The X-Men Episode Guide 3×19: ‘Nightcrawler’
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, Nightcrawler shows up and Wolverine finds Jesus. Not even kidding.
Previously, on X-Men:
Last week, we had a fun, goofy one-off episode where a local nerd stole the power of the Juggernaut to make himself irresistible on the dance floor, only to end up crashing through the roof of a TV studio where they were shooting an episode of Power Rangers while the X-Men restored his stolen magical power to its rightful (and homicidal) owner. None of what I just wrote is an exaggeration or a joke. It is an accurate summary of what is, at this point, probably my favorite episode of the series.
Considering Eugene's small-scale plans for mystical invincibility, our discussion in the comments section was built around suggesting other mundane uses for mystical Marvel Universe artifacts. Here are a few of the best:
"Use the Wand of Watoomb as "The Club" in his car. (Which you just know is a Geo Metro.)" -- Michael Pullman
"The ancient hammer of the thunder god Thor... this will make my Donkey Kong-era Mario cosplay FANTASTIC!" -- Charles T. Arthur
"Now that I possess the Cosmic Cube, Ecto-Cooler shall be discontinued NO MORE!" -- David La Ross
My favorite, though came from Ohad Relter, who just offered: "Satan Claw back scratcher," which is definitely the name of my new Rockabilly band.
Oh man, you guys. This episode. Look, I know we've been through some pretty crazy times ever since the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga, but the mind-boggling insanity of what writer Len Uhley and director/producer Larry Houston have brought to us this week blows them all away. And it doesn't wait around to start, either, as evidenced by the fact that we open on what definitely appears to be Castlevania. Seriously: Full moon with an ominous mountainside castle silhouetted against it, creepy owl with gigantic blood-red eyes. All it's missing is a Belmont in a loincloth beating things to death with a whip, and really, I'm assuming that we only didn't get that because of BS&P.
As it turns out, we are somewhere in Germany, and I would just like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is not a flashback to the previous century. This is meant to be happening in the present.
This is something that I ran into with my beloved Jem, too, when the Holograms went over to England for a Renaissance Faire and found themselves in what was basically an entire town living like it was the middle ages. I'm starting to wonder if the people who make cartoons just aren't aware that if it's 1995 in America, it is also 1995 in Europe. Although to be fair, they do have just straight up laser pistols, so they've at least got that going for them.
Anyway, the cast of Taste the Blood of Dracula has been stirred into a frenzy, because there's a demon in their midst! And if you've read more than, let's say two X-Men comics in your life, you already know where this is going: It's Nightcrawler, and the superstitious villagers in the olden days of the Mid-90s are going to do their best to burn him at the stake.
So let's just skip to what the X-Men are doing, because it is amazing.
Yes, the Xavier School Class of '96 has taken a ski trip, and Gambit is upset about it. Apparently our bayou-born scumbag (whose accent floats from "cajun" to "Eastern Kentucky" and back over the course of this conversation) was under the impression that this trip to the Alps meant that he'd finally be having sex with Rogue. That seems very unlikely given what literally everyone involved in this situation already knows about Rogue's powers and how she cain't tuch yuh, Remy, but apparently Gambit's consternation isn't about her uncontrollable powers, but rather that he's being cockblocked by Wolverine, who came along as a "chaperone."
This means several things, the most notable being that the rest of the X-Men must've had a meeting and privately agreed that none of the women should be allowed to go anywhere alone with that scumbag Gambit. But assuming that Gambit is being physically restrained from rubbing his extendable bo staff on Rogue while she sleeps (which is his actual M.O. as established in Season 2), how does that really work? Are all three X-Men sharing a single bed at this ski resort? Does Wolverine just hunker down for the night in between them?
Anyway, that's not even the craziest thing about this scene. In fact, that's actually just a logical progression of events, really. The craziest thing is that if you watch closely as the camera pans across the lodge, you can see the X-Men are at the same vacation spot as Mary Jane Watson, Clea, and Dr. Strange.
