In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
The early to mid Nineties was an interesting time for animated series based on comic books. Not every show that came out around this time was of the highest quality, but with Batman: The Animated Series, The Tick, Spider-Man, and X-Men, we had several cartoons on television that were more or less faithful to their source material and provided well-represented animated versions of their original books’ supporting cast. X-Men in particular went to great pains to expand its world, even going so far as to include villains from other pockets of the Marvel Universe from time to time, which is exactly what it did in the tenth episode of Season Three, entitled “No Mutant Is An Island,” which featured an appearance from a then-niche Marvel villain in Zebediah Kilgrave, better known as The Purple Man.
The episode begins with the team mourning the loss of Jean Grey, with Scott’s mourning quickly turning to anger. After lashing out at Xavier, he leaves the mansion and returns to the orphanage where he grew up and where his mutant abilities first manifested themselves, reuniting with an old friend named Sara who now runs the place. Sara informs Scott of the immense generosity of Zebediah Kilgrave, a local millionaire who supports the orphanage and has adopted several of its mutant children. Scott soon learns that Kilgrave’s intentions with the children are far from noble when one of them, a young boy named Rusty with the power to create fire, runs away and returns to the orphanage. He soon uncovers Kilgrave’s true identity and powers of persuasion, which he uses on the mutant children to help him obtain even more political power and influence within the area. Scott and Sara team up to free the children from Kilgrave’s influence and bring him to justice, and when Scott returns to the Mansion, he and the rest of the team discover that Jean is alive.
“No Mutant Is An Island” is a return of sorts to the solo-centric X-Men episodes that we saw a lot of in the first season and occasionally during the second season. With all the big stories being told so far in Season Three, this was a refreshing change of pace, with Scott regaining his empathy for other mutants and drive to help them achieve respect and equality due to his run-in with the Purple Man. In addition to including a villain outside of the core X-Men comics that has since broken through to the mainstream with the Jessica Jones live-action series on Netflix, this episode also introduced a number of obscure young mutant characters who in the comics formed a splinter X-team known as the X-Terminators and some of whom would later join the New Mutants and X-Force. All of these elements are nicely combined in an episode that serves as a cool-down of sorts after recent events and a bridge between the “Phoenix Saga” and the upcoming “Dark Phoenix Saga” and provides some much-needed information regarding Cyclops’ past. “No Mutant Is An Island” earns 4 out of 5 Transforming Wheelchairs.
The audience is left hanging after the bombshell ending of that episode, however, as the next installment, “Obsession,” completely ignores the fallout of the team’s discovery, instead focusing on Warren Worthington’s efforts to find a weakness within his immortal adversary Apocalypse in order to avenge his transformation into the deformed and twisted Archangel back in Season One. A battle between Archangel and Apocalypse gains the attention of the X-Men, most of whom try to dissuade Warren from his constant striving for revenge. Only Rogue sympathizes with Warren’s quest, having absorbed a piece of his psyche during their initial clash, and her bond with Warren raises the ire and jealousy of Gambit, who follows them as they both wage an attack on the self-described “First Mutant” while Beast, Wolverine, and Cyclops infiltrate Apocalypse’s ship, where Beast bonds with its AI and influences it to help them defeat Apocalypse. Archangel’s single-minded bloodlust for Apocalypse inadvertently thwarts Beast’s plan to imprison him, leading to the evil mutant’s escape and the destruction of his ship, much to Beast’s dismay.
While Apocalypse was never one of my favorite X-Men villains, I enjoyed seeing a storyline that began way back in the first season continue into the third and still not get fully resolved. It helps to enrich the TV universe of the X-Men much like in the original comics. I also enjoyed how Archangel is not portrayed as a simply heroic character but as one that is blinded by rage and vengeance, at times to the detriment of what is right. His actions lead to the episode’s bittersweet ending, which must have been seen as a risk for a medium that usually provides universally happy endings to their storylines where evil is vanquished and all the good guys are happy at the end. These blatant but distinct shades of grey make “Obsession” one of the most memorable single episodes of the season and for the series as a whole. 4.5 out of 5 “Pleasant Interfaces.”
Things get a bit lighter in tone with “Longshot,” which features a return appearance from not only the titular luck-powered adventurer from the Mojoverse but also from the manic, ratings-obsessed programmer Mojo and his multi-armed minion Spiral. While taking a break from a driving lesson from Wolverine, Jubilee encounters Longshot as he is transported to her world from the Mojoverse, tailed by Spiral and an army of Mojo’s thugs. Longshot fights them off and runs off with Jubilee, pursued by a pack of metallic creatures known as War Wolves and are rescued by Wolverine, who brings Longshot back to the Mansion to explain just what he is doing in their dimension. Back in the Mojoverse, Mojo himself plans to follow Longshot to Earth in order to broadcast his army’s battle with Longshot and the X-Men in his constant search for high ratings. Despite Wolverine’s distrust, the X-Men agree to help Longshot fight off Mojo’s troops and help him return home. During the battle, Wolverine eventually gains Longshot’s trust, and after the lengthy battle that ends with Mojo, Spiral, and the rest returning home in defeat, Longshot returns to his dimension in order to continue his rebellion against Mojo’s forces, thanking the X-Men and especially Jubilee for their help.
While “Longshot” is a far superior episode than the one from the previous season that introduced the Mojoverse, it was still a bit of a letdown after the two really strong episodes that came before it. While I enjoy these characters in the comics, mostly due to the expert linework of co-creator Art Adams, I don’t seem to have much patience for them as portrayed in the show. Perhaps that’s due to the goofy soundtrack that accompanies Mojo’s appearances, portraying him as more of a goofy annoyance than as a major threat. In the comics, he’s seen as a much darker and more sinister presence, while still keeping a bit of the humor shown here, but in the show his goofier aspects are turned up to eleven and completely supercede any aspect of menace he might potentially have. Character-wise, there’s not much here aside from Jubilee’s obvious crush on Longshot, but the extended battle scenes at the end are a lot of fun and a pleasant change of pace after the heaviness of “Obsession,” which help to soften some of the more annoying aspects of this episode. While not one of the best installments of this exceedingly strong season, “Longshot” is still a pretty good time and earns 3.5 out of 5 “Killer Barneys.”