RECAP: “X-Men ’97” Episode 10

May 15, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

In the 1990s, Golden Grahams cereal had the slogan, “How did they cram all that graham?” That’s thematically relevant for the Season 1 finale of “X-Men ’97.” It is an unbelievably packed episode that throws a LOT at our heroes (and villains!) and ends on any number of cliffhangers for future seasons.

Like the rest of my recaps, I’m going to do less retelling of what happened, and more analysis of the events, especially through the prism of a long-time comic reader who has a sense of how these pieces fit together in a broader context. Read on for my thoughts, character by character, with VERY HEAVY SPOILERS not only for “X-Men ’97” but also for what may be ahead, based on the Marvel Comics source material.

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The Villains

Bastion: Our ultimate villain for the season, Bastion has a big arc this episode alone. Starting off seemingly victorious over the Gold Team, Bastion is quickly put in his place when Jean Grey pulls quite the stunt (more on that when we get to Jean), cutting off Bastion’s technopathy, presumably leaving the Prime Sentinel army inert. Bastion does the very thing this entire show is about — evolve — by integrating Cable’s techno-organic virus into himself, assuming a final form, and hellbent on taking out humanity by bringing Asteroid M down on the planet, causing an extinction-level event. That puts him directly in the path of the Blue Team, and the most interesting part of Bastion’s arc comes to fruition as the X-Men explain that Xavier identified that Bastion was a quasi-mutant as a child, and hoped to bring him to the school. That would have resulted in him being one of the initial X-Men. I honestly don’t remember if that was a plot point from the comics, but regardless, it’s a great knife twist for this character. I would love to see some What If? stories in which Bastion was in fact a founding X-Man. Ultimately, it looked as though the team may have gotten through to Bastion, but he was quite literally just out of arm’s reach, and was sucked into a gravity well. These things happen. Overall I think Bastion made for a great late-season villain. He was a massive threat, crazy powerful, had an interesting emotional angle and backstory. Watching this episode, I kept thinking how much he has in common with Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7 — mommy issues, the product of technological experiments gone wrong, a yen for complete planetary destruction. The show did a great job with him.

Mr. Sinister: Sinister was a secondary villain this season, but used effectively. From the Madelyne stuff to being able to hijack Cable to his toadie role for Operation: Zero Tolerance in order to get unfettered access to mutant prisoner DNA, it shows Sinister playing the long con, and that’s very him. The one plotline that didn’t get enough exposure was his situation with Morph, but that was addressed in the original series, and Morph is unquestionably the team member who got the shortest shrift here. Sinister is left in a highly vulnerable position, after he is left devoid of any of the mutant DNA that keeps him young and powerful. That’s a great reminder to viewers: Sinister is not, himself, a mutant. He’s a mad scientist who gets his powers by stealing them from mutants. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Sinister, although hopefully he invests in some moisturizer before our next encounter.

Magneto: I debated whether or not to include Magneto in the “villain” category, but my dude spent the past two episodes bringing the entire planet to near-extinction and also mortally wounded a member of the team, so…I’m going with villain for the time being. Magneto has had an incredible arc this season. Watching him take over the team, measuring himself against Xavier’s Dream, scoring legit political points with the UN, and bravely trying — and failing — to save the citizens of Genosha, then striking back with a terrible vengeance…this is who Magneto IS. This is core, canonical Magneto and it is why he is one of the best antagonists not just of the X-Men, but I would say in all of comic books and potentially of serialized fiction. After Magneto stripped the adamantium out of Wolverine, Xavier pulled the trigger and mentally forced Magneto to restore Earth’s electromagnetic field. Asserting his dominance over Magneto’s mind has terrifying consequences for both of them, as it fully fractures Erik’s mind, and Charles risked his own mental catastrophe as he remained docked in, trying to help him navigate his new, confused state. We got psychic flashbacks to Magneto and Xavier coming out to each other as mutants — the sexual tension was palpable — and Xavier worked to shepherd Magneto back to reality. Ultimately he is seemingly successful, as Magneto snaps out of it just in time to save not only the team but the planet from annihilation. But you can expect that Xavier’s assault on Magneto’s psyche will have long-lasting ramifications. Specific shots that mimic very specific comic panels, and even several lines of dialogue referenced Magneto’s darkness being transferred to Xavier, and I would be absolutely stunned if we don’t see that arc play out in the future.

