Previously on X-Men: The Animated Series, I’ve looked at Seasons One, Two and Three of X-Men (aka X-Men: The Animated Series). Today I begin my journey through Season Four, beginning with the first eight episodes.
As a reminder, I’m watching episodes in the order they appear on Amazon Prime Video, so this season has 25 episodes. This viewing order differs from the ‘official’ viewing order, but hey, what am I supposed to do? I don’t own Amazon.
I wish I did.
Before I start on today’s collection of episodes, I wanted to highlight something which fans of the show may or may not be aware of.
As well as airing in the US and the UK, X-Men also aired around the world, including Japan. However, for Japanese audiences the show was given a little bit of a makeover in the form of new opening credits.
The Japanese credits were VERY different to the original credits. Different music, different style of animation, different approach altogether.
How cool does the animation look?
Yep, it looks really cool, but I have to say, overall I still prefer the original opening credits simply because the animation is consistent. Imagine watching these credits and then starting an episode to discover the animation was NOTHING like this!
Anyway, I just wanted to share that with you.
Time to start Season Four of X-Men.
This season is the last good season of X-Men. It’s also a bit of a mixed bag.
While there are some great episodes in this Season, including the incredible four-part story Beyond Good and Evil (which I’ll discuss in the next chapter), there are a few duff episodes too. There’s also less emphasis on an overall story arc and this shows.
Sanctuary: Part 1
After a complete absence during Season Three, Magneto is back for a two-part story. It’s a pretty decent one too!
3mins 30secs – Magneto is back and he has a new mission – to provide a safe-haven for mutants. He has built a space station (Asteroid M), which is to be a sanctuary for mutants.
4mins – As Magneto presents his plan to the world, many mutants watch on. Here we get cameos for Apocalypse, Mister Sinister, the Nasty Boys, and Mjnari.
4 mins 50secs – And even more cameos, including the Morlocks, Random and Doc Sampson.
6mins – President Kelly is making an appearance. He’s not appeared in X-Men since Season Two. I’m glad he’s not been forgotten.
7mins 15secs – A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo for Black Panther. I totally forgot he even appeared in this show! The writers/animators really did find a way to shoehorn in a wealth of Marvel characters.
8mins 20secs – Magneto has just made reference to Genosha, last seen in the Season One episode, Slave Island.
9mins 50secs – A quick trip to Genosha and things don’t seem to have improved for mutants living on the island.
10mins – Magneto’s Acolytes make their debut.
11mins – And now the Sentinels return!
12mins 20secs – Fabian Cortez puts in his first appearance. Cortez has the ability to enhance other mutants’ powers.
14mins 15secs – This episode also sees the introduction of Amelia Voght – a mutant with the ability to turn her body into mist.
16mins 30secs – A little explanation as to who Voght is. During a flashback it is established that Xavier and Voght met shortly after Xavier lost the use of his legs (following an altercation with Magneto). Xavier and Voght developed a relationship, which would eventually fizzle out.
17mins – The flashback includes a scene featuring the original X-Men. The team includes Jean, Cyclops, Beast (in his non-hairy form), Iceman and a winged character. Ordinarily this would be Angel, but as the series introduced Archangel during Season One as a non-team mate, this is presumably Changeling. Or possibly Morph. Either way, it’s never made clear who this character is!
19mins – As this first part of Sanctuary draws to a conclusion, Cortez has turned on Magneto and has implicated the X-Men in his apparent death.
A good opener to a fairly strong two-part story. Quite a few cameos/references to X-Men lore making it an enjoyable watch for long-time fans.
And now for Part 2…
Sanctuary: Part 2
3mins – The X-Men leave Asteroid M and head back to Earth… leaving Gambit behind.
5mins – Gambit is now Cortez’s prisoner and he’s wearing a power-dampening collar. This series sure likes to make use of these collars.
6mins – Believing him dead, Xavier holds a memorial for Magneto.
7mins 30secs – As Cortez addresses the world (in a mirror of Magneto’s address in Part 1), there’s time for more cameos. The cameos include X-Factor, Mister Sinister, Gideon and Haven.
