|“||People don't always get what they want in this world.||”|
— Esmé, "The Carnivorous Carnival: Part Two"
Esmé Gigi Geniveve Squalor is one of the main villainesses in A Series of Unfortunate Events. She could be considered the secondary villain of the series next to Count Olaf due to her constant menacing role towards the Baudelaire children in its latter half coupled with her greedy and consistent lust for the Sugar Bowl. Prior to the events of the series, she was a stage actress and member of V.F.D. She was the former love interest of Count Olaf and Jerome Squalor.
Esmé is said to be the City's sixth most important financial advisor, although it is unclear how this was determined as importance is often subjective. She is a notably fashionable dresser who was known for her obsession with fashion and status of what is in (in style) and out (out of style).
Esmé was introduced in The Ersatz Elevator where she adopted the Baudelaire orphans with her husband Jerome because she claimed that orphans are "in", showing them the lifestyles of the rich and famous in the process. However, Esmé revealed herself to be an ally of Count Olaf's when she pushed the unsuspecting Baudelaires into an empty elevator shaft. She eventually became his girlfriend and joined his group of associates in their schemes that involved stealing the Baudelaire fortune.
In The Penultimate Peril, Olaf eventually decided to leave her behind due to her obscene obsession with fashion, and what's in and out. Olaf says he was tired of having a girlfriend preoccupied with pointless trends and that all she does is sit around relaxing while he runs around doing all the hard work. Even after Esmé defended herself, saying she was on guard, Olaf fired her anyway. Esmé refused to acknowledge the dismissal and instead says that she quits. Olaf replied by stating that she can leave by mutual agreement.
|“||Look at me! I'm beautiful, fashionable, and I smoke cigarettes!||”|
— Esmé Squalor, The Slippery Slope
Esmé is greedy, vapid, materialistic, and vain, obsessed with popularity, status, trends, and fads. She frequently buys "in" clothing, items, and furniture to decorate her apartment suite. Her priority in life, above all else, seems to be fashionable, valuing style over practicality. For example, she insisted on preventing her apartment's elevator from being used, and she smokes simply because cigarettes are "in", even though she hates the taste and smell of them, and prefers to use a long holder. She even makes aqueous martinis and buys parsley soda. She leads a life of crime because it is "in". Even though she is already "unbelievably wealthy", she is obsessed with collecting money because money is "in", and she frequently brags about how wealthy she is and how much money is in her bank account.
When she appears, she always appears in "fashionable" outfits, treating life as a fashion show and trying to find every opportunity to flaunt her costume. In The Hostile Hospital, Lemony Snicket calls Esmé a slave to fashion: "dressed in incredibly expensive, and often incredibly absurd, outfits."
She is very selfish and inconsiderate toward Jerome, the Baudelaires, and sometimes even Count Olaf. She does not want to donate money to poor people because, in her own words: "They wouldn't be poor anymore". Esmé is a prolific liar, slandering and accusing the Baudelaires of things they did not do such as murdering "Count Omar", and she is also shown to play the victim to get people on her side.
Like Count Olaf, she could be considered a sadist. In The Hostile Hospital, she tries to stab Violet, and later, encourages Klaus Baudelaire to kill his sister by cutting off her head. In The Slippery Slope, Esmé is "astonished" when the White-Faced Women refuse to throw Sunny Baudelaire off a mountain.
In another passage, Lemony Snicket notes, "This evening she was wearing a long coat made from the fur of a number of animals that had been killed in particularly unpleasant ways."
The only person she really cares about is Carmelita Spats, freely buying her the same stylish things as herself, and enabling and encouraging Carmelita's greed. Parents with a narcissistic personality disorder, which Esmé likely has, often view their children as extensions of themselves, which may explain why Esmé spoils Carmelita.
Esmé starred in Al Funcoot's One Last Warning to Those Who Try to Stand in My Way. Lemony Snicket published a scathing review of the performance in The Daily Punctilio, saying Esmé "was simply dreadful", "cannot act", and "cannot sing." This resulted in Eleanora Poe firing Lemony and printing a public apology to Esmé. The Daily Punctilio also ran a special article about her entitled "Actress, Financial Advisor, and Unmarried Woman: How Does Esmé Do It?". In The Slippery Slope, Esmé mentions when she was young, she was told to read Anna Karenina, but threw it in the fireplace.
