“X-Men ’97” Episode 6 Recap

April 17, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

After last episode’s explosive, traumatizing ending, “X-Men ’97” took a beat and shifted focus to two simmering subplots. “Lifedeath Part II” resolves the Storm/Forge/Adversary plotline last seen in Episode 4, and also brings Professor Charles Xavier back into the show’s orbit while giving us an update on his condition, and the condition of the Shi’ar Empire.

Read on for my thoughts on both plotlines, plus some additional context from a longtime comic reader. SPOILERS AHOY.


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Storm & Forge

Picking up from “Lifedeath Part I,” Storm and Forge are being tormented by the demonic Adversary, who has bitten Forge; the dark magic from the bite is working its way toward Forge’s heart. Meanwhile, the Adversary is auditioning for “The Real Housewives of the Trickster Plane” by being a petty bitch who lives for drama, mocking Storm’s subconscious desires to be human instead of mutant. While the Adversary is distracted by reading Storm for filth, Forge whips out some Dr. Strange-esque magic (magic skills have been passed down his family line) and banishes the demon from his home. Forge tells Ororo that the only thing that can stop the Adversary’s magic bite is the juice from a cactus that grows in a cave in a nearby mesa. Of course, it only grows in a place that can be accessed by a very narrow crawlspace in the rock. Which is just amazing for a claustrophobe like Ororo.

Ororo and a sick-and-getting-sicker Forge enter the mesa, which had been turned into a munitions dump by U.S. military forces during multiple 19th Century wars. There was quite a bit of talk this episode — in both stories — about colonizers, conflicts, and the lies the dominant party tells the smaller group to keep them servile. Given the meta-arc about the “evolutionary war” that started last episode, that’s not subtext. It is actual text, and you should read it in bold. I do not need Destiny’s precognitive abilities to see neckbeards whining about this show going “woke” coming in hot…

Forge passes out and Storm has to secure the cactus juice on her own. While Storm battles her fears, the Adversary emerges out of a crevice to continue to torment Ororo, urging her to give up, to accept self doubt and death. This leads to a sequence where Ororo realizes that while Forge’s de-powering ray was part of the reason she lost her mutant powers, her own self-loathing was also a factor. And in a spectacular sequence, Ororo fully embraces her mutant self and her powers reignite, with tremendous lightning seemingly obliterating the Adversary before Ororo ascends to the skies and joyously flies through the plains, reacquainting herself with nature while somehow transforming her look to match her classic 1970s costume. Did not see that coming! She looks amazing, and if you’re struggling with hair loss, I recommend that you get depowered, get harassed by a demon, and then overcome your self doubt, because it did incredible things to replenish Ororo’s long, luxurious locks.

A repowered Ororo and a healed Forge flirt briefly with the idea of going on a romantic island getaway, before Ororo sees the news alert about the Genoshan massacre. Expect Storm, at least, to immediately fly to the X-Men’s side; we’ll see if Forge joins her.

A few notes from a comic reader: this episode speeds through the “Lifedeath” arc, and simplifies a lot of what happens in it. I still think it’s great character development for Storm, who seems to be leaving this much more assured and fully in control of herself and her powers (not that she was any slouch before). It’s interesting, but understandable, that the show completely avoided some of the more complicated elements around Forge and the Adversary. In the comics, during the Korean War, an enlisted Forge used his magic to save his patrol, creating a rift into our dimension that the Adversary used to slip in. Essentially, he used the magic passed down via his family line to cheat death, and it ended up having terrible repercussions. In the comics, this ended with the X-Men — at the time Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Colossus, Dazzler, Psylocke, Longshot, Havok, and Madelyne Pryor — sacrificing their lives to end the spell and destroy the Adversary, which led to the world at large believing that the team was dead for years.

I’m not surprised they avoided a lot of the more problematic elements of that storyline, and instead fixated on the Storm-empowering ones. I hope anyone who was freaking out about Storm being de-powered in Episode 2 agrees that this was an incredible personal arc for her, and I suspect the result will be a much more assured, proactive Ororo going forward. Which could prove a challenge for Cyclops’ leadership…

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Professor Xavier

Meanwhile, literally on the other side of the galaxy, we are reintroduced to Professor Xavier for the first time since “X-Men ’97” premiered. For those who forgot, at the end of the original animated series, Xavier was basically dead, and his body was taken away by his galpal, Empress Lilandra of the Shi’ar, in the hopes that her empire’s advanced medicine could save him. Turns out, they could. Xavier is #thriving as Lilandra’s consort, so much in fact, that the Empress stuns her empire by announcing her intentions to wed the good Professor.

