The X-Men Episode Guide 1×13: ‘The Final Decision’
Hitting at the height of the franchise’s popularity, the 1992 X-Men animated series translated all the action and melodrama that made the comic such a success to the world of Saturday morning cartoons, and it got its hooks into me like almost nothing else. That’s why ComicsAlliance is heading back through the archives for an in-depth look at every single episode of X-Men. This week: 'The Final Decision,' the explosive (literally) finale of Season One!
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, we got through the cartoon's version of "Days of Future Past," which was a loose adaptation of the comic book story in the same way that Xena: Warrior Princess is a loose adaptation of The Odyssey. Bishop failed in his mission to be a mulleted Marty McFly and returned to a future that's still pretty lousy. The X-Men, however, managed to prevent the assassination of Senator Kelly by Gambit, who was actually Mystique, who was actually working for Apocalypse, and who is actually Rogue's mom, because if it ain't needlessly complex, it just ain't the X-Men. Unfortunately, their celebration was short-lived, as Kelly was abducted by a third party in this little saga, and we got a pretty baller cliffhanger telling us who, courtesy of writers Robert N. Skir and Marty Isenberg:
Professor X's watch has stopped. It's been magnetized.
In our discussion of favorite alternate futures, a lot of good ones (and one written by Mark Millar) were mentioned, but the surprising favorite in the comments turned out to be the MC2 universe, a "next generation" world of Marvel heroes that spun out of Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz's Spider-Girl. A lot of readers were drawn to the optimism of a future that actually turned out okay because it had superheroes protecting it, but let's be honest here: I'm pretty sure you all just wanted a future where it was still okay to wear a flannel shirt tied around your waist 20 years after the end of the '90s.
Either way, it's time to finish the first year of X-Men off with writer Mark Edward Edens and "The Final Decision!"
We kick off our season finale with an anti-mutant protest. Sadly, the protesters in the cartoon have gone with the bland but chantable "No More Mutants" rather than the best anti-mutant slogan, "SEND MUTANTS TO THE MOON FOR EVER," but on the bright side, it looks like we've finally found the universe where people liked House of M enough to turn it into a catchphrase.
The reason for the protest? Senator Kelly's kidnapping, which is stirring up resentment among you flatscans -- I mean, us humans just as surely as the assassination attempt would've. Apaprently, even though the X-Men made a very public rescue in their battle against Mystique, Avalanche, Pyro and the Blob, the news that yet another group of evil mutants had a simultaneous evil plan isn't sitting well with the public. It does make me wonder, though: In Bishop's original timeline, when Senator Kelly did get assassinated, what happened when Magneto showed up for his own attempt? Was it awkward, or do you you think they laughed about it? I bet they did. Magneto seems like a laid-back dude, except for that part where Professor X being tortured him with memories of the Holocaust nine episodes ago.
Obviously, the X-Men need to get on things and rescue Kelly before Magneto kills him and sets off what Professor X calls an "anti-mutant fever," and just as obviously, Cyclops is the first person to jump in and complain about how hard that's going to be because he could be anywhere, Professorrrrr. Fortunately, this is one of the few times that nobody forgot that Professor X can read minds and has a mind-reading machine built specifically to find mutants. So that's a freebie.
Meanwhile, on an abandoned oil tanker that would later be used for the Tomb Raider reboot, Senator Kelly is dealing with a pretty interesting hair situation. Those ain't grey temples, son, those are stripes.
Oh, and also Magneto wants to murder him.
To his credit, Edens does a really good job adapting Magneto's militant Holocaust survivor motivation without ever actually referring to the event itself. It's in pretty vague terms, with Magneto telling Kelly that he "saw men executed, women and children... each night, I swore to myself: Never again," but there's enough there to capture his motivation, and David Hemblen's delivery has some of the most emotion we've seen from a villain in the show so far. Even the episode title's reference to Hitler's "Final Solution" is a nice touch -- well, not nice, but you know what I mean. It works really well.
Admittedly, he never quite gets around to explaining why he brought Kelly all the way to a shipwrecked oil tanker and launched into a monologue instead of just killing him, but, you know. You take what you can get.
Before Kelly can get crushed with those big metal things you always see on cartoon boats (I'm not much of a yachtsman), he's interrupted when a Sentinel arrives and tears the roof off the place:
Perhaps one day they can learn to bond over their shared love of maroon and purple color schemes rather than fighting about the various genocides they want to do, but alas. Today is not that day.
Magneto does some bragging about how robots ain't s**t when you're the master of magnetism, but it turns out that the latest model of Sentinel to pop out of Master Mold's tummy is made entirely of plastic. This is something that the robot proudly announces while blasting Magneto with lasers, which I believe means that the plastic exterior might be reinforced with an endoskeleton made entirely of hubris.
Quick tip for anyone fighting Magneto: Just because you're not made of metal doesn't mean there isn't still an entire giant metal ship just sitting there waiting to be thrown through your chest.
