Welcome to It’s Saturday morning – Do you know what your children are? – a series of posts taking a look back at the Saturday morning cartoon, X-Men (aka X-Men: The Animated Series). Over the course of multiple posts I will be taking a look back at X-Men, through a complete re-watch of all 76 episodes of the show.
These posts will be appearing on a semi-regular basis (not always on a Saturday) and will discuss the episodes as I watch them – usually in a batch of half-a-dozen or more. I’m watching the episodes in standard definition as X-Men: The Animated Series is not currently available on Blu-ray (boo) or in HD.
And now for Part 2…
Previously on It’s Saturday morning – Do you know what your children are?, I took a look at the first six episodes of X-Men Season One. Today (a Thursday, not a Saturday), I will be finishing off the season with the next seven episodes.
As noted during Part 1, with the exception of one episode (Cold Vengeance) the first six episodes of Season One are all crackers. I’m happy to report that all of the episodes I’m watching today are great (no duds here), kicking off with Slave Island – one of my favourites from this season.
30secs – As with most episodes of the X-Men, we’re starting off with a recap of the key points from the previous episode. In short: Storm, Gambit and Jubilee went to investigate the island of Genosha – a location claiming to be mutant-friendly. Of course, it’s not.
2mins – The majority of this episode centres around Gambit, Storm and Jubilee being held captive at a construction facility on Genosha.
3mins – This episode introduces the idea of power-dampening collars, which can be used to contain mutants. These collars have yet to be adapted for film, but did make an appearance in live-action X-Men spinoff show, The Gifted.
4mins – The Sentinels were just about to kill Storm. Brutal!
5mins – Storm’s claustrophobia is highlighted again.
5mins 25secs – As well as the three core X-Men, various mutants appear in this story – all prisoners of Genosha. For a comic book fan like me, who was starved of comic-to-TV adaptations during the 1990s, this episode felt like a gift as it was stuffed with characters, including the Blob, Sunfire, Domino, Feral, Mystique and Northstar, amongst others.
6mins – Jean just made a comment that Storm grew up on the streets of Cairo. A little more backstory for Storm.
9mins – In addition to all of the background characters AND the inclusion of the Sentinels, this episode also provides an introduction for Master Mold – a huge, Sentinel-producing machine.
10mins – Cameron Hodge makes his second appearance in X-Men. He appears to be siding with the bad guys, with no explanation of why he’s no longer the Beast’s lawyer.
10mins 30secs – It’s being suggested here that Gambit might be a traitor to the X-Men. Although it is made clear later on that he’s still one of the good guys, the idea of Gambit being a traitor is picked up again before the end of the season.
11mins 50secs – Enter: Cable!
15mins 30secs – The character, Thunderbird appears in this episode, marking his first (and I believe) only appearance in the series. Rather bizarrely, Thunderbird appears in the opening credits as a villain.
19mins – Master Mold is supposedly killed off at the end of this episode… but he’ll be back!
20mins – And as the episode draws to an end, there’s another cliffhanger – the X-Men discover the X-Mansion has been destroyed! Now that’s how you end a show!
I really like Slave Island – my only gripe is that the Genosha storyline could have easily been stretched to multiple episodes rather than condensed into one. Either way, a good episode nonetheless.
The Unstoppable Juggernaut
3mins – The X-Mansion has been destroyed and Professor Xavier is missing.
5mins 30secs – Colossus makes his debut in this episode. The character makes very few appearances in X-Men – this is probably his best.
8mins – So, one thing I’ve not spoken much about so far is just how weak the animation is in this show. Hey, before everyone comes at me in the comments section, go back and look at an episode and focus in on the backgrounds. Yep, they’re pretty shitty and they’ve not improved with age. While the storytelling is great in X-Men, the animation is not so great and is easily the weakest thing about the show (until the final season which is AWFUL).
10mins – Beast is still in a prison cell. It’s a bold move to put a popular main character in prison for a whole season, thus removing him from the action for so long. I’m glad the series sticks to its guns about letting Beast have his day in court.
12mins – If you hadn’t guessed from the title of this episode, this is where the Juggernaut makes his debut. In this series, as with the comics, the Juggernaut is Xavier’s half-brother. This connection has so far not been made in the live-action X-Men movies.
