The X-Men Episode Guide 2×06: X-Ternally Yours
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: X-Ternally Yours, in which Gambit's ex-girlfriend might be even worse at relationships than Gambit himself.
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, we got bits and pieces of Wolverine's backstory, starting with the Weapon X program and moving on through his time with Alpha Flight. As weird and choppy as the episode was, it actually did a pretty nice job of giving Wolverine a little depth by establishing that he joined the X-Men so that he could fight for a cause rather than just being used as a weapon, adding a little nobility to a character that's mostly been growling and stabbing up to this point -- not that growling and stabbing aren't still his primary and most enjoyable characteristics, you understand. Of course, on the downside, the episode was also about Alpha Flight.
In our discussion of stories with blunt and unsatisfying endings, I was surprised that only one reader brought up the J. Michael Straczynski ouvre by mentioning Supreme Power and his ill-fated run on Thor. Imagine that, a JMS run not having a satisfying ending. Or an ending.
Also, one reader pointed out that I made a few factual errors when I referred to Alpha Flight living in "Canada City" and being vague about Heather Hudson's identity and history in the comics, insinuating that I was ill-informed and coming off as -- and I hate to even admit this because it's probably true -- a little arrogant. I'd like to apologize to all of you, and in the interest of keeping these reviews as factually accurate as you expect, I'd like to correct those mistakes: Alpha Flight's headquarters is not in "Canada City." Maple Base One (or Le Staçion de Maple Premiér to our Quebecois readers) is actually located in Canada Towne. ComicsAlliance deeply regrets any confusion this may have caused.
Now let's watch Gambit be a scumbag for twenty minutes, shall we?
Writer Julianne Klemm and supervising producer Scott Thomas open our story once again in medias res with a shot of burning wreckage that used to be one of the X-Men's crazy bananas flying Formula 1 cars. The culprit, it seems, is Cyclops, who appears to be just slightly worse at flying planes than he is at being a superhero. He takes a moment to flash his visor at the viewer before immediately being knocked over by the plane exploding because he decided he should stop to pose right next to an airplane that was on fire.
Seriously: It's been like three episodes since we've even seen Cyclops, and the first thing he does in this one is fall down on his face. It is delightful.
Oh, and then everybody starts being menaced by a tentacle monster.
As you might expect if you've been following along every week, it all turns out to be a Danger Room simulation, and after he blows off the tentacles bondaging Rogue and Jean, Cyclops -- who literally just fell down on his face -- starts griping about how it's all too easy. And to whom is he complaining? Why, Gambit, of course! Who else would be masterminding a Danger Room scenario where a tentacle monster gave the women on the team a big squeeze and then respond to criticism with "What? You don't want Gambit to be gentle?"
The fact that we watched this show when we were 10 to 12 years old sure does explain a hell of a lot about my generation.
As Cyclops, still recovering from falling flat on his mouth in front of his girlfriend, yells about wanting to "crank it up," Gambit gets a shocking phone call from someone with an even more cartoonish accent and, distracted, leans against the lever that controls the difficulty setting in the Danger Room. Or, uh, the Danger Team, I guess.
Quick question for anyone who knows about copyright law: Does its appearance in this show mean that Marvel owns the title "DANGER TEAM LEVEL MAXIMUM?" Asking for a friend who just opened a new word document with that title on my computer just now.
Anyway, down in the Danger Team, the room is suddenly faced with presumably lethal versions of their greatest enemies: Apocalypse, Omega Red, Mr. Sinister, the Juggernaut and... an alligator wearing a suit of armor.
I know there's a lot of debate over what order you're supposed to watch these episodes in -- I'm going by the DVD order, if anyone's curious -- but I am pretty sure I would remember it if I had seen that guy show up before. Don't get me wrong, I do not doubt that an alligator man is a formidable foe, even if he wasn't wearing field plate, but it feels a little like they're gilding the villainous lily just a bit.
While Cyclops performs a tactical roll to create space with his opponent (or to put it in layman's terms, while he runs away without actually standing up), Gambit's phone call continues. It's from Pierre, and "it Bobby! He in trouble!" Gambit, true to his scumbag roots, does not give a dang about all this -- or at least that's what he pretends while his team leader is getting bounced around the holodeck by an Inhumanoid. His tune changes, however, when Pierre tells him that "it da tithe! Bobby disappeah! An if he ain't deah tonigh wit da tithe, you KNOHW wha gonna happen!" So if you ever wanted to know what Claremontean accents sounded like when spoken aloud, this is the episode for you.
To be fair, Cyclops is actually able to hold his own against the holograms pretty well for a few minutes, until he suddenly isn't. So where, you might ask, are Rogue and Jean, who were just down in the Danger Team with him? Oh, you know. Getting coffee.
This is fantastic, largely because there's no way around the idea that they just totally bailed on their grumpy teammate when he started throwing a hissy fit about how training was too easy today. Best case, they left when he was yelling at Gambit to crank up the difficulty because they figured he'd be too distracted to notice, and worst case -- the one that I, of course, prefer -- is that they were there until all the villains showed up and just decided to slip out rather than deal with the hassle.
