The X-Men Episode Guide 4×12: ‘Have Yourself A Morlock Little X-Mas’
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: We're skipping ahead to find some holiday cheer with Season 4's "Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas!"
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, we opened up Season 3 with an agonizing two-parter about the Morlocks, the Shi'ar, the Reavers and Lady Deathstrike, just in case things weren't already complicated enough just by virtue of being an adaptation of '90s X-Men. The show also laid down a truly unnecessary amount of foreshadowing and teasing for the upcoming adaptation of the Phoenix Saga, but instead of that, we're skipping ahead to Season 4 for the show's Christmas Special. It also involves the Morlocks. I know, I was upset too.
In our discussion of what the X-Men would want for Christmas, this column's readers came up with some pretty solid suggestions. Jerrod Joseph Ross O'Dell suggested an order of chili fries for Jubilee, and Ben Freeman suggested a pocket thesaurus for Storm to help craft her overwrought dialogue and Miami Mutants on DVD for Cyclops. Several of you suggested a pickup artist book for Gambit, which I actually think would be a bad gift. Not because it's not appropriate you understand, but because there is no way in heck that dude doesn't already own it. Those red eyes that indicate his "psychic charm?" That's just peacocking, bro.
My favorite suggestion, though, came from reader Rhody Tobin, who got a genuine laugh-out-loud from me with "Wolverine wants the check, please." It never gets old.
Good job everyone, now let's settle in to see what the X-Men are actually getting for Christmas! HINT: It's sewer disease.
Season 4's holiday special comes courtesy of writers Larry Parr and Eric Lewald, along with line producer Eric Squillace, and the opening act is absolutely delightful. This is seriously some of my favorite stuff from the entire series, and it all has to do with the X-Men hanging out trying to celebrate Christmas like normal people.
To start with, we open on Cyclops, Rogue and Jubilee decorating the X-Mansion's ridiculously massive Christmas tree while singing "Deck the Halls," and in one of the best choices the show has made, Cyclops is the worst singer in the entire world.
He's not just bad, he is studiously bad, in the way that only a voice actor who actually can sing could really pull off. He's not just flat and off key (although he is both of those), he's singing an entirely different and entire terrible melody, and I love this. Not just because of my ongoing and deep-seated hatred of Cyclops, but because it actually makes perfect sense for his character. Cyclops is a dude who just does not know how to have fun. Of course he wouldn't know how to sing. Singing is not battle strategy or situps or repressing emotions or making out with telepaths, and those are pretty much the only four things he's good at.
Cyclops is, in fact, so bad at singing that he gets embarrassed and gives up, giving us another shining example of the fighting spirit that has made the animated X-Men such a great team. This goes unnoticed by Wolverine, who is sitting nearby, brooding in the firelight like David Huddleston in The Big Lebowski.
"Do you know what makes a man, Jubilee?"
In another truly great moment, this is presented not as the compelling brooding of an anti-hero, but rather with Rogue and Jubilee rolling their eyes and pointing out that he's just being a "grumpus" and ruining everyone's good time. Even Cyclops -- who, as Rachel Edidin put it, is so excited not to be the wettest blanket for once -- gets into the act and loudly announces that "it's FUN he doesn't like!" This, just so we're clear on this, is coming from Cyclops.
While all that's going on, Jean and Gambit are busy in the kitchen, and in case you are not already laughing, let me restate that THE TELEPATH WITH THE POWER TO DESTROY PLANETS AND THE BIGGEST SCUMBAG IN THE UNIVERSE ARE BUSY COOKING CHRISTMAS DINNER TOGETHER. And for some reason, Gambit is dressed like a cartoon sailor.
Also, the animators seem to have forgotten how arms work. Either that, or there is some grotesque body horror happening under the guise of a Christmas miracle.