That dude in the green outfit with the purple tassel on top might be Norman Osborn, too, but I can't really tell for sure. Either way, I love that Dr. Strange is wearing a sweater version of his costume, with a popped leather jacket collar standing in for the cloak of levitation. And also that Mary Jane brings her Spider-Man coffee mug on vacation with her, just so everyone is sure who she is.
Now, you would think that if people are going to go talking about demons running around, Stephen Strange is the dude you would want to go to, but when people with various Claremontean accents start chatting about all these crazy rumors, it's Wolverine who sidles up and decides to be buddies with everybody, because he really, really wants to murder something.
If you'd spent a week with Gambit whining about how it's just not healthy for guys to get aroused and not have an orgasm, then you'd be in the mood for stabbing, too. Also: Those are amazing facial expressions in response to Wolverine leaning over and asking you about demons.
Before long, the X-Men have hit the slopes in search of any devils, demons or daemons that might be wandering around, and because they are the worst superheroes in history, their little expedition immediately goes sour on them. The main problem here is that Gambit sucks, and the specific problem is that Gambit sucks at skiing, so while Wolverine and Rogue are (rightfully) mocking him, he plows facefirst into a pine tree...
...and accidentally blows it up with his mutant powers, causing an avalanche that buries the entire team. Including someone with super-strength who can fly. And is, in fact, flying when she is overtaken by the avalanche, which moves along the ground. The X-Men, everybody.
Wolverine feels that it is necessary to pop his claws in order to slice his way through snow -- snow -- and drags out Gambit and Rogue, who have been knocked out, presumably because everyone forgot what Rogue's powers were again. Interestingly enough, while Wolverine and Gambit are completely unscathed by the avalanche, the snow has somehow managed to rip off Rogue's sleeves. Could this be a plot point later?!?!
The team, which includes one invulnerable person and one person with a healing factor and unbreakable bones, passes out in the snow, and when they wake up, they've been taken to a nearby monastery which, according to the abbot (or "RZA"), mostly exists to take care of people who plow face-first into pine trees while skiing. Concussions are their business, and business is a-boomin'.
After getting a status update (Wolverine: Fine, Rogue: Fine, Gambit: Sucks), we are introduced to the obviously villainous Brother Reinhardt, who is leery about having strangers around "at zis terrible time!"
Gee, I wonder what could be causing such a terrible time for these stout men of God. Could it be... Satan?!
No. It's just Nightcrawler. Well, and also Brother Reinhardt, who tries to knock out a sleeping gambit with a chloroform-soaked rag.
It doesn't work, and really, he should've known better to even try. Gambit has undoubtedly built up a tolerance to chloroform over the years.
Rogue gives chase to the hooded brother, only to end up walking through a door and out onto a narrow, railing-free balcony, where she is startled into almost falling off, pinwheeling her arms with a horrorstruck expression because at this point, even Rogue herself has forgotten that Rogue can fly. She's rescued by a second hooded monk -- one who appears to be wearing white gloves that are missing a pretty solid percentage of fingers -- but they end up toppling over together, and the stranger teleports them to safety. Have you guessed who it is yet?
Despite rescuing Rogue, assuring everyone that he is not a demon, and having hands of a completely different color and shape than the dude who tried to chloroform Gambit, everyone is still pretty sure that he's an actual satan. Wolverine is especially convinced, who shows up and just gleefully tries to kill him by throwing him against a stone wall and stabbing him in the heart.
Two things about this: First, Wolverine sure is a jackass about this whole thing. I mean, that dude not only knows about mutants, he knows about morlocks. He is fully aware that there are mutants who do not look like regular humans. And yet, he is fully willing to just go "oh that dude looks kind of like he might be a Halloween costume demon. BETTER STAB HIM IN THE CHEST."
Second, this scene is actually really well animated. I've mentioned before that things have been things have been on a steady upswing since the pretty miserable Dark Phoenix Saga, but the fight here looks great, especially the scene where Wolverine actually stabs the wall as Nightcrawler teleports at the last second. It's really cool.
