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 overall world of the X-Men is one of the most vast and deep in comics history, and the Nineties Animated Series did a great job exploring its many corners. For its fifth and final season premiere, the show brought out one of its more obscure threats for the team to engage with in the form of the Phalanx, the part-organic, part-digital alien race that Warlock, a former member of the New Mutants, came from. The two-part story that introduces this race in the show doubles as a creepy Invasion of the Body Snatchers – style adventure and as a showcase for one of the team’s least utilized members on the show.
The story begins with Beast and Jubilee apprehending who they believe to be Sabertooth after stopping him during a rampage in the city. After Wolverine finds out that his longtime nemesis is being held in the Mansion, he goes to confront him, only to find out that their prisoner is not Sabertooth but is rather an alien being in disguise. After Xavier receives a panicked video warning about a malicious force that consumes and assimilates all matter from none other than Mister Sinister, he and his team fall prey to the alien, who overpowers them all and imprisons them in a bizarre substance. Beast is the only X-Man who manages to escape, aided by a rogue member of this alien race known simply as Warlock. As they flee the Mansion, Warlock tells Beast all about his race, named the Phalanx, and how they only live to consume and assimilate worlds. He states that he and his lifemate fled the Phalanx and arrived on Earth but that they tracked them down and captured his lifemate and brought her back into the fold. They take refuge in the eye clinic where Beast works, where Beast discovers that mutant tissue is resistant to total assimilation by the Phalanx and warns President Kelly about the threat, only to discover that the Phalanx has overtaken Washington and is on course to assimilate the entire world. Beast attempts to reach out to other mutants who have not yet been attacked, meeting up with Forge and Quicksilver in a local diner that is quickly overrun by the Phalanx. The quartet tries to escape, with Quicksilver falling prey to the aliens and Forge, Beast, and Warlock being rescued by none other than Sinister. Meanwhile, we discover that former Genoshan leader Cameron Hodge has allied himself with the Phalanx and is trying to find a way to work around the mutants’ resistance to total assimilation by them. On Sinister’s ship, Warlock laments that Earth is doomed and that it is all his fault for leading the Phalanx there unwittingly.
Part two of “The Phalanx Covenant” follows the unlikely team of Forge, Beast, Warlock, and Sinister as they try to come up with a game plan to fight the Phalanx and Hodge’s attempts to use Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton to isolate and absorb the captive mutants’ powers so that they too can be fully assimilated, creating the orderly world that he craves at the expense of free will and any form of individuality. The team journeys to Muir Island, eliciting the aid of Moira MacTaggart, Banshee, and Xavier’s other former lover Amelia to study Warlock’s alien DNA in order to synthesize a cure for the Phalanx’s effects. The Phalanx arrives at the island, taking Moira and Banshee, with the remaining rebels flying off in search of Magneto, the only remaining mutant that can help them.
The team arrives at Magneto’s lair, convincing the world-weary Master of Magnetism to help them only by telling him that Quicksilver has been taken. He and Warlock succeed in obtaining a Phalanx sample in order to test their cure, which they discover is successful in killing off the Phalanx and restoring the assimilated matter to its original form. Beast then leads the team to the Empire State Building, where Hodge and the Phalanx are holding his friends and harvesting their powers. Forge and Amelia infiltrate the base, freeing Jean Grey and Polaris and enlisting their help in protecting them against the Phalanx while the rest of the team frees the remaining mutant prisoners and Warlock applies the cure, restoring all that the Phalanx has absorbed, including Hodge himself. With the threat eviscerated, Warlock is reunited with his mate and Sinister retreats back to his lab. The team pledges to help Warlock and his mate return to their world to continue the fight against their oppressors.
While the X-Men has dealt with plenty of alien races and beings that take possession of others before, the threat introduced in “The Phalanx Covenant” is still a uniquely terrifying one, combining the fear of total assimilation to a malevolent force as shown in the aforementioned Invasion of the Body Snatchers with the fear and paranoia of technological conquest that permeates the Terminator film series. As per usual in this show, the final defeat of this threat occurs a bit too quickly and easily, and the storyline could have used an additional half hour to really draw out the threat and make it a bit more satisfying, but the unlikely grouping of mutants united against Hodge’s mad plan for humanity makes this a highly entertaining storyline that bodes well for the show’s final season. Both parts of “The Phalanx Covenant” earn 4 out of 5 Paraphrased Memorex Slogans.