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 a Cyclops solo story! What have I done to deserve this?

Previously, on X-Men:

In our last episode, Omega Red returned from being frozen in a glacier and promptly attempted to use a sunken submarine to nuke the entire planet. Storm and Wolverine were also involved, but in the end, the only X-Man who really mattered for this scenario was Rogue, who saved the day when she "bent his boat."

This, of course, led to a discussion of what other X-Men stories could've been simplified if everyone remembered that Rogue was bulletproof, super-strong, and could fly and could therefore solve most if not all of their problems. Commenteer C.J. Tuor offered up this suggestion, which is even more amazing when you consider that Rogue actually is there for the animated Phoenix Saga:

The new X-Men have just defeated the sentinel's satellite base. Unfortunately, the radiation shield for their space shuttle is damaged and there is huge solar flare about to strike. The only astronaut who could possibly pilot the team back to earth couldn't survive the conditions. Jean Grey volunteers to psychically read the pilot's mind and protect herself telekineticly. It would stretch her powers to limits she's never before attempted and possibly kill her...but she is willing to make her sacrifice. The rest of the team laughs at her and Rogue absorbs the knowledge and flies the ship while getting a farm tan from the solar flare.

Pros: Chris Sims does not have to watch the animated "Dark Phoenix Saga". We do not have to watch "X-Men 3"

Cons: Jean Grey's costume is ugly forever.

 

My favorite, though, came from Commenteer Zak Zachary, who tales a rather Alexandrian approach:

The entirety of "God Loves, Man Kills" is rendered moot when Rogue just flies into the auditorium and punches out a 56 year old man in the face.

Now, the countdown to the series finale continues!

 

 

Okay, so here's where things start to get complicated. This week's episode is "No Mutant Is An Island," from writer Sandy Scesny and producer/director Larry Houston, and it directly follows the events of the Phoenix Saga. Now, if you've been following along in these little chats that we've been having every Monday, you might have noticed that on the show, the Phoenix Saga happened two years ago. And yet, here we are, finally getting our funeral for Jean, about a season and a half after she came back from the dead.

I have no idea why the episodes got shuffled out of order, but this one's not the only one. This whole middle section of Season 5 is a jumble of leftover episodes, and while that doesn't really matter when it's something like last week's (which also should've aired in Season 3), opening this one with Jean already dead well after all that has been sorted out pretty much tanks whatever they were going for right out of the gate.

Seriously, I'm not motivated enough to go look, but I'm pretty sure that the last time we actually saw Jean doing anything of note on the show was in the Christmas episode with the Morlocks from Season 4 where she was bustling around the kitchen yelling at Gambit, so opening this one up with her funeral makes it seem like she either died off-panel, or suffered a terrible turkey-based accident that was cut out for being too gruesome for younger viewers.

And what a funeral it is.

 

 

Yup. Everyone sitting cross-legged out in the hedge maze in full uniform while Beast reads to them from a book. How could you ask for more closure?

You may have noticed that I said "a book," rather than specifying, and there's a reason for that. As we join the scene, the Beast is reading a rather fitting passage: "And when its turbulent journey endeth, the river flows into the sea. At peace now, for all eternity." The thing is, as much as this sounds suitably Biblical, I checked, and the only Google results for that collection of words is from X-Men Episode 5x04: No Mutant Is An Island.

Look. I don't mind throwing in a quote from the Good Book at a funeral! And if you want to keep things non-denominational, that's fine too! I don't mind one bit if you make up something profound for Beast to say! Beast is a profound guy! But are you really going to throw "endeth" in there in NINETEEN NINETY-FIVE? I barely even like it when Quentin Tarantino pulls that stuff, and folks, X-Men ain't exactly Pulp Fiction.

After Beast is finished reading from the McCoy International Version, Cyclops heads inside to grope at a hologram of his dead girlfriend.

 

 

Professor X walks in, and instead of stammering out a hurried "NOTHING, PROFESSOR!!' Cyclops tells him that he's quittin the X-Men, getting so grumpy about it that he actually pulls out his terrible costume and throws it on the ground. It's very dramatic, but I still have the feeling that if the shot would've stayed on this scene five seconds longer, we would've seen Cyclops pick it up and fold it neatly. Dude does not like clutter.

