The X-Men Episode Guide 2×10: Beauty And The Beast
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: 'Beauty and the Beast,' which has significantly fewer singing teapots and significantly more racism metaphors than you might remember.
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, our series of episodes focusing on individual X-Men continued with a look back at Rogue's needlessly complicated backstory. We learned how she got the flight, super-strength and invulnerability powers, but since the show forgets about those about as often as it doesn't, the more important thing was that we learned Ms. Marvel existed. She's currently in a coma, but that's probably the biggest hint that we're dealing with a bigger animated Marvel Universe until Spider-Man starts roping people into participating in the Animated Secret Wars.
Our discussion question last week focused on storylines that we all obsessed over that turned out to not be that big a deal. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the entire comments section ended up being worth reading, as long as you ignore that one dude who wanted to talk about Prince Zuko's mom on your way to reading about plot points from a canceled Hawkman series. Of particular note were the many posts about Wolverine's past, which is probably the single best example of something we all wanted that we never, ever should've gotten. But hey, we got to see a kid in a Victorian nightdress pop bone claws in a major Hollywood movie, so... that's something.
Now let's see what happens as we turn our focus to the boisterous Beast!
This week's take comes to us courtesy of writer Stephanie J. Matheson and supervising producer Scott Thomas, and right away we're in some pretty dicey territory. The plot concerns Beast being in love with a blind woman named Carly, something that I'm pretty sure is new for the show rather than based on anything that's in the comics. I mean, there was a miniseries called Beauty and the Beast back in the '80s, but since this show is willing to put Maverick on the small screen three times without ever mentioning Dazzler, I don't think that's going to come into play. What I'm getting at here is that it all just feels like a pile of cliches at worst, and warmed over Ben Grimm / Alicia Masters stuff at best, only with Carly's dad playing the role of a mustachioed bigot rather than having a weird head and a bunch of magic clay.
Anyway, what you really need to know is that there's this blind lady, and Beast, who's been part-timing at a hospital ever since he got out of prison for fistfighting robots in Season 1, has co-created a procedure that's going to restore her sight. Everyone's pretty stoked about this, especially Beast, who has developed quite the crush. You can tell because he's blushing:
You know, for certain values of "blushing."
Sadly, we don't get much more flirting from the Beast, because it's time for action! Just after they break the news that everything is ready for the operation, there's an explosion and a loud fire alarm. Beast, Carly and the other doctor are cut off from the escape route, but as you well know if you obsessed over X-Men trading cards from 1992, the Beast has the strength and agility to make a leap from a second-story window pretty easily, which is exactly what he does.
There's actually a pretty nice bit of animation here, too: Rather than just scooping up Carly and jumping out the window, Beast has to take a moment to adjust and make sure he has a good grip, propping her up with his leg:
Given this show's tendency to cut corners, forget what people look like and reuse footage from earlier episodes of late, that's a nice bit of unnecessary business that makes things look more natural. Of course, it's also a man covered in fur picking up a blind woman and then jumping out a window which, from her perspective, is probably terrifying.
The source of all this commotion? Why, it's the same bunch of ne'er do wells that it is every time in this season, Team Rocket the Friends of Humanity!
The mob is headed up by Graydon Creed, of course, and this is actually the first time I've been excited to see him, because voice actor John Stocker has gone into full-on sneering with his lines in this episode, and it is a delight. The best thing that happens in this episode is how quick Creed is in turning the situation around -- this dude literally sees the Beast rescuing a blind girl from a burning building, and launches into a tirade about how "President Kelly's favorite mutant" is "holding a hyuuuman girl! Get his filth away from her!"
For his part, George Buza does a pretty stellar job as Beast, too, fighting off the FOH with a combination of punches and five-dollar words, announcing that "your anger at the inexorable alienation of late 20th-Century life is sadly misdirected!" and then throwing them in a pile. As dicey as the plot might be, this is easily one of the best-written episodes so far.
Back at the mansion, Wolverine is mad enough to punch a television.
