Jonathan Dobres

x-men re-examined: the cure

Air date: February 20, 1993

Lenore Zann rules. As Rogue, she gives us a vocal performance big and bold enough to match the superwoman who throws cars around for fun, while still giving her line readings a lot of subtle shading. Zann communicates more emotional range and makes Rogue feel more lived in—more real—than any other member of the team. She is consistently the funniest main cast member, equal parts boy-crazy Southern belle and seasoned ass-kicker who ain’t got time for the villain of the week’s nonsense. Bringing Zann back to voice Rogue for X-Men ‘97 was surely a no-brainer. All this is to say, “The Cure” is our first Rogue-centric episode and it’s a real treat.

There’s a scientist working out of Muir Island in Scotland, one Gottfried Adler, who can reverse mutations. His technology is behind the power-suppressing collars used in Genosha, and he seems to be on the verge of perfecting a version of the tech that works permanently. Naturally, he’s a weird recluse. “Visitors are verboten,” he says through an intercom when Professor Xavier and Moira McTaggert try to see him. You’d think Xavier would be more concerned about the psychic flash of two blue mutants (Mystique and Apocalypse), which sends him into paralytic shock.

Ominous visions aside, Xavier feels that the use of this technology (he refuses to call it a “cure”) is a personal choice for each mutant to make, and he informs his X-Men of its existence. Most of the team would rather die than give up their unique abilities, but of course, Rogue feels differently. Her life-draining powers mean that she can never hold hands with someone the way that Jean and Scott do, or make good on Gambit’s flirting:

Gambit: Let’s have a kiss before ya’ go, ah?

Rogue stops the car, gets out, and starts walking away.

Rogue: You know what happens when I touch somebody! You wanna end up in the hospital?

Gambit: Maybe it’s worth it, no?

I love this scene. You should all love this scene. I have no doubt that when they were developing X-Men ‘97, they had a screenshot of this scene next to the words, “LIKE THIS”. In a show that’s usually doing all it can to rush from one big thing to the next, it’s the first scene to give its characters some time to breathe. For a moment, it feels like an entirely different show. Zann and Potter are both great here, too.

Gambit’s flirting, which was meant to make Rogue feel better, does the opposite. Whatever ambivalence she might have felt before, it’s gone now. She’s flying to Scotland for her cure, immediately. By hitching a ride on the wing of a plane. The image is simultaneously silly, strange, and sad.

Rogue lands in a Muir Island bar where fan-favorite Pyro and guy-who-is-also-there Avalanche are waiting for Mystique. “She’s a shape-changer,” Pyro helpfully reminds Avalanche and the audience, “one never can be sure.” They briefly think Rogue is Mystique, and when it becomes apparent that she’s not, they decide to harass her anyway, because they are idiots. She promptly throws both of them through a concrete wall. Please, do not hold your applause.

To sum up a packed middle act, “Adler” is Mystique in disguise, and her machine does something other than remove mutant abilities. Apocalypse is very interested in using it on Rogue, and would have gotten away with it, were it not for Pyro and Avalanche trying to kidnap “Adler” at exactly the wrong moment. Mystique reveals herself to them just so she can yell at them for being huge tools. Rogue, having shrugged off about four tons of sci-fi debris, finds Pyro and Avalanche and hands them their own butts, again.

In the middle of all this is Cable, who wants to execute Dr. Adler for inventing Genosha’s power-suppressing collars. His superpower is that he can pop up wherever the script needs him to be, so while he can’t kill Adler (he’s already dead, Mystique explains), he can at least dilute an otherwise good episode. By this point Cyclops and Jean have arrived as this episode’s cavalry. They briefly fight Cable on a cliffside and Jean nearly falls to her death, rescued at the last second by Rogue.

In the end, Rogue declines Adler’s treatment, saying simply, “There ain’t no cure for who you are.” This is a versatile sentence that I think works equally well crocheted onto my friend’s pillows or chiseled onto my enemy’s tombstones, thank you.

Rogue accepts that her abilities are a net good, difficult though they may be. And it’s easy to see how she gets there. Throughout this episode she’s almost unstoppable. Her mighty deeds include: halting a fight between Wolverine and Gambit by dropping a belfry on Wolverine, hitching a plane to Scotland, tearing steel security doors off their hinges, resoundingly beating the crap out of Pyro and Avalanche (twice), and saving Jean’s life. For you it was the adventure of a lifetime, for Rogue it was Saturday.

As with Storm’s claustrophobia, Rogue is coping, not conquering. I wish the episode had done a little more to sell this self-realization. Maybe have a scene where Rogue pretends to live like a non-mutant for a day, and comes across some act of violence or hatred that she’s not allowed to do anything about. It would have eaten up a few minutes, but please, just trade it for all the unnecessary crap with Cable.

Ah yes, Cable. And Warren Worthington III, a.k.a. Angel. Warren is Dr. Adler’s wealthy benefactor, desperate for a treatment that will undo the curse of his majestic bird wings (and I assume, the proportionate upper body strength of a swan). The episode’s opening scene has Cable showing up at Warren’s secluded chateau to get a lead on Adler. The ensuing fight is awfully muddled. At one point, Warren surveys the landscape and says, “Warren’s gone,” which could be a commentary on having to reveal to his girlfriend that he’s a mutant, but I think more likely is a script error (I really think he was supposed to be talking about Cable). The scene ends with the girlfriend shooting him, though it’s unclear whether this is due to the confusion of the moment or out of fear of his wings. Either way, he flies off.

We don’t see him again until near the end of the episode, when he’s arriving at Muir Island and Rogue is just leaving:

Rogue and Angel bump into each other in midair.

Angel: How do you fly without wings?

Rogue: I dunno, I just do.

This little exchange left an impression on young me. I’m not kidding when I say that it is the best possible explanation for superpowers that this show, or any show, could possibly offer. People fly now, Warren, get over it!

The episode closes with Angel enthusiastically volunteering for “treatment”, and Apocalypse vowing to use him as a tool to destroy the world.

Stray observations:

  • On the topic of mutation-reversing technology, Xavier says, “Don’t say ‘cure’, Moira. Being a mutant isn’t a disease, it’s something you’re born with.” I wonder if this is a metaphor for anything, guys.

  • Pyro and Avalanche do the requisite work to help Mystique get through her exposition about Apocalypse and they still don’t understand any of it.

  • If Warren is so profoundly ashamed of his mutation, why does he have a superhero costume specifically designed to show it off?

  • Professor Xavier wears an adorable purple smoking jacket at night.