Val Cooper: Val is not really a “bad guy,” but she was working with Operation: Zero Tolerance. Not a great look. There had been speculation all season that Val was actually Mystique in disguise. That’s still possible, I guess, but I have to imagine they would reveal that before end of season. They did not. I think we can assume this is actually Val Cooper, and she has had quite a journey this season. I’m curious where Val goes in the future. In the comics, she is the government liaison for the government-run X-Factor team — which already appeared, led by Forge, in the original series. I would love to see those characters again in the future.

The Heroes

I’ll go over the good guys in order of least impactful this episode, to biggest deals. Note that we got cameos from a whole slew of other Marvel heroes this episode, including but not limited to: Iron Man, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, Cloak & Dagger, the Winter Guard (with Omega Red, seen freed from prison last episode), and cameos of comic X-Men Psylocke, Dr. Cecilia Reyes, and others.

Wolverine: Logan spent the entire episode in a coma, recovering from Magneto’s brutal attack last episode. I think he moaned once. Let’s see how Logan does next season. Let’s specifically see if he still has a nose! (That sounds crazy, but for real: when Magneto did this to Wolverine in the comics, he for some reason lost his nose and grew long tufts of fur on his forearms. I swear this is true!)

Storm: Storm’s arc was more or less completed before this episode began. She’s back in the mix, more powerful than ever, and signs point to an increased leadership role — the moment when she and Cyclops both agree they need to “embrace the future” was interesting. Amazing season for Storm, but this was not an Ororo-focused episode.

Beast: This was not a great season overall for Beast. He certainly was useful in whipping up gadgets/solutions, as he was this episode. But Beast was not given a ton to do. Still better than spending the entire season in prison, as he did in the original cartoon!

Nightcrawler: While Kurt didn’t have a personal arc this episode, he did have great action sequences in which he did teleport flurries against Bastion, and then aided Jubilee in her assault of Bastion. Both were fun to watch — they’ve done such a great job with Nightcrawler on this show. The reason I’m ranking him so high here is that I genuinely feared for Kurt in his fight with Bastion. Gambit’s death showed us this show WILL go for the jugular, and in some ways Nightcrawler is one of the most expendable members of this team. Additionally, Kurt died fighting Bastion in the comics, when Bastion predicted his teleport patterns and stuck his arms right through a materializing Kurt. It was traumatic. I am very glad that didn’t happen here.

Morph: As mentioned before, Morph was the character who got the least screen time this season, but that is fitting. In the original series, as well as in the comics, he existed solely to die; he’s a living plot point. Where the showrunners did right by Morph was actually making them entertaining comic relief instead of just fucking annoying (as Morph was in the original series), and by significantly upping their utility in battle by having them mimic the powers of the super heroes they copy, this episode adding Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards to the mix. The development his episode came with Morph, taking the form of Jean, telling a comatose and struggling Wolverine that she loved him — but it was clear Morph was the one actually saying that to Logan. This is unsurprising. They’ve hinted at a romantic interest a few times this season, including that shower sequence, and Morph and Wolverine were close even in the original series. I hope they continue to give Morph more to do in Season 2, or write them out and bring in more core X-Men, like Nightcrawler. There are plenty of characters I would love to see on that roster…

Rogue: Following the battle with Magneto last episode, Rogue pretty quickly switches back to her X-Men allegiance. I mean, she doesn’t have a ton of time to think about it, as the team is nearly killed a few different ways. She does get a great sequence where she absolutely wrecks Bastion in the name of Gambit, including a very cool force-clap moment on the Blue Area of the Moon (nice touch, showrunners). A great season for Rogue overall, and I personally appreciate them exploring Rogue’s sharper edges in this series. It makes sense that Rogue, of all the team members, would be one of the first to write off the idea of peaceful coexistence, and that was even before Remy died.