Here's what else he doesn't like: The rest of the X-Men. As part of his diatribe, he yells "I'm sick of playing den mother to a bunch of quibbling children!" and that is fantastic. Not only does he rack up the scrabble points with "quibbling," but it's an accurate description of the team dynamic, even if Cyclops himself tends to be less den mother and more Quibbler In Chief. But professorrrrrrrr...

He also says "I'm sick of caring," and that is definitely the most I have ever identified with Cyclops.

So, what's Cyclops going to get up to on his brief sabbatical from the X-Men? Political intrigue!

 

 

Since he has spent his entire adult life and most of his teenage years in a paramilitary vigilante organization disguised as a school, Cyclops decides that it'd be a good idea to head back to the orphanage where he grew up. I have no idea why. Presumably, he's hoping they have a bed, since he has exactly zero skills that make him employable.

Think about it. You know I'm right.

It seems that the orphanage has recently received a large donation from local politician Zebediah Killgrave, and even if you did not already know that dude was a supervillain, that name probably would've tipped you off. He's even gone as far as adopting a child himself, recently -- a child that faced the same problems that Cyclops himself faced when he was an orphan, in that his mutant powers make him a hard sell.

 

 

The junior pyromaniac's name is Rusty, and he meets Cyclops when he accidentally sets fire to the orphanage and Cyclops puts out the flames by shooting them with his optic blasts. Now look. I am all for creative uses of characters' powers, but you can't just forget that Rogue exists 90% of the time and then just decide that Cyclops has Fire Extinguisher Vision. This ain't 1959!

Anyway, Rusty doesn't want to go back to Killgrave's house, but won't tell Cyclops or Sarah, the lady who runs the orphanage, why. Even after Cyclops shows him that he's a mutant too, all the kid says is that Killgrave is "bad news" and "wacko," and also that he has a torture chamber in his basement, and Cyclops just straight up tells him to get used to it.

Good job, Cyclops. Good hustle out there today.

 

 

At this point, we meet gubernatorial candidate Zebediah Killgrave, who tells Cyclops that Rusty just isn't used to "the loving discipline" of a father, which is actually way creepier than telling him "oh, yeah, I have a torture chamber in the basement." Which he does, and which is exactly where he takes Rusty, strapping him into a mind-control machine right next to Skids and Boom-Boom, making a cameo appearance.

So here's Killgrave's plot: He's going to use his mutant mind control powers -- he's the Purple Man, btw -- to brainwash these ten year-old mutants into becoming politicians, so that in twenty to thirty years, assuming that nothing goes wrong with their political careers and pending approval of the electorate, he will have absolute control over up to six political offices, probably at the local level. Which he will then use to "make every mutant's American dream come true," whatever the hell that means.

Move over, Apocalypse. We have a new contender for Worst Supervillain Plot Of All Time.

The thing about this plot isn't that it's bad -- I actually kinda like the idea of Killgrave trying to get fully sanctioned social and political change, but this is going to take decades. Dude could probably get everything he wants just by actually running for office in that time. This is like spending four years on a complicated plot involving kidnapping and torturing multiple children in order to convincingly fake having a college degree.

Anyway, after Killgrave and his teen street team attack the governor and threaten him into resigning, Cyclops and his crotch catch a newscast about it:

 

 

With his area sensing trouble, Cyclops suddenly decides that Rusty must have been telling the truth about Killgrave's torture chamber, and he and Sarah head off to rescue the kids from his palatial mansion. When he gets there, though, they're all engaged in scholarly pursuits like chess or baking, but rather than letting his ruse work, Killgrave instead has the kids attack Cyclops and tries to drown him in a swimming pool.

 

 

One sympathizes.

Unfortunately, Cyclops is a little harder to kill than all that, and after Sarah revives him with a little mouth-to-mouth, he runs back into the mansion to bust up the final stage of brainwashing. The children are liberated, but after a tender moment about Sarah accepting Cyclops despite his mutation, Killgrave shows up in a f**king helicopter gunship and just tries to shoot everyone, apparently abandoning his plan for subtle, electoral change.

 

 

Cyclops manages to punch out the helicopter with his eyes (not as cool as it sounds), and since there was a news crew there to capture it all, Killgrave's political career is kaput.

Oh, and it turns out Jean's alive, but you already knew that.

 

Discussion Question: This episode features Cyclops using his optic blasts to put out fires multiple times. Are there any other unexpected uses for Cyclops's eye-beams? Don't worry if your ideas don't make sense -- the show sure didn't.