10mins – The X-Men are heading back into space, utilising Shi’ar technology. The team also have snazzy new ‘space’ outfits.
12mins 30secs – The Acolytes vs. the X-Men!
18mins – Cortez has been defeated, but Magneto’s dream has died.
18mins 55secs – Another Black Panther cameo.
19mins 45secs – Magneto left Cortez for dead, but he’s been rescued by Apocalypse and Deathbird (making her debut). Cortez’s fate will be discussed in a future episode.
Sanctuary is a decent opener for Season Four, demonstrating that there is still plenty of life left in the series (for now). This two-part story could have easily been developed into a season finale.
My only criticism is that the story introduces new characters and features a heap of cameos, yet doesn’t really do anything with them moving forward. X-Factor, Black Panther and the Acolytes could all have been given a lot more development in this series.
Ah well, a good start. Now time for a Wolverine-centric episode.
Weapon X, Lies and Videotape
1min 40secs – Wolverine is still suffering nightmares and flashbacks from his past.
3mins 30secs – Another flashback to the Weapon X program. This is the third time Wolverine’s origin has been highlighted in this series.
6mins – This episode introduces Silver Fox.
7mins 30secs – Another flashback, this time exploring Wolverine’s past as an undercover agent. Omega Red makes an appearance.
8mins 25secs – After numerous cameos, Maverick FINALLY gets to make a proper appearance in this episode.
8mins 50secs – Maverick even gets a line!
11mins 55secs – Wolverine, Maverick, Sabretooth and Silver Fox have discovered that they have false memories implanted in their minds.
13mins – Wolverine was the test subject for the Adamantium infusion process. Had Wolverine not destroyed the laboratory, Sabretooth would have been next in line for the process.
14mins 46mins – Now that the truth is out, a fail safe has kicked in to kill Wolverine, Maverick, Silver Fox and Sabretooth. It’s a shame that Beast has got caught up in this!
19mins – Everyone survives the events of this episode and they all go their separate ways.
Another good episode and one which addresses some of the ongoing story threads about Wolverine’s past. However, the full extent of his past is never completely explored, leaving room for future stories should they be required.
If I’m remembering correctly, the series doesn’t return to Wolverine’s origin, so this is pretty much the end of the road. To be fair, it’s an adequate resting point for this particular tale.
Secrets Not Long Buried
1min 45mins – A flashback which shows Cyclops in his old X-Men uniform.
3mins 30secs – Cyclops has travelled to a small town, in the middle of nowhere. It’s an unfriendly looking place…. and Cyke’s powers appear to have been neutralised. This isn’t a good sign.
7mins 10secs – Characters such as Tusk and Toad make their first (and I believe only) appearance in the series.
7mins 30secs – This is also the first and only appearance of Solarr.
10mins 55secs – Random can be seen in the background. He’s starting to get about a bit.
13mins – This whole episode is about oppression and fear in a small town. It’s a theme that’s been used countless times in TV shows and films so it’s nothing new, yet it does fit within the context of the X-Men.
16mins 10secs – Secrets Not Long Buried is filled with little cameos of X-Men related characters, including Reaper, Senyaka, Forearm and a couple of Morlocks. At this point in the show’s run the writers/animators appear to be chucking everyone at the screen. Presumably this is because the X-Men toy line was so successful and featured countless characters.
Secrets Not Long Buried is never going to win awards for originality, but it’s a perfectly serviceable episode that doesn’t wear out its welcome.
Now time for the official introduction of a very popular X-Men character…
You may recall that Nightcrawler has previously had a brief, non-speaking cameo in X-Men. This is his first proper appearance.
4mins – Woverine, Rogue and Gambit are on vacation and they’re skiing.
4mins 45secs – I forgot how much Gambit’s inability to ski annoys me in this episode. At least it’s not as irritating as his culinary skills in the forthcoming episode, Have Yourself a Morlock Little Christmas.
6mins – Rogue, Wolverine and Gambit have found themselves at a monastery. As Rogue is the only woman, she has been asked to cover up! Those monks clearly have no self control.