After dropping her coffee, Rogue rushes into the control room and hits the emergency override, narrowly saving Cyclops from being killed by exactly the kind of tough workout that he was asking for not two minutes prior to this. The Fearless Leader of the X-Men, everybody!
Rogue is, understandably, pretty upset about Gambit almost murdering Cyclops by giving him exactly what he wanted, sort of like a mother who comes home and finds that the babysitter has allowed her kid to eat an entire bag of chocolate chips and then pass out on the kitchen floor. The heat is deflected just a bit, though, when he tells her "I gotta go home, chere. They're gonna waste my brother."
After a dramatic zoom and a few commercials, we're back in the Danger Team where Jean and Rogue rush in to tend to their fallen roommate. Rogue tells Cyclops and Jean that Gambit was upset beacuse of "something about a brother," presumably because she is not familiar with hippity hop slang terms like "waste." Did she take it literally and assume that Gambit's brother had gotten a job that didn't make full use of his talent? The world may never know. Either way, it's off to New Orleans and a flashback where Gambit reminisces about "dat tievin fool!"
Hoo boy. It's at this point that things get weird.
After a brief look at a bunch of "Assassins" who look like they're about to hit up an S&M club designed by Joel Schumacher, we get a shot of a bunch of sketchy looking dudes running through the woods trying to put a little golden box on a tree stump. Gambit's there, too, and we know it's a flashback because instead of his costume (which, as we all know, is the one suit of clothing he owns), he's wearing a yellow shirt and light blue pants that appear to be the exact same outfit Mary Jane Watson wore for the duration of the Spider-Man animated series.
Shocking no one, the dirtbags of the T'ieves Guild are late putting their little golden box on the tree stump -- you know, the Tithe, like we're all very familiar with -- and before they get there, The X-Ternal rises up out of the water and this is now the most '90sest thing ever.
Let's break this outfit down, shall we? Top to bottom, we've got a ponytail of neon orange head tentacles, some purple concentric Renaissance art halos, two sets of sharpened shoulder pads, Ultimate Warrior face paint, a workout leotard, metal sleeves, and multiple belts, one of which is off-center. Critical '90s: Confirmed.
The X-Ternal announces that the time has come and demands that the Chosen One step forward, because this is what weirdos who have been living under swamps for the past ten years do when someone puts a little golden box on a tree stump. The Assassin steps forward, and you'll be pleased to know that he also has a terrible cajun accent, which is pleasing enough that the X-Ternal shoots pink lightning out of her eyes in order to give them "strength and protection."
The Thieves Guild member on little golden box duty finally shows up, but since he's thirty seconds too late, he's rewarded with more pink lightning, but this is hand lightning, not eye lightning, which results in "a darkness neverending!" Then there's still more pink lightning, and a young lady from the Assassin's Guild gets her clothes transformed into a little look I like to call the Tennessee RenFaire:
She does the same thing to one of the Thieves, and all he gets is the same coat he was already wearing but in a slightly different color. This, of course, is Bobby.
Back at the Mansion, Jean explains that she knows something's wrong with Gambit because "when he was leaving the mansion, I sensed his feelings." So, not because he told Rogue someone was going to kill his brother and then left in an airplane, then? Good job, Jean. Good hustle out there.
Down in the bayou, Gambit lands and meets up with Pierre, and we learn that his dumb jacket and weird hair aren't just an inexplicable fashion choice, they're actually some kind of uniform:
I wonder if the Thieves Guild has a hierarchy based on how impractical your clothes are. Gambit, with his hot pink abs and powder blue metal boots, is basically God Emperor down there.
Pierre reveals that the Assassins Guild has abducted Bobby, and when Gambit starts grumbling about how the Thives and Assassins have been killing each other for 300 years, we get the twist. They're not going to kill Bobby, they're going to return him along with his little golden box in exchange for Gambit. This seems a bit excessive, since they probably could've just set a bottle of Night Train and some spank mags under a cardboard box propped up with a stick and caught him that way, but who am I to question the way of the famous Louisiana Swamp Assassin's Guild?
The rest of the X-Men arrive in typical Rest Of The X-Men fashion, which is to say that they're two minutes late and primarily concerned with stuff that we've already seen. While they're making bold deductions about how Gambit took a boat, Gambit shows up at an antebellum mansion to talk to his brother, who appears to have suffered a brutal beard-sketching at the hands of his captors:
There's a lot of bad blood between Gambit and Bobby, mostly centered around Gambit's frustrations that Bobby "made me a teef!" They argue for a bit, and then this web gets even more tangled with the arrival of Gambit's cheesed-off ex-girlfriend.
