It’s New To Me – X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (“Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas” / “Lotus and Steel”)
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!
One of the things I have grown to like best about the X-Men Animated Series is its tendency to immediately follow up its epic, multi-part storylines with quieter, more introspective episodes meant to flesh out one or two members of the show’s ensemble cast. After the time-spanning “Beyond Good and Evil” arc, Season Four treats us to two of the best of these kinds of episodes, each one making up for their lack of superhero action with decent character development and heartfelt emotion.
The Holiday-themed “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas” opens with the team getting ready to celebrate Christmas Eve at the Mansion, with Jubilee being particularly excited to spend the Holidays with her newfound mutant family. While Gambit and Jean bicker on how to prepare Christmas dinner and Beast whips up a non-alcoholic Holiday brew in his lab, Jubilee convinces the reluctant and decidedly non-spirited Wolverine to accompany her and Storm for some last-minute shopping in the city and ice-skating at Rockefeller Center. At the latter location, the team comes across a runaway ambulance driven by two of the Morlocks, who explain to them that they are trying to get meds to Leech, who has taken ill. Logan and Storm agree to follow them to the Morlocks’ lair, with Jubilee griping at first about interrupting the team’s festivities, but she quickly changes her tune when she sees just how dire the situation is. Storm convinces Logan to donate some of his blood in hopes that his healing factor will help Leech fight off the disease while Jubilee consoles a Morlock child named Mariana. The rest of the team is notified and Beast arrives to lend a hand, which ultimately results in Leech pulling through. Before they leave, Storm reinstates Callisto as the leader of the Morlocks, admitting that she will be better able to protect them, and the team decides to spend Christmas Eve with their sewer-dwelling friends, much to Chef Gambit’s frustration.
Holiday-themed TV episodes can be a bit of a toss-up in terms of quality, and while “Have Yourself a Morlock Little Christmas” has a terrible title and checks all the expected thematic boxes of these types of episodes, it manages to be a refreshing change of pace from the usual fare found in the series. I loved how it pulled off an early false alarm of sorts, making us believe that the Mansion was under attack only to reveal that the alarms only went off in response to Beast’s failed culinary efforts, and the fact that the central problem was thwarted by good deeds and selflessness instead of fists and superpowers was nice as well. Also, Storm’s actions at the end of the episode make this a key episode within the show’s chronology instead of the breezy anomaly it could have wound up being. After all the trials and near-death situations this team has been through in the past four seasons, it was great to see them get a break and help out those that are even less fortunate than them. “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas” could very well make it into my usual Holiday pop-culture rotation. 4.5 out of 5 Morlock Christmas Trees.
Things get a little more serious with “Lotus and Steel,” which continues Wolverine’s struggle to maintain his humanity after the many mental and physical tortures he endured this season. After nearly losing his cool due to a fit of road rage, Logan takes a sabbatical from the team and journeys to Japan in order to reclaim his humanity, with Jubilee following him soon afterwards, thinking that she was the reason he left. In Japan, Logan is reunited with a group of monks from his past who now live in a modest fishing village threatened by a gang led by the evil warlord known as the Silver Samurai. At first, Wolverine is reluctant to get involved in the village’s problems but is prompted by the lead monk to channel his abilities to protect the innocent against those who would oppress them, emboldening the villagers to set up traps to stop the Silver Samurai’s goons while Wolverine defeats the Samurai himself, using his claws only to disable his special suit and render him powerless. Jubilee arrives at the village just in time to leave with Logan, who is now confident that he can once again be a productive member of the X-Men.
“Lotus and Steel” appears at first to be yet another “Wolverine leaves the Mansion” adventure (the second one so far in Season Four), but it does a fine job in continuing Logan’s season-long struggles with his faith (or lack thereof), his past, and his humanity. The fact that his ultimate solution to the village’s problem does not involve direct violence until the very end (and his show of mercy at the end of that battle) shows definite growth in his character and instills confidence in his continued growth as a character. In addition to being the most popular X-Man by far, Wolverine has consistently been the most interesting character on the show during this season, and “Lotus and Steel” provides what is likely to be a fitting end to his season-long arc. 4.5 out of 5 Three Amigos tactics.