The X-Men Episode Guide 2×13: The Reunion, Part 2
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: Season 2 comes stumbling across the finish line with "The Reunion, Part Two!"
Previously, On X-Men:
In our last episode, we began the achingly slow process of dragging Season 2 out behind the woodshed and putting it out of its misery. After being lost in the Savage Land and a B-plot for the entire season, Professor X and Magneto are finally back in the spotlight as Mr. Sinister uses them to lure the rest of the X-Men into a deadly trap. Sadly, this trap is nowhere near as interesting as you'd expect from a mastermind living in a jungle full of dinosaurs, and mostly amounts to more creepy attempts to watch Cyclops and Jean have sex, this time with a machine that makes the sex irrelevant.
In our discussion of the worst episodes of good shows, a few of you pointed to "The Forgotten" from Batman: The Animated Series, and I have never been more disappointed in you. Seriously, if you don't think HOBO BATMAN LITERALLY KICKING HIS WAY THROUGH AMNESIA AND DEMOLISHING A LABOR CAMP is awesome, then you know where the door is. I'll let it slide this time because Season 2 has been hard on all of us, but y'all motherf**kers need to come correct for Season 3.
All right, time for the X-Men. But come on, Alfred flies the Batplane. What more do you want?
To open this episode, writer Michael Edens and supervising producer Scott Thomas have brought us to Mr. Sinister's sex dungeon, and I'll tell you right now that it's only going to get more off-putting from here. He's keeping Jean, Professor X, Magneto and Morph in there, and after ushering them in by torchlight, he explains that "your genetic material will live on in my army of super mutants after you're gone." This, as anyone who has ever played Fallout knows, is a dubious honor at best.
As the good guys are grumbling about how the X-Men will come save them if they survive, the blackbird lands right at the border of the Savage Land, with Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Rogue and that scumbag Gambit in tow. Jubilee is nowhere to be seen, presumably because she was too young for a life-or-death rescue mission. Judging by the first season, where she was left alone with Sabretooth, this probably means they dropped her off at Murderworld on the way down and told Arcade that she wasn't allowed to stay up past 11:30.
When they try to search the wreckage of Professor X's flying F1 racecar, the X-Men discover, just as Chuck and Erik did, that they no longer have their powers. Or, as they say in the episode...
"No! Gambit have no power either!"
Needless to say, this plays out pretty weirdly. Cyclops, Storm, Rogue and Gambit are easy enough, in that they can no longer blow things up with their hands, eyes, lightning bolts or super-strength. Beast, however, seems pretty unaffected -- he's still his furry blue self, even though losing his "powers" (super strength, agility, silky azure coat) should leave him with the instant death of being a regular human wearing a pair of spandex trunks in the middle of a snowdrift. Wolverine, of course, is even more complicated, as Wolverine is.
At the time, Wolverine's only real "mutant powers" were his healing factor and enhanced senses, two things the show never really bothered with. I mean, I think he smelled Morph once or twice, and in our last episode, he was knocked out cold when his adamantium skull proved to be no match for a tree branch. It had only recently been revealed in the comics that Wolverine's claws were an actual mutation rather than something he'd been given by the Weapon X program, so when this episode came on in early '94, it makes sense to assume they'd be unaffected. He even says "there's nothing mutant about these" a few minutes later, and even if they were, they're still there, just like Beast's fur. This kind of points out the huge flaw (well, hugest flaw) in Sinister's plan: you take away Wolverine's "powers" and he's still probably going to do a murder on you with his stab hands.
As you might expect, the show fails to address this at all.
Instead, the Nasty Boys show up for Round 3 and thoroughly trounce the X-Men, with gender-swapped Jerrica Benton leading the charge:
At this point, I thought it would be hilarious if the depowered X-Men just turned around and straight up whooped their asses. Like, this is the third time this whole power-suppression thing has happened, right? You'd think that some time after the second, they probably would've thought "hey, we should maybe take a few karate classes or something." Cyclops is built like a dorky John Cena, for Pete's sake, and they're not exactly fighting the deadliest killers known to man. They should at least be able to break a few jaws when the Nasty Boys come a-calling. And yet, they're taken down in record time.
