The X-Men Episode Guide 5×14: ‘Graduation Day,’ The Series Finale
From 1992 to 1997, the X-Men animated series aired on Fox, giving Marvel Comics in all their convoluted, continuity-heavy glory a foothold in mass media and giving a generation of fans a window into one of the hottest comics ever at the peak of its popularity. From bizarre adaptations of key X-Men storylines to faithful adapations of some of the weirdest and most complex stories the merry mutants had to offer, it was one of the most important comics-based television shows of all time, which is why we've dedicated this time every week to an in-depth guide to every single episode of the series.
This week, that episode guide finally comes to an end with "Graduation Day," where mutant rebellion sweeps the globe, and An X-Man Dies! Sort of!
Previously, on X-Men:
Yes, friends, we have come to the end of the road. This is the final episode of X-Men, and while the last episode was an infinitely forgettable story involving Cannonball adamantly refusing to go to college on the G.I. Bill, it gave us a chance to reflect on the past 76 episodes.
Like most of the Commenteers, I still think of Cathal J. Dodd's voice when I read Wolverine, and I'm not going to lie, the romantic tension between Rogue and Gambit on this show definitely delighted me as a ten year-old way more than it did watching it at 32 and realizing that he's a total scumbag pickup artist. Even though it didn't always work, you kind of have to admire how dedicated the show was to recreating the comics as they were -- there was no stripping things down, it was just all the complex continuity they could throw in all the time, for five solid years. As one Commenteer put it, their hearts were in the right place, and it definitely gave me an affection for the franchise that lasts to this day. If it wasn't for the cartoon, I probably wouldn't have picked up that paperback copy of Claremont and Byrne's Arcade story at a middle-school book fair, sending me sliding down the path that landed me where I am now.
On the other hand, it's also entirely responsible for me hating that idiot Cyclops forever. So there's that.
For our final episode, from writer James Krieg, who had never written an episode of the show before, and producer Tom McLaughlin, we open on what I think is meant to be the headquarters of the United Nations, as drawn by someone who had neither the time nor inclination to go look up what the building actually looked like. It seems our old pal Henry Peter Gyrich is back in action trying to get people riled up against mutants, and in a pretty solid use of opportunties presented by the final episode, he's actually listing off events that have happened on the show. Even better, he's using shorthand, referring to the Proteus story as just "London '93!" The people living in that universe would probably not have a hard time remembering that time a reality-warping mutant tried to murder a politician by turning trees into gold, even in the Marvel Universe.
Just as Gyrich is listing off his actually very rational fears inspired by that time a mutant separatist group shot nuclear missiles at the Earth from an asteroid, he's interrupted by Professor X, who shows up to call him out on saying "containment" when what he really means is "genocide."
At this point, someone finally notices for the very first time that Professor X is riding around in a goddamn flying chair that looks like a Ford Escort, and this is not something people normally have. Gyrich puts it all together and realizes that Xavier might actually be a mutant himself, and to prove it, he whips out my TV remote and uses it to blast him with a laser.
Apparently my cable box has the ability to force a mutant to use their powers, because Professor X starts freaking out and sending bright red waves of telepathy into the crowd, causing them to freak out in turn. This assault on their mentor sends the X-Men into action, leaping out of the crowd in casual clothes, including Cyclops in full-on Charlie Sheen cosplay:
Also, dig the Beast's trenchcoat making a return. Apparently that was the only thing keeping people from realizing that Professor X was always hanging around a relatively famous mutant paramilitary strike force.
The X-Men bum-rush the stage while Gyrich is hauled off by guards and presumably arrested for assaulting an old man on the floor of the General Assembly, which I am fairly certain is illegal. It seems that they're too late, though -- as we go to our first commercial, Wolverine turns around to tell them that his enhanced mutant senses have determined that Professor X... is dead.
And then we come back from commercial and Beast immediately says "oh hey, you were wrong, he's definitely still alive." Bad form, Jim Krieg. Bad form.
Even though he's technically alive, though, he's in pretty bad shape. Gyrich's "disruptor" has left the Professor comatose and declining, and even worse -- at least on a large scale -- the well-publicized attack has riled up the mutant community but good, with characters like Sunfire and Feral deciding that if they can go after a peacenik like Xavier, then there's no point in trying to work alongside humans anymore.
The X-Men, however, haven't given up quite yet. When Moira McTaggert tells them that healing Xavier is "beyond the help of medical science," Beast decides that that only applies to Earth science, and gets the idea that the advanced technology of the Shi'ar could probably help out. After all, if they can make spaceships for bird people, then healing telepathic mammals should be a cinch. The problem, of course, is that only Professor X knows how to get a telepathic message to Empress Lilandra, and he's riding a weird walking bed on a one-way ticket to Slumberland.
