X-Men Season 1 (Part 3)

The Cure

Rogue takes center stage in "The Cure."

I talked about this plot in my review of X-Men: The Last Stand.  It’s an excellent story line for the X-Men and works especially well with X-Men the animated series because of its focus on the Rogue character.  The cure refers to a cure for mutants and raises all kinds of social issues when extended to the real world.  If there was a “cure,” for example, for homosexuality would some homosexuals want to take it?  Never mind the outrage from certain parties if anything like that was ever referred to as a cure.

For the X-Men, the existence of such a cure brings about a mixed response.  There’s the outraged part displayed by Wolverine, while Cyclops is more empathetic.  These reactions make sense considering the characters.  Wolverine’s mutant healing ability and sharp senses only give him an advantage over other individuals.  Cyclops, on the other hand, can’t open his eyes unless they’re protected by ruby lenses.  It must suck only seeing the world in shades of red, plus imagine the expense of having to replace a pair of busted glasses!

Rogue, rather predictably, ends up being the member of the team most interested in a cure as her powers prevent her from having skin to skin contact with another person.  Her sexual frustration must be unmatched, considering she surrounds herself with beautiful people who prefer to wear skin-tight spandex.

Xavier is the one who relays the message from Muir Island, which is the reason for his presence there.  A Dr. Adler is the one claiming to have a cure, and Xavier wanted to investigate though his psychic powers warn him of a great danger.  Rogue takes off to investigate on her own, where she ends up tangling with the villains Pyro (given an accurate Australian accent) and Avalanche, who both previously had made cameos in the episode “Slave Island.”  Cable also gets involved, and Angel has a small part as well.  He is depicted in his X-Men red and white uniform, but makes no mention of ever being a member of the team.  The episode forces Rogue to consider her life and what she would be giving up if she did not have her powers.  As with most of the season one episodes, the main plot is wrapped up but a teaser ending is inserted, this one featuring the menacing Apocalypse.  All in all, this is one of the better episodes from season one from a writing standpoint and ends up being far more successful in its handling of the cure plot device than the film.  If it has one failing, it’s with the Angel character who is revealed to be funding Dr. Adler’s project as he wishes to be normal.  His mutation grants him flight through the presence of two feathered wings on his back, it seems like if he wished to be normal he could just have them amputated.  I feel like this could have easily been resolved if someone just asked him and he said they always grow back or something, but I suppose I’m being nit-picky.

Come the Apocalypse

Apocalypse as he appeared in the animated series.

Given how the previous episode ended, it’s no surprise this one would properly introduce Apocalypse to the animated universe.  This episode marks the first time the X-Men tangle with Apocalypse, both on and off-screen.  Apocalypse is referred to by Xavier as a mutant driven completely mad by his own powers, where as Apocalypse is quick to point out to a human that he is “as far beyond mutants as they are beyond you.”

Apocalypse was revealed to be the one behind Dr. Adler’s cure.  Adler was revealed in the last episode to be the shape-shifting mutant Mystique, and we find out in this episode the machine that supposedly cures mutants actually turns them into slaves of Apocalypse.  After first using the machine on Angel, Mystique disguises herself as his alter ego Warren Worthington to convince some locals the cure works, which leads to three no-named characters submitting to the process giving Apocalypse his four horsemen: War, Pestilence, Plague, and Death.  Angel is now Death, and referred to as Archangel, and Apocalypse unleashes his horsemen on Washington.

The X-Men are forced to respond and the episode is a fairly action oriented one.  They’re able to drive Apocalypse off when Rogue absorbs Archangel’s powers and, in her words, takes the evil away that Apocalypse created.  Archangel thanks the X-Men but sets off on his own at the episode’s conclusion.

The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse.

Apocalypse is portrayed well, and the plot allowed the writers to work in the Archangel character through Apocalypse even though the character’s motivations were the opposite of his comic book counterpart (who sought out Apocalypse’s help to regain his wings).  Apocalypse is portrayed faithfully, though for some reason the creative minds behind the show chose to give him a purple and blue color scheme instead of the black and blue one from the comics.  I definitely find this color scheme off-putting but I suppose the complaint is superficial.  The only real hole with the episode, and most episodes dealing with Apocalypse, is the resolution.  Apocalypse is shown as being indestructible in many scenes, and whenever he flees it seems superficial.  He appears capable of completely annihilating the X-Men but never does.

Days of Future Past (Parts 1 and 2)

Bishop

Season one’s second two-parter takes the popular story from the comic book and attempts to adapt it for the television cartoon.  The end result is a story that has the same basic premise, but differs pretty drastically from the original.  In the comic, the central character was Kitty Pryde which obviously presents an instant obstacle since she isn’t a part of this version of the X-Men.  Kitty mentally travels back in time and inhabits her younger counterpart, here the character Bishop is used in her place and he literally travels back in time.  We’re shown his future world where the Sentinels are in charge of everything.  Bishop is a mutant working as a tracker for the Sentinels who hunts down renegade mutants.  Wolverine, the sole remaining X-Man, is his most recent capture.  When the Sentinels inform him he is of no more use to them, Bishop is forced to team-up with Wolverine and two unnamed mutants to allude the Sentinels capture.  It is then that they meet-up with Forge and Bishop learns of their plans to travel back in time to prevent an assassination they believe is the root cause for this bleak world.  Bishop ends up convincing Forge that he should go instead of this older version of Wolverine and winds up back in the 90’s, but with no recollection of why he’s there.