Geraldine Julienne, a reporter from The Daily Punctilio, is a huge fan of Esmé. After Esmé wrote to her, Geraldine wrote back to tell Esmé about Jerome Squalor. The information included that Jerome is unmarried, that he recently bought the penthouse at 667 Dark Avenue, and that "every morning he has breakfast down the street at the Veritable French Diner...between seven thirty and eight thirty A.M." where Esmé could "accidentally" bump into him."
Later, Jacques Snicket received a wedding invitation from Jerome announcing his upcoming wedding to Esmé; the twosome had only met the day before. Jacques sent an urgent letter to Jerome telling him "that under no circumstances should you marry that woman". However, Jerome never received the letter. The pair married at the Vineyard of Fragrant Grapes, which Café Salmonella catered for.
Esmé was first introduced in Book the Sixth as the city's sixth most important financial advisor. She is the wife of Jerome Squalor and the new guardian of the Baudelaire children around May 14th. Esmé and Jerome live in a tall apartment penthouse at 667 Dark Avenue with many flights of stories.
Esmé's obsession with fashionable things (what is "in" and what is "out") reveals itself when she announces that she only took the Baudelaires into her home because orphans were now "in". Her kind husband wanted to take care of the children as soon as he heard of their troubles, but his wife firmly refused because orphans were "out" at the time.
She does not care about the Baudelaire children, doesn't care about learning their names, insults their "horrible" clothing for being "out", doesn't want to hear them complain that their friends (Duncan and Isadora Quagmire), abducted by Count Olaf, and ignores them as she prepares for the upcoming "In Auction".
Her assistant auctioneer, Gunther, is recognized by the Baudelaires to be Count Olaf in yet another disguise. They attempt to warn both the Squalors of his true identity, but Jerome thinks they are merely suffering from xenophobia and doesn't believe them. Esmé, however, pushes the three orphans down an empty elevator shaft, revealing to them that Count Olaf is, in fact, her former acting teacher.
When the Baudelaires rush to Veblen Hall, Esmé is surprised to see the Baudelaires. When the Baudelaires manage to foil Olaf's plot, she and Olaf escape in a black truck with a big red herring with the Quagmires inside.
Likely to cover up her reputation, The Daily Punctilio writes an article claiming that Esmé was abducted by Olaf.
Esmé and Olaf, posing as Police Officer Luciana and Detective Dupin (it is implied that Olaf murdered the real police chief) respectively, follow the Baudelaires to the Village of Fowl Devotees. There, Olaf murders Jacques Snicket and frames the Baudelaires with his girlfriend's assistance. The children attempt to escape in their new guardian Hector's Hot Air Mobile Home with their friends, the Quagmires, but Esmé shoots the rope ladder with a harpoon gun to prevent the Baudelaires from leaving, though the Quagmires and Hector escape. When Esmé accidentally injures a crow in the process, the Village turns on her and Olaf, and they escape on a motorcycle.
Esmé poses as a doctor at Heimlich Hospital and chases the Baudelaires around the Library of Records. Since her stiletto heels are made with daggers as heels, her shoes stick to the floor; unable to properly run after the three orphans, she shoves over heavy cabinets of documents, capturing Violet in the process. She, along with other members of Olaf's theatre troupe, arrange for Violet - now called Laura V. Bleediotie - to have the world's first ever "cranioectomy", a surgical procedure to remove Violet's head. When Klaus and Sunny foil this plan, the hospital goes up in flames and Esmé escapes with Olaf.
Esmé wishes to celebrate the fact that everyone thinks Count Olaf is dead and the Baudelaires are thought to be his murderers. But before they can celebrate, Count Olaf wants to find out where the Baudelaires are first. Though they hope that one or two burned to a crisp in the hospital fire, Olaf admits all three are alive and well. If two Baudelaires had died, Olaf hopes Violet survived because she's the prettiest, the Hook-Handed Man hopes Sunny survived because he wants to stuff her in a birdcage again, and Esmé doesn't care who the survivor would be, she just wants to know where they are.