9mins – There’s a message in this episode that scary looking people aren’t always evil. Once again, the show is relying on well-worn tropes for storytelling. It gets another pass, but this is the last time.
10mins 30secs – Big revelation: Mystique is Nightcrawler’s mother.
19min 30secs – The episode ends with Wolverine finding God, and Rogue shedding a tear. Er…
Watchable, but dull. As a character, Nightcrawler barely makes an impression in this episode.
1min – Morph is back!
1mins 30secs – After sitting out of Season Three, Morph puts in an appearance in this season to explain where he’s been.
2mins 10secs – Morph isn’t the only one to make a comeback – the Sentinels return too!
6mins 35secs – Morph is having flashbacks to his ‘death’.
7mins 45secs – The Sentinels are sorely missed.
8mins – Master Mold is also back!
14mins – This episode is a nice little sequel to Season One and effectively ties up the loose end that is Morph. It’s a shame he never really gets anything to do in this show, but as he was conceived as a disposable character I’m amazed the writers even bothered to bring him back.
17mins – Storm’s claustrophobia is referenced again. It’s been a while.
18mins – In this episode, Morph transforms into a number of characters, including Strong Guy, Omega Red, Sasquatch, Longshot and the flying mutant from the original team of X-Men… who isn’t Angel. Yeah, it’s still not been made clear who he is! Ah to heck with it, I’m just saying it is Angel.
A decent episode which gives Morph a suitable exit. The door has been left open, should he want to return.
Proteus: Part 1
1min – This episode opens on Muir Island and… Morph can be seen recuperating. This episode is set just before Courage, so it appears out of order on this viewing list. *Grumble grumble* Amazon *Grumble grumble*
1min 30secs – Kevin MacTaggert makes his debut in this episode. Kevin is the mutant known as Proteus.
2mins – Banshee is back and he’s brought his terrible Irish accent with him.
4mins – Flashback time and Xavier has proposed to Moira MacTaggert.
4mins 30secs – Moira has ditched him.
5mins – Xavier has shacked up with Amelia Voght. Jeez, he doesn’t hang around!
5mins 5secs – This flashback links to the Xavier/Amelia flashback seen in Sanctuary.
5mins 30secs – And now the flashback recounts the first time Xavier and Banshee meet in The Phoenix Saga.
6mins – Flashback over.
8mins 45secs – A cameo appearance for various members of Technet. These characters are so obscure that I forgot their names and had to Google them!
17mins 30secs – Proteus has reality warping powers.
19mins 30secs – Using his powers, Proteus has just split Wolverine apart. Of all the characters who can survive this, it’s Wolverine.
Not a bad episode, just a little bland. As a character, Proteus has some cool powers and a lot of potential, but he kind of looks like a Scooby-Doo villain.
Proteus: Part 2
3mins – The crux of this episode is a story about a boy struggling to understand why he has no father figure in his life. The truth is, his father has no interest in him.
7mins – I feel like this story would have been better served over just one episode, rather than being stretched over two.
9mins 40secs – Flashback time again, this time focusing on Rogue. This flashback has been used before.
13mins 15secs – According to Beast, Proteus’s powers are only limited by his imagination.
16mins 40secs – Wolverine is spooked by Proteus. Being ripped apart clearly did not sit well with him.
17mins 30secs – There’s no explanation as to why Banshee wears a costume. He’s not part of any team, so does he just like wearing Spandex?
20mins – The episode ends with Wolverine still clearly shaken.
Watchable, but not very engaging.
As mentioned above, this two-part story would have been better served as a single episode. Perhaps that’s why there are so many flashbacks. To pad it out!
OK, so that’s the first eight episodes of Season Four done. Mostly decent stuff but the series is not quite hitting the high notes like it once did.
The story arcs are out and this means this season is a bit of a hodgepodge of stories. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but without the serialised format the episodes feel a bit disconnected at times.
The good news is, that I’m about to hit some of the best episodes of the entire series! The bad news is, this is the beginning of the end.
But I’ll talk about that next time.