The X-Men Episode Guide 2×07: Time Fugitives, Part One
The early ’90s were spoiled for choice when it came to comic book adaptations. Not only was Batman: The Animated Series on the air, but X-Men led Marvel’s push to get on the small screen, diving right into the often convoluted continuity of everyone’s favorite mutants, luring in a generation of fans, and paving the way for cartoons to follow. That’s why we’ve set out to review every single episode of the ’90s X-Men animated series. This week: "Time Fugitives, Part One!" Because everybody loves these nonsense time travel stories, right? Right.
Previously, on X-Men:
Last week, the series of episodes focusing on individual characters' origin stories continued with a look at Gambit's past. Shocking absolutely no one, it turns out that the X-Men's resident scumbag was also the New Orleans Thieves Guild's resident scumbag who caused no end of problems when he peaced out of an arranged marriage, jilted his bride at the altar, and went up to New York to start making card-based puns. Fortunately, he remained sympathetic by somehow having the least annoying Cajun accent in the entire episode.
Speaking of, a good number of you were able to suss out that our discussion question of the best and worst accents in comics really only had one right answer:
Good job, readers. Good job.
Now let's dive into this week's adventure in Days of Incomprehensible Plotlines Past with the first part of "Time Fugitives", from writer Michael Edens and supervising producer Scott Thomas!
Remember in the '90s, when we all used to care about Bishop? Well, get ready for a return of those halcyon days as this episode throws us into a story of not one, but two time-traveling X-Men trying to wreck the past! We open in the grim darkness of the year 3999 in New York City (or "City: New York" as they call it in the future), where we see Cable fighting a bunch of Terminators.
Seriously: Aside from those things that I can't stop seeing as smiley face kneepads, they're not even trying to make the killer robots anything other than Terminators, right down to doing a zoom in on a glowing red eye set into a metal skull and then showing its red-hued digital readout of the battlefield. It is ridiculously blatant, but to be fair, it does sort of get across the idea that Cable is Mutant John Connor, which is probably the most elegant summary of just what that dude's deal is that we've ever gotten.
Anyway, Cable's launching his final, victory-or-death assault on Apocalypse and his army of T-800s with the help of a few other mutant soldiers, inlcuding one dude who looks like he's wearing Colossus as a jacket:
There's some posturing from Apocalypse -- who you'd think would be more pro-mutant than pro-Terminator, but whatever -- until a "temporal storm" breaks out. We know it's a temporal storm because a) it looks like a tornado except that an oddly out-of-scale Bishop is spinning around inside it, and b) because Apocalypse looks up at it and goes "A TEMPORAL STORM!" Clearly, in the world of the X-Men, expository shouting is a useful evolutionary trait.
The timenado rages across the post-apocalyptic (and currently Apocalyptic) landscape, and Cable gets some more exposition from a cube that sounds like Siri about what's going on: Bishop has been mucking around in the timestream, which of course has caused a bunch of tornados that showed up and sucked in everyone who shouldn't be alive. No word on whether they were also just spitting out weird shoulda-been babies to replace them or why they showed up now to to erase people who appear to be in their mid-thirties, but, you know, time travel. It's weird.
Siri also mentions that Cable's timeline is going to cease to exist, and considering that CNY is in ruins with Apocalypse in charge, you'd think that would be a good thing. Sadly, Cable cannot even begin to comprehend a world free of glowing eyes and guns the size of tree-trunks, so he sets about trying to fix it.
From there, we catch up with the cause of this whole mess, Bishop in (City:) New York (City), 2055 AD which is far more pleasant than the last time we saw it:
Bishop is celebrating about stopping the assassination back in season one , and also celebrating that they are reusing the same footage for a second, until they switch angles and decide that the room should be pink and Wolverine's adamantium skeleton should look more like an inflatable Halloween decoration:
But what's this? According to Forge, Bishop's mission was a complete failure! The plague is still raging unchecked through the streets of CNYC!