Sunspot: AKA Roberto DaCosta, who officially assumes his codename this episode. For a tertiary character, Roberto had quite the arc this season. He was introduced, reluctantly agreed to become affiliated with the school, dealt with his classist and mutant-phobic family, and grappled with his own mistrust of humanity, all while gaining some semblance of control over his abilities. The big move this episode, in addition to him announcing his codename and getting in some licks against Bastion, was him telling Jubilee he loves her, without actually saying the words. I found I was deeply concerned for Roberto’s safety as the series went on, and he even mentioned this episode that he didn’t think he would survive the fight against Bastion. I’m glad he did, and if I were at Marvel Animation (I’m not), I’d move Sunspot and Jubilee to a spinoff show featuring teen mutants pulled from New Mutants, Generation X, New X-Men, Wolverine & the X-Men, etc. Basically, “Harry Potter” but with mutants. At this point, the show is doing a LOT of work to juggle all the characters in its orbit. A student-focused spinoff is an obvious solution, and I don’t think they’d have to worry about viewers…

Jubilee: A good episode for Jubilee, who not only locked in her love interest, but also showed growth as telegraphed in the “Motendo” episode earlier in the season. Jubilee stood up to Bastion and blasted him numerous times, including generating one of those firework wheels her future-digital-self (just go with it) showed her were possible. Jubilee has had a great season overall, deployed much better than I think she ever was in the original series. She seems like a legitimate member of the team at this point, and this show may be leading the comics on this point, as Jubilee seems like a central character in the upcoming Uncanny X-Men reboot coming from Gail Simone. Totally here for that.

Forge: Forge himself doesn’t do a lot this episode, but he does bear witness to — seemingly — the death of most of the X-Men, when Asteroid M is halted mid-descent, and then apparently atomized. This is reminiscent of the end of the 1980s “Fall of the Mutants” plotline in the comics, when Forge witnessed the entire X-Men team (and Madelyne Pryor) die to save the world from The Adversary (recently seen on this show in the “Lifedeath” episodes), whom Forge had unwittingly loosed upon this dimension. In addition to being the viewpoint for the death of the team — minus Jubilee and Sunspot, who had been thrown from the asteroid seconds before its disappearance — in a sequence set months later, we see that Forge is the person responsible for putting together the next generation of X-Men. A poster on the wall referencing the “Days of Future Past” storyline from the comics shows some of the names he’s considering, some of whom we have seen in the original series, including Colossus and Scarlet Witch (I would lose it if they actually put Wanda on the X-Men; that has never happened in regular comic continuity). This could go any number of ways. In the comics, Forge and Banshee were responsible for reconstituting the X-Men after the team was determined to be missing, not dead; he also took over leadership of the government-run X-Factor in the comics, which we ALSO saw him doing in the original series. I’ll be curious to see which direction they go here. But one thing is clear: he’ll be joined by Bishop, who appears out of nowhere at the end of the episode to tell Forge that the X-Men are not dead, just lost in time. Again: these things happen!

Cable: Is Cable technically an X-Man at this point? Unclear, but his costume has Xs on it, so we’re going with it. After being saved from Sinister’s control by his quasi-Mom — this past weekend was Mother’s Day, did YOU thank your clone-Mom for freeing YOU from the psychic thrall of a mad scientist? — Cable was further humiliated when Bastion RIPPED OFF his cybernetic arm and then beat Cable with it. GURL. That was a savage own by Bastion, and brought a whole new level of humiliation to Cable. He spent the rest of the episode recuperating in an abandoned diner, where he had a touching psychic goodbye with Cyclops and Jean, both certain they were about to die, and not wanting to abandon Nathan again without a proper farewell. That was one of the best Scott/Jean moments in the show. Beyond that, it allowed Cable to spill a little information about the freedom fighters from the future who raised him, which will clearly be important in Season 2. Overall, not a terrific season for Cable, who got punked left and right, episode after episode. But it was a good season for the Summers Family overall, establishing strong emotional bonds for the most dysfunctional family unit since, well, mine. And based on the end of the episode, that family is about to grow…

