Season 3 of X-Men was the biggest so far. Quality does not always equal quantity though and while it was still pretty solid it was not up to par with the first two seasons. Season 4 is much closer in length to the first two seasons, but probably not as good as even season 3. A lot of the big stories were exhausted in season 3 and some of the holdovers feel lesser in scope. There were some nice cameos though, most popular of which was the first appearance of Nightcrawler, and the mostly original tale “Beyond Good and Evil” was probably more fun than the Phoenix saga.
Like season 3, there were production delays for some of the episodes in season 4 that forced them to season 5 for the broadcast. Also, some of these episodes were actually broadcast as part of season 3, such as the first episode we’re going to look at “The Juggernaut Returns.” As with season 3, I’ll be looking at the episodes here in production order.
The Juggernaut Returns
Ever since Gladiator sent the Juggernaut hurtling across the Atlantic we haven’t seen or heard from the big guy. Turns out, the only side affect for crushing Juggernaut’s pride like that was to just make him even angrier with his step brother Xavier so he sets his sights on Xavier’s school once again.
We’re treated to a humorous visual of Juggernaut swiping a taxi cab to serve as his mode of transportation. As the X-Men prepare to mount a defense, a curious thing happens and the Juggernaut suddenly finds himself de-powered and scared. That’s because a side story is occurring at the same time that shows a dorky looking guy uncovering the ancient Ruby of Cytorrak, the source of Juggernaut’s powers. This nerdy looking individual becomes the new Juggernaut and sets off to do what every nerd turned jock would do – pick up chicks.
Xavier makes the call that to save the life of his step brother, the X-Men must restore his powers. While Wolverine and Cyclops run off to track down this new Juggernaut, Xavier relives the parts of his life he and Cain shared. We learn that Cain is a pretty cruddy person, but his father was even worse who married Xavier’s mother just for her money. Since Cain couldn’t help himself and had to bully young Charles, his father sent him away to a boarding school which only served to further fuel Cain’s dislike of Charles.
Wolverine and Cyclops end up tracking down the new Juggernaut, and the resulting confrontation is more comedy than anything. They retrieve the ruby and return it to Cain who once again transforms into the Juggernaut. Perhaps as a showing of thanks, he chooses to leave the mansion without further incident.
Apparently needing a break, Rogue, Gambit, and Wolverine head off on a ski trip to Germany. Why they chose to go to Germany when they have Colorado to choose from I do not know. As usual, nothing goes right and a mishap on the slopes lands them at a monastery located in a small town time forgot that fears some demon. The monks there seem friendly enough, but something clearly is amiss. Wolverine hears about this demon and decides to go “hunting” while Rogue mistrusts one of the brothers.
Someone tries to harm a sleeping Gambit, who was injured on the slopes, and Rogue goes after him. A fire breaks out and Nightcrawler reveals himself. The “demon” proves to be a rather gentle soul despite his outward appearance, and the trio of X-Men set off the uncover who was trying to make him look bad.
Nightcrawler brings an element to Saturday morning television few would dare include, which is God. As someone who isn’t even remotely religious, I find his portrayal not at all offensive and I don’t think anyone was trying to convince kids to go to church or anything. He does have a discussion with a terse Wolverine who apparently shuns God for various reasons. After all, the guy has had a pretty rough life.
The person behind the attack on Gambit and the burning of the monastery is uncovered, and Nightcrawler is revealed to the town’s people in the process. They soon accept him, and the X-Men depart for Paris to continue their vacation. The token invite to join the team is also offered, but Nightcrawler declines, as so many have before him. In Paris, Gambit shares his own religious philosophies with Rogue (predictably, Gambit only seems to worship one man – Gambit) which causes her to storm off. As she finds herself questioning her own beliefs she stumbles into a church to find a humbled Wolverine, kneeling before the altar. Wisely, she says nothing and departs before he can see her. Another example of Wolverine striving to find that inner peace he seems to always be longing for.
One Man’s Worth (Parts 1 and 2)
One of the big stories around this time in the comic book was titled “The Age of Apocalypse.” The AoA was an alternate timeline story created when Xavier’s future son Legion traveled back in time to assassinate Magneto, thinking this would save his future. By accident, he ends up killing his father which alters time in a frightening way, leading to a future where Magneto leads the X-Men against a tyrannical Apocalypse. It’s a pretty cool story, and while I would have loved a true AoA for the animated series this is a very satisfying two parter. I do so love when the writers start working with time travel!
This two-parter borrows heavily from that arc in both premise and style. Where it differs though is that it does not include Apocalypse or Legion, and it’s never stated that Magneto leads the X-Men in the alternate timeline shown, just that he leads the mutants against the humans (keeping in theme with the future we see in “Days of Future Past”). Substituting for Legion is the time traveling mutant Fitzroy and his comedic lackey Bantam as they’re sent back in time by Master Mold to assassinate a young Xavier.