He's understandably pissed off about the FOH attacking a hospital and seems ready to go on a stabbing spree, but Jean -- useless, useless Jean -- sternly reminds him that the X-Men are forbidden to take revenge. That's all well and good, but I'm not really sure how it's relevant at all. I mean, they just bombed a hospital. At this point, they are straight up criminals, and hunting them down and bringing to justice (or stabbing them, whatever) is hardly "revenge" in the traditional sense. But for whatever reason, Wolverine concedes that Jean and her Vulpix hair may actually have a point.
Jean rounds out her contribution to the scene by bemoaning the fact that Professor X isn't there to guide them through these difficult questions of who should and should not be stabbed. So where is the professor? Wading through a river of pink lemonade with Magneto:
Yep, they're still stuck down in the Savage Land, having a series of weird and mostly unrelated adventures that I assume are going to be important at some point in the future.
Professor X is complaining about having to walk through the river -- that certainly didn't take long -- when they stumble into a snare and end up suspended above the river. No sooner have they been caught then they are set upon by a raft full of dudes in chainmail loincloths and Marty McFly vests, led by one of those TMNT action figures you'd get when they were sold out of Michaelangelo:
I just want to pause for a moment and point out that Mondo Gecko over here is wearing a pair of tiny briefs that are the exact same color as the rest of him. He has to know that's weird, right? Right.
Turns out that his name is Amphibious (which is more of an adjective than a noun, but whatever) and he serves "the new ruler of the Savage Land." Whoever that is, he's provided his frog-men with laser guns, which he uses to knock X and Magneto out so that he can take 'em down the river. Unfortunately for the frog-man, their journey is interrupted by a two-headed apatosaurus that capsizes the raft and provides a cover for their escape. And thus is Huck Finn revealed for the bulls**t that it is. Get some dinosaurs in there and we'll talk, Clemens.
Back in our regularly scheduled plotline, Wolverine has decided to go undercover!
I kind of love that his disguise consists of a super-tight t-shirt, a bootleg Oakland A's cap and a pair of dumb red sunglasses that he definitely stole from Cyclops, but let's not forget that Wolverine's most successful canonical disguise is, in total, an eyepatch. At least the baseball cap hides his hair.
The disguise is just part of Wolverine's attempt to infiltrate the Friends of Humanity. The other part of the disguise is pretending to beat himself up in an alley, Fight Club style, except completely insane. Seriously, this scene involves Wolverine climbing onto a fire escape and punching the railing and then running headfirst into a wall until some racists in vests come out of their building. Straight up bonkers.
When the sleeveless bigots attend to Wolverine, he claims that he was ambushed by a "filthy mutant," and they naturally assume that he's down for the cause, taking him in for a meeting with Creed. But before we get to that, it's back to the hospital for the next wrinkle in the saga of the Doctor, the Beast and His Lover, and if you didn't think it was enough of a Ben Grimm rip already, check the fashions:
Turns out that there's a pretty big snag in their plans to fix Carly's busted eyes: they don't want Beast present for the operation. The other doctor tries to play it off as the hospital being skittish about having a prominent mutant performing surgery the day after, you know, a terrorist attack, but that's not the real reason. It seems Carly's father is every bit the bigot that Creed is, with the added bonus that his eyebrows are exactly the size of his handlebar moustache.
He has demanded that Beast be barred from the operating room, and look, I know that seems super racist, but let's not jump to conclusions. You have to imagine that delicate eye surgery and a huge amount of allergy-inducing blue fur aren't really going to have a good ending anyway, so maybe he's just a concerned father. Also, keep in mind that Beast has been hanging out at this hospital wearing only a labcoat and briefs. Just, you know, putting that out there.
At this news, Beast's secondary mutation kicks in and turns him into a gigantic sad sack, and he begs off in the name of doing what's right for Carly. Before he heads off to update his Livejournal with a post about how girls claim to want a nice mutant, though, Beast pays her one last visit. She says she can recognize him based on the scent of his aftershave, which raises some big questions about just what it is that Beast is shaving, but before we can deal with that, she drops a bomb on him: She knows he's a mutant!