Cyclops: This season began with Cyclops being reintroduced as an absolute unit of a man, a brilliant tactician and incredibly powerful mutant. We went full circle this episode, as Cyclops was an optic-blasting juggernaut, as well as a capable leader. And for one of the first times in the character’s history — including in comics — a good dad. I do think the changes this show has made to Cable’s origin and the Madelyne plotline remove a lot of the more negative elements of Scott’s comics history. He can still be a dick, but he is not a bad husband or father; he’s a guy who clearly loves his family and is doing the best he can under extraordinary circumstances. That includes his chosen family in the X-Men. Excellent season for Scott, and a great episode for him specifically.

Jean Grey: While I liked the episode overall, and I’m totally onboard for whatever they’re doing here with Jean, I don’t think this episode was overly successful in the way it reintroduced the Phoenix element. So, after the off-screen fight with Cable last episode, Jean was apparently thrown into nearby water, where she was drowning. Out of nowhere, the Phoenix Force manifested and Jean emerged from the waves, super saiyan style. After nerfing Sinister and reassembling the technopathy suppressor for Bastion, the Phoenix Force again left Jean and she was…back to Jean. …OK? They could be doing any number of things here, and I think we need more data before we fully understand it. It’s important to know that Marvel’s approach to Jean and Phoenix has changed significantly since the original animated series. Back in the 90s, Jean and the Phoenix were never considered the same person. The actual Jean was replaced by the Phoenix Force, who took her form and place on the X-Men, while Actual Jean was placed in a cocoon in the Hudson Bay (I suspect the water element of her “reawakening” this episode was an allusion to that). At the end of the comics’ “Inferno” storyline, Jean, Madelyne, and the Phoenix Force were kind of melded back into one person, but Jean was not morally on the hook for any of Phoenix or Madelyne’s actions. Since then, Jean has reassumed the mantle of Phoenix multiple times in the books, and the Phoenix Force is no longer looked at as a negative by in-universe characters or comic readers; it’s a cosmic force that is inherently tied to mutants, and specifically to Jean Grey, and it keeps bringing her back over and over again. I won’t even get into the White Hot Room, because it’s a lot. Again, it’s too early to understand what all is going on with Jean and her on-again, off-again access to the Phoenix Force in this series, but I have faith in the showrunners to make it work. At least it’s not Echo as the Phoenix…

Xavier: A complicated season for Xavier — even though he only appeared in like 3 episodes — and a complicated episode for him. From a meta perspective, over the past 20 or so years, Charles Xavier has shifted in reputation from good-natured mutant leader to morally complicated and naive manipulator who repeatedly creates his own private army of personified weapons who keep dying in his name. There have been multiple mutant extinction events in the comics, and at this point, the X-Men overall have come to accept that peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants (and now machines) is not realistic. Like, in the current comics, the X-Men are just fully slaughtering the human forces allied against them; it’s a bloodbath. Xavier has done several many awful, awful things in the comics, including in the currently publishing “Fall of the House of X” storyline, which I think renders him completely irredeemable. The “X-Men ’97” version of Xavier is not there yet. I emphasize yet. After nearly dying, Chuck fucked off to space to play hide the earthworm with his bird queen galpal, leaving his team — and the whole mutant population of the planet — in the care of a bona fide mutant terrorist. When that terrorist predictably reverted to form and nearly caused total societal collapse, he tried to psychically break the guy in an attack that will, again, likely have far-reaching and potentially more dangerous consequences. Right now I feel like this show is on the tightrope between two different interpretations of Xavier. The Fox movies have mostly cast him as an all-out good guy with very little ambiguity. The comics, since at least the late 90s, have increasingly painted him in a much more negative light. Which direction will the show continue to go? We’ll see.

