The X-Men Episode Guide 5×05: Longshot
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, Mojo and Longshot are back for the sequel, and it's actually kind of great?!
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, Cyclops was moping around because Jean Grey died two years ago and decided to leave the X-Men and go hang out at an orphanage, because that is definitely something adult men should be doing with their time. In the process, he stumbled across a plot to turn wayward youths into successful career politicians, which is kind of the "plot" of literally every educational system in the country, but whatever. It turned out to all be the Purple Man's doing, but we narrowly avoided the rise of a viable third party when he was caught on camera trying to bow Cyclops up with an assault helicopter, an attempt that was sadly unsuccessful.
In our discussion of other powers that Cyclops's eye-beams might possess now that we know they can be used to put out fires, the Commenteers provided some pretty fantastic suggestions:
"Whenever Cyclops's's's's eyepunchlaser hits someone, it leaves a permanent mark in the shape of a grumpy face to forever brand the victim with his stern disapproval of everything and everyone. Kinda like the Phantom, only sterner and more disapproving ya know?" -- Aexl Larsson
"If it is trained on a pile of receipts long enough, Cyclops' optic blast can file somebody's tax returns. But it has to be before February." -- Tom Chung
"If Cyclops were attached to Wolverine via an elastic and unbreakable tether, he could shoot his invulnerable friend in the face to launch him into the air and subsequently be dragged along with him. This could be continued ad infinitum as a method of travel. It'd be a like a combination of Speedball Special and a hammer thow gone awry to make it possible for Cylcops and Wolverine to get just about anywhere by blowing their own sail." -- Emma Blass
I'm not sure that last one would work out so well for anyone involved, but it definitely gets points for finding a renewable energy source for air travel.
This week's episode is "Longshot," written by Steven Melching and David McDermott and produced and directed by Larry Houston and Frank Squillace, and like last week's installment, it's another leftover from Season 3 that was banked for whatever reason. Unlike last week's episode, though, this one works a lot better. "No Mutant Is An Island" was inextricably tied to Season 3 as a bridge between the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix Sagas (sagae?), but all this one needs is to be aired after the team runs into Mojo the first time back in Season 2.
Of course, that doesn't mean it's not a little weird right off the bat. This episode has a new and different opening sequence, pairing a bunch of clips from the show with a slightly different, more guitar-squealy version of the theme song, although before anyone starts worrying, I can assure you that the churchbells made it through intact. I actually did go back to check since I usually skip over the opening, and from what I can tell, this is the first time it's shown up, and, maybe even weirder, it'll be gone next week. It makes sense that it wouldn't stick, too; it's done well enough, but compared to the original opening, it feels cheap and the song definitely suffers. But that raises the question of why they'd bother using it on this one at all. I thought it might've been a rough cut that was used for the pilot or something, but even the footage that's cut in is mostly from seasons 2 and 3, so as with so many things about this show, your guess is as good as mine.
As for the actual episode, it's pretty great. I mentioned last time we saw Mojo that he's quite possibly the only villain that works better on a TV show than he does in the comics (since that's the medium he's already built to parody), and that actually holds up here. Even the animation is a little better than what we've been seeing lately, with some genuine comedy from our opening sequence, where Wolverine is attempting to teach Jubilee how to drive.
Needless to say, the X-Men can't do anything without cracking open a portal between dimensions and running into some dope with hollow bones, and driver's ed is no exception:
Yes, it's Longshot, the #1 rated TV star of the Mojoverse, having escaped from that dimension. He's not alone, either, and while Wolverine's puking his adamantium guts out in a 7-11, another portal opens and we find out that he's being pursued by what appears to be Lord of the Rings filtered through Jack Kirby, also known as the only thing that could make Lord of the Rings interesting:
Spiral, Mojo's six-armed producer, is also in hot pursuit, and while they're set on dragging him back on set, Longshot escapes with the aid of a distraction from Jubilee, who boldly announces herself as "JUBILEE, PRINCESS OF PYROTECHNICS!" Spiral and Boromir send a bucnh of what appear to be dog-aardvark hybrids made of the liquid metal from Terminator 2 after them, which again leads to some really cool effects, but Wolverine's presence is enough to make Team Mojoverse scatter back home.
Already we're off to a nice, brisk start, but there's also a nice touch added into this scene in particular. I've talked before about how Broadcast Standards and Practices forbade the show from ever using the words "kill" or "die," so when the Riders of Rohan finally have Longshot cornered in the alley, Spiral gives them the order to "Cancel them!" Getting around BS&P and being thematically appropriate? Good job, X-Men.