This is a problem for Lilandra’s crazy-ass sister, the hot bitch known as Deathbird. The episode opens with Deathbird leading the Shi’ar Imperial Guard — including a very interesting member we will get to in a second — in their ongoing battle against the Kree, specifically kicking the ass of Ronan the Accuser, who you might remember from Guardians of the Galaxy. This suggests the Shi’ar are engaged in what is known in the comics as “Operation: Galactic Storm.” The mystery man in the Imperial Guard — he’s in a blue and red suit, black hair, radiating power from his hands — doesn’t say a word, but he is a very big deal. He is in fact Vulcan, AKA Gabriel Summers. Summers as in Scott. Vulcan is the long-lost Summers brother, born of his dying mother while in the custody of the Shi’ar Empire and Lilandra’s predecessor, her psychotic brother, D’ken. Trust me when I say that Vulcan is very powerful, and a very big deal. This may just be an Easter Egg for comics readers, or a portent of things to come.

But there’s enough drama in the Shi’ar Empire as it is. Repulsed by the thought of Lilandra marrying a filthy mutant from the “Milky Way ghetto” (OK Deathbird, that was a READ), and how that may undermine the entire strength of their empire, Deathbird calls for a specific Shi’ar challenge: Xavier must be mindwiped to forgot everything about his home planet, his time there, and especially his X-Men. At first, Xavier agrees to go along with it, as a way of repaying Lilandra for saving his life. But as the psychic operation is taking place, Xavier hesitates when being forced to forget the X-Men. This leads Deathbird to declare war against Lilandra and Xavier, and as chaos breaks out in the throne room (Gladiator is such a badass) Xavier psychically shunts all the major players to the Astral Plane for a little educational session.

This whole sequence was great. It showed us that Professor Xavier is not one to be played with, even though he can be pretty damned funny. He forces the Shi’ar to accept that their entire empire is based on assimilating less-developed cultures, cutting them off at the knees before they can challenge them. There are very clear echoes in this exchange to the Storm/Forge discussion about white settlers wiping out Forge’s native ancestors.

Xavier is making solid points with the Shi’ar, who seem to be softening to his position, when suddenly the Astral Plane is swept by a wave of shock and pain. Xavier sees the globe on the desk burst into flames, then the skeletal body of Gambit appears, making it clear that Xavier has just been made aware of the attack on Genosha. Devastated that his students, his “children of the atom,” are in grave danger (or outright dead!), Xavier tells Lilandra he cannot marry her, and must return to Earth immediately. Lilandra is devastated.

More comic notes: this storyline loosely adopts the Shi’ar plotline that brings Xavier back into the X-books around Uncanny #275, literally years (in real time) after he left the team under similar circumstances. It’s interesting that the X-Men themselves were not directly involved in bringing him back, as in the comics a whole squad (Forge, Banshee, Storm, Psylocke, Gambit, Wolverine, Jubilee) ventured into space to rescue him. I also think Lilandra is better written in this episode than she has ever been. She is wise, kind, but also imposing — she takes absolutely no nonsense. She is believable as an Empress in ways I don’t think she ever was in the previous animated series, or the comic source material, where she always came off as milquetoast to me.

Additional Thoughts

-If you have been skipping the opening credits of this series, you are missing out on a lot. First, shame on you; those credits are exceptional and the theme song kicks ass. But secondly, there are important plot points from the original series that are often woven into each episode’s opening. This time we got shots of Master Mold and Nimrod that I suspect are a harbinger of things to come.

-But that’s not even the headline from the credits. Not only is Gambit gone, but Nightcrawler is officially part of the cast! Even though he did not appear in this episode at all. I think we can assume that Kurt is now part of the main squad, essentially taking Remy’s slot. (And we can assume Xavier will replace Magneto next episode.) That’s probably bad news for those of us hoping Emma Frost would also join the X-Men at this juncture…

-The ending of the episode featured a button in which — I think — Bolivar Trask was being hounded by a shadowy figure. Trask reveals that he gave that person genetic access to Master Mold, suggesting that the attacker was ultimately behind the Tri-Sentinel attack on Genosha. And in the end, the big bad appears to be…Mister Sinister? That threw me for a loop. There were any number of people I would have expected to be behind the attempted genocide of a mutant nation. Nimrod. Bastion. Cassandra Nova (who was behind the Genosha attacks in the comics). But a mutant geneticist wiping out such a significant chunk of mutant DNA, and all but ensuring a human/mutant war? That’s a stumper. But I have absolute faith in the writers of this show, so I’m excited to see how this all plays out.

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

Episode 5 Recap

Episode 4 Recap

Episode 3 Recap

Episodes 1-2 Recap

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