Poor bastard. He was only two days away from retirement.
The other sentinel manages to fly off with Senator Kelly in tow, escaping rom Magneto just as the X-Men show up and start poking around. They find a severed Sentinel hand that spooks Gambit, making me wish he straight jumped into Wolverine's arms, Scooby-Doo style, and then Rogue and Cyclops hear the sound of someone moaning under the wreckage. She lifts it up, and reveals Magneto, wounded, but alive:
Now, I'm as sure as I can be without actually bothering to go back and check that Magneto's outfit was in one piece when he blew up that Sentinel, so I'm choosing to believe that Magneto heard the X-Men coming, then ripped up his shirt so they wouldn't miss how rock-solid that sixpack is. Sometimes a dude wants to be recognized for his situps, you know? Ain't no shame in the game.
Incidentally, I've been informed by 4thLetter's Gavin Jasper that he was originally freaked out by that scene as a kid, because the blood on Magneto's abs made it look like his torso had been ripped open and his intestines were spilling out. Apparently he's not the only one, either: Later airings of the show Were "cleaned up," with the blood and guts presumably replaced with baby oil to bring out the definition from Magnus's intense crunching routine.
While all that's going on on the ship, the Sentinels take Senator Kelly to a mineshaft out in the middle of nowhere, and ohhhhhh snap, it's Master Mold time!
I clown this show's artistic choices a lot for, you know, all those scenes where they forget whose costumes are supposed to have sleeves, but I love how much of Jack Kirby's design they got into Master Mold in this one. This entire episode seems to have a Kirby feel to it, in fact -- there's a scene earlier where they give Professor X those big eyebrows and sharp, heavy cheekbones that Kirby drew him with in the early days, something I don't think I've noticed on him before. It's a good look.
As Master Mold pops out a few more baby robots, Bolivar Trask explains that he saved Senator Kelly because he wants the Sentinels reinstated and put in charge of dealing with mutants. Kelly, who is apparently just totally cool with whoever was the last person to do something nice for him, readily agrees, but the Sentinels refuse when Trask orders them to take Kelly back to his office. As it turns out, Master Mold has gained sentience, and wants to "remove Senator Kelly's brain, and replace it with a computer!"
Kelly's response to this is amazing: "You can't do that! I'm a United States Senator!"
I'm no political scientist, but I'm reasonably certain that immunity to computerized brain replacement is not one of the many powers given to our elected officials in the Constitution. Hell, I'm not even sure having your brain replaced by a robot is even technically illegal. Who would've thought to put that one on the books?
Master Mold then reveals that this is the first step in a larger plan: To kidnap all of the world's leaders, replace their brains with computers, and then, I don't know, rule a world that doesn't require it to be pregnant with genocidal robots all the time, I guess.
Right from the start, I can see a huge problem with this plan. If the goal here is a secret coup that will put the sentinels in power, then maybe they should find a more subtle way of doing it than literally having thirty-foot robots smashing through dudes walls and then flying off to the Brain Replacement Factory. People are going to ask a lot of questions, and "HA HA, IT WAS JUST A MIX UP FELLOW HU MAN, [PLEASE SEE UPDATED EXCUSE FILE IN NEXT SOFTWARE PATCH]" is only going to satisfy them for so long.
The only way for the X-Men to track down the Sentinels is to track down the man in charge, but the only person on the team to ever see him is Gambit, who met with Trask and Gyrich back on Genosha. So they plug Gambit into Cerebro and then hook him up to a TV so that everyone can gather around and see his innermost thoughts.
Given my love of Gambit, I was already pretty stoked about where they were going to go with this, but I was thoroughly delighted when his memories included a shot of his wife, Bella Donna...
AND GHOST RIDER.
So yeah: this story is in X-Men animated series continuity. I am starting to really love this show.
Cerebro matches Gyrich's face (and also his suit, since like Gambit, he only owns one) with his ID photo, and our heroes leap into action and set about kidnapping a government official. They end up rescuing him from a robotic assailant, and also Wolverine sits on Abraham Lincoln's lap, for those of you with extremely odd tastes in erotic crossover fan-fiction:
In the scuffle (or in WolverAbe's case, the cuddle), they overhear a handily expository phone call from Trask to Gyrich, and get the location out of him too. At the mansion, Magneto shows up with his abs taped, trying to convince the X-Men to just go ahead and let Kelly die. The X-Men look to Cyclops for leadership, and he tells them that if they do, "there'll be no future worth living for." Which they already knew from Bishop. Good try, Cyclops, but to be fair, it works, and they all set off to go save a world that hates and fears them.
Master Mold, as a robot, has the standard robotic ability to sense airplanes (look it up, it's in the Monster Manual), so the X-Men decide to just go ahead and dispense with subtlety and just blow things up, a plan with which I am fully D.