Right, so remember the Renfaire Assassin from earlier? That's Bella Donna (or "Bell" as Gambit calls her), and she rolls up in an ornate wedding dress and starts yelling about how Gambit left her at the altar. Apparently she's just been havishaming it up for the past ten years, and this is all an elaborate get-back-at-your-ex scheme.
We've all been there, am I right? This guy knows what I'm talking about.
She tells Gambit that she still wears his rang, and asks him the simple favor of putting his on in exchange for letting Bobby go free. Naturally, Gambit agrees because the X-Men are just the absolute worst superheroes ever, and no sooner is that sucker slapped on his finger than Bella Donna's eyes start glowing and Gambit is brought low when she channels pain directly through his wedding ring. It's a hell of a metaphor for the kids.
Rogue, Jean and Wolverine continue to poke around the swamp, walking into another plantation house where they fall down a trap door, and amazingly, the show actually remembers they have superpowers. Rogue just corrects herself in mid-air, Jean floats herself gently to the ground, and Wolverine lands on his feet. You know, like Wolverines do.
It's actually a pretty neat scene.
Turns out that the whole thing was a trap laid by the Thieves Guild for Bobby's kidnappers, and they show up toting goofy Cobra surplus laser guns so that the X-Men can effortlessly disarm them. Before anyone gets stabbed, telekinesised or drained to death, though, Bobby shows up and tells everyone to chill out, they're just his scumbag brother's weird yankee friends. There's some more talk of the tithe and Bella Donna's plan to do something with Gambit. Something horrible. Something that must be stopped at all costs.
Honestly, it's hard to drum up sympathy for Gambit, a dude who once tried to make out with Rogue while she was asleep, when the peril that he is faced with is a girl who's just, you know, kind of clingy about him because he jilted her on their wedding day, but the show makes a good run at it. Turns out that she's a faithless jezebel who has already betrayed Gambit by substituting a fake golden box for the real golden box that they were supposed to put on their tree stump in the ritual that definitely isn't making any more sense the more I write about it. Look, it's a bad thing and there's a fake box. That's all we really need here.
Finally, the tithe is set to happen, and Bella Donna rolls up with Gambit in tow and announces that he's the newest member of the Assassins Guild. This is, I guess, kind of shocking, but Rogue immediately starts sobbing about it, choking back "I don't believe it!" like she just watched Gambit punt a kitten into a river. Fortunately for her, Gambit's a pretty s**tty fiancée.
After he cold knocks Bella Donna on her ass, Gambit warns the Thieves/T'ieves/Teefs that they've been tricked and that their tithe is a fake. Rogue calls Bella Donna a "swamp witch," Bella Donna calls Rogue a "seducer," Wolverine completely fails to use his indestructible adamantium claws to cut the ring off Gambit's finger, and it all eventually turns into a big dumb brawl. While everyone fights, it boils down into Rogue and Bella Donna yelling at each other like they're on Maury, with Rogue's classic "Gambit ain't gonna be your lapdog!" countered by Bella Donna's "Remy's keesed minny weemin, chere... but love onlay me!"
My sentiments exactly, Rogue.
At this point, the plot gets even more convoluted as Jean decides that the most powerful telekinetic in the world, an invulnerable woman who can fly and bench press a tank, and a berserker raging killer with knife hands just can't possibly solve this problem with violence. They have to go find the real tithe to keep the Teefs from being killed by the X-Ternal.
If you're confused as to what all that means, don't worry. I am too.
Unfortunately, they don't have time for any of it, because the X-Ternal rises up from the swamp water and starts yelling about how the tithe is false. The Assassins have the good tithe, so they get to level up again, and the Tieves are set to get some more pink lightning until Rogue tries to intervene and the X-Men get zapped for their trouble.
Jean thinks fast -- well, fast for this show, anyway -- and telepathically shows the X-Ternal what actually happened, which means we literally get a flashback to things we just saw less than one minute ago.
It is not even as exciting as it sounds.
The X-Ternal decides to let the Thieves decide what to do with Bella Donna, and when Bobby yells out that he wants to destroy her, he gets a punch in the mouth from Gambit, who asks for the relative mercy of taking her powers instead of her life. Then Bella Donna lays on the ground and cries while begging Gambit to stay, to which he responds "I am an X-Man, and I'm never coming back."
That guff is harsh.
After that, Cyclops complains and we get another check-in with Professor X and Magneto down at the Savage Land, where the mutates are hassling them for what feels like the 900th week in a row. I cannot remember a time before this Savage Land story was playing out in 90-second installments, but considering that it involves Professor X using weaponized bees, that might be a good thing.
Discussion Question: This episode was a bit of a trial to get through for a lot of reasons, chief among them being the accents. That said, that is actually pretty true to how those comics were written for, you know, forty years or so. So with that in mind, what's the best or worst representation of an accent in comics? In the comic book story that introduced Bella Donna, I remember being mystified by someone using the word "'trupt" as an accented version of "interrupt," but there might be a weirder one out there.
Next Week: Cable and Bishop are back! Giant guns and face tattoos for everybody!