The X-Men Episode Guide 4×11: ‘Beyond Good And Evil, Part 4′
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 the finale of "Beyond Good And Evil," and honestly, your guess is as good as mine.
Previously, on X-Men:
Okay, so apparently there's a weird spherical castle that sits at the heart of time inside an orb of lightning, with giant rectangles that lead to the entirety of history and, one assumes, the future. We all remember that from school, right? Of course. Well, it seems that Apocalypse has taken over the Time Castle, and has a sinister plan that also involves kidnapping a bunch of psychics and putting them in tubes, which the X-Men obligingly helped out with by delivering Professor X, all but gift wrapped, to a tube, with Wolverine following. Also a bunch of time travelers like Bishop and Cable have been agitated by all this. We are 90 minutes into this story, and that is all know.
In order to spice things up, I asked the Commenteers to suggest a few video game levels that could spice things up, along the lines of the Axis of Time looking a lot like Rainbow Road from Mario Kart and Apocalypse's suspiciously Dr. Wily-esque castle, and some of you went hard on it:
"Can't go wrong with having people fight through Dracula's castle with a whip. No, it wouldn't make any sense, but neither has anything else in this story." -- Michael Pullmann
"One of those up-and-down Mario 3 levels where going off camera left just brings you back to camera right. Feels like it fits the theme of "circular, inescapable pointlessness" that permeates this story/series." -- Scott Williams
"That level from Battletoads so everyone dies." -- Tim Siltala
Also, several of you pointed out that I was mistaken about Cable's son Tyler. Turns out he did appear in the comics. That's good information to know... for certain values of "good."
Today we're heading into the final act of "Beyond Good And Evil," courtesy of writer Dean Stefan and producer/director Larry Houston, and folks, I have to be honest with you: I have never been so lost when trying to follow an X-Men story as I have been with this, and that's saying something. Seriously, I've watched each episode in this saga, including this one, multiple times, and while I think I have the broad strokes down pretty well, there are vast sections of this narrative where I have no idea what's going on. And honestly, if you're hoping the final act is going to clear things up a little bit, then I'm afraid I've got some bad news.
One reader pointed out via Twitter that the reason this particular arc was so overloaded with characters, from Cable to Magneto to Mr. Sinister, was that it was originally intended to be the series finale, and that boggles the mind. I mean, I've never actually seen thelast episode of this show, so I don't know how it actually ended, but can you even imagine if this had been the final story? If the final image the people behind the X-Men wanted to leave fans with was this weird Apocalypse/Mr. Sinister time travel team-up that featured a cameo from Typhoid Mary where the X-Men don't actually do much to influence the plot? Bizarre.
It does, however, feature one ground-breaking moment. After a brief introduction where Bishop continues to be vexed by the bearded Robin Williams stand-in that he's trapped on Rainbow Road with, we rejoin the X-Men and Cable at Dr. Wily's ancient Egyptian castle, where they've just lost Professor X to one of Apocalypse's tubes, and that's when it happens. After years of speculating as to why they exist, Cable actually pulls something out of one of his pouches.
In this case, it's a future-grenade that he uses to blow up the Lazarus Pit Chamber, theoretically robbing all future versions of Apocalypse of their chemically aided immortality. Unfortunately, as revealed by Apocalypse himself as he watches their exploits on one of his many rectangles, his mastery of the Axis of Time is sustaining him indefinitely from now on. So, you know, that's at least 15 minutes of our two-hour saga that have been revealed to be pointless.
The larger problem, at least as far as the X-Men are concerned, is Professor X's entubement at a place that they can't really get to. But what's this?! It seems that Professor X figured something like this would happen, and fitted himself with a "homing device" that works FROM OUTSIDE OF SPACE AND TIME AS WE KNOW IT.
Look. Calling out "unrealistic" plot elements in a show starring an immortal Canadian with knives for hands and metal bones and a guy with a laser face, but a homing device that can be detected and followed from outside of time is pushing things just a little. And yet, here we are.
