Jonathan Dobres

x-men re-examined: the final decision

Air date: March 27, 1993

The plot that motivates the action scenes in this episode—Master Mold abducts Senator Robert Kelly and wants to replace his brain with a computer—isn’t very well realized. In previous episodes, we were given enough details about the Sentinel program for it to feel like part of the world, but in this episode the Sentinel program is magically back online, Master Mold and all, at a nebulous location and without further explanation. Kelly is a hostage for most of the episode but Master Mold never seems to get around to the brain surgery. While we do see a hilarious montage of Sentinels abducting world leaders—giant purple hands ripping through walls and yanking screaming politicians right out of their office chairs—we never see any of those people arrive at this mysterious facility.

The primary benefit of this half-baked story is that it flips Magneto into an antihero. He abducted Kelly at the end of the last episode, and here is seconds away from crushing him to death beneath a pile of metal. But a plastic Sentinel drops in, grabs Kelly, and leaves Magneto injured and unconscious. The X-Men arrive way too late to do anything but collect the Master of Magnetism and put him in the infirmary.

The X-Men track down Henry Gyrich, who puts up a surprisingly competent fight but is ultimately taken down by Wolverine, because the show cannot ever let Cyclops look cool. With all the information now in hand, the X-Men must decide whether they’re really going to risk their lives against thousands of Sentinels to save the life of a man who is currently running for President on an anti-mutant platform. This is what the episode’s title, “The Final Decision”, refers to. How committed are Xavier’s students, really, to the idea of mutant-human coexistence? Enough to risk themselves for someone who not only hates them, but might go on to do irreparable harm to all mutants? Everyone gets a moment to reason through things in their own way, and they all reach the same conclusion: yes. Magneto stumbles out of the infirmary and warns them not to rescue their would-be oppressor. “You’re all fools! Heroic fools. The brave are always the first to die.”

Leaving Magneto to brood at the mansion, the whole team, even Xavier, heads off to confront Master Mold’s army. As has become the norm over this season, it’s a pretty fun set piece, with half the team running infiltration while the other half puts up a big, loud fight against the flying robots. The most notable thing about the fight is the surprise participation of Magneto himself. He saves the X-Men’s lives multiple times during this chaotic melee. Xavier loses control of the Blackbird, but Magneto sets it down gently with the words, “Did you think I would let you die alone, Xavier?” This is Magneto as Antihero, not Magneto as Shredder, and there is just no denying how much more enjoyable Magneto is in this role. Even David Hemblen seems to be having more fun voicing him.

The infiltration side of the operation gives everyone but Cyclops a chance to show off, but otherwise doesn’t amount to much. It’s not even the X-Men who try to take out Master Mold. Master Mold has concluded that, “Mutants are humans,” eliciting an audible gasp from Trask, and that therefore “humans must be protected from themselves,” hence the brain replacement scheme. Trask, perhaps panicking because the superintelligent robot he created thinks anti-mutant bigotry is illogical, and having lost control of the Sentinels, points a laser at a propane line and blows up the whole operation yet again.

At this point, the various team members are all in the middle of doing different things, and I don’t think the plotting exactly lines up, but suffice to say that everyone makes it back up to the surface. So does Master Mold, who bursts out of the mountaintop like the Czernobog, declaring that it cannot be destroyed. It did not, however, count on Charles Xavier somehow[citation needed] loading up the Blackbird with explosives, ejecting at the last second (aided by Magneto), and destroying Master Mold in an explosion so enormous that it’s animated with a mushroom cloud.

Everyone gets a little moment in the immediate aftermath. Cyclops and Jean share a kiss, as do Rogue and Gambit over Rogue’s gloved hand (which is terribly cute). Magneto bids farewell to Xavier with an ominous, “We shall meet again.”

This fades to the epilogue. Senator Kelly publicly reverses his position and declares that mutants and humans must find a way to live together. He even gets Beast released from prison. Cyclops and Jean go on a picnic, where Cyclops proposes (I am still calling him “Cyclops” here because so does Jean). While she’s worried about what their mutant children might face (whoa girl, what about your career?), she says yes, and she wonders aloud about their future together. Then it’s revealed that we’re watching surveillance footage. A strange new voice cackles, “Sinister knows what your future holds!”

I would bet money that this final moment, with the sudden transition to a surveillance console and Sinister’s extremely rushed dialogue, was added late in production. Minus these last minute additions, the final scenes function as a tidy series finale. Rogue is finally returning Gambit’s affection, Cyclops and Jean are engaged, Beast is free, and the world is taking a small but important step toward peace. Magneto is even proved wrong. The X-Men listened to the better angels of their nature and rescued Senator Kelly, who has returned the kindness. If the show had only gotten one season, this would have made a satisfying ending. But of course, X-Men was a huge hit, so sure, give us a stinger teasing one of next season’s Big Bads. Always leave them wanting more.

Stray observations:

  • At the start of the episode, an angry crowd chants, “No more mutants!” I can’t hear those words without thinking of an extremely important storyline that would hit the comics a decade later.

  • The team is able to locate Gyrich after scanning Gambit’s memories. They also could have done this with Jubilee, since both have met him, but Gambit is much more interesting. Gambit’s memories include a winking Rogue and possibly an encounter with Ghost Rider?

  • Master Mold, describing his plan: “All their brains will be replaced. It will be a vast improvement.”

  • Cyclops, rushing back into the facility to find Wolverine, who is standing shirtless atop a pile of destroyed Sentinels: “Wolverine! You coming, or is this your day off?” The scene is a perfect distillation of the show’s attitude toward these two. Wolverine must always be cool, Cyclops must always be a jerk.