X-Men Season 4 (Part 2)

This installment of my X-Men animated series over view is both part 2 of season 4 and the last entry for season 4.  All of my other season entries have been in groups of 3 but season 4 was much shorter.  Season 5 is even shorter as the X-Men series heads toward the end.  Again, episodes are listed in production order, not broadcast order.

Bloodlines

The events of this episode borrow heavily from X-Men Unlimited Volume 4 from 1993.

Nightcrawler makes his second and final appearance on the show with this episode.  This episode explores Nightcrawler’s mysterious past and how it correlates with other X-Men notables.  The events of the episode take place on Halloween, though to call it a Halloween episode would probably be inaccurate.  The holiday just serves as a fun visual gag to bring Nightcrawler back into the fold.

Not only does this episode mark the return of Nightcrawler, but it also brings back the Friends of Humanity, and more specifically, that mutant-hating bigot Graydon Creed.  The last time we saw Creed he was busy getting humiliated by Wolverine and the X-Men when they exposed his dirty little secret to his FoH buddies.  That secret being that Creed’s father is none other than Victor Creed (listed as Graydon Creed Senior in the tv show), also known as the mutant Sabretooth!  The high council of the FoH question whether or not Creed is fit to resume his duties with the organization in light of his origin so they give him a task: purge the Creed family name of all trace of mutant blood.

If nothing else, they make for an interesting family portrait.

This apparently will prove even trickier than taking out Sabretooth.  Nightcrawler comes seeking the X-Men’s aid when he receives a chilling letter that the Friends of Humanity are holding his birth mother captive.  We get the usual “Why do you care since she abandoned you?” questions so that Nightcrawler can remind us that he always takes the high road and preaches forgiveness.  When Rogue, Wolverine, and Jubilee run off to find the blue devil’s mother they find none other than Mystique.  This of course leads Nightcrawler and Rogue to the revelation that they’re kind of like siblings given that Mystique once adopted Rogue.  Apparently, Mystique and Sabretooth did the horizontal monster mash (thanks Fry!) back in the day which gave the world Graydon Creed.  It’s not revealed who exactly Nightcrawler’s father is though we get a flashback from Mystique explaining how Nightcrawler came to be that shows him.  Apparently he was just some ugly rich guy.

Creed is basically a maniac who, despite Nightcrawler’s best efforts, cannot be reasoned with.  Mystique is depicted as a cold, and ruthless person as well, but she gets a moment of redemption after a touching scene with her blue baby boy.  The episode ends with Nightcrawler in a bit of a melancholy place, while the FoH, following Creed’s failure to eradicate his mutant lineage, dump him off on daddy’s door step.  Nightcrawler ends up going 2 for 2 as far as quality episodes go.  This one also ended up getting pushed to season 5 for the initial broadcast.  I believe it was done just to break up the Nightcrawler episodes further.

Weapon X, Lies, & Videotape

Wolverine in his cool spy gear squares off against Omega Red in a flashback.

Another Wolverine episode, but the first one in awhile.  This episode was originally aired in prime time as part of season 3.  During the 90’s Wolverine’s origins were ever evolving in the comic books and a frequent topic for plot lines and fan conversations.  This one deals with the concept of false memories.  For awhile we had seen glimpses of Wolverine’s past, in both television and the comics, particularly of when he received his adamantium skeleton and claws.  This episode deals with the possibility of those memories, and more, being implants as part of the Weapon X project.

The episode begins with Wolverine being taunted by memories from his past.  We finally get a reason for his hatred towards Sabretooth as well.  Apparently Wolverine was in love with a Native American named Silver Fox, and apparently just to tick Wolverine off, Sabretooth “killed” her.  I put “killed” in quotations because the episode never actually states that (for obvious reasons) but it seems implied.  Wolverine takes off to go uncover the mysteries of these nightmares and Beast takes off after him.

Maverick makes his second appearance (first speaking one) while Silver Fox her first.

Wolverine’s visions take him to the Weapon X facility located somewhere in Canada where he finds Sabretooth waiting for him amongst the ruins of the lab.  The two immediately start to go at it, before Beast steps in as mediator.  They soon realize they were both lead there by their own visions and a mysterious letter.  They’re soon encountered by Silver Fox and Maverick, with Wolverine looking pretty shocked to see Silver Fox alive and well.  We’re treated to numerous flashbacks such as the four of them working together to take down Omega Red.  The lab contains set pieces which correspond with the false memories the four share and a video recording of Dr. Cornelius confirms the existence of false memories.

