X-Men Season 2 (Part 3)

In the previous entry I said I was in no rush to finish these, but I’m feeling inspired today so I’m posting this just one day after the last.  This also is the final entry for season 2.  After this season, the show becomes a little less focused and some production delays screw up the continuity, but that’s all stuff reserved for future posts.

Beauty and The Beast

Beast with his beloved Carly.

This is the last episode for season 2 that deals specifically with one character.  While the other episodes in this format mostly gave us origin tales, this one chooses to focus on how difficult it is to be a mutant with a physical abnormality.  This one, as the titles alludes, is about Beast.  At this time in the series, Beast was still kind of an unknown character for a lot of viewers due to his incarceration for the majority of season 1.  He had some lines in previous season 2 episodes but was always more of a background character.  This episode shows that Beast is more than just the smart, fuzzy one.  His mutant powers made him one of the more boring X-Men, but this episode proves there’s a lot of depth hidden under that blue exterior.

Beast is also the only member of the team who has a job beyond being a member of the X-Men.  He’s a doctor, and a surgeon apparently, and he’s been working on a cure for a type of blindness at a local hospital.  The patient about to undergo his experimental procedure is a woman by the name of Carly.  The show is not so subtle in showing us that there’s a mutual affection shared between the two characters and we worry for Beast and how Carly may receive him once her vision is restored.

The Friends of Humanity, finding out a mutant works at the hospital, stage a violent protest outside forcing Beast to intervene and save Carly.  This gets the attention of the X-Men and Wolverine, in particular.  He lets Cyclops know that he’ll handle the FoH “delicately” and takes off.  Meanwhile, back at the hospital, we find out Carly’s father is a bigot and demands Beast be kept away from his daughter.  Beast reluctantly agrees though Carly is heart-broken.  If the episode has one fault, it’s that Carly’s father is portrayed a little too over the top.  We could empathize with him since Beast’s mere presence does put Carly in danger, but his complaints to the hospital staff are more of the “he’s a filthy mutant” variety.

Following Beast’s removal from the surgery, we get a look at him in a vulnerable state.  Jean tries to console him, but he can’t be reached.  Throughout the series Beast is portrayed as a good-natured and easy-going individual.  The insults his appearance attracts are always brushed aside and even in combat he appears rather gentle.  Here he’s down and laments the unfairness his appearance brings and is even moved to tears.  He confirms his love for Carly to Jean and the viewing audience, and vows to protect her by staying away, to which Jean responds “Maybe you should let her decide.”

After his self-confidence returns, Beast shows up at the hospital to see the results of Carly’s surgery.  It was a success, and she is delighted to finally see her beloved Hank but her father soon ruins everything.  As Beast takes his leave, the FoH strike and abduct Carly sending Beast into a rage.  He leaves, not before scolding Carly’s father, and tells him he’s going after her and he better come with him if he wants to see her alive again.

Creed's a jerk.

Meanwhile, Wolverine has gone undercover as John Logan to infiltrate the FoH base we saw back in the first episode of season 2.  Sporting an A’s cap (I’m not sure if this means Wolverine is a fan of the A’s or that A’s fans hate mutants), Wolverine makes it look like a mutant beat him up and left him for dead outside the building.  The FoH, naturally, take him in where he plays up his hatred of mutants for their leader, Graydon Creed.  Wolverine apparently feels like he knows Creed, and says he may have worked with his old man mining in Kentucky, to which Creed responds by informing him his family all lived in Canada.  “So was I, bub,” is Wolverine’s remark to himself as the scene changes.

The X-Men have been summoned by Beast to help him deal with the FoH, Wolverine also requests they bring the portable Cerebro projector.  Wolverine reveals himself to Creed and frees Carly, while Beast arrives and goes on a rampage that leaves him in a sad state, forcing Wolverine to haul him out in a visually amusing way.  Just as things look bleak, Cyclops, Jean, and Jubilee arrive with the projector that projects a holographic image of Sabretooth with a narrated biography.  Creed loses it, as everyone is informed of Sabretooth’s birth name; Graydon Creed Senior (I can forgive the writers for changing Sabretooth’s name from Victor to Graydon for the ease of simplicity).  Upon hearing this stunning news, the FoH back off and leave Creed to his own madness.

Beast and Carly then have a teary farewell.  Despite Jean’s suggestion to let Carly decide what to do, Beast takes it upon himself to inform her it’s too dangerous for them to be together, and reluctantly, she goes along with it.  Her father shows up again but this time to shake Beast’s hand and thank him for all that he’s done for his daughter.  This, in a way, closes the book on the mutants rights angle of the show as the FoH would only reappear one more time in a much later season.  It’s too bad, because I always felt that was a strength of the program but maybe the writers felt they could never top this episode, and there’s a good chance they were right.  “Beauty and The Beast” may be a bit melodramatic, but it’s very good at what it does.  One of the show’s best.

Mojovision

Perhaps the writers felt the last two episodes were a bit too weighty and needed to lighten the mood.  Enter Mojo, the X-Men’s outer-dimensional slapstick villain.  Mojo is a television producer from another world with a grotesque appearance and a thirst for ratings.  Feeling his current show starring Longshot (with an odd cameo from Psylocke) is slipping, Mojo seeks new stars which leads him to earth and the X-Men.

The bulbous one himself, Mojo.

