“X-Men ’97” Episode 5 Recap

April 10, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak


Episode 5 is named “Remember It,” and I suspect that title will prove prescient for fans of this show, as it changes the game significantly. The first 2/3 of the episode gave us quality X-Men soap opera — forget “Melrose Place”; welcome to “Genosha Place” — and the last 5 or so minutes took a very dark, traumatic turn that will have a profound impact on the remainder of this season, and beyond.

I’ll provide my take on the episode, and some context that might be helpful from someone who has been reading the X-Men comics pretty much consistently since the mid-1980s. I’ll warn you, this is a LONG one, as there is a great deal to pick apart and consider here.

SPOILERS AHEAD. Like, really, spoilers. Do not read unless you have already watched the episode.


Top 10 Characters We Want to See in “X-Men ’97”

POLL: Best X-Men Team Line-Up (VOTE NOW!)

Best Marvel Villain

Best Super-Hero Film

The episode follows two main plotlines. At the X-Mansion, TV journalist Trish Tilby (Beast’s longest-running love interest from the comics) conducts sitdown interviews with several X-Men. Trish’s intention is to give the team — and mutants in general — an opportunity to share their story directly with the world, especially given the recent developments with Magneto joining the team, and his disastrous United Nations trial. Trish has fairly benign interviews with Beast and Jubilee, but her tete-a-tete with Cyclops goes completely off the rails when she brings up his newborn son.

Scott is clearly wrestling with the complete and total collapse of his emotional state over the past year (in show time). First, Professor Xavier dies. Then he finds out that Xavier willed all of his earthly possessions, including the X-Men, to Magneto. Then Jean gives birth to their son, in the process directly dealing with anti-mutant prejudice. His ally, Storm, is permanently robbed by her powers, and he discovers his wife and the mother of his child is not, in fact, the woman he loves, but her CLONE. And she’s also kind of insane. And demonic. His son is kidnapped, deliberately infected with a life-threatening virus, and sent into the future in the hope that there could be a cure for him there. He has no idea when the actual love of his life was switched out, and is struggling to reconnect with her. All of that, AND Gambit has been running around the X-Mansion in a cut-off tank looking all sexy while making beignets! It’s enough to drive any man crazy!

The thing is, Scott Summers IS and always WILL BE the X-Men’s Queen of Misery. He’s a bad-news buffet! And he is also, canonically, a fucking mess. Incredibly effective on the battle field, but at home, a total disaster.

The disaster gets worse this episode, as Jean — desperately trying to figure out who she is, which memories are hers and which ones actually belonged to her clone, the Artist Currently Known as Madelyne Pryor — engages in an impromptu snog session with Wolverine, and then discovers that Scott and Madelyne have been engaged in a psychic affair for the past month. ESCANDALO!

There’s a few interesting elements to this plotline from a comic-reader perspective. In the books, the roles are somewhat reversed, as Scott straight-up abandons his wife and son to go chase down actual Jean, after her seemingly miraculous resurrection. This version makes Scott look significantly less like a scumbag for cheating on Jean. It’s understandable why he would be confused, and also show concern for the mother of his abandoned child, whose loss he is still very much grieving. Additionally, in the comics the psychic cheating thing is actually not with Madelyne at all; it’s with a non-Jean clone who also appears in Episode 5 of this series. I’ll leave it at that for now.

The Jean/Scott/Wolverine/Madelyne love rhombus is intriguing. I’ve seen some people complain that this show doesn’t need two love triangles, to which I say: have you literally never read a comic book, or watched a soap opera? Because gal, you’re soaking in both. Everyone should be in a love triangle! That’s where the drama is! I personally hope they explore the Jean/Wolverine stuff more here, as that coupling has never been fully fleshed out in the comics. There’s a mutual attraction, and it was strongly suggested there was a throuple situation between Jean, Scott, and Logan in the Krakoan Era. But Jean has almost never been with Wolverine WITHOUT being with Scott, and I would personally like to see how that couple actually works.

But we have much bigger problems than polyamorous mutants. The other major arc for the episode saw Magneto, Rogue, and Gambit flying to the mutant nation of Genosha. Genosha was established the first season of the original animated series as a tropical nation that portrayed itself as a haven for mutants, but which was actually enslaving them and using their powers to prop up their apartheid society. Flash forward to “X-Men ’97,” and Genosha is now a mutant paradise. We got a few notable cameos, including Nightcrawler, Dazzler (still, infuriatingly brunette, a carryover from the original animated series), and newer mutants like Glob Herman and Pixie. They’re all frollicking, along with the recently relocated Morlocks, especially Leech.

Genosha is now managed by a council of (mostly) previously established mutant leaders, including Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, Banshee, Callisto, token human (um kind of) Moira MacTaggart, and recent addition Madelyne Pryor. They have summoned Magneto to the island to offer him the position of ruler of the mutant nation.

