground from carrying out the break-in, and inadvertently saved their lives. But if Esme is indeed a cuckoo in the nest, the Underground need to realize it before they launch any rescue missions. Otherwise, they’ll be fatally compromised.
We’ll learn the truth when The Gifted returns with “eXploited” on Monday, December 11 on FOX.
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