We get to see the four, and Beast, work together to take out some robot guards that were supposedly created to retrieve the “samples” from the Weapon X project.  In the end, little is settled as Wolverine remains convinced his love affair with Fox was real, while she remains unsure.  They all go their separate ways and Wolverine is left with some measure of peace.  This episode proves to be a fun collection of mystery and conspiracy theories with some convincing action tossed in as well.  There is one piece of animation I always found confusing where Sabretooth removes his glove to work a palm scanning device, showing the flesh tone of his hand is the same as his arm, making me wonder where Sabretooth’s skin ends and his costume begins.  I regret that I couldn’t find a screen capture of what I’m talking about.

Lotus and the Steel

The Silver Samurai makes his lone appearance of the series in this episode.

It’s probably a good thing that “Weapon X…” was moved up to season 3 because if these two episodes had aired back-to-back it might have been Wolverine overkill.  This episode indirectly deals with the fall out of the Proteus episodes, specifically with how Wolverine was getting along following his shake-up at the hands of the out of control mutant.  The episode begins with Wolverine and Xavier having a sort-of therapy session where Wolverine expresses that he feels empty inside.  This leads to Wolverine leaving the X-Men and heading for Japan to seek his purpose.  Jubilee, unable to accept this decision, takes off after him.  The set-up, in a way, is reminiscient of Wolverine #75 which dealt with the fall out of Wolverine losing his adamantium skeleton and also leaving the X-Men.

As usual, trouble seems to find Wolverine and in Japan he finds anything but peace.  He arrives at his old hang out (some rural village, apparently not Madripoor) and finds out the locals are being bullied by a local Japanese mafia lead by the Silver Samurai.  The Samurai’s gang is extorting the locals for protection money, when they don’t pay his followers ransack the place.  Wolverine initially doesn’t want to get involved but of course he has to.  This leads to a showdown between Wolverine and the Samurai where Wolverine uncharacteristically outsmarts him to take him out.  The villagers thank him, and he and Jubilee head home.

The episode is very similar to the first season episode “Cold Vengeance,” just change the setting and switch out the villain.  For that reason, it lacks any real impact as it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.  Not a bad episode, just not memorable.

Have Yourself A Morlock Little X-Mas

For years the writers resisted the urge to do a holiday tie-in episode, but here in season 4 we get our first and only one.  Perhaps the writers felt emboldened after doing the Nightcrawler episodes with their religious tie-ins that a Christmas episode felt appropriate.

In this episode, Jubilee's quest for the perfect X-Mas!

The basic plot is kind of traditional holiday special crap.  Jubilee wants to have the perfect Christmas as this is her first with the X-Men (nevermind that the show has been on for years at this point, but whatever) so she’s making a big deal out of everything.  Jean is charged with preparing Christmas dinner, but has to deal with a meddling Gambit who’s cajun roots demand the food contain a certain amount of spice leading to a series of slapstick routines.  Wolverine, of course, is in full-on Scrooge mode and somehow gets suckered into shopping with Jubilee and Storm on Christmas Eve.

At the mall, their seemingly perfect day is interrupted by the Morlocks when they spot them hi-jacking an ambulance.  Wolverine gives chase into the Morlock tunnels where they find a very sick Leech.  When someone mentions the possibility that Leech may die, Jubilee utters the ever predictable “Not on Christmas Eve!” line that must appear in every holiday special (it’s mandated by the FCC, I swear).

Beast arrives on the scene to care for Leech, but nothing he has can cure him, so they turn to Wolverine.  They theorize that a blood transfusion from Wolverine could bestow special healing properties on Leech and possibly cure him of whatever it is that ails him.  Wolverine is reluctant, apparently he tried this before and it didn’t work, but relents in the end.  The transfusion works, and everyone is happy and crying.  Jubilee also abandons her hope for a perfect Christmas with her new family by sharing all of her presents that she purchased with the less fortunate Morlocks and in doing so learns the necessary valuable lesson (also mandated by the FCC).

The episode is really the same old holiday trappings found in a hundred other like episodes, just with an X-Men lens to see it through.  It’s kind of crappy, but admittedly is a guilty pleasure for me.  I can’t watch it without getting a little lump in my throat and I suppose that’s all these episodes ever set out to accomplish.

Beyond Good and Evil (Parts 1 through 4)

“Beyond Good and Evil” was meant to be the big arch to send the X-Men out on.  Nearly every significant villain and hero makes an appearance during this four part story and we even get the requisite Magneto redemption angle once more.  And to top it off it’s another time travel story and the writers seem to always nail these kind of stories.