Magneto ultimately agrees to the council’s offer, on one condition: he will be their king, but only if Rogue is named his queen. Not on board with this idea: Rogue herself, who thinks Magneto had been plotting this all along. We then get the full story on Magneto and Rogue’s past, briefly alluded to earlier this season. In flashbacks, we see a younger Rogue, with her evil adoptive mother — not explicitly referred to as Mystique, even though I am fairly confident we KNEW Mystique was her mother in the original animated series — handing Rogue over to Magneto to train her in the use of her powers. The two of them become friendly, and ultimately more than friends once they discover Magneto’s elecromagnetic powers make him immune to Rogue’s power/life/memory-sucking touch. He even paints her like one of his Krakoan girls!

If people have grumbled about the Jean/Wolverine romance, there has been full-throated bitching over the Magneto/Rogue pairing. There seem to be two core problems: they view Rogue and Gambit as a core couple and don’t want it threatened, and the age difference between Magneto and Rogue squigs them out. Regarding the first point: it’s a soap opera. Relax. For the second, I put Rogue as early to mid-20s, and Magneto as a man in his early to mid-50s. There is absolutely a huge age difference there, no doubt. But to act like powerful men have not had much, much younger love interests throughout history, and even today, is shockingly naive. Look at almost any political or entertainment-industry couple, folks. It happens ALL THE TIME. Is it “gross”? That feels ageist. These are consenting adults, and there’s nothing in this show (or the comics) to suggest otherwise. This pairing is also taken directly from the comics, where Magneto and Rogue are a couple in multiple realities.

It also makes SENSE. Rogue is absolutely desperate for physical connection with another person, and this man — who is, by all accounts, powerful, charismatic, a revolutionary, and also pretty fuckable when he’s strutting around barechested in his pajamas and robe — can do what literally almost nobody else can: just touch her. Magneto’s pitch to Rogue focuses more on the good she could do for mutantkind as, essentially, its queen, and so she goes to Gambit in one of the most heartbreaking animated sequences I’ve ever seen, telling him that she’s accepted Magneto’s proposal. She knows that Gambit loves her, and she loves him too, but she can never FEEL him, and she cannot bear a life like that. It is a brilliantly crafted exchange. This is high fucking drama, mama.

Speaking of high drama, Magneto and Rogue make their official power couple debut at a fabulous mutant gala. We get an instantly iconic dance sequence that will be, I promise you, cosplayed at every comic-con for the rest of this decade, leading to a kiss between Rogue and Magneto. And then, seemingly, Rogue tells Magneto that she’s had a change of heart. But that can’t be fully explored before everything goes to hell.

The time-jumping mutant Cable, previously seen in the original animated series, bodyslides into the gala and yells for everyone to run and seek cover. He has a brief exchange with Madelyne — who herself has had a violent psychic vision of impending doom, shared halfway around the world by Jean — in which Madelyne looks in Cable’s eyes and realizes that he is, in fact, Nathan Charles Summers, the infant son she gave up to the future in Episode 3, returned to the present as a grizzled soldier. Cable briefly acknowledges this, calling her “Mom,” before he’s ripped away via his bodyslide technology, screaming, “Not again!” Let’s hold on to that for later.

March April Recap Banner

Suddenly, explosions break out across Genosha, and a massive, city-sized Sentinel with multiple heads and the body of a cockroach is raining down death from above. Laser blasts that atomize mutants. Massive footfalls that flatten buildings. Regular Sentinels shedding from its undercarriage (I wonder if this is a reference to Cloverfield, where the giant monster spread horrifying lice creatures that caused even more havoc). Just utter destruction, and in very little time we see casualties. Callisto, Sebastian Shaw, Dazzler (NO!) all appeared to be dead on the ground, Banshee and Moira seemingly blasted into oblivion, and countless nameless mutant die screaming as the Mega Sentinel engages in the total destruction of Genosha.

The X-Men — Magneto, Rogue, Gambit, and special guest Nightcrawler, used to absolutely brilliant effect here — launch a counter-offensive, and once again we are treated to some astonishing action sequences in which mutant powers are used to their fullest. Kurt teleports our heroes out of the way a few times before being wounded — but notably still alive. Magneto beats the Mega Sentinel about its heads with a GOTDANG train, and creates a shield to protect himself and several of the Morlocks, including Leech who — in line with his curious power switch from the original series — actually AMPLIFIES powers here. And Rogue and Gambit engage in a truly epic Sentinel smackdown sequence that culminates with Gambit saving Rogue, before being speared by the Mega Sentinel, and then using his power to kinetically charge the ENTIRE CITY-SIZED monstrosity, exploding it and killing himself in the process. Like Jubilee, Gambit was another X-Man from the original series who was often relegated to the sidelines. As terrible as it was to watch him die here, this was an incredible hero’s death and really cemented Gambit as a top-tier X-Man in a way I’m not even sure the comics have. And they’ve had more than 30 years!

How do we know Gambit is dead? At the end of the episode, Rogue is able to cradle his lifeless body, weeping that she couldn’t feel him. Give these people an Emmy.

In the end, Gambit absolutely appears to be dead, Magneto and the Morlocks are also seemingly dead. Rogue is still alive. Nightcrawler is alive but significantly wounded. I don’t believe we saw any update on Madelyne or Emma Frost. There’s also an interesting segment focusing on Val Cooper, who remains a curiously prominent figure in all of this. I’ve seen theories that Val is actually Mystique, which I could believe. If it’s not Mystique, they seem to be using Val as the human witness to all the awful attacks on mutantkind, from X-Cutioner and the Friends of Humanity’s assault on Magneto’s trial in E3, to the mutant holocaust on Genosha here. Back home, the X-Men watch the Genoshan footage in horror, absolutely powerless.