While shopping for a new TV, the X-Men are soon graced by Mojo’s appearance who offers them a show on his network.  The X-Men are appropriately confused and uninterested, which just pisses Mojo off and he sends the six-armed Spiral to retrieve the mutants.  Six X-Men are brought to Mojo’s universe:  Cyclops, Jean, Wolverine, Beast, Rogue, and Storm.  Jubilee is shown in at least one shot but that appears to be just a continuity error.  The X-Men are then inserted into Mojo’s television products where they battle with some androids in a danger room like arena.  Cyclops and Storm are up first as they find themselves in a Miami Vice type setting, only without the pastels.  They get overwhelmed and then Beast and Rogue are tossed into a spaceship that ends up getting sent into the sun.  Jean and Wolverine are thrown into a city battling with more droids where Jean uses her telekinetic powers to overtake the controls and free the X-Men.  Mojo throws a tantrum, and the X-Men escape.  We get a couple of lessons about how violence should not be a form of entertainment, but it sounds rather hollow coming from a super hero action cartoon that certainly makes use of some violence to stay popular.

I’ve never liked Mojo, so I’m biased going into this episode.  I prefer the real world setting for the X-Men, and this is anything but that.  I’m just glad it was only a one-shot, but it does derail some of season 2’s momentum, even though another Xavier/Magneto snippet is included at the end as the two witness the power of Sauron.  At least it’s more entertaining than “Whatever It Takes.”

Reunion (Parts 1 and 2)

After giving us bits and pieces of Xavier and Magneto in the Savage Land and teasing more encounters with Sinister, everything comes to a head in this two-part season finale.  Magneto and Xavier did well to avoid the mutates for this long, but eventually find themselves captured when they team up with a local named Ka-Zar to free his people.  Ka-Zar does not have any love for Magneto, and blames him for the Savage Land’s state as we learn he created the mutates long ago.  They raid his former citadel, but Xavier and Magneto get captured and Ka-Zar is forced to flee.

Meet Ka-Zar, he's anything but bashful.

Meanwhile, the Cyclops, Jean, and Wolverine are off looking for Morph following a distressful sounding voice message from the shape-shifter.  Wolverine vows to bring him home and hurt whomever is after Morph.  They find him working in a one-man play of Jekyll and Hyde where his mutant powers create a stirring performance.  The X-Men confront him after the show, and after playing dumb a moment, he warns them to stay away because “He” is always watching.  Morph’s warnings end up being not without merit, as Sinister and the Nasty Boys strike leading to the capture of Jean Grey.  Morph slips into his evil Morph persona and departs with Sinister.

Back at the Savage Land, it’s revealed that Sinister is whom the mutates have been referring to as Master.  This comes as something less than a shock but it’s appropriate.  He reveals his machine that enhances mutant powers by taking from others.  He uses the machine to amplify Vertigo’s powers via Magneto.  Sauron then shows up and uses his hypnotic powers to coerce Xavier into sending a false distress call to the X-Men to lure them into a trap.  The X-Men aren’t dumb though, and can tell something is wrong, but they head off anyway, all except Jubilee.

As part 2 begins, the X-Men arrive in the Savage Land and find that they’re without powers.  The mutates attack almost immediately along with the Nasty Boys and are able to overwhelm the powerless X-Men rather easily.  Only Wolverine is able to escape, as he is quick to point out there’s nothing mutant about his adamantium claws, though how he survives a tumble down a waterfall is anyone’s guess.

Much to no one's surprise, it turns out that the Master is actually Mr. Sinister.

As a result of the confrontation, it falls on Wolverine to same his comrades and he soon comes in contact with Ka-Zar.  The two decide to team up, after fighting a little, and head for the citadel.  The predictable happens and in a way it mirrors the conclusion of “Till Death Do Us Part 2” in that the X-Men tangle with the bad guys, and Morph overcomes Sinister’s control when someone tells him he’s still a member of the X-Men.  Sinister gets blown into a million pieces and tossed into the sea.  This isn’t enough to kill him, but it should keep him out of commission for a while.

Magneto and Charles bid farewell, and we find out that Xavier intends to remove the device Sinister implanted within Morph though he warns that the psychological damage could take years to undo.  This is code for “don’t expect to see Morph a member of the team going forward” much to everyone’s chagrin.

In the end, it’s a satisfying way to wrap up a season-long plot, though some of it did feel a little too similar to the previous season finale and the events of the season’s opening plot.  It’s a good action packed finale though, and following it we would see very little of both Magneto and Mr. Sinister going forward.  This makes sense with Magneto considering the human/mutant conflict would be de-emphasized making his character unnecessary as a villain.  The writers must have just felt burnt out with Sinister, as his future appearances are mostly of the henchman variety.

I’ve said it a few times now, but I’ll say it once more:  season 2 is either the best season for the show or the runner-up to season 1.  It’s quite good as a character study.  It’s less action oriented than other seasons but there’s a lot of depth here that’s uncommon for a kid’s show.  Even today when I watch these episodes I’m left with a sense of satisfaction at their conclusion.  Since the show was so limited in what it could in regards to fight scenes, it made a lot of sense for the writers to focus on character development over intense battles.  There’s a lot of good stuff in later seasons, but this was undeniably the show’s peak and one of the best comic to TV adaptations ever.

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