For some reason, Beast is surprised by this, and can't figure out how she knows. Beast is meant to be really smart, by the way.
At the mansion, he has a breakdown that involves smashing up a mirror and yelling, which gives Jean the idea that something might be wrong. Will we ever know the limits of her mental powers?!
At the slightest prompting, Beast launches into a soliloquy about how he wishes he could be normal and how he can't get close to anyone, and I assume that the only reason Rogue isn't side-eying him like a fiend is that this is her day to visit a comatose Carol Danvers. There's a whole lot of dramatic griping about how Beast won't allow Carly to be with him because of the danger, and Jean offers a disinterested "let her decide" before wandering upstairs and out of the episode.
The next day, Beast shows up after the operation to watch Carly get her bandages off, and the doctor who actually did perform the surgery sticks up for him. The bandages come off, and Carly tells Beast he's beautiful. It's all very sweet, until Pops busts in and starts a ruckus by calling Hank an animal.
Again, I don't want to defend this guy, but when you get right down to it, "Animal" is actually a nicer word to refer to someone than "Beast," so maybe he's doing his best. I don't know. I mean, he does go on to refer to him as "a disgusting mistake of nature," so...
Beast leaves the room and gives the other doctor a present to give to Carly. This is an action that takes less than thirty seconds, but in that time, all hell breaks loose. In half a minute, the Friends of Humanity manage to storm the hospital, overpower everyone in the room, kidnap Carly, and leave a message painted on the wall:
Say what you will about the tenets of anti-mutant bigotry, but they have some pretty industrious adherents.
Beast flips out and roughs up Carly's dad a little, yelling about how she was kidnapped by "intolerant, ignorant, mutant-hating fools like you" before storming out to mount a rescue attempt. Meanwhile, the elements of the FOH that weren't involved in the kidnapping, which mostly amounts to Graydon Creed, are welcoming "John Logan" into the fold.
It's worth noting that if the timeline of this episode is at all consistent with itself, Wolverine has been sitting there chit-chatting with Creed for at least one full day. After swapping a bit of mutant hatred, Wolverine makes a subtle hint about knowing "a guy about 20 years ago by the name of Creed, could've been your old man." Creed begs off and says that his family was "all in Canada then," which seems like a pretty flimsy excuse that a kid would use to get out of a father-son race. "Oh, my dad? Y-you don't know him. He's from Canada."
Wolverine calls for backup and finds out that Beast is on his way to FOH HQ to rescue Carly, giving Cyclops his contractually obligated speaking role in the episode. Before long, Beast arrives and he and starts busting heads, giving Wolverine the chance to storm into what appears to be Creed's private sex dungeon so that he can rescue Carly:
Wolverine also claims that his claws give him "plenty of rights" which is both nonsensical and pretty badass in a Death Wish 3 sort of way. There's also a bit of back and forth from Wolverine about how "daddy's boy doesn't like claws" and how Wolverine "looks familiar" to Creed. Before long, though, Wolverine, Carly and a beat-up Beast end up surrounded, only for Cyclops to blast through the wall from outside as Jubilee sets up a holographic projection.
And just what is she projecting? The X-Men's trading card file on Sabretooth, alias Graydon Creed Sr.:
This sends Creed the Younger into an amazing paroxysm of screaming "I'M NOT LIKE HIM! I'M NARRRRMALLLLLLLLLL," and it is delightful. The rest of the Friends of Humanity bail, the X-Men escape, and Beast has a sad breakup with Carly about how it's too dangerous for them to be together. Her dad shows up, shakes his hand, and all's well that ends well:
Except for the part where Beast can't be with the woman he loves because of racism, I mean. That part isn't very well at all.
Discussion Question: Part of the plot of this episode is that Wolverine outsmarts the FOH, while Beast goes for the tactic of smashing them into walls. It's a nice little role reversal that Jubilee remarks on, and it makes me wonder what the best "role reversal" type of moments in comics are?
Next Week: Mojo shows up. Sigh.