Monday, March 10, 2014

X-MEN Episode Fifty-Four - September 9, 1995

One Man's Worth (Part One)
Written by Richard Mueller

Summary:  The timeline is disrupted again, after Trevor Fitzroy and Bantam are hired by Master Mold to kill Professor Xavier in the year 1959.  Bishop and Shard travel from 2055 to the new present day created by Xavier’s death.  They recruit two of Magneto’s followers, Wolverine and Storm, to help them correct the timeline.  They arrive in 1959 and befriend Charles Xavier at Bard College.  However, after Nimrod attacks, they’re unable to stop Xavier from accidentally triggering an electronic fuse.

Continuity Notes:  
  • The new present day created by Xavier’s death strongly resembles the Age of Apocalypse, which means several AoA creations and redesigns make cameos.  Mimic also makes an appearance as one of Magneto’s soldiers, while Giant Man, Wasp, Black Widow, and a bizarre variation on Captain America appear fighting for the pro-human side.  
  • In 2055, we see the first animated appearances of Shard, Fitzroy, and Bantam.  Malcolm and Randall also make their debuts.  Oddly enough, they’re shown fighting Sentinels while wearing their XSE uniforms, even though in the cartoon’s continuity, the XSE actually works with the Sentinels to police mutants.
  • Storm (now with ‘80s Mohawk) and Wolverine are a married couple in the new reality.  Their kiss just might be the first interracial kiss in Saturday Morning TV history.
  • A montage of Xavier’s life shows him studying blueprints for the school, which contradicts both the comics and cartoon continuity that the X-Men’s school is the mansion he grew up in.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  Fitzroy feeds off one of Master Mold’s human employees in order to open his time portal, with the added dialogue of “He’ll be fine in a few days” tacked on to assure us he isn’t dead.  Fitzroy’s power is, of course, fatal for his victims in the comics.

Production Note:  This is the first episode to feature scenes, complete with dialogue, from previous episodes during the closing credits.  

Review:  The fourth season premieres with…what is this exactly?  Obviously “Age of Apocalypse” is an influence, but we’re also dealing with Master Mold, Nimrod, Bishop and an assortment of justifiably forgotten figures from his timeline.  I’m sure most fans of the comics wanted to see “Age of Apocalypse” represented in some way on the show, but losers like Fitzroy were well past their sell-by date at this point.  Who really wanted Bantam in their AoA adaptation?  I can appreciate that Bishop has earned his role as the “time cop” of the series’ continuity, but throwing in so many forgettable, poorly designed figures from his timeline needlessly complicates the story.  The episode is already trying to introduce an entirely new reality within twenty minutes, so the lengthy detour into Bishop’s future to establish even more characters just seems like an odd choice.  One reason why “Age of Apocalypse” was able to connect so well with the audience was Marvel’s full commitment to the idea.  For four months, the readers were actually living within the AoA.  The cartoon only gives the viewer fleeting glimpses, as the story is obviously more concerned with setting up yet another time travel adventure.

Judging the episode on its own merits, and trying to leave any baggage from the source material behind, I can see a few redeeming moments.  Opening the story in media res as twenty-ish Xavier faces death in the 1950s is a great idea, creating one of the best teaser openings the show has had in a while.  Since the plotting of the show is normally so linear, the episodes rarely begin with shock introductions, outside of the occasional dream sequence.  This was a clever way to throw the audience off-balance and immediately create the sense that this might not be the standard two-parter.  The romance between Storm and Wolverine is another idea I like, as it gives the audience just a taste of how alternate realities can diverge in unexpected ways.  Wolverine’s reluctance to “fix” reality because he knows it will end their relationship is played well, and you have to give the creators credit for frankly addressing racism in the scenes set in 1959.  (I tend to dislike the way everyone is portrayed as racist in stories set in the 1950s, but dealing with the topic so bluntly on a Saturday Morning cartoon is rare.)  It’s also fun to see the AoA cameos, even though all of the alternate reality scenes feel rushed, and the animators clearly haven’t figured the designs out.  Judged as an “Age of Apocalypse” adaptation, this will surely disappoint.  Viewed as the latest time travel storyline for the series, it’s more tolerable, but the story feels needlessly convoluted, as if the producers weren’t sure where exactly they wanted to go with this.

Credit to for the screencaps.

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