15mins – It’s also established in this episode that the Juggernaut is not a mutant – he is instead a super powered human. In the live-action movies he is simply a mutant.
19mins 30secs – Colossus is helping to rebuild the X-Mansion.
A decent episode which provides an adequate side-step from the ongoing story arc.
2mins – Warren Worthington III, aka Angel/Archangel is introduced in this episode.
3mins – Cable has returned.
4mins – The mystery surrounding Xavier’s disappearance is quickly cleared up. He’d simply buggered off to Scotland.
4mins 30secs – This episode largely takes place on Muir Island – a Scottish island and home to X-Men liaison, Doctor Moira McTaggert.
5mins 30secs – “Being a mutant isn’t a disease.”
7mins – The entire point of this episode is to introduce a ‘cure’ to being a mutant. It raises an interesting question: If you could change something about yourself, even if it meant changing who you are, would you do it?
8mins – Rogue is very keen to be ‘cured’.
9mins – By focusing on Rogue – a character who can’t ever make skin-to-skin contact without hurting someone – this episode perfectly explains the dilemma at the heart of this story. Once again, this is great writing for a Saturday morning kids show. Between this and Batman: The Animated Series (as well as The Simpsons), the writing of cartoons was beginning to turn a corner.
13mins – Pyro is so camp in this episode. Oh yeah, Pyro, Avalanche, Mystique and Apocalypse are in this story. I should have mentioned that earlier.
19mins – After much soul-searching, Rogue chooses not to take the ‘cure’. Warren Worthington has decided to take her place.
Another strong episode which throws the spotlight on Rogue, while introducing Apocalypse. Speaking of which…
Come the Apocalypse
5mins – Worthington took the ‘cure’, only it wasn’t really a cure and has instead transformed into an instrument of death – aka Archangel. He is now one of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen.
10mins – Xavier makes it clear that Apocalypse is an entirely different level of threat from the likes of Magneto and the Sentinels.
14mins 30secs – The X-Men have arrived in England, looking for Apocalypse’s secret command centre (it’s underneath Stonehenge). This looks far too sunny to be any part of the UK.
18mins 50secs – “You are only delaying the inevitable.”
The X-Men have stopped Apocalypse, but have they averted an apocalypse? I’m about to find out.
Days of Future Past: Part 1
2mins – This episode opens in a future timeline, where New York has been ravaged by…
2mins 30secs – …the Sentinels!
3mins – Days of Future Past (Parts 1 & 2) picks the Sentinel storyline back up, but this time with an eye to the future. The two-part story introduces Bishop – a time-travelling mutant who is sent to the past to change the future.
4mins – Two mutants help Wolverine during this opening sequence. To this day I still do not know who they are?! Anyone?
5mins – A shot of a graveyard for fallen mutants includes tombstones for Cyclops, Storm and Jubilee. There’s no doubt about it, this is a deadly future.
6mins – Nimrod makes his one and only appearance in this series. Nimrod is a high-tech Sentinel that can adapt to its surroundings, creating defences to mutant powers. It’s not a Sentinel you want to go up against.
6mins 45secs – The mutant inventor, Forge also makes his debut in this story. Here he is the man responsible for sending Bishop back through time. Forge will reappear in another future timeline in Season Two, before making a present day appearance in Season Three, where he is the leader of the Government-sanctioned mutant team known as X-Factor.
9mins 15secs – Bishop has time-travelled to the ’90s, yet no one has said ‘bodacious’ or ‘radical’! What gives?!
11mins – It’s worth noting that in the original comic book version of Days of Future Past, it is the mutant, Kitty Pryde who travels back in time. Kitty Pryde is one of the few well-known X-Men NOT to appear in this entire series.
11mins 45secs – The Punisher gets a blink-and-you’ll miss it cameo, via a video game called ‘The Assassin‘.
15mins – Xavier is probing Bishop’s mind to see a glimpse of the future. He sees internment camps, a President who has lost control of the country, as well as death and destruction.
17mins 20secs – Yet another mention of Storm’s claustrophobia.
19mins – Jean has just made a reference to her “dark days”, presumably n reference to the Dark Phoenix Saga. However, this event hasn’t taken place yet! Presumably the writers put this in as a reference to the iconic event, not knowing the show would eventually adapt the storyline during the third season.