"Wait a second," you might be asking yourself, "Plague? I thought Bishop went back in time to keep the Sentinels from being manufactured. Is Forge dabbling in some poetic language, referring to their oppression by robot overlords as some kind of plague of their timeline?" No. He means an actual plague. See, while Bishop did change time and got rid of the sentinels, the timestream realigned itself with a whole new set of problems so that when he gets back, the Forge of this timeline sent him back to stop a plague that was transmitted by mutants and offed a big chunk of the mutant population.
I'm not sure why Forge doesn't mention the time tornados that showed up and started blasting everyone with plague germs, since, as we've already seen, that's how changes to the time stream happen, but I guess he just thought it wasn't worth mentioning. I mean, the only other explanation is that they forgot how their own dumb rules about time travel work within two minutes, and that would just be crazy.
After a significant amount of eye-rolling and even more exposition about how the plague mutated within the bodies of mutants and how Forge has never heard of the X-Men because they were killed early in the plague -- even though he is standing literally ten feet away from Wolverine's collector's item skeleton -- Bishop agrees to head back to see if he can't sort out this mess, too. One again, he faceplants in an alley back in Good Ol' 1955 1993, only to find out from the reliable journalism that you can only find in Magazine 2 that the plague has already started:
So just so we're clear on where we stand here at the seven-minute mark, changes to the timestream are both completely imperceptible and also giant lightning tornados, and you can literally travel back in time and still be late for whatever it is you were doing. Hoo boy.
So with a plague already raging through the streets of State: New York, the X-Men have decided it's a good time to head down to the mall so that Jubilee can get her CD player repaired:
Unfortunately for Jubilee and her DiscMan, she's spotted on her errand by an anti-mutant creep who has a calculator watch pre-loaded with pictures of known mutants. Oddly enough, Jubilee's mugshot is, like, 40% pink sunglasses, so I'm pretty sure this whole mess could've been avoided if she'd just taken the time to try some different accessorizing, but alas. Hindsight is 20/20, even without pink shades.
The creep blasts the repairman with a gas gun -- because apparently the Friends of Humanity just roll up to the mall with biological weapons stuffed in their mismatched double-breasted suits -- and when he goes out to tell Jubilee that her DiscMan is a lost cause, he's already showing signs of the Plague. Which, as it turns out, just makes you look like you're going as The Concept Of Computers for Halloween:
Adrian faceplants on the counter, and the FOH lackey is there to loudly point out that Jubilee is "one of those plague-carrying mutants," drawing a crowd that only takes about four seconds to be whipped up into a mob. Fortunately, Storm is there to help, which she does in true Storm fashion by "bringing forth a mist to blind their hatred!"
At the X-Mansion, Beast checks Jubilee out and pronounces her free of diseases, and Jean shows up to talk about how crazy this whole plague that has never been mentioned or acknowledged on the show in any way before this episode is making everyone. Beast decides to investigate the store clerk to see if he can learn anything more about this disease, so he breaks into a hospital, grabs some "records," and then looks through a microscope to find tiny robotic ticks attacking a pair of yellow boobs.
Well that's what I saw. Bet you didn't expect to see me take a Rorshach when you clicked on this article, did you? That makes two of us.
While Beast continues to perv on blood samples, the government has begun quarantining mutants in response to the hysteria that's sweeping the city(: New York). This, predictably, also turns violent, and the X-Men arrive to find that Bishop is there grumpily blasting at the pavement and yelling about how everyone's being way too mean to mutants. That's Bishop, who, the last time we saw him, had a job rounding up mutants and bringing them to concentration camps so they could be executed by robots. Dude has had a change of heart, it seems. Anyway, he's back in the 20th century, and this is news that Wolverine responds to by asking "what's that time-jockey doin' back?" So, there's that.
At this point, Cyclops immediately turns into the Angry Police Captain from every '80s action movie.
CYCLOPS: You really did it this time, Bishop! You turned this situation into a riot!
BISHOP: I was tryin' to SAVE LIVES!