OK. Lots to unpack here. Let’s get into it.

The Genosha segment takes its inspiration from a few different X-Men comics. The most obvious inspiration is the beginning of the Grant Morrison run from the 2000s, “E is for Extinction,” in which a massive Sentinel attack does exactly what is shown here, essentially wiping out the planet’s mutant population — then centered largely on Genosha — from millions to a few thousand, total. Magneto at that point was essentially serving as ruler of Genosha, and Emma Frost was present for the assault, but survived thanks to her previously unknown secondary mutation.

The mutant gala is — I believe — a direct refence to the Hellfire Galas of the current X-Book Krakoan era, as is the idea of a ruling council of mutants. I find it interesting that up until this point in the season, almost all of the storylines were inspired by 80s X-Men stories, and in this episode we’ve leapt right to the 2000s, even 2020s. Even the psychic affair with Scott is lifted from the Morrison 2000s run.

Speaking of which, I think this Tweet by series producer Beau DeMayo offers some important framing for where we go from here:

The devastation of Genosha hit hard when we read it comics 20+ years ago — weirdly, it actually preceded the 9/11 attacks by about six months — but it hits even harder in today’s fraught world, and brought to life in animated form. You get a real feeling of the horror that is befalling these characters, and the nation — and world — as a whole. I think we all fundamentally understand the shock and trauma in a more real way than we could have pre-9/11. This absolutely feels like a turning point for the show, and as much as Gambit fans will hate their favorite character being the one sacrificed for that “moment,” you cannot deny it had more impact because it cost us a beloved team member.

Speaking of the team, I think it’s pretty clear we’re heading toward a significant reshuffling of the line-up. I welcome that. Throughout 60+ years, the X-Men have had a wildly changing membership, and that is a STRENGTH of the property. In addition to Bishop, who came and went by Episode 3, and Storm, who remains depowered since Episode 2, we’ve now lost Gambit for sure and, seemingly, Magneto. That leaves us with Cyclops, Jean, Wolverine, Beast, Jubilee, Morph, and Rogue.

I suspect this episode may serve as an introduction for Emma into the main team, as post-“E for Extinction” she became a core X-Man, and has remained so for the past 20+ years. I also think we’ll be seeing Nightcrawler drafted into the main team, taking over the Gambit role of dashing rogue. Which is ironic, since Nightcrawler was the comic team’s initial swashbuckling charmer. I also wonder if/hope we will see Roberto more fully integrated into the series, instead of staying in the peripheral role he has been in thus far.

If you’re gutted about what happened this episode, especially with Gambit, I do want to offer some solace/hope. This is the X-Men. They NEVER stay dead. Even before they had mastered mutant resurrection, they never stayed dead!

The following is purely speculation on my part, but a few things to consider:

  1. The Cable scene this episode is important. The fact that he said, “Not again!” suggests that Cable has been trying to prevent this specific moment before. In the original animated series, there was a structurally unique two-part episode with Cable, Bishop, and Apocalypse, where the time-travelers repeatedly went back to their past, our present, to change history, resulting in divergent timelines. I will not be remotely surprised if we get some element of that with this story, and it could result in Gambit at the very least never dying.
  2. In the comics, a seriously wounded Gambit was drafted by Apocalypse into his Four Horsemen, taking on the role of Death. I don’t believe we have seen Apocalypse yet in “X-Men ’97,” and he was one of the main antagonists of the original series. Jean and Madelyne’s cryptic visions of annihilation — which sure seemed to be pointing to what went down this episode — have been happening since Episode 1. I wondered if these were some kind of psychic alert regarding Apocalypse, but that is a pretty big reach. Regardless, Remy does have a history with Apocalypse in the comics, and COULD be brought back in that way.
  3. My strong suspicion is that this plot thread will ultimately build this series’ play on the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline from the 90s X-Men comics. In that arc, characters are pulled back in time with the intention of assassinating Magneto as a young man, thereby ensuring peace for mutants and humans in the present. Things go horribly awry, and instead Xavier is killed in his youth, which rewrites reality so that Apocalypse has completely conquered the planet, mutants are the ruling class, and the X-Men — led by couple Magneto and Rogue — act as freedom fighters. The original animated series did a play on this in the episode where alternate-reality Storm and Wolverine were a couple, but there’s a LOT more to explore in that arc, and there are enough echoes of it already present (Morph adopting his AoA look, the Magneto/Rogue coupling) to make me think we will get more of it. If we do get into some time-travel shenanigans and create rewritten timelines, I won’t be surprised if that leads to a Gambit reset. But we’ll see.

Anyway, enough speculating. What did you think of this episode? Were you gutted? Has it changed your perception of the show overall? Drop a comment with your thoughts!

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

Episode 4 Recap

Episode 3 Recap

Episodes 1-2 Recap

Newsletter Banner

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments