The X-Men Episode Guide 2×01: ‘Til Death Do Us Part, Part One’
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: "Til Death Do Us Part, Part One," which kicks off season 2 with an actually-pretty-surprising return!
Previously, on X-Men:
Season 1 of X-Men managed to end pretty strong, with nice, solid action pieces and a resolution to a year-long plot involving Magneto and the Sentinels, and they even remembered to get the Beast out of jail so that he could actually, you know, do stuff. It wasn't tied up that neatly, though: We left off with Cyclops proposing marriage to Jean (who agreed while still referring to him as "Cyclops," which is a shade impersonal for one's fiancée), and a teaser letting us know that we had Mr. Sinister to look forward to. So if you all want to bail out now, I understand. I wish I could, but I kind of have to be here.
As to the first season's high and low points, I think we all agree that there's a lot to like about the show. A few of you were quick to point out that there's some reasonably solid voice acting in here, and that trying to directly translate the convoluted world of '90s X-Men comics to a cartoon is, if nothing else, pretty ambitious. Then again, we also all agreed that the only thing worse than some of the actual animation is that Cyclops continues to exist.
On the bright side, I just finished watching this episode and I'm not actually sure if he appears at his own wedding. Let's find out.
Season 2 kicks off with a story from writer Mark Edward Edens and supervising producer Scott Thomas, who have taken the extra time to give us a brand new font for the title. As the title indicates, this episode is going to be loosely based around 1994's X-Men #30, and while that issue is always going to hold a special place in my heart, I'm willing to go on the line here and say that the cartoon version might actually be better.
Mostly because it opens up with Wolverine, in a tuxedo, straight up murdering Cyclops.
Oh, don't worry, Cyclops Fans -- or Cyclops fan, since I'm still not sure that there's more than one of you out there -- it turns out that it's just a Danger Room simulation that Wolverine programmed because murder is the only way of dealing with his emotions. That's healthy, right? Dressing up to attend someone's wedding and then deciding at the last minute to spend a couple of hours pretending to murder them instead? Right.
The real Cyclops is down at the chapel getting married to Jean, who looks just as happy as you'd expect from someone who just signed up for a lifetime hitch in the Summers family:
I think it's important to note that to his credit, Scott went to the trouble of finding normal-looking sunglasses to wear rather than his usual red ones, while Jubilee still has her goofy red shades propped up on her forehead. Hell, Rogue's wearing a headband! Who coordinated these bridesmaids, you are ruining her special day!
There's a nice bit of cross-cutting between the peaceful wedding and Wolverine snarling "YOU CAN'T HAVE HER!" while stabbing his teammate, and even I have to admit that this is the first thing the show's done that actually makes Wolverine seem like more of a horrible creep than Cyclops. He ends up stabbing the first Cyclops and talking about how that makes him feel a lot better, but then he's ambushed by a gigantic Cyclops-Sentinel hybrid that ruins his nice suit:
I have to say, I love this thing. I don't recall ever seeing X-Men-themed sentinels in the comics, which is really surprising. It's a really great visual, especially coming off an entire season about how much of a threat the sentinels they were, and how Wolverine, specifically, was an expert in taking them down.
Plus, I don't care if he is a total creep, I'm still at a point where I'd happily watch Wolverine decapitate different versions of Cyclops for the next twenty minutes.
After being decapitated, Sentinel-Cyclops gets off one last optic blast and sends Wolverine crashing right back into the friend zone, where he lays around moaning about Jean so pathetically that she has to leave her own wedding to go see what his problem is. You'd think this would maybe shift the focus over to the other person getting married, but friends, we are blessed. Instead of Cyclops, we get Gambit, complete with an amazing mullet that's been hiding under his head-sock this entire time, swaggering around the wedding being the sleaziest dude in the world.
It is delightful.
While Gambit is being physically restrained from slobbering all over the bridesmaids, the reverend who performed the wedding gives Cyclops what I imagine is a limp, clammy handshake and bugs out of the wedding. Once he's out the door -- but still in the churchyard, in broad daylight, like twenty feet away from where everyone is still hanging out -- he suddenly shapeshifts! Oh snap, it's Morph!
For those of you who may have forgotten, Morph was the X-Man created for the show who was killed by Sentinels in the pilot so that we'd all know s**t just got real. Even at 12, I was dimly aware that Morph was a throwaway character who hadn't been in the comics, and from what I understand, he'd originally been intended as just that. Since he was supposed to stay dead -- and since I kind of knew that he was supposed to stay dead -- I remember his return in the second season actually being a shock. Apparently it was because fans had responded really positively, though given that he's just a shapeshifter with an annoying voice, that's still kind of surprising.
Pretty cool action figure, though, especially if you lost his original head and just used the Cyclops one to have a "Training Session Cyclops" that your other toys could beat up.
Anyway, the other big plot point that carries over from season one is that Senator Kelly is now President Kelly, and after a change of heart inspired by not being murdered by robots, he's issued a full pardon for Beast.
Beast is one of my favorite X-Men, so it'll be nice to finally see him in action instead of just hanging around quoting Shakespeare. Eventually, I mean. All he does in this episode is hang around quoting Shakespeare.
While Beast is off Romeo and Julieting all over the wedding reception, Kelly is off doing a speech for an audience of about 11 people, accompanied by exactly two security personnel. You know, like most Presidents of the United States of America do right after they're inaugurated? With that kind of tight security, it's easy for someone dressed up as a mutant to bust in and start making trouble while Graydon Creed stands around yelling about the Mutant Menace.
