The X-Men Episode Guide 4×14: Secrets, Not Long Buried
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, it’s Walking Tall starring Cyclops. For real.
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, Rogue took the spotlight for a truly bizarre tale where her high school boyfriend woke up from a coma and immediately joined forces with a bunch of aliens that promised he could have sex with her if he helped them turn her into a space lizard. Seriously. That is as accurate a summary of the events of that episode that I can give you in one sentence, and if I added more details, it would just get weirder. Suffice to say that Rogue remains unlizarded with her virtue intact, while Cody is now a space mutant trying to take over the world.
In our discussion of who could somehow manage to top that dude as Rogue’s worst possible boyfriend, the Commenteers provided some suggestions. The overwhelming favorite for worst romantic partner was, of course, Cyclops, but I was intrigued by a suggestion from Greg Packnett, who offered up Swarm. You know, the Nazi made of bees? That guy would probably be pretty terrible.
You know who would really be bad though? Imagine that she dated a clone of Magneto. How goofy would that be?
This week, writer Mark Onspaugh and producer/director Larry Houston are giving us a solo adventure that’s entirely focused on Cyclops, and at this point, I have to ask: really? After all you put me through, you’re going to give me a Cyclops solo adventure? Seriously, X-Men, what the heck did I ever do to you? I mean, other than making fun of you every Monday morning for well over a year now, pointing out how many times you forgot your main characters’ powers, and implying — well, stating — that one of your leads is a sex pervert with priors. Besides that, what did I ever do?
Oh well, what’s done is done, and we’re just going to have to get through this together. Cyclops is set to make like Randy Travis and dig up some bones, and to that end, he’s taken one of the X-Men’s still-inexplicable flying racecars out to the desert in search of Taylor Prescott. You all remember Taylor Prescott, right? The really important geneticist that Cyclops talks to all the time who suddenly went quiet two weeks ago? I mean, sure, it might seem like he has never been mentioned before, but I’m pretty sure he was just standing slightly to the left of Wolverine in all these episodes. Here, maybe this FULL-SIZED STATUE THAT CYCLOPS CARRIES AROUND IN HIS JACKET POCKET will jog your memory.
If you still don’t remember Dr. McGuffin, don’t worry, there’s a handy flashback to help, and the gist is that he’s basically Professor X, minus the X-gene and megalomania and plus hair. He tends to shy away from the spotlight, which is why Cyclops has to fly out to a place called Skull Mesa to give him the statue that his students made for him.
Protip: If you are an X-Man — heck, if you’re a protagonist at all — try to avoid flying to places called “Skull Mesa” in search of missing scientists. Leave that junk to meddling kids and their talking dog.
Sure enough, all is not as it seems. Turns out that as he flies in, Cyclops is being monitored by Watchdog, who appears to be a twelfth-wave Ninja Turtles figure:
Watchdog reports Cyclops’s presence to a mysterious overlord, who orders him to deal with the intruder. Sure enough, one push of a button later, and Slim’s plane crashes into the desert, and since I am once again typing this as I sit in an airport, I have to say: Dick move, X-Men. Dick. Move.
Cyclops ejects at the last moment, knocking himself out in the landing until he’s nuzzled back to consciousness by a lizard. Really. Lizard nuzzling. Three minutes in and we are so far off the rails that I can’t even see the train anymore. Perhaps more important than Scott’s scaly tendencies, however, is that he has awoken without his mutant power. Feast your eyes on the uncovered face that has wooed at least three telepaths:
To his credit, Cyclops doesn’t let a little thing like a flying F-1 racecar exploding in the middle of the Mojave desert keep him from accomplishing his mission of delivering a crystal statue that flattens out as soon as he puts it in the pocket of his doofy safari vest, and he sets off to find Skull Mesa. Lucky for him, a passing motorist called Daryl Tanaka spots him on the side of the road and stops to pick him up.
