The X-Men Episode Guide 4×06: ‘Sanctuary, Part 1′
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: Magneto fully embraces Casual Fridays on Asteroid M... maybe a little too casual.
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, the X-Men went up against Proteus, and Wolverine spent about 18 of 20 minutes openly weeping and hiding behind the other X-Men until Beast finally told him that it was okay and that he was only scared because he's always so brave! Then he gave him a lollipop. I think that's what happened, anyway. Also, Professor X reunited Moira MacTaggert with her estranged son, Kevin, by taking the radical treatment of not locking him up in a sub-basement for decades at a time.
There's a hell of a lot of lousy parenting on this show.
In our discussion of Professor X's greatest dick moves, there was no shortage to choose from as the Commenteers went after one of the Marvel Universe's sketchiest authority figures. The amazing thing is that there were way more comments than usual on this one, and only about three specific incidents were repeated. The plot of Deadly Genesis was a favorite, and imprisoning an alien intelligence in his secret basement murder room is probably way up there, but my favorite came from Richard Pearse, who quoted the man himself: "Notify Wolverine that his childish outburst will cost him ten demerits."
This week, writers Steven Melching and David McDermott and producer/director Larry Houston are continuing the trend of Season 4 actually having some really entertaining episodes by taking us on a journey to outer spaaaaaaaace! Specifically, we're watching what basically amounts to an animated version of the opening to You Only Live Twice, except that instead of a giant bullet that lives in a volcano, the astronauts are kidnapped by this strange force we know as... magnetism.
No prizes for guessing who's responsible.
From there, we cut to the UN, and this is where things start to get weird, because for some reason, they have elected to give the American ambassador the voice of That Guy You Work With Doing An Impression Of Jack Nicholson.
Oh, and also because Magneto crashes through the ceiling and immediately starts monologuing.
Apparently Magneto could hear the entire conversation that was going on between Ambassador Nicholson and the Vaguely Foreign ambassador from the Free Republic of Genosha, because he responds directly to what they're saying even as he is crashing through the ceiling. Sort of makes you wonder how long he was chilling out up there waiting for a solid intro line.
Having made an appropriately dramatic entrance, Magneto pretty much lays out the plot of this week's episode for the benefit of the United Nations. It seems he's grown tired of constantly having to fight to stop mutants from being oppressed, enslaved and exterminated, so he's decided to just remove homo sapiens superior from the equation. To that end, he has founded his own country (of sorts) on an asteroid orbiting the Earth, because this is a thing that you can do when you are the Master of Extremely Liberal Interpretations Of Magnetism, and is planning to take any mutants who want to go off to his brand new space utopia, closing by saying that if any of the assembled bureaucrats don't like it, they can just put it in the Suck It Bucket. Well, actually, he delivers the pretty fantastic and ominous line "My mission is peaceful. Any intervention would make it... otherwise." The Suck It Bucket is, as ever, implied.
Two things about this: One, while he's giving this speech, he magnetisms up a little screen and starts illustrating his points by showing clips from previous episodes of X-Men, which is pretty friggin' bonkers when you consider that this would require Magneto to just be hanging around offscreen with a camera in situations where that would be ridiculously awkward, like when Warren Worthington heads out to the snow to mope around and rip up his jacket by flexing his wings. Secondly, his hair has gone full-on Super Saiyan.
After Magneto's highly publicized announcement, unaffiliated mutants start clamoring for plane tickets to one of his rendezvous points, while Professor X looks on, horrorstruck, breathlessly wondering "can my failure be so complete?" Again, Charles: this one really isn't about you.
Meanwhile, Gambit wants to know your a/s/l and if you want to play truth or dare.
As he's creepin' on the chat rooms, Beast is modifying the Blackbird with Shi'ar technology so that the X-Men can pay what they deem to be an increasingly necessary visit to Asteroid M to get Magneto back in line. This, for the record, will be the first step they take into becoming the actual villains of this episode.
Believe it or not, Gambit actually pipes up with a pretty salient point: "We stay here fightin' all the time, things don't get much better." It's an interesting point that comments on both the situation that the X-Men face within the comments, and the metatextual reality that keeps them from ever making too much progress because that would be the end of their story, condemning them to 50 years of battling for an equality that never acutually gets there, and it's something to think about. And then right after he says that, literally his next sentence, he's right back to sleazy flirting with Rogue that threatens to go from "uncomfortable" right up to "nauseating."
Given that Magneto is an occasional terrorist who was first seen way back in Season One trying to hijack some missiles and nuke humanity, President Kelly is understandably a little worried about the situation, but Professor X assures him that he can talk to Magneto and get him to... Man, I don't even know. Stop living in space with a bunch of people who want to move to an asteroid so that they won't be beaten up by Neo-Nazis? I mean, it kind of seems like a pretty reasonable plan. Maybe he shouldn't have announced it by crashing through the roof of the UN while wearing bright red body armor, but that's Magneto for you.