Back at the Axis, Apocalypse is showing off his collection of Near Mint Obscure X-Characters, including Professor X, Jean, Rachel Summers, Mastermind, Typhoid Mary, and friggin' STRYFE, among others. Truly, it is the most elaborately constructed Dollar Bin of psychics that anyone has ever seen.
But why? Why gather up all these psychics, including both a clone of Cable and an alternate future daughter of Cyclops and Jean? Well, it turns out that he needs their psychic powers in order to erase all of time so that he can recreate the universe and organize everything neatly to reflect his obsession with the survival of the fittest. Which, not to get too Cosmos in here, is kind of how the universe is actually organized already, but, y'know, whatever. He's a giant blue dude who turns his hand into guns sometimes. I don't really expect him to make sense.
To that end, he starts sending out the tubes to orbit a column of fire at the heart of time while Bishop and his mullet watch helplessly...
...and again: Your guess is as good as mine.
Magneto isn't quite sure about this plan -- I wonder why -- and requests a detailed explanation from Big Pac that doesn't really clear anything up. It does, however, spur him into action, as he starts launching golden Sonic the Hedgehog rings at Apocalypse, rebelling against him and attempting to save the entirety of creation!
So once again for those of you keeping score at home, we're three and a half episodes into this thing and someone has finally stepped up to battle Apocalypse for the fate of the universe... and it is not our title characters. Also, how great is it that Mystique just straight up pulled out a gun on him? "Guess I'll try this out and see how it works!"
For the record, it does not work very well. Magneto does end up blasting Apocalypse through a wall and out into the time stream, and reveals that he wants to recreate all of creation instead, but after jaw-jacking with Mr. Sinister, Apocalypse is returned to his time castle by his robot mummy horsemen, and Sinister and the Nasty Boys drop a pretty thorough beatdown on the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
At that point, Magneto realizes that they have no choice but to attempt a team-up, cutting Wolverine loose and sending him to free the psychics so that nobody can remake all of creation in their own image, thank you very much. But that doesn't work out so hot either, even when Cable shows up and is immediately pummeled into unconsciousness:
Another good effort from the Summers family.
With that, the plan to psychically recreate the universe actually starts to happen, and various points in time start blinking out of existence, starting with New York in the present and continuing throughout history. It should be noted, though, that "throughout history" is in this case represented by two pictures of cavemen and one picture of the moon landing. Which, when you get right down to it, actually is a pretty good summary of the past few million years.
At this point, Bishop finally decides that standing around on Rainbow Road for three episodes isn't really getting him anywhere, and decides to start shooting at all these floating glass tubes with his laser shotgun. The reward for his troubles: Psylocke!
Psylocke, in the most amazingly shrill bit of voice acting I've ever heard outside of an RPG on the PlayStation One, tells him "The others! You must free them!" This prompts Bishop to take a few more pot-shots at the chain of entubed psychics, which is enough to disrupt the psychic energy and return the cavemen and moon landing to their proper rectangles.
This disruption in the plan upsets Apocalypse a fair bit, and while he goes out to beat up Bishop, Mr. Sinister and Wolverine scrap in the castle, breaking the McGuffin that controls the whole psychic tube machinery. And now, Apocalypse is really upset.
And there goes Cable again.
A mild fight scene ensues, which somehow has the effect of blowing up everything -- the time castle, Rainbow Road, it all starts coming down (which, again, is a lot like an RPG for PlayStation), leaving Apocalypse to be confronted by a whole passel of psychics.
Emma Frost and Moondragon are there, too!
Using their deadly brains, the psychic squad drags Apocalypse back into regular time, but now his Lazarus Chamber is gone, so he's probably going to die. Either way, I'm sure it's the last we've seen of Apocalypse forever! Jean and Cyclops get to make out for the first time since their (second) wedding, and Cable gets to go back... to the future!
Discussion Question: Surely, "a set of tubes full of psychics that exists outside of spacetime" has to be the most complicated apparatus that a supervillain plot has ever required. Are there any others that rival it for sheer bonkers complexity?
Next Week: We are finally beyond good and evil, and since we've already covered "Have Yourself A Morlock Little X-Mas," we're skipping ahead to Wolverine in Japan: "The Lotus and the Steel!"