Meanwhile, in the Mojoverse...
Mojo, who, as you may recall, is hella frigging gross, is very upset about Longshot's escape, and when Spiral tells him to go get Longshot himself if he wants him so badly, he flips out and grabs her, sucking out her energy and leaving a withered husk, as one is wont to do in superhero comics where you can't actually kill anyone. However, Mojo's majordomo, Major Domo, seems to think that this would actually be a pretty good idea, since Mojo vs. the X-Men would be sure to get some pretty good ratings. Mojo agrees, to the point of saying "The X-Men are a proven ratings hit!"
It's a very subtle bit of commentary, in case you missed it.
As Mojo restores Spiral, we cut to the -Mansion, where one Jubilation Lee is hella crushing on Longshot and his beautiful, feathery mullet.
It's at this point that things start to get basically super creepy, as Jubilee leads Longshot out to the woods and informs him that she's tired of being a kid because she's "fifteen-- er, seventeen years old!" Like, for real. I did not make that up. There is a scene in this show where Jubilee follows up a conversation about crushing on Longshot by lying to him about her age. What is happening.
Fortunately, the creepiness goes back to a normal level of spooky horror when Jubilee continues wandering around the woods alone, only to discover that it's been altered by Mojo, who has disguised himself as a morbidly obese scarecrow in order to terrify children:
The rest of the X-Men head out to find her, and, in a deft bit of plot shorthand, Wolverine announces that he can smell Mojo and we get to skip over any scenes about wondering just what sinister mastermind could be behind this. I mean, that doesn't stop them from doing some flashbacks about how Longshot got here, but still, it's appreciated.
It's at this point, though, that something weird happens.
When the X-Men find Jubilee's coat, Longshot holds it up, makes his eye glow for a bit, and then announces that he can't see a future for Jubilee. So... Longshot can... see the future? Of people who own jackets? That's kind of a new one for me.
Admittedly, I know next to nothing about Longshot -- I'll cop to not exactly being a Rachel or Miles -- but I always thought his powers were just the whole luck/hollow bones/three fingers thing, and not outerwear-based psychometry. A quick check on Twitter, however, revealed that this may be some strange and forgotten bit of business from the original Ann Nocenti/Art Adams story, so Twitter, I will take your word for it. Still kind of weird.
But that doesn't mean this show's not still great. The next scene finds the X-Men wandering through the woods, following actual signs that Mojo has left, and the background paintings are actually pretty beautiful and very moody. They look like something out of Scooby-Doo or Masters of the Universe, and while those shows weren't all that hot on the actual animation most of the time, those backgrounds are great.
And then a flying pirate ship shows up.
Say what you will about Mojo, but he has a sense of style, and from his floating galleon, he announces the competitors on his latest show, mentioning that Rogue has "luscious lips that no man may kiss" and that Wolverine's "adamantium bones can't protect him... from a broken heart!" which may actually be the first genuine laugh-out-loud moment since Gambit tried to get a discount on a hotel room by telling people he was an X-Man on an undercover mission. Once the introductions are done, he announces that they have to rescue Jubilee by fighting their way through "Terrorworld," which is his name for Earth. Which, if you've been reading the news, is kind of increasingly accurate.
At this point, the games begin and there's another bit of wry commentary when Mojo unleashes a giant purple dinosaur, mugging to the camera and announcing that "Kids love it!" And then Rogue uproots a tree and uses it as a giant club to smash a robot dinosaur, officially making this the best episode of the entire series, bar none.
Eventually, they beat up enough of Mojo's robots that they get to the level boss, Spiral, but finally, finally this show remebers that Rogue has super-powers and she bypasses all the opponents and just smashes her way into Mojo's elaborate outer-space quonset hut in order to rescue Jubilee. Oh, and Longshot also destroys Mojo's remote control with a thrown dagger, which actually looks really awesome. And then Jubilee sets Mojo on fire. It is all of my wishes coming true at once!
And with that, Mojo & Co. return to their home dimension, including Longshot, who leaves to lead a rebellion.
Discussion Question: Spiral says that she wants a rematch with Wolverine on Pay-Per-View. Channel your inner McMahon and tell me: What would that event be called? Enhanced Mutant Sense Of Smell In The Cell?