Now, I haven't gotten through the Phoenix Saga in the episode guide yet and I don't remember seeing much of it when I was a kid, so I don't know if it represents a turning point for Jean's character that involves her suddenly expressing emotions instead of just yelling "Scott!" and falling down every time she uses her powers. Here, though, she is truly fantastic, suddenly becoming a super-dominant control freak chef when it comes time to cook Christmas dinner. She's on the verge of going full-on Phoenix at the mere suggestion of adding cayenne pepper to her Christmas ham, and at one point literally threatening to tear Gambit's hands off with telekinesis when he reaches for the spices. It is possibly the most I have ever enjoyed Jean Grey as a character, possibly because it reminds me so much of my Christmases at grandmas.
At one point, she yells "The day that I need your help in the kitchen is the day that I stop cooking!" with the exact same delivery that she would use when facing down Apocalypse for the fate of the mutant race, and it is just the best. It's clear just from hearing the voices that Norm Spencer and Catherine Disher are having a blast with this episode, and the rest of the cast isn't too far behind.
The Beast is cooking too, but doing so in the form of a complex chemistry setup in his lab, because, you know, he's smart, while Professor X and Storm are content to just take a moment to talk about how much fun they're having at Christmas. And that's when we meet the villain of this episode: Storm's new party dress.
The fashions of the early '90s X-Men are dubious at best, but a salmon and forest green tiger-striped maxi dress with shoulderpads?! That is not a good look. That is, in fact, one of the worst looks in history. She looks like she's cosplaying as a festive sarlaac pit.
Eventually, after the Beast's attempt at cranberry glaze explodes, Archie style, it's decided that Storm, Jubilee and Wolverine are going to head out for some last minute shopping, if only so that Logan can get away from his closest friends, dare I say his family, on Christmas Eve. Keep this in mind, kids of 1994, because you're going to be identifying with it pretty strongly in about two years. Either way, it's off to a non-copyright-infringing version of Macy's in the heart of midtown Manhattan for the pretty tired gag about how Wolverine is deeply uncomfortable with the very idea of commerce.
While they're shopping, the three mutants run into a perfume saleswoman whose Jamaican accent is so ludicrously over-the-top that I have no choice but to assume that this role was written specifically as a Christmas present to a scenery-chewing voice actress:
She douses Wolverine with a puff of "Wild Musk," and he is straight up going to stab her with his claws before Storm and Jubilee decide that maybe he needs a little bit of air. They head out to the ice rink at Rockefeller Center, and for a brief, beautiful, genuinely hilarious moment, Wolverine is glumly ice skating with his hands behind his back, looking so depressed about the commercialism of Christmas that I honestly expected Vince Guaraldi's "Christmastime Is Here" to kick in at any moment.
Sadly, it's at this point that the actual plot of the episode shows up. An ambulance crashes nearby, and after Storm uses her powers to make sure it makes a relatively safe landing, it's assaulted by a gang of Morlocks, pillaging medical supplies from the back. There's a brief fight and some hella judgmental comments from Wolverine, but eventually it comes out that Leech, as always, is on the verge of dying and they need something to patch him up, so naturally, they chose ambulance robbery.
What strikes me as weird about this is that at this point, Storm is still the de facto queen of the sewer mutants. It's actually a plot point later in this episode, and since it wasn't that long ago (just two weeks ago for us here in the episode guide) that Leech called the X-Men on a video phone, so you'd think if something that required this level of action was going down, they probably would've called Storm at her house where at least one supergenius doctor who literally cured blindness back in Season 2 lived, just to get an opinion on what's going on. And yet, here we are, back in the sewer with the Morlocks and their hilarious, even-worse-than-Charlie-Brown's Christmas Tree.
Storm announces that Wolverine has experience in field medicine, which is news to me and also seems like the absolute last thing that Wolverine would need to learn about. He gives Leech the once-over, and with the kind of tact you'd expect from the X-Men, announces that he's definitely going to die tonight. This, needless to say, is pretty upsetting for the Morlocks, especially for their little sewer urchin version of Cindy Lou Who...
...who has the mutant ability of eyes that take up 64% of her face.
Through a pretty staggering leap of logic, everyone decides that the best way to cure Leech from certain death is to give him a transfusion of Wolverine's blood, because naturally that's where Wolverine's healing factor lives. This is pretty tenuous logic at best, mostly because even if Wolverine did have magical healing blood, Leech's entire deal is that he turns off people's mutant powers. With that being the case, you'd think it would turn off the mutant powers of any unattended bodily fluids too. Besides, as anyone who went to the movies last summer is no doubt aware, Wolverine's healing factor lives in his bone marrow, which is why you have to chop off his claws with a lazer katana and then use drills to get it out.