Cyclops’s response to Tanaka stopping to give him a ride through the desert, quite possibly saving his life, is to literally yell at him for not stopping sooner. Our Hero, folks.
There’s a brief flashback to Cyclops in his younger days, where he fails to make friends because he vaporizes a baseball in the middle of a game, and presumably also because he’s a complete raging a-hole to everyone around him.
It turns out that Dr. Prescott was there at the orphanage, and it was he, not Professor X, who was the first adult to reach out to Cyclops and attempt to help him control his powers. He sure seems like an important fellow, this Taylor Prescott! That must be why he was mentioned so prominently in previous episodes!
It turns out that Cyclops was within one flashback of the Skull Mesa City Limits when his plane went down, so when we dissolve back to the present, he and Tanaka are arriving to an entire town’s worth of the cold shoulder. Businesses close up, citizens shut their windows, and even Tanaka refers to himself ominously as the town “doctor… and coroner” when he takes Cyclops to his office to examine his head. For the record, he does not find out what’s wrong with him, but that’s something we could probably debate for years. Tanaka gets a little nosy, prompting Cyclops, who just received free medical care and a hot cup of coffee from a good Samaritan, to yell at him and then storm out in search of answers.
As it turns out, Skull Mesa is a whole town full of mutants, and this pack of weirdos is the welcome wagon:
The dude who looks like one of David Bowie’s cocaine nightmares introduces himself as Bill Braddock, and he goes into a pretty heavy intimidation routine trying to get Cyclops to leave town toute de suite. And to be honest, judging by the standards of ’80s action movies, it’s actually pretty solid:
“Folks here don’t take too much to strangers.”
“Oh, is that the town motto?
Other than that, though, their intimidation is actually extremely polite. They offer to set Cyclops up with a rental car and tell him that he should probably go see a “city doctor” about his head injury, since there aren’t any hospitals in the area, and caps it off with “yep, that’s my advice.” It’s basically how I imagine organized crime works in Canada.
Cyclops, of course, refuses to back down, basically telling Braddock that he doesn’t trust him and then, in an amazing example of his secondary mutation — remarkable stupidity — believes everything Braddock says about Dr. Prescott’s whereabouts and even asks him for directions. Having secured this no doubt accurate information, he then returns to Tanaka’s office, pounds on the door, and yells…
“I NEED YOUR JEEP AND SOME DIRECTIONS. NOW!”
What a great guy. Shockingly, it turns out that this “Chandler house” that Braddock mentioned as Prescott’s place of residence is abandoned. He returns to Tanaka, once again yelling about answers, and Braddock, having been lingering outside waiting for his cue, pretty much walks in and announces himself as the Brad Wesley-esque crime boss of the entire town.
Now, the sharp-eyed among you may have noticed that one of Braddock’s cronies is Toad, complete with his bright orange Renaissance Faire outfit, something that Cyclops didn’t bother to notice or comment upon in their initial interaction. At Braddock’s command, Toad walks up and rubs his hands on Cyclops’s safari jacket, tying him up with a thick yellow mucus:
So, uh… Is that one of Toad’s powers? Super gross hands? I’ll admit that I’m only really familiar with Toad from the X-Men movies, and while that means I know exactly what happens when he’s struck by lightning, it also means that the only mucus I know about him shooting out comes from his gross mouth and tongue. Please note that this is not a complaint, as the last thing I want to see right now is Toad licking Cyclops into bondage.
Either way, it turns out that Braddock has Dr. Prescott similarly shibari’d:
Why? Because he dared to defy Braddock and hi s absolute control over this tiny town of Southwest mutants! JC Penney’s coming here because of him, Dalton!
Cyclops responds to all this by shouting “I have friends, Braddock! They’ll come after me when I don’t return!”
Cyclops turns immediately to pleading, reminding Braddock that he’s a mutant, so they don’t need to hate and fear him like the rest of the world, but it turns out that Braddock, like me, could give an f. He’s actually on the run from the law himself, and only stayed in this town after discovering Prescott’s secret: A gold mine!