The only one who escapes is Wolverine, and he only makes it out because he takes a long walk off a short cliff after Vertigo makes him dizzy. So, hot tip for all you aspiring supervillains out there: If you're ever fighting Wolverine, just spin him around a couple times and he'll walk right off the nearest waterfall.
Man Jerrica (Jerrico?) sends a few dudes riding pterodactyls off to the woods to track down Wolverine while he heads the others into a secret cave that will lead them to Mr. Sinister's headquarters, and listen, I know "Wolverine alone against dinosaurs" sounds like it would be amazing, but it's not.
Even if he does attempt to gymkata away from a Jurassic Park velociraptor:
Eventually, Wolverine runs far enough away from the raptor that he's saved when a hungry T-Rex busts out of the woods and chases it away, and that's when his heightened senses warn him of yet another danger. "Hey wait a second," you might be saying, "I thought his heightened senses were definitely one of his mutant powers that he's not supposed to have because of Mr. Sinister's dumb machine?" You are correct, and believe me, I know. Apparently a second draft of the script was not in the budget.
Point is, Wolverine meets Ka-Zar, last seen abandoning both his wife and the X-Men to whatever cruel fate Sinister had in store for them. Hell of a guy, that Ka-Zar, and now he's all upset because he thinks Wolverine is one of Sinister's flunkies.
To be honest, the only thing worth noting about this scene is that Wolverine refers to Ka-Zar as "Nature Boy." And really, that only makes me wish that Ric Flair had come to the ring with a sabretooth tiger, or that Arn Anderson was an animorph.
But sure enough, we now have yet another team-up weighing down this story as it drags its feet to fill up 22 minutes. It could not be more frustrating, largely because it is the exact same progression of events that padded out last week's episode. I was genuinely excited to see Ka-Zar in this cartoon (because, you know, I'm the type of person who gets genuinely excited about Ka-Zar), but we've seen his s**tty team-up, and now it is time to move on. Even pterodactyl dogfights can't get me excited about this nonsense, even when Wolverine delivers his immortal line "'Attack' is one of my favorite words."
While Ka-Zar and Wolverine are holding each other tightly and riding the giant lizard, Sinister is busy smarming at the X-Men. He's attempting some pretty heavy disses, too, but my favorite is definitely when he saunters up to Cyclops and informs him that "your eyes can destroy, but they cannot see!" Suck it, four-eyes.
He also explains his plan, and once again, it is every bit as convoluted as you might expect. Once again, he wants to combine Cyclops and Jean's DNA, and once again, he is literally the only object between them going ahead and doing that on their own. This time, at least, he's setting his sights a little higher by combining all the X-Men's DNA (ewwww) into a servitor race that will allow him to, I don't know, take over the world. I'll be honest, I tuned out after he started talking about how he'd waited his entire life to "create" with Jean. There's only so much I can take.
Quoth Magneto: "Do it, Sinister, but be quick about it." Truer words, Erik. Truer words.
Sure enough, Magneto and his gigantic abs get blasted with a blue laser that zaps his "strength" into Vertigo, allowing her to project deadly Lisa Frank rays at the X-Men:
The effect of this ray is that it makes them, uh, even more dizzy than Vertigo made them before, which is kind of a raw deal. You'd think that removing Magneto's powers would give the recipient all of his abilities, but no, it just makes their existing mutant powers a little stronger than they already were. For some reason, I have my doubts that the ability to make six people really, really dizzy (instead of just kind of dizzy) is going to help with world domination, but to be honest, if Cobra Commander had come up with this plot, I'd be totally into it.
While all that's going down, Wolverine and Ka-Zar have arrived for their modeling job posing for the painting on the side of a custom van:
As they're shuffling down the stairs, Rogue and Gambit have a tender moment where she confesses "I don't know how to fight them without my powers!" and Gambit replies with "Gambit never say this to anyone before... Gambit loves you."
This is, without question, top ten least comforting things someone could be told just before they were killed.