Gambit's elevator trick is the best. I love you, Cartoon Gambit.
While Rogue, Storm and Jubilee hang out exploding Sentinels, Cyclops, Jean, Wolverine and Gambit sneak into the mine to rescue Kelly and Trask. They split up, Wolverine and Gambit get ambushed, and Wolverine locks Gambit in a room (do mines have rooms?) to keep him safe, taking on the Sentinels by himself. What follows is a fight between Wolverine and three Sentinels in a dark cave that's only lit when they're firing at him with their lasers or when he's clawing through them and creating suspiciously red sparks, doing a quick fade back to black after each shot. The execution doesn't quite live up to the idea, but it's still one of the best and most creative action sequences we've seen on the show so far.
Props to Larry Houston, Fred Miller and Richard Bowman for giving it a shot.
In the manufacturing plant, Trask tries to reason with Master Mold, and Double-M reveals the source of its plan for a coup: It was programmed to protect humans from mutants, but since mutants are human, it has to take over to protect humanity from itself. It's pretty tenuous logic, but it's worth it to get Traks's Hank Hill-esque "gahh!' at the fact that a robot created specifically for genocide can't logically justify racism.
Cyclops and Jean arrive to rescue Trask and Kelly, and with the world's most powerful telekinetic and the fearless leader of the X-Men who's been training since he was a teen, it goes about as well as you'd expect.
Hilariously, Master Mold doesn't even deem Cyclops worthy of killing, explaining "I do not need to destroy, because I do not fear." Sick_Burn.exe is in perfect working order, it seems.
With Cyclops an abject failure in every way, Trask elects to just get things over with himself and blows up a propane tank with a laser, destroying Master Mold (and himself) and giving Cyclops the chance to blast his way out of the mine. Cyclops ushers Jean and Kelly out and then goes back in to "rescue" Wolverine and Gambit, because shoving a civilian and someone whose major contribution to the series thus far has been shouting "Oh no! Scott!" unprotected into a place where hundreds of Sentinels are flying around is just the kind of hard decision leaders have to make. Fortunately for them, Magneto shows up out of nowhere, with his abs healed up enough that he can start smashing things along with everyone else.
Eventually, Cyclops arrives to rescue Wolverine and Gambit.
Good try, Cyclops. Thanks for coming.
Just as everyone's reuniting outside and getting ready to celebrate, Caddyshack style, the top of the mountain they were in busts open and Master Mold shows up, revealing that even propane and propane accessories aren't enough to stop a crazed sentient robot mom once it gets its ire up.
At this point, the X-Men are basically up a creek, since nothing they've done so far has even dented Master Mold's casing.
But then Professor X shows up and, in true professorial fashion, teaches his students a key lesson. Sometimes, you have to stop f**king around and get s**t done.
Son loads up the Blackbird with dynamite and gasoline and then crashes that s**t straight into Master Mold's babymaker.
With that, Senator Kelly has been saved, and true to form, heads back to his Presidential campaign with a more progressive outlook on the Mutant condition, and even manages to get Beast a pardon. Remember Beast? The founding X-Man who spent the entire first season in prison? Well, that's finally over with. Oh, and Cyclops and Jean are going to get married, and also Mister Sinister shows up.
And that's it for Season One!
Discussion Question: We've finished a season, which means it's time to talk about high points and low points.
I have to say, now that I've been through the whole thing again, I'm really impressed at how much of a season-long arc the show managed to have. The Sentinels are introduced as the primary antagonists in the pilot and keep coming back throughout, showing up in Genosha with Trask and Master Mold, "Days of Future Past" with Nimrod, and again here in the finale. Magneto gets introduced early on, and he stays away long enough to make it a pretty big deal when he comes back in this one, and everything kind of builds up to this one episode. The only real throwaways are the Morlocks story and the Wolverine solo mission with the Canadian fisherman, but those are at least meant to be character-focused. It might not be good all the way through, but it did a pretty nice job of trying to capture that ongong-saga feel that you got from the comics.
For low points, well, Cyclops continues to be terrible, to the point where I'm almost convinced that it has to be on purpose. It's more than just him being the stuffed-shirt contrast to Wolverine's "cool loose cannon loner," it's that he continues to pretty much fall flat on his face every single time he tries to do something. I can't think of a single thing that he accomplished in the entire season. Wolverine chops up robots, Gambit rescues the team in Genosha, Rogue takes out Archangel, Storm holds the dam together, Beast scores a victory for civil disobedience, even Jubilee gets to take out a Sentinel by herself in the finale, and Professor X saves the entire future with a fighter jet full of dynamite. Cyclops, at best, is just useless. Believe me, it's not that I want to hate him... well, okay, yes, it's exactly that, but c'mon. They make it so easy.
So what are your high points and low points? Looking back, does the show hold up? What did it get right or wrong?
Next Week: Season Two begins with an unexpected return that's actually pretty unexpected!