Eventually, things get sorted out when the Abbot shows up and claims that Nightcrawler is his brother, leading into a commercial break and returning to clarify that he meant that he's a brother, as in a monk. Amazingly, this is not the worst family related throw-to-commercial cliffhanger that the show has ever done. That title is still held by Storm claming that she had a son, only to later clarify that she meant "godson," also known as "some kid that I know."
At this point, we get Nightcrawler's origin, but a) odds are pretty good that you already know it, and b) like all circus-related origin stories that don't involve murder and recruitment by the Batman, it's boring as hell. The only thing that's really worth noting is that it actually does feature Mystique, identifying her as Nightcrawler's mother, though the characters themselves are unaware of that. The Secret Parent count is back at 2, both of which are Mystique, now that Corsair is no longer a secret.
The really interesting thing that happens here, once the origin is all wrapped up, is that this is where this episode goes full-on Jack Chick. Nightcrawler basically starts witnessing to the X-Men, telling them how he turned his life around by dedicating it to God, and Wolverine starts yelling about how "We're mutants! God gave up on us a long time ago!"
This sparks a theological debate and Wolverine reveals that he has "tried" to find the peace of the Lord, but that he has been unable to, likely because of his occupation as a professional murderer and member of an unsanctioned terrorist cell masquerading as a school. Also, being around Cyclops every day would try the patience of Job.
Wolverine storms out, claiming that he doesn't "need a sermon from some circus boy" (sick burn), but in the very next scene, that is exactly what he gets, ending up confessing that he has lost his faith. And speaking of losing faith, Brother Reinhardt has had entirely enough of all this, and has gone down to the village to let everyone know, hey, that demon you are looking for is up at the monastery with a couple of other demons, one of whom has fearsome knives for hands, one of whom has the streaked hair of a witch who has consorted with Satan, and one who bears the foul stench of Drakkar Noir soaked into the very air.
The villagers mobilize into a fairly well organized mob, and when they get to the monastery, Wolverine is uncharacteristically terrified because it's "fifty against two." Dude. The two in question are WOLVERINE AND ROGUE. ONE OF YOU CAN FLY, IS SUPER STRONG, AND INVULNERABLE. THE OTHER STABS FIFTY NINJAS EVERY MORNING IN THE TIME IT TAKES TO TOAST A WAFFLE. HOW IS THIS A PROBLEM AT ALL?
And yet, it is, especially when Rogue accidentally brushes up against one and ends up falling on the floor, rolling around and yelling "GET OUT OF MY HEAAAAAD," or as the X-Men call it, Plan A.
Eventually, the fight gets so far out of hand that the monastery itself burns down, but not before Nightcrawler saves Brother Reinhardt's life, which convinces him to stop being racist. So that's a win, I guess.
In the aftermath, Nightcrawler strolls up, tells Wolverine that he hope he learned a little something from the experience, and hands him a Bible, and he has "marked a few passages you might find rewarding." In other words, Nightcrawler is your grandma.
After that whole thing goes sour, the X-Men end up heading to Paris for the last few days of their vacation, where Gambit, unsurprisingly, reveals that he is a super-aggressive atheist, telling Rogue that "those monks kid themselves! We on our own in dis world! Life is random -- deal you a full house or a busted flush!" Before he has the opportunity to tip his fedora and move the conversation over to how many bitcoins he has, Rogue leaves, her own Southern Baptist faith shaken. But then! She is smacked in the face with a newspaper that leads her to a local cathedral -- because otherwise why would you ever go see a cathedral in Paris? -- and peeks in upon hearing a familiar gravelly voice praying:
This episode ends with Wolverine accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.
That's kind of weird, right?
Discussion Question: Okay, look, I know, but we're not going to talk about that in a comments section. That way lies madness. Instead, we're going to talk about this: Obviously, a ski trip to the Alps did not work out well for the X-Men, so let's figure out some better vacation destinations for the X-Men! What would they do on a class trip? Where would they get the best hotel rate? I hear if you reveal that you're a mutant to the Genoshan hotel service, you save mebbe 10%?
Next Week: The single best episode title of all time: "WEAPON X, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE!"