The troupe goes to Madame Lulu, a fortune teller who has accurately predicted the location of the Baudelaires every time Count Olaf lost track of them. Madame Lulu seems to have been romantically involved with Count Olaf and flirts with him enough to make Esmé jealous.
When the Baudelaires use Olaf's and Esmé's clothing and makeup supplies to disguise themselves as carnival freaks, Esmé approves of their style. She laughs along with everyone else when Violet and Klaus - disguised as a two-headed person - struggle to eat an ear of corn, and wants Sunny - disguised as Chabo, a half-human, half-wolf baby - to stay away from her because the wild child may ruin her outfit.
She dons a variety of items, including a sash reading "I Love Freaks", in order to seem accepting of the people employed in Caligari Carnival's freak show: Hugo, Kevin and Colette. She appears to care about their fates and attempts to convince them all to join Olaf's troupe, flattering most of the freaks into adoring her. The freaks are excited at the idea of joining Olaf's troupe, but the price they'd have to pay is throwing Madame Lulu into a pit of lions. Esmé is jealous of the fortune teller and is sick of Olaf buying her presents, so in order to quell the freaks' misgivings, she gives them disguises to help them appear more normal. Hugo, Kevin, and Colette are thrilled and agree to murder Madame Lulu.
Once Lulu is out of the picture, Esmé and Olaf burn down Caligari Carnival to remove all the evidence of their presence, and depart for the Mortmain Mountains in order to find the V.F.D. Headquarters.
Esmé, Olaf, and the troupe escape to the Mortmain Mountains, where they force Sunny to do ridiculous chores and discuss their plan of action with the Man With a Beard But No Hair and the Woman With Hair But No Beard. In her latest "in" escapade, Esmé smokes a Verdant Flammable Device, which she thinks are cigarettes, and dons a dress that resembles a large fire, which she apparently stole from Beatrice.
Hoping to trade Esmé for Sunny, the Baudelaires set a trap for Esmé, but then in a moment of conscience, prevent her from falling into it. When Quigley Quagmire expresses how he feels that throwing people into pits is not the greater good and that it's villainous treachery, Esmé calls him an idiot. She also falsely accuses them of hiding cigarettes.
Esmé agrees to take the Baudelaires and Quigley to Count Olaf so they can talk. There, Violet claims she knows where the sugar bowl is and will only tell them if they let Sunny go. Esmé is persuaded, but Olaf is not and orders Sunny to be thrown off a cliff, prompting the white-faced women to become disgusted and leave. Esmé meets Carmelita Spats and decides to adopt her, promising she will have an exciting and fashionable new life.
Esmé wears a large octopus costume and slaps children with a giant noodle (Tagliatelle Grande), forcing them to power Olaf's submarine. She continues to fuss over Carmelita and insists that Olaf give in to the girl's every whim, such as changing the name of the submarine from "The Olaf" to "The Carmelita."
Esmé appears at the Hotel Denouement's rooftop sunbathing salon, wearing nothing but lettuce leaves and strange telescopic glasses. She is followed by reporter Geraldine Julienne, who continues to hang on her every word. Later on, she states that she owns the sugar bowl. She also leaves Olaf's theater troupe and Olaf himself.
During the trial of Olaf and the Baudelaires, she submits ruby-encrusted blank pages as evidence. When the Baudelaires set fire to the hotel, Esmé is on the second floor with Carmelita. Both of them claim that they will find their own way out. Whether or not she escapes is unknown; this is the last time she is seen in the series.
In the TV series, Esmé is arguably one of the most faithful book-to-show adapted characters. However, there are some minor divergences. For example, she is blonde instead of brunette, and feigns some kindness to the children before dropping them down the false elevator shaft. She also speaks with an English accent, while the books do not mention any. This could mean that in the TV series Esmé is from England, or that English accents are "in", as she is shown to use several accents as Officer Luciana. She also makes up ridiculous aliases.