To that end, Xavier and Beast set out to give Magneto a stern lecture on cooperation, but they're not alone. Gambit has insisted that he be allowed to come along so that he can talk to a friend of his, a scientist that has defected to Magneto's side after presumably finding his talents in asteroid maintenance unappreciated by his fellows down in the T'ieves Guild.
They meet up with Magneto at the rendezvous point, and after inviting a handful of mutants into the giant metal barrels that he's taking up to space by himself with his magnetic powers (which is pretty worrisome from virtually all standpoints), they all head over to Genosha, to what appears to be AN ACTUAL CONCENTRATION CAMP.
Magneto is here to bust this place up and take all the imprisoned mutants up to Asteroid M, and seriously, it's at this point that the X-Men are definitely the villains. It was insinuated earlier in the episode (and when I say "insinuated" I mean "plainly stated," because X-Men is not a very subtle cartoon) that the Genoshan government is still using mutants for slave labor well after the X-Men's first encounter with them back in Season 1, but that they have an actual camp for them? That everyone knows exists? And that the X-Men themselves have not cruised over to and put an end to?
Folks, there is no way that you are going to convince me that Magneto is not 100% in the right when his plan of action is "destroy and liberate a concentration camp to aid my peaceful relocation to space." How does this scene not involve Professor X just shrugging and saying "yeah, you were probably right on this one"? I mean, there are Sentinels there, busting out of quonset huts:
In the battle that follows, Magneto and his forces (including RANDOM!!!!) have a pretty tough battle against about five Sentinels (which is weird, because that's Wolverine's morning workout on a slow day), but they're ultimately aided by a new gang of uniformed dopes: The Acolytes!
Sadly, this does not include Bradshaw and Farooq. Instead, we have Fabian Cortez and a bunch of people whose names I'm not going to look up because I can assure you that they are not that important.
With Cortez recharging Magneto, the good guys triumph and everybody heads up to space for a victory party, but not before Cortez suggests that mayyyyybe Magneto should just murder all the humans in Genosha. Y'know, just putting it out there. But Magneto, having had a pretty surprising and genuine change of heart about the nature of violence, simply jacks up all the robots, frees the mutants being held captive, and leaves.
Once they're up there, Magneto lays out the plan for his new utopia. A plan that includes flowing silk robes and a complete lack of both oppression and shirts. It's actually an outfit that's lifted straight from the comics, too:
And again, I am both mystified and slightly alarmed at this show's dedication to bringing the aesthetics of 1991 directly to television.
Sadly, Magneto's footed pajamas, sash and open robe only last for a few minutes before he's called off to deal with an attack by armed satellites. It seems like a completely unprovoked attack, but it turns out that it was actually a retaliatory strike -- someone launched a missile from Asteroid M without Magneto's knowledge. Note: It was Cortez. Magneto does not realize this, even thought 90% of Cortez's lines in this episode are about how much he really, really wants to kill all the flatscans.
Meanwhile, Professor X got hella relationship problems.
Remember when Mary Jane Watson showed up a few episodes ago to play the role of Professor X's girlfriend in a flashback he was having? Turns out that she's actually Amelia Voght, and she has joined up with Magneto because, as she puts it, "your X-Men's fight for mutant rights has made it impossible for mutants to live quietly anywhere on Earth!" It's an interesting point, given that the X-Men have fought Sentinels like fourteen times (and in at least three separate times) but haven't managed to stamp out this whole pesky Genoshan slavery thing that's going on, and to be honest, I'm willing to believe pretty much anyone when they tell Professor X that he ruined their life.
As Xavier is shut down with extreme cruelty by his ex, Magneto finally realizes that it was Cortez who launched the missile, trying to provoke Magneto into wiping out humanity. Magneto confronts him, but it turns out that he's grown dependent on Cortez's powers, which are... uh... hang on... "the ability to bolster another mutant’s power." So he's basically the s**tty class in an MMORPG. No wonder he's so mad all the time. Either way, Magneto can no longer get by without regular boosts from Cortez, and is sealed up in his apartment and blasted off the asteroid to die.
Note to self: When designing outer-space headquarters, do not allow personal living quarters to be shot off into space by a control that is outside the room.
Even worse, when the X-Men show up in response to the alarm, Cortez blames them for assassinating Magneto! Now that's a situation stickier than molasses on a beehive. We'll see how them X-Boys get outta this one next week!
Discussion Question: If the past two episodes have proved anything, it's that Xavier Is A Jerk and Magneto Was Right. Since we talked about the former already, let's hit the latter: What are your favorite examples of Magneto being 100% correct, or at least a pretty good dude?
Next Week: I assume we'll have a solemn funeral for Magneto. Dead means dead, y'all.