The X-Men Episode Guide 5×06: Bloodlines
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, Jubilee actually compares the events of her life to a soap opera, just in case you didn't get that before now.
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, the show scraped up another episode from Season 3, but this time it was pretty amazing. Longshot returned, and so did Mojo, declaring Earth to be "Terrorworld" and attempting to turn the X-Men's hedge maze into a reality show from the comfort of a flying pirate ship. He was largely unsuccessful, although Spiral did challenge Wolverine to a rematch on Pay-Per-View. Seriously.
In our discussion of what snappy title we could give to this event, the Commenteers had a few suggestions:
"EIGHT ARMS! TWELVE BLADES! GET READY FOR THE SLASHER'S DOZEN!" -- Hazem Khairi
"Stabmegeddon: The Sequel: This Time It's Personal: All Bets Are Off: Covered With Scorpions" -- Josh Sinason
"T.L.C.: Teleportation. Limbs. Claws. With special referee Scott Summers." -- Mike Spreigl
Also, two dudes got mad that I said Lord of the Rings was boring, so if anyone has thirty pages of italicized elf songs they're looking to get rid of, I've found some interested parties.
This week, the season of callbacks continues in Bloodlines, which is sadly not an animated adaptation of the Castlevania game of the same name. Instead, writer Len Uhley and line producer Frank Squillace bring us a story about the truly bizarre familial connections of the X-Men, and while it's not exactly in order (this one looks like it was probably meant to air along with Season 4), at least we're getting a little closer.
We open with a newscast that serves as a handy reminder that the X-Men are a metaphor for racism, but to be honest, "metaphor" might actually be overselling things a little. It's just someone straight up talking about how police have been called in to escort mutants into newly integrated schools, so right away we have established the level of subtlety that we're dealing with here, and it is not high. And just to underscore that fact, we transition immediately from that to shots of our old pals in the Friends of Humanity, who have convened a meeting consisting of five Cobra Commanders.
It seems that the ruling cabal of the FOH has turned on their founder, Graydon Creed, and staged a coup based on the fact that Creed turned out to be Sabretooth's son, meaning that he's actually one of those twisted, misshappen offshoots of humanity: a Canadian. Oh, and also maybe a mutant, I guess, but I'm pretty sure they're mad about his love of ice sports and his tendency to apologize for extremely minor slights.
That's not all, though. It seems that they've launched an investigation into his family -- which here takes the form of a manilla folder helpfully labeled CREED FAMILY INVESTIGATION -- that shows his family has more X-genes than a clothing store staffed by old boyfriends. They want nothing to do with him, but Creed announces that he's going to try to get back in their good graces by "eliminating" his mutant family.
Meanwhile, it's Halloween at the X-Mansion!
This episode aired in October of 1996, which would've been right around the time that I stopped trick-or-treating myself. If I would've known that you could get a store-bought Original Daredevil costume, however, I might've actually stuck with it for a few more years.
So hey, guess what? Turns out Wolverine doesn't like Halloween! I know, I was shocked too, but then I remembered that Halloween is not beer, stabbing things, or mentoring a superpowered teenage girl, which I am pretty sure are the only things that Wolverine has ever been shown to canonically enjoy. He's a real grumpus about the whole thing, but there is one advantage to the holiday: It has allowed Nightcrawler to just stroll down the street until he arrived at the mansion to get this week's plot moving.
It seems that Nightcrawler has received a letter threatening his mother, and right away, this villainous plot is sketchy as hell. In his first appearance back in Season 3, Nightcrawler's origin did mention his mother (and it was revealed to us, the viewers, that she's actually Mystique), but since she put him in a basket and sent him down a river, Nightcrawler has no way of knowing who she is, if she's alive, or literally anything about her other than that she one time had a blue baby. Someone writing in claiming that they have her and are going to some-euphemism-for-"kill" her if he doesn't do what they say should mean virtually nothing to him, if only because it has almost no chance in hell, at all, in any way of being true.
It is, of course, 100% true.
Wolverine actually points all this out (sensitively referring to how Nightcrawler's mother "ditched you," which is amazing), and Nightcrawler claims that the handwriting on the letter matches the handwriting on the note that was left with him when he was a baby. Good to know they're teaching graphology in the circus these days.