Jean apparently not as happy to see Sinister as he is to see her.

The basic plot revolves around the god-like mutant Apocalypse.  In the year 3999, Cable and his followers attempt to destroy Apocalypse once and for all.  When Cable and Apocalypse find themselves isolated, Cable hurls the “e” word in Apocalypse’s direction, claiming because he’s evil he can never win, to which he responds rather poetically with “I am not evil, I simple am!”  Despite the confidence of that statement, Apocalypse begins to ponder his existence and even shows sadness to view himself as part of some scale where one side can never truly triumph over the other, “What a cruel joke,” he remarks.  I didn’t do the scene justice, but it’s pretty cool to watch Apocalypse and Cable face-off in a philosophical way as opposed to a physical way.  The scene ends with Apocalypse stealing Cable’s time-traveling computer crystal-thing and vanishes.  At the same time, well not really, Bishop and Shard are shown trying to return to their future world but Bishop gets hung up in the portal and soon finds himself in a strange universe populated by light bridges that all lead to some central hub.  An annoying, yet seemingly omniscient, custodian shows up to let him know he’s outside of time and the two get set to watching the events unfolding in the present.

In the present, Cyclops and Jean are giving this whole wedding thing another go.  As you may recall, the first time they wed it was Morph who administered the vows and not an ordained priest which wasn’t good enough.  This one appears to go smoothly but just as the happy couple is leaving for their honeymoon the Nasty Boys show up.  The X-Men give chase and are able to recover Cyclops but when Wolverine can’t smell any trace of their assailants they realize something’s up.  Back at the mansion, Sinister attacks and is preparing to abduct Xavier.  The X-Men are able to arrive just in time to interrupt his taunting about Jean floating through time and prevent the kidnapping.

The X-Men are able to uncover bits of Sinister’s plan when Shard suddenly arrives on the scene, unaware that it’s actually Apocalypse’s, as psychic mutants begin disappearing.  They set their sights on the mutant Psylocke, who’s busy robbing the wealthy Warren Worthington III, and encounter Mystique and Sabretooth.  With Archangel’s help, the X-Men seemingly have things in control until Magneto shows up.  Not all is lost, as they’re able to take Sabretooth back to the mansion where Wolverine locks himself in a cell with Sabretooth and beats the information out of him.  Around that time, Cable shows up after commandeering a government time machine and shares his plan to take out Apocalypse at the source by destroying the chamber that grants him eternal life.

The X-Men and Cable head off to ancient Egypt but find themselves lured into a trap.  They tangle with some machinations of Apocalypse’s four horsemen before finding an ancient Apocalypse asleep in his chamber.  The Apocalypse they find turns out to be Mystique in disguise, and Apocalypse arrives on the scene to capture the king, as he puts it, with the king being Charles Xavier.

Even when captured, Wolverine likes to run his mouth.

As Apocalypse makes off with Xavier, Wolverine slips in behind him to find himself at the Axis of Time.  By now, Apocalypse, in true villain fashion, has let everyone in on his plans to destroy time by assembling the most powerful psychics in the universe.  It’s not explained particularly well but whatever, it’s more fun to buy into the threat.  On the Axis, Magneto realizes his dream to have his wife restored to life will not be realized by Apocalypse and rebels, with Mystique’s help.  Wolverine is freed by Magneto and soon Cable and Bishop arrive.  The psychics find themselves free of Apocalypse’s control, and using their combined might, banish him to the astral plane seemingly ending his threat to existence.

The arc ends with everyone going their separate ways, though Archangel’s ultimate fate is sort of left unresolved.  When he came onto the scene, Shard referred to him as “destined to join the X-Men” and it almost seemed like maybe the writers intended for him to be a full-fledged member by episode’s end.  Considering they intended for this to be the series finale, it meant they really didn’t have to wrap that up.  Sadly, future episodes seemed to disprove this notion despite the cool group shot towards the end that showed Archangel among the X-Men.

Had this been the finale it would have been a pretty cool way for the series to go out.  While the plan hatched by Apocalypse seems to only make sense in the minds of the show’s writing staff, it was still cool to see all of the major villains make cameos.  There’s even a little snippet of a scene with Lilandra and Gladiator having to face the menace of Apocalypse and they at least did a good job of making him look like a universal threat.  Magneto’s original voice actor, sadly, was unable to voice the character here but his replacement proved competent.  While not the best of the multi-part story-lines served up by this show, it’s definitely one of the more fun ones and a high point for season 4.

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