In The Ersatz Elevator, before leaving the In Auction, she tells the attendees she is trying to get revenge. This differs from the book series, where her motives are hidden and people reading The Daily Punctilio are led to believe she is an innocent victim of Olaf's, although in both versions, she tells the attendees she is Olaf's girlfriend.
In The Vile Village, the Baudelaires instantly see through her disguise as Officer Luciana, which they are not able to do in the books.
In The Carnivorous Carnival, she has a jealousy complex towards Olivia Caliban, even smiling when watching her get devoured by lions.
In The Penultimate Peril, Esmé is seen in a flashback during the play at La Forza del Destino. She angrily calls Beatrice a thief for stealing her sugar bowl. Later, when Olaf and the Baudelaires try to warn her and Carmelita about the fire, the two don't believe them and instead decide to go to the laundry thinking the sugar bowl is there. This is the last time Esmé and Carmelita are seen in the series.
Esmé's possible murders are only heavily implied.
In "The Miserable Mill: Part One", a mysterious person is seen setting fire to the Quagmire Mansion using a laser device. It has been thought to be Esmé Squalor because of the outfit. Later it was found out the outfit is a part of VFD disguise kit.  Esmé's actress Lucy Punch was not in credits of the episode either, just as Esmé was not in contact with Count Olaf until "The Ersatz Elevator: Part One" and Olaf did not know about the Quagmire Fire.
Her possible victims:
- Mr. Quagmire
- Mrs. Quagmire
- Mr. Spats
- Mrs. Spats
- Olivia Caliban (although she accidentally fell into the lion pit in a scuffle with The Bald Man with the Long Nose in the books, while in the TV series, Olaf cut the rope supporting Olivia, causing her to be mauled, it was Esmé's plan to have Olivia killed, in both versions. The lion show was Esmé's doing so Esmé is partially responsible.)
Costumes and disguises
- Main article: Esmé Squalor’s costumes and disguises
- The Vile Village - Esmé disguises herself as Officer Luciana in order to get the village to turn against the Baudelaires.
- The Hostile Hospital - Esmé disguises herself as a doctor at Heimlich Hospital as part of a plan to kill Violet by cutting off her head. In the TV series, she is known as Nurse Cassandra Ursula Terrific Elliandra.
- The Grim Grotto (TV series) - Esmé disguises herself as Mom as part of the Normal Happy Family to help steal a submarine.
- The Penultimate Peril (TV series) - Esmé disguises herself as a Chef at the Hotel Denouement, though not legally employed there, in order to make crow meat sausages spiked with extra pepper for petty revenge on her enemies at the trial.
Behind the scenes
She is portrayed by Lucy Punch in the TV series.
Esmé Squalor's name is a reference to J.D. Salinger's short story "For Esmé—with Love and Squalor" from his collection Nine Stories.
Esmé is a French name that means "esteemed", a nod to her high self-esteem and image.
Gigi is a French name that means "trustworthy", which is highly ironic.
Geniveve means "woman of the race", which may refer to her being part of the "rat race" of being "in".
Squalor is not a name, but means "a state of being extremely dirty and unpleasant, especially as a result of poverty or neglect." Esmé is unpleasant, but the rest of the definition is ironic because instead of "dirty, poor, or neglected," Esmé is stylish, rich, and famous.
- "Jerome, children, listen to me--dark is out! Regular light is in! I'll go turn on all the lamps in the penthouse. Quickly, before anybody sees that this apartment is still dark!"
- "Don't talk nonsense. If we give money to poor people, then they won't be poor anymore." (to Jerome)
- "Perhaps we should listen to me. I am Esmé Gigi Geniveve Squalor, the city's sixth most important financial advisor. I live on Dark Avenue, and I am unbelievably wealthy."
- "Well, if you want to continue to live with me, you will call this man by his proper name, and this goes for you three children as well. I go to the trouble of buying you some smashing pinstripe suits, and you start accusing people of being in disguise! You and your siblings will call this man Gunther or you will make me very, very sorry I took you into my glamorous home."
- "I wouldn't say you were O.K. You're alive, but you're definitely not O.K. As soon as the auction is over and the Quagmires are on their way out of the city, Gunther will come and get you, and I can guarantee that you three orphans will never be O.K. again. What a wonderful and profitable day! My former acting teacher will finally get his hands on not one, but two enormous fortunes!"