Wolverine, Rogue and Jubilee agree to back Nightcrawler up on this, and soon enough, they're off to the rendezvous, with Rogue cheerfully replying to a joke about Wolverine and Beast being related because they have the same hair with "Girl, that's about as likely as me and Nightcrawler bein' kin!"
Guess what we're gonna find out by the end of this episode.
On the plane ride over, Jubilee confesses to Nightcrawler that she's often upset about never knowing her biological parents are either, and he just tells her to get right with Jesus, which is his answer for everything. It's a weirdly long scene, too, with a bizarre flute soundtrack that makes me think that they may have been cutting corners in this episode and ended up lifting a full minute from Adventures in Odyssey, a Christian radio drama about an ice cream shop with a holodeck that I used to listen to when I had a long commute. Once they get to where they're going, though -- a hydroelectric plant, because at this point, why not -- we get right back to punching out neo-nazis.
The dam is, of course, a front for the Friends of Humanity, and when Nightcrawler follows the voice of his mother, he and Rogue find Mystique, who is immediately exasperated by Rogue's presence, informing her that "they just want your brother!"
You're not going to believe this, but they somehow manage to keep the reaction to "Brother?!" and not "b-b-b-brother?!"
Okay, so, exposition time! Mystique adopted Rogue, but before that, she had two biological children: Nightcrawler, whose father was, as all true Chuck Austen fans know, the Devil, and Graydon Creed, whose father was Sabretooth. Now, the latter is attempting to murder the former, having cut a deal with Mystique to her her help in delivering Nightcrawler into a literal gas chamber.
Yes: The FOH has a gas chamber for mutants. This episode somehow managed to get even less subtle as it went on. Also, someone maybe should've told Mystique that cutting a deal with someone who was frothing at the mouth while yelling things like "ALL MUTANTS MUST SUFFER!" was probably a bad idea.
Creed and Nightcrawler tussle for a little bit before Nightcrawler remembers that he's a pacifist who can teleport and decides to dip accordingly, and when Rogue remembers she can punch through walls, the X-Men have a handy exit. Unfortunately, Nightcrawler doesn't want to leave without Mystique, and when he spots her running away along the top of the dam, he decides that this -- this, while they are being shot at by an army of racists armed with the closest thing BS&P would let the show get to assault rifles -- is a good time for a chat about why Mystique abandoned him as an infant.
Mystique's explanation eats up a solid minute of screen time, and really, the only thing worth noting is that Mystique says "I have been many women in my time. Some rich, some poor. Rich, I find, is preferable." I'm pretty sure I could've told her that without actually needing to run the experiment, but props to her for being thorough.
While all this is going on, the FOH have moved up from rifles to assault helicopters -- seems to be a recurring theme this season -- but fortunately for the X-Men, they're as terrible at being villains as the X-Men are at being heroes. They're miserable shots, to the point that Rogue (who, I feel the need to constantly remind you since the show itself doesn't seem to do a great job of remembering, is bulletproof and super-strong) flies up there not to smash the helicopters, but to taunt two guys who look like villains from Final Fight.
Creed fares marginally better, wounding Mystique with a handgun from the helicopter, which lets her have a dramatic fall over the side of the dam and ostensibly justifies the setting. Of course, he also decides to blow up the dam with missiles while hovering directly in front of it, sending a million gallons of water crashing into his helicopter.
Win some, lose some. Or maybe you lose them all.
With their mom and brother apparently sent to a pair of watery graves and the FOH arrested for unlawful dam destruction, the X-Men decide they should call it a day. If, however, they had bothered to do even the slightest follow-up, they'd know that their troubles aren't quite over yet. Mystique wanders out of the water to sulk in the woods, and Creed is somehow rescued by the FOH, who in turn drop him out of an airplane into the front yard of Sabretooth, here played by "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes.
That's hard times, daddy!
Discussion Question: Much like Nightcrawler's first appearance, this episode revolved almost entirely around faith, religion and forgiveness, to the point where Jubilee actually said the line "this religion stuff is intense!" I think we can do better, though. What Biblical stories could be improved by the addition of the X-Men?