While they're trying to sort that out, the situation in the rest of the world has gone into full-blown riots in the streets. Trish Tilby makes an appearance as a news reporter letting us know that there are mutant uprisings going on in Detroit and Hong Kong, and that Tehran, Iran and Duluth, Minnesota (of all places) are currently occupied by a full-on super-powered revolution.
In other words, things are bad. Like, shockingly realistically bad, too, when you consider that the last attempt at ending this show involved Apocalypse having a time castle on Rainbow Road.
The one thing that the mutant revolutionaries have working against them is that they're not organized or unified under a single leader, giving people the idea that things will probably just blow over given enough time, which is probably of very little comfort to anyone who didn't have the ability to shoot laser beams out of some part of their face. Oh well, at least there's not an extremely likely candidate to lead a mutant revolution, right?
For their part, the X-Men have attempted to defuse the situation in a way befitting the kind of superheroics they've gotten up to for the past 70 episodes: Lying directly to their fellow mutants by releasing a video where Morph, impersonating Professor X, makes a plea for peace.
"So far, Professor Xavier's heartfelt message of peace has had no effect."
Good job, X-Men. Good hustle out there today. Still, finding a way for Morph to make an appearance in the final episode is a pretty nice touch.
As things get worse, mutants start streaming by the thousands to Genosha, looking to Magneto for leadership, and despite being demoted from supervillain to grumpy chum for the past five seasons, he falls back into his old ways and is more than happy to lead the Revolution. Cyclops, Wolverine and Jean decide that if they're going to put an end to all this and prop back up the oppressive regime that wants to use killer robots to round them up into camps -- you know, the heroes of the story -- then the only way to do it is to chop off the head of the revolution in one way or another. Either they convince Magneto to stand down, or, presumably Wolverine will make six new holes in one of his more vital areas.
They hop in the Blackbird, and no sooner are they over Genosha than Magneto just cold blows up the plane by pointing at it, because he is just not in the mood. The X-Men, though, saw that one coming, and bailed out to infiltrate in secret. Or at least as secret as you can be when you're dealing with this completely bonkers character model.
Jeepers creepers, y'all. Those Season 5 redesigns didn't do anyone any favors, did they?
It should be noted that this landing includes an exchange between Cyclops and Wolverine that has the most homoerotic subtext of anything else I've seen on this show:
WOLVERINE: Couldn't we have just painted the plane or something?
CYCLOPS: Hey TOUGH GUY, I thought you LIKED getting knocked around!
WOLVERINE: I prefer to DO the knockin'!
The X-Men manage to make it to Magneto's citadel just in time to interrupt his speech about "righteous destiny" and such, and we get one of the best lines in the show, a summary of everything that the X-Men stand for:
MAGNETO: After what they did to Xavier, why do you fight me?
WOLVERINE: Because he'd want us to.
Also, Jean straight up asks Magneto "How much do you love Charles Xavier," because if you have to cancel the show, you can at least ensure that it lives on in fanfic.
And then things go right off the rails.
AS IT TURNS OUT, Magneto's magnetism can supercharge mutant telepathy, because WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT WITH THIS. According to Jean, it's because "BRAINWAVES ARE ELECTROMAGNETIC," and this is literally the dumbest thing I have ever heard.
So Magneto gives up on the Revolution, heads back to Westchester with the X-Men, and juices up Charles's brain so that he can make his psychic connection to Lilandra, who then beams down from the Starship f**king Enterprise to put a little machine on his head that takes his soul into space, leaving the X-Men to carry on his legacy on Earth.
And that is how the show ends.
That is the most amazingly, beautifully stupid way that I have ever seen to end an X-Men story, which is saying something, but it's also basically perfect. And oddly enough, it leaves the characters in pretty terrible straits -- even with Magneto back on their side, there's still an army of mutants out there pissed off that Professor X is dead and ready to overthrow the flatscan governments, and I doubt "his soul is with bird people in space now" is really going to mellow them out. Still, that ending... Good lord.
In the end, I suppose that X-Men died as it lived: Completely frigging ridiculous.
With that, the X-Men Episode Guide has come to a close. Thank you for reading and for being one of the better-behaved comment sections on the Internet, and I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Don't worry, though, there are still plenty of other superhero shows to talk about, and we're starting up another guide next week. So be here then, same time, same place!