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 first two seasons of the X-Men Animated Series culminated in a multi-part storyline that ended in a climactic battle between the X-Men and whatever formidable foe they are trying to stop, but the final two episodes of the show’s twenty-five episode third season ends this tradition. Granted, there are at least three or four huge, multi-episode events contained within Season Three to make it a memorable and high-quality season overall, but it seems weird that it chose to end on such a rather ordinary note, especially when the plot of the final episode could very well have been more epic and significant than it wound up being.
The penultimate episode of the third season, entitled “Xavier Remembers,” focuses on a mental attack on the X-Men’s founder and mentor by his old nemesis, the Shadow King, that puts him in a coma. As the team tries to get to the bottom of what has happened to him, Xavier flashes back to his childhood and is confronted by his late mother and his students, all of whom urge him to let go of reality and embrace oblivion. Sensing that the Professor is slipping away, she reaches out to him psychically, engaging in a mental tug of war with the Shadow King over him. Xavier then flashes back to his first encounter with the Shadow King in Cairo, a time in which Xavier first met the very young Storm and fought the evil mutant on the astral plane, banishing him to that realm and forming the X-Men shortly thereafter in order to protect their fellow mutants from threats such as him. Xavier then wakes, possessed by the Shadow King, and attempts to defeat the rest of the team by exposing them to their own personal fears and anxieties. Jean enters the Professor’s mind and helps him mount a final offense and regain control of his body, sending the Shadow King back to his mental prison.
Plot-wise, “Xavier Remembers” could have been a satisfying conclusion to this most significant season had it been expanded to at least a two-parter, but unlike many other key standalone tales, it doesn’t feel particularly rushed as a single episode, as it provides a fairly effective final battle between Xavier and the Shadow King and follows through on its central theme pretty flawlessly, as Xavier makes a short speech at the end about the importance of his team’s mission. It’s also not without its odd moments, such as an early scene where the team appears in Xavier’s vision decked out in revealing swimwear, but overall this is another strong entry in what could very well be the show’s best season, though I’m still at a loss why it wasn’t picked to be the finale. “Xavier Remembers” earns 4 out of 5 Descending Ceilings.
Season Three’s final episode is “A Deal With The Devil,” which marks the return of Wolverine’s old nemesis, the Soviet-era mutant assassin known as Omega Red. After being awakened from his icy prison by the U.S. Military, Red is forced to revive a downed nuclear submarine left behind from the Cold War in exchange for the restoration of his humanity and is informed that he has been implanted with a fail-safe device that will kill him if he decides to go into business for himself. Red agrees to this deal but demands that his old nemeses Wolverine and Storm join him on this mission, which they reluctantly agree to do. When they arrive on the sub, Red eventually betrays Storm and Wolverine, destroying the implant and commandeering the sub to make one final attack on the world. With the help of Beast and Rogue on the Blackbird, the two X-Men are eventually able to thwart Red’s plans, leaving Red unconscious on the deactivated sub at the bottom of the ocean.
“A Deal With The Devil” would have made a perfectly fine standalone episode for midway through the third season, but its inclusion as the season finale is a puzzling one. The plot itself is thrilling enough and provides a brief but potent dilemma for Beast and Rogue, who are faced with the choice of possibly destroying their teammates in order to thwart Omega Red’s plans, but the big action climax seems oddly redundant, given that the team had to thwart a nuclear attack in the second part of the “Sanctuary” storyline earlier in the season. Maybe this didn’t seem as strange during its original weekly run, but watching the entire series in sequence gives no reason for why “A Deal With The Devil” should have been the season finale, even though there is nothing particularly wrong with it as an episode. Still, its puzzling inclusion knocks it down just a tad and leaves it with 3.5 out of 5 Conveniently-Placed Claw Holes.