- "But I want to steal from you. I want to steal from you the way Beatrice stole from me."
- "I'm going to flatten you! Olaf and I are going to have a romantic breakfast of Baudelaire pancakes! You're never going to get out of this room alive, you imbeciles!"
- "Allow me to explain. I am a medical professional, just like Dr. Flacutono, Dr. O. Lucafont, Dr. Tocuna, and Nurse Flo. You can see that from our medical coats and surgical masks."
- "Your fancy words won't save you now, you twerp." (to Klaus)
- "I'm not going to dig a pit. I might break a nail."
- "I'm Count Olaf's girlfriend, and my suit is in, not silly."
- "There you go, babbling away. This is why I never want to have children. Except as servants, of course."
- "Well, she's certainly not sleeping with me. It's not in to have a baby in your tent."
- "I need a little while to choose what I'm going to wear. It's not in to burn down a headquarters without wearing a fashionable outfit."
- "Being well-read won't help you in this world. Many years ago, I was supposed to waste my entire summer reading Anna Karenina, but I knew that silly book would never help me, so I threw it into the fireplace. Look at your precious headquarters, volunteers! It's as ruined as my book. And look at me! I'm beautiful, fashionable, and I smoke cigarettes! If you didn't spend all your time with your heads stuck in books, you'd have that precious baby back."
- "That's a difficult decision. On one hand, it's been enjoyable having an infant servant. But it would be a lot of fun to smash Klaus's glasses and watch him bump into things."
- "Fiona isn't a very in name. I think I'll call her Triangle Eyes. Are you really willing to join us, Triangle Eyes?"
- "You can't fire me! I quit!" (to Count Olaf)
- "I am Esmé Gigi Genevieve Squalor!" (to Jerome and countless others)
- "Pinstripe suits are in! And those horrible clothes you're wearing are out."
- "AHHHHH! This sofa belonged to the King of Arizona, you don't recline on it." (when Jerome is almost injured/killed by a falling lamp)
- Jerome: "Shouldn't we give the proceeds to those who need it? Perhaps those starving people we're reading about in the paper."
Esmé: "Starving people can't eat money. Plus, if we give money to poor people, they won't be poor anymore and we won't have anyone to feel sorry for."
- "Are we living in garbage?" (before leaving Herring Houdini restaurant)
- "Limousine, take us to a restaurant that is ACTUALLY in."
- "You're either in or you're out."
- Mr. Poe: "Now that I see you eating in a stylish restaurant, I know you'll be properly cared for by the city's seventh most powerful financial adviser."
Esmé: "SIXTH! SIXTH! Sixth most.... sixth."
- "Sleep is a natural part of life, like cosmetics or frivolous lawsuits."
- Klaus: "We need to tell [Jerome] something important."
Esmé: "You can tell me. I'm important."
- "But I WANT to steal from you! I WANT TO STEAL FROM YOU THE WAY BEATRICE STOLE FROM ME!"
- "I love a happy ending. It's like Wuthering Heights, which I never read."
- Esmé: "Ooh, there's a pole. Are you sure this isn't more of a club?"
Count Olaf: "That's a firepole, love." (upon entering the firehouse-turned-saloon in the Village)
- "Butterflies in your stomach, Doctor Faustus? Don't worry, this is going to be fun." (threatening Klaus)
- "DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!" (cheering crowd to pressure Klaus to cut off Violet's head)
- "It's bad enough I've been dragged all over, and there are no in restaurants, no in boutiques. I'm forced to make my own dress out of a few scraps of tent. I will not be thrown over for a carny. Stay away from my boyfriend, or I don't know what I'll do." (threatening Olivia Caliban)
- "Maybe Madame Lulu doesn't deserve to get thrown to the lions. People don't always get what they deserve in this world... and who knows that better than the two of you? After all, you're freaks."
- Esmé: "I am Esmé Gigi Geniveve Squalor, and as you can see from my gown, I love freaks."
Kevin: "That's so nice of you."
Esmé: "Yes, it is."