20mins 30secs – Bishop believes Gambit is responsible for the desolate future timeline, casting doubt on the X-Man. The seeds of doubt that were sown in Slave Island are now playing out.
I remember watching this episode when it first aired and being amazed by it. Although I knew Days of Future Past was an iconic storyline, I’d yet to read it, so all of this was completely new to me.
I could not wait to see Days of Future Past: Part 2!
Days of Future Past: Part 2
4mins – Bishop is explaining how the future timeline comes to be. A Washington official is assassinated by a mutant, which leads to all mutants being blamed for this death. A law is passed to put Sentinels into mass production and they begin rounding up the mutants. The Sentinels then round-up all non-mutants too.
4mins 45secs – Havok gets a (future timeline) cameo. He won’t make a proper appearance in the series until the third season.
6mins 30secs – At this stage in the storyline, no one knows who is to be assassinated. Xavier believes it’s possible that it’s him. He’s wrong – it’s Senator Kelly who is the target.
9mins – Mystique plays a prominent role in Days of Future Past. She plays a prominent role in the original comic too, as well as the 2014 movie adaptation of the same name.
12mins – There’s a lot of action in this episode. I like it.
14mins 45secs – “This kid’s crying. Do something.” Great parenting skills from Wolverine.
15mins 30secs – Gambit has just solved the mystery of who the assassin really is. It’s Mystique and she’s taken on the form of Gambit!
17mins – An important story thread is introduced here. Mystique reveals she has a connection to Rogue. This thread won’t be resolved until the next season.
19mins – This shot of Wolverine’s skeleton (see below) is just so shocking. And it is shocking for two reasons…
- Regardless of the outcome of this episode, Wolverine is now dead.
- Bishop succeeded in his mission, but the future is still screwed.
19mins 30secs – This episode ends on one of the BEST cliffhangers. The assassination attempt was averted, but Senator Kelly has now been kidnapped – by Magneto!
Another strong episode, which concludes the two-part story and leads into an epic showdown to close the season. At this point, when I was watching this show on a weekly basis, via the BBC’s Live & Kicking, X-Men was unmissable television.
It’s time to finish the season.
The Final Decision
Before I press play on The Final Decision, I must say this is one of my favourite episodes! The story sees the X-Men and Magneto team up to fight the Sentinels.
2mins – With Senator Kelly having been abducted, hatred and hostility towards mutants is on the rise.
4mins – In a dramatic turn of events, the Sentinels have now kidnapped Kelly! I just LOVE this show!
6mins 15secs – Master Mold survived the events of Slave Island and has a new plan – to replace Senator Kelly’s brain with a computer! Erm… the writing just took a dodgy turn. Thank Zod, no one decided to call this episode ‘They Saved Kelly’s Brain!‘.
7mins 30secs – A few blink-and-you’ll -miss-it cameos for Bella Donna and Ghost Rider.
10mins 30secs – The X-Men are making a decision on whether or not to rescue Kelly, even though it is likely to be a suicide mission.
11mins 45secs – It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve watched this episode; and it doesn’t matter that I know the outcome; I still feel like this could be the end of the series. The stakes are high and the X-Men could lose! Putting the ‘computer brain’ idea to one side, this writing is so good.
13mins 30secs – Magneto joins the team to help turn the tide of battle!
18mins – Xavier to Master Mold: “You are the living embodiment of all that is evil and unjust in humankind. You must be destroyed.”
19mins – As the episode and the season comes to a conclusion, Senator Kelly changes his position on mutants and the Beast is freed from prison! Hurrah! Finally the X-Men can rest…
20mins – …if not for one final cliffhanger to introduce Mister Sinister! Something bad is on the horizon, but it’ll have to wait until next time.
And that’s the end of Season One.
This first season of X-Men is done and WHAT A SEASON! Despite some underwhelming (and dated) animation, the writing still stands up.
I love the serialised nature of the show and the way the writing staff manage to balance the characters, so each gets a turn to shine. This is something which continues into Season Two, with character-centric episodes taking up most of the season.
OK, that’s it for today. I shall be back with more episodes and more discussions in a future post.
If you want to talk about these episodes, share your thoughts or have a general discussion about the X-Men, then head to the comments section and start the conversation.