Jonathan Dobres

x-men re-examined: deadly reunions

Air date: January 23, 1993

They seriously made us wait two months for a new episode? They made children wait two months for a new episode? The ’90s were barbaric.

This episode is a pretty direct continuation of the previous one. We’re picking up the Sabretooth drama from last time and dealing with Magneto in the B-plot. The episode opens with Xavier psychically probing Sabretooth’s mind, but there’s something the growling lunatic wants to keep hidden. Wolverine doesn’t see why the Professor should extend him any kindness. Or as the show puts it:

Xavier: There are some recesses of his mind I’ve not yet been able to penetrate.

Wolverine: I’ll penetrate his recesses…

I thought this was funny when I was ten, and I still think it’s funny now. Wolverine is one of the few characters with much of a personality at this point, and it’s very clear even at this early stage that the show intends to spend lots of time with him. This will set a trend that continues through several other shows (most notably, the titular Wolverine and the X-Men) and at least six feature films.

Wolverine storms off in a huff (in a cool way, people!), and the rest of the team is called away to again face Magneto, who is raiding a chemical plant. Big Shredder vibes from him here, as this is the second consecutive episode where he just floats in and starts causing problems. Cyclops is quickly taken out by noxious gas (pathetic), Storm has her first claustrophobia-induced panic attack due to some falling debris (relatable), and this all keeps Rogue busy making sure no one dies. Which is made harder when she gives Cyclops some Southern-style mouth-to-mouth (or CPR, as it is known), and she absorbs his powers. She has to keep her eyes shut to avoid lasering the plant in half, effectively taking her out of the fight.

This sets up the first real sparring match between Magneto and Professor Xavier (that levitating wheelchair is clutch). As usual, Xavier tries to get his old friend to see reason, but he’s having none of it. “My people used reason while others used tanks, and they were destroyed for their trouble. I won’t watch it happen again.” Since words failed, Xavier resorts to images, showing Magneto his own war-torn memories. Whether mentally traumatizing someone is really an ethical way to win a fight is a debate for another blog series, but in any case, it works and Magneto crawls away.

Back at the mansion, Jubilee is watching Senator Kelly declare a run for President, with mutant internment as the primary plank in his platform. She turns off the TV in disgust, and starts chatting with Sabretooth. If you think leaving a hardened war criminal in the care of a naive teenager is a smart idea, you are Professor Charles Xavier.

This goes about as well as you’d expect, and Sabretooth quickly gets himself set free, revealing that he’s been working for Magneto the whole time. Luckily Wolverine didn’t go far. He opens the brawl against Sabretooth with the words, “You egg-sucking piece of gutter trash! You always liked pushing around people smaller than you. Well I’m smaller! Try pushin’ me!” I know we all love Hugh Jackman now, but it really is a shame they went with a 6’3” Australian and lost this aspect of the character. Is it any wonder Wolverine becomes the star of the franchise? With Wolverine, you get this exquisite antihero trash talk. With just about any other member of the team, you get another bracing lecture about the dream of mutant-human peace.

Anyway, Sabretooth uses Slashing Claw and it’s super effective. Please note that he’s able to do this because Xavier starts lecturing Wolverine in the middle of the fight. This was before Wolverine’s mutant healing abilities were reinterpreted to mean he could instantly shrug off anything but the most grievous injury, so he’s down for the count. But before Sabretooth can finish the job, Jubilee blasts him through a wall. Kid’s got potential!

The really interesting thing about this episode—and again, I cannot stress enough how unusual this was for early ’90s cartoons—is that everybody loses. It’s an episode about failure. The fight at the chemical plant is a disaster. Xavier drags home a blinded Rogue (herself carrying her two unconscious teammates), while Magneto runs away terrified. Sabretooth puts Wolverine in the hospital, and then he barely manages to scamper into the forests of upstate New York. Xavier has to reckon with the fact that he used his X-Men as pawns against his old frenemy, and failed. Or as Storm puts a button on the idea: “We failed, Professor. Together.”

But you know who doesn’t deal well with failure? Shredder Magneto, who vows to gather likeminded mutants to his cause and destroy Charles Xavier.

Stray observations:

  • Where the hell is Gambit? Morph is presumed dead and Beast is reading Tolstoy in prison, but Gambit just hasn’t been around for two whole episodes. For that matter, where’s Jean? They’re both on the toilet for this one, I guess.

  • Commenting on their CPR “kiss”, Rogue says, “We’ll have to do it again sometime.” To which Cyclops responds, “Yeah well uhh…ummm…” Smooth, Scott. I can’t believe this dweeb manages to get married next season.