Fitzroy’s plan is discovered by Forge who once again turns to Bishop to thwart him. Bishop is sent back in time, but this time he’s not alone as his sister Shard joins him. Their timing is poor, as by the time they travel back to the present to enlist the help of the X-Men, Fitzroy has already succeeded. There Bishop and Shard encounter Wolverine and Storm (sporting her 80’s look complete with a tall white mohawk), who are married in this universe. We get to see the mutants battle the human forces and several AoA themed cameos are present including Holocaust and Nightcrawler. It takes some convincing, but Wolverine and Storm agree to help Bishop and Shard stop Fitzroy, knowing that doing so will cause them to cease to exist.
In a rare turn of events for the show, the heroes fail. They travel back to the 60’s and get derailed by a bit of period specific racism towards the interracial couple of Wolverine and Storm, which sets Wolverine off. This delays them enough to allow Fitzroy to kill Xavier, and ends part one.
Part two has the heroes regrouping by traveling back to the future in order to try again. I don’t quite understand why they had to do so, but it lets us see the new future. Apparently, the sentinels won and Forge still exists but her serves them. He’s also nearly entirely robotic at this point and extremely fearful of crossing the sentinels. The heroes are able to get out of there, but Shard gets left behind with the understanding being that if they succeed in their mission, she’ll be fine.
Round 2 goes better, and the heroes win out this time by letting Fitzroy know just what the future he creates will look like. Storm and Wolverine share a tearful farewell and the story returns us to the present where the Wolverine and Storm we know and love are enjoying a picnic with Xavier, who smiles to let us know he remembers the first time he met the two.
Proteus (Parts 1 and 2)
Another old story brought to the animated universe. Proteus was one of the first missions for the new X-Men following the introductions of Colossus, Wolverine, and the like. Proteus is a pretty crazy mutant with seemingly limitless psychic powers allowing him to distort and warp reality. In the comics, his powers were so great they’d cause his body to erode and burn up, forcing Proteus to jump from host to host, killing the person he inhabited in the process. Obviously, this would not suit for the animated series, nor would the same conclusion be used which ended in Proteus’ death at the hands of Colossus.
Proteus also necessitated a new origin. In the comics, and show, he is the son of Moira and Joe MacTaggert. Even though they were husband and wife, Proteus was conceived as the result of rape at the hands of Joe which resulted in Moira leaving him, but not telling him she was with child. Proteus’ powers were so great Moira had to force him into imprisonment. She never told anyone he was her son, instead choosing to call him Mutant X. In the show, his origins are the same, minus the rape. Joe is a prominent politician unaware of Proteus’ existance, though in the show he apparently knows about him but has never met him. In order to protect his campaign, he does not want the public to know he fathered a mutant.
Proteus (Kevin) breaks out, causing Moira to enlist the help of the X-Men ( it should be noted, that the writers missed a great opportunity to bring back Morph again) to recapture Proteus and return him to his cell. Proteus meanwhile heads for Scotland and begins inhabiting people and experiencing their emotions. He soon yearns to find his father after experiencing a father-son bond prompting Moira to warn Joe, but still keeping the secret that Kevin is her son from Xavier.
The X-Men confront Proteus, and when Wolverine starts talking about taking the kid out, Moira snaps and reveals her long kept secret. Xavier is disappointed she chose to hide her mutant son from him, and the X-Men are forced into battle with Proteus. Proteus wipes the floor with them, and even “rips” Wolverine into pieces (this is of course, an illusion) that completely unsettles the feral mutant and reduces him to a sobbing, retching, mess.
Knowing they can’t hope to defeat Proteus in open combat, the X-Men determine they’ll need the help of the boy’s father to calm him down. They attend one of Joe’s campaign rallies knowing Proteus is likely to show up. When he does, the X-Men pounce, all except Wolverine who runs off scared. He doesn’t respond well when Rogue accuses him of cowardice, and responds even more poorly when Beast excuses it. When all hope seems lost, Xavier is able to calm Kevin down and reunite him with his father, who surprisingly does the right thing by his son. A much happier ending than the comic book which featured the death of both Joe MacTaggert and son. It’s a different sort of episode, but an enjoyable one. While the original is better, the writers did the best they could to adapt it for a children’s audience. The image of a broken down Wolverine would prove long lasting, and would even be referenced in a later episode.
Would you be surprised if I told you that a random episode of the sitcom “Family Ties” is probably more entertaining than this episode? Perhaps that is coming across a little strong, but this is a bad episode. The only interesting aspect about it is that the show acknowledges that Magneto has two kids for the first time, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. The trio find themselves lured into a trap by the High Evolutionary, and Wolverine and Beast tag along. Wolverine gets turned into a Werewolf, and somehow every wrong is righted. We get to see some sort of an origin tale for Magneto, which serves as the only redeeming quality of the show. Apparently, the guy isn’t all bad and probably didn’t kill his wife. Regardless, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver aren’t exactly thrilled to learn who their father is but come around by episode’s end. The execution is just kind of lame, and the mutates that occupy the town where this takes place make for an even lamer visual. I don’t include this in the running for worst episode of the series, but it’s also not far removed.