Jonathan Dobres

x-men re-examined: slave island

Air date: February 13, 1993

So it turns out Genosha’s mutant-friendly advertising is a facade to capture mutants and use their powers for various forms of forced labor. Henry Gyrich and Bolivar Trask relocated the Sentinel program here after the events of “Night of the Sentinels”. Trask’s latest innovation is Master Mold (excellent and very toyetic villain name), a supersized Sentinel that can fully automate the production of other Sentinels. All it needs is a massive power supply, which is what the labor camp is building. This means that Storm, Gambit, and Jubilee wake up in a prison that uses the abilities of the oppressed to strengthen the oppressor. When Magneto finds out about this, he is going to be so angry, and so right.

Storm and Jubilee each try to lead their own rebellions against the camp’s leadership, and both fail (though it is cool to learn that Jubilee knows how to pick locks). Gambit is the lynchpin here, as he talks his way out of the labor camp and immediately uses an inch of freedom to double cross his captors. Along the way, he bumps into a hulking Schwarzenegger type with a glowing eye, a metal arm, and a lot of belt pouches. This guy, Cable, has been harassing the Genoshan leadership in a one-man insurrection for months, and with the chaos that the X-Men bring, he’ll be popping up seemingly everywhere to try to assassinate the Leader of Genosha.

Gambit returns to the labor camp and frees Storm and Jubilee from solitary confinement. Thanks to a key that Gambit got from Cable, they’re able to remove their power-suppressing collars and lead the mutant revolt we all want to see. In the riot, there’s Blob! And Northstar! And Sunfire! And Mystique??? She doesn’t do anything of note here and has no lines, so it’s possible that the animators just chose a random character for a background role, not realizing that she’d be much more important later. Storm goes into full Grand Pronouncement mode and blows apart the Sentinel factory with some monstrous weather. The cavalry arrives just in time to take everyone home, but as they approach the X-Mansion, they see it’s been destroyed (guess we’re just going to have to tune in next week!).

It’s great to see the show starting to make use of season-spanning continuity. Jubilee immediately recognizes Trask, and Trask recognizes the X-Men. The episode also makes a point of having Wolverine actually arrive back at the mansion and refuse to explain his disappearance, whereas in other shows, he’d just be back in place as if nothing happened. Even the creation of Master Mold makes sense, since Gyrich complained in the premiere that Sentinel production was too slow. But maybe Trask did his job a little too well. There’s a moment in the third act when Master Mold produces a new type of Sentinel without any direction from a human.

This episode is a real showcase for Storm and Gambit, who are a study in contrasts. Gambit immediately understands that Trask and Gyrich have every advantage, and that a head-on conflict will end badly. So he uses subterfuge and trickery to make himself valuable to the leadership (even if that means telling his captors a little about the X-Men). His heel turn feels plausible enough, especially since he went so far as to sell out Jubilee and sabotage her attempted revolt. He fools Jubilee and probably fooled a good number of the kids at home. Even in the epilogue, when Jubilee tells Gambit that she knew he’d never really betray them, he smiles and says, “How do you know you aren’t being fooled again?” Of course, actions speak louder than words. The instant Gambit had a little leverage, he executed the double cross. His primary power is that he can turn anything he touches into a bomb, and the writers use this to great effect. Sometimes he’ll slip a charged playing card into a door to blow it open, sometimes he’ll grab whatever’s nearby and turn it into a grenade, and in one instance here, he uses his powers on the car he’s being transported in to break free and cause a lot of chaos. He’s very fun to watch!

Storm, on the other hand, is a woman of principle. She immediately tries to rebel against her captors because that is the right thing to do (though it fails miserably and gets her thrown in solitary). She stops Blob from killing a guard during the mutant riot. Even when driven half-crazy from claustrophobia, she’s still trying to fulfill her role as leader and offer an example of strength to Jubilee. When she finally has access to her full powers, she does not hesitate to absolutely wreck the joint. It’s implied that Cable has been poking at Genosha’s corrupt leaders for months. It takes Storm about three minutes to conjure a typhoon that reduces their entire operation to rubble. And that’s Storm. She will give you every opportunity to do what’s right, and she will even do you the courtesy of announcing how thoroughly she is going to ruin you when you don’t. But if it gets to that point, kiss your plans, your evil robots, and everything within a five mile radius goodbye.

That’s the enduring appeal of X-Men. You can be the silver-tongued, unpredictable cardsharp or the type of drama queen who exacts revenge by way of a localized Category 7 hurricane, and both are extremely cool ways to save the day.

Stray observations:

  • The Leader of Genosha is some dork in a flowing purple robe. Nobody else is dressed like this. Even on a show where yellow spandex is normal, this looks funny to me.

  • The Leader mentions that the camp’s power-suppressing collars were invented by “a scientist from Scotland”. Coincidentally, Xavier stays behind at the mansion to get in touch with one Dr. Moira McTaggert.

  • Master Mold, failing to get away from the collapsing facility: “I am still. Plugged. In!”

  • Cable’s sudden appearance here and implied backstory don’t make any sense in light of his role in later seasons, but then again he’s a time traveler, so whatever.