Of course, Xavier has bigger problems than that. Because at the end of the episode, he’s not even in our TIME period. After Magneto pulls the emergency brake on Asteroid M, it is blipped out of existence. We then see that the individuals on it have been pulled into at least two different time periods (I don’t believe we saw Storm or Wolverine in either era, did we?). Scott and Jean are 1,000+ years in the future, and are confronted by a ragtag gang of gun-toting rebels identified as Clan Askani, who appear to be taking care of a young boy: Nathan Summers. Meanwhile, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Magneto, Beast, Morph are all shown in ancient Egypt, where they come face to face with a thicc king with grey skin and a glue-outlined mouth who goes by the name of En Sabah Nur, who original “X-Men” animated series viewers know better as Apocalypse. Speaking of Apocalypse, a mid-credits sequence set in present day sees Big A speaking to his “children” as he surveys the wreckage of Genosha, commenting on all of the “death,” as he picks up one of Gambit’s discarded playing cards. As I said in my recap for Episode 5, if you’re still sad about Gambit dying, you probably haven’t seen the last of him yet. But you may wish you had…

And that’s the end of Season 1 of “X-Men ’97”! I think the showrunners did an INCREDIBLE JOB with this series, and apparently Disney does as well as they’ve apparently renewed it already, and plan multiple seasons. Just like with mutants, the more the merrier!

What did YOU think of the season? What are your hopes for Season 2? What characters do you hope show up in Season 2? Which characters would you be content to never see again? Drop your thoughts in the comments!

Also, if you REALLY want spoilers, scroll down for our version of a mid-credits sequence, in which I dole out VERY spoilery takes on the numerous future plotlines this episode sets up. Do not scroll if you do not want to be spoiled! You’ve been warned…

Did You Miss Our Recaps for the Previous Episodes? Read Them Here:

Episode 9 Recap

Episode 8 Recap

Episode 7 Recap

Episode 6 Recap

Episode 5 Recap

Episode 4 Recap

Episode 3 Recap

Episodes 1-2 Recap

Future Plotlines Set Up by The S1 Finale:

Onslaught: Xavier’s mental attack on Magneto leaves him corrupted, creating an immensely powerful psychic entity.

Wolverine Goes Feral: after having the adamantium stripped from him, Wolverine devolves into almost a neanderthal; we discover he had bone claws coated in adamantium all along.

New X-Men Team: Forge and Bishop (in place of Banshee) create a whole new X-squad to replace or find the missing X-Men; in the comics this included Psylocke and Polaris, won’t be surprised if recurring “X-Men: TAS” character Colossus is brought in at this point.

The Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix: In the far future, Scott and Jean assist the freedom fighters raising their young time-shunted son; their alternate-reality daughter Rachel Summers (Phoenix II) is introduced, as is Stryfe, Cable’s non-T/O virus-infected clone.

Apocalypse X-Horsemen: In the comics, Wolverine, Gambit, and Banshee are all mortally wounded or killed at different points and revived by Apocalypse as his Horseman, Death. It’s unclear where Warren Worthington/Archangel is following Genosha, but if he’s still around, that could make Four Horsemen, all versions of Death.

Age of Apocalypse: X-Men bouncing around in time could lead to Age of Apocalypse, a storyline where Xavier’s son, Legion (who I don’t think has appeared on this show), travels through time to kill Magneto as a young man, preventing the human/mutant conflict. He screws up and kills Xavier instead, creating an alternate plotline where Xavier never founds the X-Men, and instead Apocalypse conquers much of the planet, putting humans into death camps; Magneto and Rogue lead the mutant rebellion in Charles Xavier’s honor.

New Mutants: Jubilee and Roberto remaining in the present could lead to a spinoff team of young mutants who need to be rescued and trained in their powers. There have been at least six different generations of “teen X-Men” comics, which have starred important characters such as Cannonball, Mirage, Magik, Cypher, Synch, Husk, Chamber, M/Penance, Prodigy, Elixir, Dust, Temper, Tempus, Broo, Kid Omega, etc. There’s no shortage of opportunity here, and it could also bring in Kitty Pryde and give Genosha surviovr Emma Frost a more hands-on role.

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