The Wolverine was a pretty weird movie, y'all.
Wolverine shoots down the idea by explaining that not only has he tried this before and failed, he has tried it TWENTY TIMES and failed. Apparently he had a whole side career as the world's worst doctor that we never knew about. Storm insists, however, and pretty soon, it's transfusin' time.
Back at the mansion, we break the tension with another look at Gambit and Jean in the kitchen, with Jean right at the edge of tapping into the primal forces of universal destruction due to Gambit's confession that "just gave the ham a li'l juicin' up." She throws broccoli at him. It's amazing, largely because Cyclops blasts the broccoli stalk out of mid-air rather than let it hit Gambit, sending it pinwheeling over to Rogue, who catches it like a bridal bouquet. If this was the entire show, this episode would finally exceed B:TAS.
Instead, we go back to the Morlocks, and I don't even know where to begin with the number of ways this transfusion is grossing me out. The weirdest is probably that Wolverine is laying on a table that is actually a Morlock shapeshifter, but the worst is that they are attempting a life-saving medical procedure IN A SEWER.
That is not exactly a sterile operating environment. RIP Leech, he died of literally every disease.
While they're waiting on Wolverine's beer-soaked blood to work its magic, Cindy Lou Morlock and her giant eyes give Jubilee the nickel tour of their damp, fetid lair. She shows off the Christmas branch and what appears to be a paint bucket of leftover soup, and Jubilee seems to realize for the very first time that living in a sewer might not be as fun as the Ninja Turtles made it out to be. Keep in mind that this is not the first time she has been down here, nor is it the second, nor is it the first time she has presumably been confronted with the knowledge of what exactly a sewer is. She's a bit slow on the uptake is what I'm getting at.
Jubilee mentions this to Storm, asking how the Morlocks keep going when "they have nothing," and Storm, the Queen of the Morlocks who hasn't bothered to actually check in down here in three yeras, replies that they have plenty, because they're part of a loving family.
Jubilee for some reason does not reply with "Yeah, but listen, they are eating scraps in an underground tunnel full of actual poops, are you out of your f**king mind or what?" I mean, I'm all for messages about togetherness and being thankful for what you have, but before you actually write that, make sure you are not having that message delivered by someone who lives in a mansion, talking about deformed sewer people. It sort of undercuts the moral.
Callisto, who has zero medical training and is dealing with a unique and unpredictable element like Wolverine's mutant healing factor, suddenly decides that Leech should be better by now, and Wolverine tears out the transfusion tubing and stomps off. But, lo and behold, just as the rest of the X-Men arrive to lend a hand, Leech wakes up and everything is just fine once again. This is not really explained, but let's just go with "Christmas Magic" and call it a day.
Having learned the true meaning of Christmas, the X-Men decide that they should slum it and eat Christmas Eve dinner in the sewer, and after pulling some truly insulting posturing that includes making Callisto kneel at her feet and shouting about how she doesn't need to explain her actions, Storm frees the Morlocks from her rule, returning leadership to Callisto. In Season 3, Callisto stole guns from cyborg mercenaries so she could blast open a spaceship and use whatever was inside to kill Storm, so this is a pretty good idea.
Obviously, the news that they're eating boot stew in a sewer comes as a pretty infuriating blow to Gambit and Jean, who have been about three seconds away from murdering each other over the preparation of Christmas dinner. Jean suggests that they just put it in the fridge and warm it up tomorrow in the microwave, and that, my friends, is where we get the true moral of this episode:
"Gambit does not make TV dinnahs!"
Discussion Question: That does it for Christmas, but I think it's evident that the X-Men could stand a little self improvement. What do you think the X-Men's New Year's Resolutions should be? Like this week, I'll pick my favorites for next week's column.
Next Week: We get back to Season 3 for the run-up to the Phoenix Saga, but until then...