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!
As faithful in spirit as the X-Men Animated Series has been to the original comics that inspired it, I have forgiven the show when it deviates from the very stories it adapts for the sake of its target audience. When Jean Grey lived at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga in Season Three, I conceded that the suits at Fox probably wouldn’t like it if the show killed off one of its main characters, though it would have been nice if she had been used more often on the show after that. This mentality kept coming up while watching the two part “Proteus” storyline, which comes directly from one of my favorite stories from the Claremont / Byrne era in the comics but is even more loosely adapted than both the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix Sagas were, though not nearly as much as “Days Of Future Past,” which resembled the original story in name only. Despite being a generally well-done and emotionally effective story here, all the changes made to it made me wonder if they should have even tackled this story at all if they weren’t willing to be true to its roots.
Part one of “Proteus” begins on Muir Island, punctuated once again by the bagpipe music that introduced any previous scenes set in that location, where Moira MacTaggart and Sean Cassidy believe they have successfully learned how to control the powers of Moira’s mutant son Kevin, a powerful telepath code named Proteus who is able to possess the bodies of others and bend reality to his will. Their hopes are quickly dashed when Kevin escapes, wanting to break free of Moira’s control. Moira calls out to Xavier asking for his help, and he and a team of X-Men fly to Muir Island to try to bring Kevin back. On the way there, Xavier flashes back to his past relationship with Moira, which ended when he is off fighting in what appears to be the Vietnam War, receiving a letter from her stating that she has married someone else. After Xavier arrives, Moira tells Xavier that her now-ex husband is a big-time politician in mainland Scotland, currently running for Secretary of State. Wandering the island, Proteus enters a mutant-friendly bar where Xavier tries unsuccessfully to reach out to his mind. Proteus then hops a ferry to the mainland to try to find his estranged father while Beast, Wolverine, and Rogue try to track him down along with Xavier and Moira. After an early encounter with Proteus, they are able to track him to Edinburgh while Moira secretly contacts her ex-husband trying to get him to talk to his son. During their next encounter, Moira reveals to Xavier and his team that Proteus is her son, and during their attempt to subdue him, Wolverine is left emotionally wounded after Proteus briefly changes his physical features. Part one ends with Proteus escaping once again, desperate to find his father.
Part two of “Proteus” has the team catching up with Joe MacTaggart, Kevin’s father, in order to warn him of the potentially dangerous situation that awaits him. Joe is more concerned with his upcoming election than in reconnecting with his mutant son and assures Xavier and Moira that his security should be able to protect him from any threats. Nevertheless, the X-Men patrol Joe’s home, not letting their revulsion of Joe’s callous attitude toward his own flesh and blood keep them from their duty. Proteus invades Joe’s home and sees pictures of him with his new family, and when he appears at one of Joe’s rallies, Wolverine appears fearful and is reluctant to feel the effects of his powers again. Xavier tries once again to reach out to Proteus, telling him that he understands his anger and yearning for his father, only to fail again as Proteus escapes. In the aftermath of their encounter, Wolverine defensively lashes out at his teammates after they comment on his reluctance to engage, and Xavier pleads with his students to help him reach out to Proteus before his actions force them to destroy him. Proteus appears once again during one of Joe’s speeches, and Xavier tells his students to stand aside to let the two of them talk. Joe rejects Kevin’s attempts to reach out to him, and Kevin once again lashes out with his power. Wolverine overcomes his fear and tries to reach out to Proteus, as does Xavier once again in a last ditch effort to peacefully stop him. Proteus enters Xavier’s mind, where he is successfully able to calm the young mutant down. Joe, finally seeing Kevin for who he really is, reaches out to the boy and asks for his forgiveness. Back at Muir Island, Moira and Banshee continue to teach Kevin to control his abilities while Rogue tries to console Wolverine after his traumatic experience with Proteus.
While this storyline provided a somewhat emotionally rich storyline, it was lacking in terms of character beats. The X-Men’s battles with Proteus were repetitive and, aside from the battle that closed the first part, mostly felt like filler in order to pad the storyline out to fit the required length. Proteus himself is portrayed more sympathetically and as less of a dangerous presence than in the original comic story, and Moira is portrayed far more sympathetically as well, as Claremont is much more critical of her failed efforts to control her son’s power. The storyline does a decent job in communicating the inner pain of both Moira and her son, though sometimes they take a back seat to Xavier’s own painful memories of his past relationship with Moira, Wolverine’s PTSD after his first encounter with Proteus, and Rogue’s flashbacks of her father’s rejection that were triggered by her witnessing Joe’s rejection of Kevin. This lack of focus is most evident in part two and distracts a bit from the central relationships of the storyline, though each one is rather compelling on its own. Despite its unevenness and the fact that it waters down what is pretty much a horror-tinged tragedy in the original comics, both parts of “Proteus” tell a concise and emotionally rich story for its time and era in animated television and earn 3.5 out of 5 Chandelier Bats.