- Esmé: "Come on, darling."
Carmelita: "Is Countie not my Daddy anymore?"
Esmé: "He's not mine either, pet."
- "The sugar bowl is mine!" (final line before Hotel Denouement burns down)
- As a fashionable and sociopathic woman who displays constant avaricious and criminal behavior, she is reminiscent of previous popular culture antagonists such as Madame Medusa and Cruella De Vil.
- One strong difference between Esmé and these characters is that Esmé is portrayed as being more normal and less "obviously evil" looking (as making characters "ugly" to denote them as "evil" is a common and arguably overused trope which can teach children bias). In The Carnivorous Carnival, Esmé is depicting having a slim and normal figure. She is also portrayed by Lucy Punch in the TV series, who could be considered an attractive woman.
- Esmé Squalor has an unofficial fan club of sorts, likely due to being very popular and a very "in" member of the city. The only known members are Geraldine Julienne and Vice Principal Nero. In reality, it's really a team of fire-starting V.F.D agents. Their only known action is when they successfully took away the Mamba du Mal from the fire-fighting V.F.D. The fan club is mentioned in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography.
- Esmé being the city's "sixth" most important financial advisor may be related to the Number of the Beast symbolism, as she lives on 667 Dark Avenue. However, it could also simply be a reference to her appearing in the sixth book.
- In the books, her entire face is never depicted in detail (excluding the Russian version), forcing readers to imagine her face. Even when her face is shown, her eyes are covered. This makes her similar to Sara Bellum from The Powerpuff Girls.
- The UK cover has been criticized for spoiling the plot twist that Esmé is a villain and that she shoves the Baudelaires down the elevator.
- Esmé's character could be seen as a foil to Violet, and a warning to what kind of woman Violet may become if she inherited the Baudelaire fortune (materialistic and vain). In the book illustrations, she is seen wearing purple like Violet and has black/dark brown hair like Violet. Esmé also captures Violet specifically in The Hostile Hospital. In The Penultimate Peril, Violet is specifically ordered to go to the sunbathing salon where Esmé is.
- In The Ersatz Elevator, she shows ridiculously impressive physical strength when she has to drag Jerome's unconscious body up to her penthouse and all 65 flights on stairs. She is also seen carrying Jerome over her shoulder with ease as if he were a toothpick. In The Hostile Hospital, she knocked down file cabinets with ease as if they were dominoes to capture Violet Baudelaire, although she also did this in the book.
- In the TV series, Esmé's fur dress is fake fur (at least from a behind-the-scenes perspective, it is likely intended to be real fur in the actual story)
- The initials of her name form "EGGS". Many of her aliases form words:
- Sabrina Pepper Anastasia Marigold spells "SPAM", an Internet acronym for "stupid pointless annoying messages".
- Cassandra Ursula Terrific Elliandra spells "CUTE".
- Esmé is known as Esmé Gigi Genevieve Sordidez in Spain Esmé Gigi Geneieve Miseria in Latin America and Esmé Gigi Genevieve Elend in Germany.
- She is technically still married to Jerome as Jerome said in The Penultimate Peril: Part Two because they did not legally divorce yet.
- In the TV series, Esmé mentions being part of the Snow Scouts during her youth - in The Hostile Hospital: Part One, she tells Olaf's Troupe she was crowned False Spring Queen at 14 years of age. When her troupe danced around the pole atop Mount Fraught, as per tradition, she allegedly discovered her love of pole dancing.
- There is no mention of Esmé's time as a Snow Scout, or False Spring Queen title, during either part of The Slippery Slope.
- Esmé's pole dancing interest is hinted at earlier in Season Two; in The Vile Village: Part One, she finds the firepole in the abandoned firehouse-turned-saloon, twirls around it, and asks Olaf if the place is more of a club.
- She likes coffee. 
- In The Hostile Hospital: Part One, Fernald compares Esmé to Yoko Ono; an artist who was reknowned for her fanatical art pieces. Yoko Ono's style of art was insane, much like Esmé, who has a crazy personality and taste in fashion.
|Jerome Squalor||Esmé Squalor||Mr. Spats †||Mrs. Spats †|