For those of you who can't make out his armband -- which, amazingly, is not the least subtle reference to the Nazi party that we've gotten on the show -- Creed is the leader of the anti-mutant Friends of Humanity, and he set this whole thing up to make them look bad. The best part, though, is Kelly's exasperated "Stop this! I'm trying to help!" like his town hall speech is being interrupted by a cranky three year-old.
At the mansion, Wolverine and Jean have an awkward moment when she walks into the Danger Room in her wedding dress and finds him laying in the wreckage of a giant robot version of her husband with his tuxedo torn to shreds. It's pretty amazing, but Jean then turns around and claims she doesn't have time to talk because she has to go on her honeymoon, as though she did not just walk in looking for him. I mean, honestly, I'm not on Wolverine's side here, what was she hoping to accomplish? "Oh hey Wolverine, I see you're homicidally angry about my marriage, welp, I'm off for two weeks of non-stop sex with Cyclops! I'm not any happier about it than you are!"
From there, we cut to Morph in a seedy hotel room, where he flashes back to the pilot to fill us in on what happened after the X-Men left him to die:
Serious question: What is going on with the Sentinels and their laser beams that can apparently blow holes in shirts to expose someone's abs, but do no other visible damage? Does the X-Men cartoon take place in a world where people's life force is completely tied into whatever they're using to cover their torso?
Either way, the memory of Mr. Sinister prompts the formerly normal-looking Morph to swear vengeance and resume the sallow, raccoon-eyed appearance that he had at the wedding. Plus, we get an... interesting idea of what the animators thought a human hand looked like.
On the streets, the Friends of Humanity are stirring up some racially motivated violence, blowing up community centers and chasing down Morlocks. It's so bad that even Magneto's having a hard time, sending a message on the "private video line" to Professor Xavier and asking for a meet up. Just as we're about to focus on the idea that X and Magneto have a private video line set up and whether this show was just 100% fan-fiction at this point, though, it's revealed that it wasn't Magneto at all! It was Morph, using his powers to lure Xavier to Antarctica.
One would think that Xavier, who has the ability to read minds and a machine that allows him to do so over great distances, might be a little more difficult to fool than that. Nope.
While that's going on, Wolverine, Gambit and Beast have gone out to a bar to play some pool. There's a scene where the waitress recognizes Beast from TV, but here's the thing: This is at least their second game, and since Wolverine has scratched on the 8-ball and lost twice, they have to have been there for a while. But it's only once we join the scene that the Waitress walks up to the Beast and goes "hey, I recognize you!" Shouldn't this have been the first thing that happened? How many six-foot cat-men with blue fur and swim trunks come into this bar that she has to take that long to get a good look at his face and think about where she saw him?
So then these dudes show up and set the place on fire:
And brother, they picked the wrong night to stir up trouble. I mean, with Wolverine there, you're definitely going to get stabbed, but with Gambit in the mix, you're looking at at least identity theft, and probably herpes. That dude's gonna jack up your credit report, mon ami.
What follows is a pretty slapstick, one-sided fight that sees Gambit charging up everything but a deck of cards, which is actually a pretty nice visual reminder of how versatile his powers could be. The trick to it, though, is that the FOH are filming the whole thing, picking shots to make the X-Men look bad and leaking them to the news.
While Wolverine stomps out in a rage, as he tends to do, Morph sneaks in to stir up trouble. The first thing he does is shapeshift into Rogue so that he can lay a honey trap for Gambit, and it is amazing. As Rogue, he backs Gambit up against a wall and says "what if I told you I was lying about not being able to touch another human being?" and instead of saying "Well that would be pretty f**ked up since it would mean you're basically a sociopath," Gambit immediately agrees to go have sex with her in the rec room.
Naturally, when he gets there and finds the real Rogue sleeping, he immediately starts making out with her and knocks himself out on her mouth. Oh Gambit. Like all great Marvel heroes, your greatest power (being a hilariously sketchy perv) is also your greatest weakness.
As Storm, Morph sends Jubilee off on a mission that leads her straight into the FOH's headquarters where she's taken captive, and then he traps Beast in the Danger Room while it's set to "Lethal." Storm and Rogue head out to stop a bombing at the Mutant Counseling Center -- complete with Storm's overdramatic pronouncements as she uses her powers, a la "Rewgue! Beast will sewn be here to assist me! The arctic cewld will cool their ardor!" -- but since they're expecting backup from people Morph has already taken out, Storm gets nabbed by the cops.
Clearly, Morph's revenge plan is going pretty well. Gambit's out, Jubilee's captured, Storm's arrested, Rogue can't touch anything without blowing it up, and Wolverine... well, Wolverine's all right. But when was the last time Wolverine being underestimated screwed up a villain's plan?
Also, have his teeth always been like that?
Discussion Question: Here's a hard truth for you, folks: Morph is Marvel's Harley Quinn. Both characters originated in their 1992 animated series, and both proved popular enough to be brought into the comics. So for this week's discussion, who's better: Morph or Harley Quinn? Keep in mind that your answer must acknowledge both Exiles-era Morph and New 52 Suicide Squad Harley Quinn. Oh, and feel free to play Devil's Advocate.
Next Week: The second part of the season opener, in which I have to figure out how to write more jokes about Graydon Creed!