Hey, remind me real quick, what color is gold again? Is it the color gold? Or is it bright green? I can never keep that straight.
Also, finish your drink: Random appearance!
That dude is always at the center of the action.
Having thus proved his dominance over the town, Braddock decides to let Cyclops go rather than killing him and dumping him down a hole, thus proving that Cyclops is no longer the dumbest character on this show. Cyclops heads back to Tanaka, where he finds out that Prescott mined small amounts of gold and used it unselfishly to support the town before Braddock, alias Solar, came to town in search of stacks on stacks.
Cyclops attempts to give Tanaka a rousing speech about taking back the town and, uh, killing Solar and his cronies, I guess, but Tanaka reminds him that not everyone joined up with a super-powered anti-government militia when they were fifteen and are thus not equipped to lead an armed rebellion against a gang of murderers. This pisses off Cyclops to no end, sending him storming out of the office yelling “How can you call yourself a doctor?!”
To be fair, the only doctors Cyclops knows are a super-strong furry blue ape who quotes Shakespeare and the Master of the Mystic Arts, so it does make sense that he wouldn’t be clear on how this whole “medicine” thing works.
Having turfed out at getting Tanaka to help, Cyclops heads over to the local mechanic, where he attempts to recruit… wait, is that Maul from Wild.C.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams?
Turns out his name is Tusk, a mutant who possesses the combined powers of Fleetwood Mac. He doesn’t want to join up either.
Hey, remind me again what Cyclops’s actual job is? Like, his role in the X-Men? Because I really hope it’s not leading and inspiring others to fight, because judging by this episode, he super sucks at that. Nobody in town wants to help out, and after he takes a poke at one of Braddock’s henchmen and once again eats it right there on the front lawn, he heads out to the desert to do what I suspect is his actual role on the team, brooding while looking at strange objects.
And yes, Wolverine counts as a strange object.\
Having screwed up his courage (and everything else in his life), Cyclops walks back into town at dawn, posturing like a Western hero but immediately telling Braddock that his friends will hunt him down, which… is that really what you’re going to say at this moment of badass courage, Scott? “Hey don’t mess with me ’cause I know someone who can beat you up?” Jeez, this guy.\
Braddock counters with a short speech where he revers to the townsfolk as cowards three times in the span of about four sentences, and there’s also a handy reminder that Toad sucks.
Toad sucks real bad.
Cyclops sucks worse, though, and gets knocked out in one punch. Then, in what is actually truly amazing, Solar ties him to a solid gold statue of himself in the center of town.
Son should maybe take a few classes on getting away with crimes.
Soiar gives a speech about how Cyclops is a mutant-hating interloper trying to destroy the town and take the gold for himself, claiming that the crystal statue of Dr. Prescott is “a transmitter,” something that the gullible folks of Skull Mesa believe wholeheartedly. Except, of course, for Tusk, who..
oh my god.
I was fully expecting a Three Amigos ending to this saga where the townsfolk united to battle their personal El Guapo, but I did not expect it to come in the form of a tiny little man who burst out of Tusk’s skin and then beat Solar into submission by humping at his face. And yet, here we are.
The townsfolk revolt, Tanaka fixes up his eyes with his mutant healing powers, and Cyclops takes out all of Solar’s loyalists by refracting his optic blasts through the crystal statue to create a disco ball of death, despite Cyclops’s powers definitely not working that way. Thus, the day is saved and Dr. Prescott is revived, closing out the show in the dumbest possible way by asking Cyclops “do you still like ice cream?“
Even Cyclops f**king likes ice cream. EVERYONE DOES.
Discussion Question: Tusk’s mutant power, at least as it is depicted on this show, is possibly the grossest thing I have ever seen in my life, but it can’t be the worst out there. Who’s got the grossest mutant power? Keep in mind that Maggot is the easy answer.