“X-Men ’97” Episode 3 Recap

March 28, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

Well, THAT escalated quickly.

Picking up from last episode’s cliffhanger, the team is rocked by the sudden appearance of a woman who looks and sounds exactly like newly minted mother Jean Grey. Beast performs genetic testing as Jean psy-probes the comatose woman, and within minutes of the episode beginning, several shocking truths are revealed: the newly arrived Jean is the ACTUAL Jean Grey, the Jean the X-Men have been living with — and who just gave birth to Cyclops’ son — is in fact a CLONE of Jean, and the clone was created by none other than original “X-Men: The Animated Series” baddie, Mr. Sinister.

SPOILERS AHEAD! And here’s a clip from the episode:

The rest of Episode 3, titled “Fire Made Flesh,” is essentially an abridged and simplified version of the 1980s comic-book crossover “Inferno,” in which a clone of Jean Grey — who was initially introduced to readers as Madelyne Pryor, a Jean lookalike who Cyclops took up with and married after Jean died following the Dark Phoenix Saga — is empowered by actual demons and turns all of Manhattan into a literal Hellscape. The three X-Men teams at the time (X-Factor, starring the original five X-Men; New Mutants, starring the teen mutants developing their powers and skills; and the main X-Men team, at that point believed dead by the world and operating out of an Australian ghost town) teamed up to take Madelyne AKA the Goblin Queen down, and to rescue Madelyne and Scott’s infant son, who was being pursued by both the demons and Madelyne’s creator, Mr. Sinister.


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It was a LOT to condense, and if I’m being honest, I’m not sure how successful this episode was in doing so. I think spreading it over two episodes would have given the major developments here more room to breathe, and in the end, made for a more satisfying experience. The Madelyne heel turn happens incredibly quickly, as the Jean we’ve been following the past two episodes goes full evil in a matter of minutes, and then suddenly exhibits demonic powers for which there’s no in-show explanation. Were the hell segments just psychic projections? Were these infernal powers somehow a result of Sinister’s genetic manipulation? Honestly unclear. I did find it interesting that the show essentially used the diamond-forehead motif to reflect Sinister coopting his clone, which was a fairly recent addition in the comics. I assumed this was drawn prior to the “Sins of Sinister” arc from last year. Maybe I was wrong.

Also unclear is WHEN the real Jean was swapped out for the clone. This is intentional on the part of the show, and leaves some very big questions going forward. In the comics, we know exactly when actual Jean was removed from the board. (In fact, there were THREE Jean entities involved in the conclusion to “Inferno” in the comics: actual Jean, who was put into stasis in the bottom of the Hudson River by the Phoenix; the Phoenix, who took on Jean’s form from her debut as Phoenix up until her death at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga; and Madelyne, introduced shortly after that arc, to give Scott a happily ever after.) For this show, the original cartoon had multiple instances where Scott and Jean were kidnapped by Sinister, and when he could have pulled the switch. Are Scott and and the real Jean not actually married? Can Jean forgive Scott for not realizing she was gone for, presumably, at least a year? It had to be long enough for Madelyne to get pregnant and gestate bring her child to term…

There’s also the question of how Wolverine plays into this. Wolverine is the person that gets actual Jean to snap out of her fugue state, in part by psychically sharing how much he cares for her. Jean seemed genuinely shocked by this revelation. Scott, Jean, and Logan have been a love triangle in the comics for decades, and typically Scott ends up the victor while Logan has unrequited feelings. In the currently concluding Krakoan era, it’s basically cannon that the three of them are in a throuple, possibly a foursome with Emma Frost involved. Given the very real issues that are likely to spin out of Scott and Jean’s dynamic after this, I wonder if we’ll see a more fully fleshed-out Logan and Jean arc on this show.

Speaking of love triangles, during Goblin Queen’s wild assault on the X-Men — which again, could have been entirely psychic warfare — we got some mystically (?) summoned body-horror antagonists taunting Gambit over Rogue and Magneto’s budding relationship; Roberto’s mother taunting him (apparently Roberto is back at the mansion, after leaving at the end of Episode 1); Bishop being lectured by his future-sister Shard (we saw her in the original series); and Morph seemingly having erotic feelings about Wolverine, which lead to another assault on him by his former master, Sinister.

Sinister’s main plan — as in the comics — was to create a Jean clone so that she could produce a genetic heir featuring both Cyclops and Jean’s DNA. He believes their progeny will be unbelievably powerful, even moreso after Sinister exposes the child to the techno-organic virus, previously seen in the Phalanx Covenant episodes of the original series. Scott and Madelyne set aside their differences and save Nathan from Sinister’s vats, but it is too late: the child is infected with the virus, and will likely die before Beast can work out a cure.

Enter Bishop, the time traveler who has joined the team in the interim between the original and this show. The team realizes that in Bishop’s time, there may be a cure for the virus. That is actually cannon from the original animated series, as there’s an arc involving Bishop, Apocalypse, and Cable in which the two time travelers kept going back to change the past specifically to ensure that a cure for the TO virus would be found. Beast had figured out how to fix Bishop’s time-traveling device, but it only has enough power to take Bishop and one other being back to his future. Faced with the option of their newborn dying from an incurable virus, or letting the child go with Bishop to a future where there MIGHT be a cure, Madelyne and Cyclops opt to send Nathan with Bishop. Or rather, Madelyne makes the decision. Cyclops is despondent and refuses to abandon his son the way his father abandoned him. So he…abandons his son by walking out of the room in a huff, totally missing the kid’s send off. Cyclops is a terrible parent in any medium, I guess.

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This is an extrapolation from another 80s X-storyline, this time the final “X-Factor” arc starring the original five X-Men. In it, it is Apocalypse that steals infant Nathan and exposes him to the TO virus, and Scott and Jean (not Madelyne, who is “dead” by then) send young Nathan into the future under the care of a character who is revealed to be working for Scott and Jean’s alternative reality daughter, Rachel Summers. Bishop didn’t even exist in the comic books at the time. But using him here, and having Sinister be the villain behind it all, frankly makes more sense than the comic version.

What makes less sense is why Sinister would infect the kid with TO virus. Sinister did interact with it in the original series, but it wasn’t exactly a positive experience. Also strange but intriguing: during the Madelyne fight, Morph takes the form of Magik, AKA Illyana Rasputin. Illyana appeared in the original series, but as the child sister of guest star Colossus. The Illyana shown here was a teenager with her mutant powers and soulsword on display, and at one point, even her demonic Darkchylde alter ego. That implies that the X-Men have encountered Magik prior to this. She’s one of my favorite characters and has become an X-Men mainstay over the past 10 to 15 years, so I would love to see her come back more significantly. Especially since her fellow New Mutant Roberto does seem to be sticking around.

Also, if you’re keeping track at home, this episode brought in two of the 10 characters I had on my “X-Men ’97” debut wish list. You should check out the others here. I swear I had no advance knowledge of this series at all before writing it.

By the end of the episode, Madelyne and Jean have arrived at a detente, Madelyne has agreed to leave town to find her own life, and Scott and actual Jean seem poised to have a very uncomfortable discussion. Nathan is now in the future under the care of Bishop. And in a brief teaser, we see a depowered Storm approached in a bar by Forge, who specifically tells her he can get her powers back. I wonder if they’ll acknowledge Forge’s previously appearances in the original series, where the future version of him was working with Bishop to travel through time, while the present version led the government-backed X-Factor squad. There are lots of loose ends over there as well, especially Havok, who despite having appeared on the show, was never acknowledged as Cyclops’ brother.

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

Episodes 1-2 Recap

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