Just as she's strapped into the machine (which I guess will kill you now, even though Magneto just got knocked out for a little bit?) Wolverine busts into the room and starts trying to stab people, as is his wont. He gets bounced around the room by the Nasty Boys, but that's just a distraction -- the real action is downstairs, where Ka-Zar is helping Shana the She-Devil lead a breakout from the set of a women-in-prison film:
They lead a heroic charge and, of course, are instantly KOed by Jerrica and his sonic scream, but it's enough of a distraction to free up Wolverine so that he can cut the X-Men loose. So, just so we're clear on this, there was a distraction to the distraction. This plan is complicated.
Unfortunately for Wolverine, there's only so much you can do when your newly freed team includes a powerless Professor X, Magneto and Morph, but hey, at least they've got the guy with the unbreakable skeleton and the claws who seems completely unaffected by this power-dampening device, right? Surely he'll lead the charge and kick some ass.
Or maybe Professor X will just smash the machine with a chair until green sludge pours out of it.
Next time don't build your sensitive machinery out of a Ninja Turtles playset.
Let's put aside the question of why Wolverine didn't just go straight to the machine since wrecking electronics with his claws is the only thing this show seems to think he's good at for right now and just move on. What matters is that the X-Men all have their powers again, including Professor X, who immediately collapses to the floor because he has regained his mutant power of being paralyzed. Everyone else gets their powers back too, and Cyclops could not be happier about it:
The theme song gets reprised and the team sets about beating the living hell out of everyone. Gambit, true to form, shouts "The name is Gambit! Remember it!" which seems like it would be unnecessary since he only refers to himself in the third person, but soon enough, nobody is left conscious enough to hear their weird action phrases anyway.
Finally, only Sinister is left standing, and Cyclops actually gets to have a pretty badass moment, just blasting him every time he starts running his mouth. It's pretty cool, if you forget that this entire thing is happening because Cyclops didn't bother to chase Sinister down back when they first met, but still, he's finally beating someone up with his eyes, and that's all I've ever wanted him to do.
Sinister makes a last-ditch effort to stop the X-Men by reasserting his mind control over Morph, and man, how desperate do you have to be for an escape plan when you have to use Morph for something that does not explicitly involve shape-shifting? Instead, the idea is that Morph will pick up a Star Trek phaser and just shoot Cyclops. It's dumb, but there's a level where I admire its simplicity.
Fortunately for the X-Men, Sinister forgot that they have the world's most powerful telepath sitting right there on the floor, and that's pretty much that for this whole mind control nonsense.
With one final stab at actually being worth watching, everyone turns their powers and/or phasers on Sinister, and they shoot him so hard that he literally explodes. Not gonna lie, that's actually pretty great, especially when Brain Child freaks out and starts trying to pick up the pieces so that he can rebuild Sinister.
Of course, since Sinister can reform his body with his absolute molecular control, even being exploded is just a minor setback. He starts to piece himself together almost immediately, so Jean just scoops all the pieces up with her telekinesis and throws them out into the woods. And she doesn't even pass out! Good job, Jean!
Sinister's citadel explodes, the X-Men help all the Savage Land, uh, savages rebuild their village, and Magneto heads off to go plot the utter destruction of the human race. It's a happy ending for everyone! Sort of!
Discussion Question: Well, that's it for Season 2, and brother, it got pretty rough there at the end, but there was some good stuff in there too, probably, so here's this week's topic: What were the best and worst parts of the season? Shockingly, the Mojo episode was pretty enjoyable and it's always nice to see the Punisher show up. Also, basically everything about the Gambit-centric episode was amazing, especially how it made no sense. For low parts, this entire finale was genuinely awful. The season-uniting plot of Magneto and Professor X in the Savage Land dragged on for way too long, and even wrapping it up as a two-parter felt stretched to the breaking point. The idea of doing episodes that focused on individual X-Men rather than the team as a whole was a good theme for the season in theory, but in practice, it was just a bunch of convoluted stuff that was condensed down to 20 minutes in a way that made the least sense possible. Everything was way more fragmented than it was in Season 1, and even the actual animation took a hit. What do you think, readers?
Next Week: We launch into season 3, which I have been reliably informed is basically all Cyclops and Jean, all the time. Joy.