It’s here the episode gets going as Bishop knows he has to stop an assassination attempt on Senator Kelly, but can’t remember who the assassin is.  He only knows that it is a member of the X-Men.  He tries taking them all out, but is understandably over-matched.  The X-Men confirm his story, or at least confirm he believes he’s telling the truth, when Xavier scans his mind with Cerebro.  Bishop ends up being pursued by the futuristic super Sentinel Nimrod, and we get to see the X-Men tangle with him.

It is revealed that Mystique was actually the assassin Bishop was after.

Part 1 ends with Bishop declaring Gambit is the assassin.  Bishop is convinced and Gambit is understandably outraged.  Once again, the writers are calling into question Gambit’s loyalty to the X-Men’s cause and do so effectively.  The X-Men leave Gambit, Bishop, and Wolverine behind to go and try to prevent this assassination attempt.  We discover that Mystique and her crew are behind the attempt with Apocalypse pulling the strings (though he’s mentioned in name only).  Rogue and Mystique have a confrontation where Mystique drops a proverbial bombshell on her, and we learn it was her shape-shifting into Gambit that lead Bishop to believe he was the assassin.

In the end, Bishop is sent back to his time where we see nothing has changed even though the assassination attempt is thwarted.  Senator Kelly is kidnapped in the closing moments, and it is revealed in a chilling way that Magneto is the culprit.  This two-parter is the first time the writers explore the concept of time travel and it’s done in a fun and amusing way.  The episodes have great build-up and the conclusion is satisfying.  The scenes between Wolverine, Bishop, and Gambit interject some nice humor to the mix and we get to see the entire team of X-Men in action as well.  So while the story-line wasn’t exactly faithfully adapted from the source material, it doesn’t offend the purists either.

The Final Decision

The season one finale pits the X-Men against the Sentinels as they try to save a senator who distrusts all mutants in the face of insurmountable odds.  We see early on in the episode that Magneto was indeed behind Kelly’s abduction and that he intends to kill him in an attempt to bring about war between mutants and humans.  The Sentinels, composed entirely of plastics to better equip them against Magneto, rescue Kelly and leave Magneto broken and bloodied (a rare sight for a Saturday morning cartoon) for the X-Men to find.  We then find out that the Sentinels have plans for Kelly.  Their creator, Bolivar Trask, had sent them to rescue Kelly in an effort to get his backing for more funding, but the massive Sentinel factory that is Master Mold overrides Trask’s commands.  Declaring that mutants are humans, Master Mold aims to rid the world of all life to protect humanity from itself and Trask is powerless to stop him.  He wishes to replace Kelly’s brain with a robotic one.  Kelly points out the insanity of such a plan that Master Mold dismisses, for he is quick to point out that he (it) is incapable of being insane as that is a human failing.

How do you stop a gigantic robot? Fly a plane into him.

The X-Men track down Henry Gyrich to learn where Trask has hidden Master Mold and the Sentinels.  At the same time, Trask calls Gyrich to let him know what has transpired.  Now that the Sentinels are no longer a threat limited to mutants, Gyrich tells the X-Men Trask’s location but warns them that going there is a veritable suicide mission as Trask has created thousands of the mutant hunting robots.  This leads to a scene back at the mansion where the X-Men argue amongst themselves if they should go after Kelly, with Cyclops being the major voice for it and Gambit the one most opposed.  Magneto emerges, battered, to inform them they’re fools to go after Kelly.  Xavier declares this must be done and heads for the Blackbird.  The others soon follow, including Jubilee, who initially is intercepted by Wolverine.  Declaring she has to go because she’s an X-Man and it means more to her than anything else, Wolverine relents and agrees with her sentiment.  Gambit is the last to rise from his seat and head for the Blackbird.  Magneto watches the X-Men leave, remarking rather ominously to himself, “The brave are always the first to die.”

The scene is emotionally heavy, and the mood is lightened some when the X-Men storm Trask’s mountain compound.  Some comedic relief takes place as the Sentinels inspect a present left behind by Gambit, and while Cyclops, Wolverine, and he enter.  I particularly enjoy the scene where Wolverine attempts to save Gambit by sacrificing himself and Gambit’s reaction to Wolverine’s intention.  The major uplifting scene occurs when Magneto rescues Xavier, and we see the X-Men’s nemesis join in.

The X-Men are victorious in the end, and Magneto departs without incident.  This proves to be their ultimate victory in more ways than one.  The Sentinels are seemingly vanquished, and they gain a new ally in Senator Kelly.  In the closing moments we see Kelly’s mutant acceptance platform vaults him into the White House, where his first act as president is to issue a full pardon to Dr. Henry McCoy, aka, Beast.  This presents a huge pay-off for viewers as the X-Men routinely dealt with failure throughout the show’s first season and rarely experienced so complete a victory.  A cliff-hanger teasing the villain Mr. Sinister is included at the end effectively giving viewers something to look forward to.

Season one proved a great success, both creatively and commercially for Fox Kids and Marvel Entertainment.  X-Men ended up being more than just the usual action hero spectacle as it had a very strong emotional core.  The civil rights premise of the show was the main focal point for many of the season’s plots.  This direction would be de-emphasized in later episodes, probably because the writer’s felt they had done all they could there.  When those issues are at the forefront is when X-Men is at its best.  Season one also did a wonderful job of giving a lot of face-time to each member and wasn’t nearly as Wolverine-heavy as a lot of other adaptations.

Season One is probably the overall best, but Season Two is every bit as good.  I plan on going through them all so be sure to check back in the coming weeks for more thoughts on X-Men.

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