And then later:
CYCLOPS: Get him back to the Blackbird before he starts another riot! If you can't keep your head, you're no good to the team!
If this episode would've gone on two minutes longer, Cyclops would've demanded his badge and gun and told him not to show his face within ten miles of the Mayor's party.
After explaining everything for the fourth time this episode, the X-Men decide to try to calm everyone down by getting Beast to testify at some senate hearings about the disease, with the help of President Kelly. But at Friends of Humanity HQ, Graydon Creed reveals something we already know, which is that it's all a scheme they cooked up to discredit mutants, using a virus cooked up by yet another nameless dork in a double-breasted suit. I wonder if he'll be important later.
At the hearings, everything is going predictably poorly, with Creed stirring up anti-mutant sentiment, claiming (accurately) that Kelly is biased in favor the X-Men because they saved his life, demanding to see Beast's birth certificate, filibustering in protest of XavierCare, etc., when Bishop charges the stage and tackles him to the ground.
What Bishop saw -- and what everyone else missed, including the entire team of X-Men sitting in the first row who are supposed to be watching for anything suspicious -- was that Creed had pulled out an aerosol can with a gigantic spike on it and was planning to shoot Beast full of computer diseases right there on the senate floor. I'm not sure how exactly Creed thought he was going to get away with that, what with it being the least subtle attack to happen in a congressional hearing since Preston Brooks brained Charles Sumner with his cane (shout out to all my South Carolinian history students), but as the record shows, this show is full of bad choices.
At this point, violence breaks out yet again, with Rogue throwing around "rednecks" while the harmonica soundtrack from Road House plays. Creed ends up accidentally injecting himself, tearing his shirt open on national television and somehow trying to blame this on mutants.
Hey, remember Cable? From like a thousand hours/15 minutes ago? He's back, watching the X-Men on his iCube while running to nowhere in particular past a suspiciously Hanna-Barberian background.
The X-Men decide to follow Creed to wherever he goes to get his disease taken care of, tracking him down to a mansion with a secret base underneath it, because there has never been a mansion in a superhero story that didn't have a secret base underneath it. Jean probes around to see what's going on in there, finding out that Creed's not alone, and that whoever's down there with him is powerful enough to know he's being telepathically spied on. It's the Double-Breasted Suit Guy from earlier, and he zaps her with Pink Lightning, which has officially replaced Sonic the Hedgehog rings as this show's go-to visual representation of superpowers.
Jean then does what she does every single time she attempts to use her powers on this show, which is to yell and fall over. Good hustle, Jean.
Down in the basement lab, DBSG tells Creed that he deserves to suffer from computeritis for failing him, and Creed flips out. This is about when the X-Men show up, casually walking in from stage left. What's crazy about this is that in the previous scene, Bishop asked how they were going to get into the lab and Cyclops delivered a steely "leave it to me." Then they just walked in. People. This show is dead set against ever showing Cyclops doing anything even remotely enjoyable. It's not my fault, I promise.
Oh, so it turns out that other dude was Apocalypse.
Sadly, the X-Men have no jet to ram into Apocalypse this time, but Bishop does have a hand grenade that he uses to blow up the virus and thereby solve all of their problems, or so they think. Back in the future -- after Cable collapses to his knees shouting "NO! NOT APOCALPSE!", which is exactly what I did when this episode started -- Siri reveals that the plague was actually kind of a good thing? Maybe? It caused the creation of "antibodies key to the future stablization of the mutant genetic code," and without it, uncontrolled mutations killed off even more people than the plague.
So basically, the future's going to suck no matter what you do. See you next Saturday, kids!
Discussion Question: I skipped over it above, but far and away the best thing that happened in this episode was that Rogue called a dude "peckerwood" on the senate floor. I had to rewind it three times just to make sure I wasn't mishearing, but nope, she said it, and that is amazing. So in all of animation for kids, what are the moments you can't believe made it on the air?
Next Week: More Bishop! More Cable! More Apocalypse! More of me drinking to get through it!