Wednesday, April 16, 2014

X-MEN Episode Fifty-Seven - October 7, 1995

Proteus (Part Two)
Written by Luanne Crocker

Summary:  Proteus seeks his father, politician Joe MacTaggert.  The X-Men take shifts guarding Joe from Proteus, despite his bigoted views on mutants.  After Proteus discovers Joe’s new family, he storms the Union Hall in the middle of his father’s campaign speech.  The X-Men, and the newly arrived Banshee, fail to stop him.  Only Professor X is able to calm Proteus by appealing to his humanity.  Soon, Proteus is back on Muir Island receiving therapy, and gaining better control of his powers.

Continuity Notes:  Wolverine receives his third model during this arc.  This episode, he’s dressed as a ‘70s cowboy, in a look obviously inspired by the early Dave Cockrum issues.

Um, Actually…”:  Some vaguely defined, pseudo-scientific device created by Moira is described as the only thing that can harm Proteus.  In the original storyline, Proteus is vulnerable to metal, which leaves Colossus with the burden of killing him before he can harm anyone else.

Review:  In fairness, I will say that the second chapter of this arc is an improvement over the first.  This episode dramatizes Wolverine’s shell-shocked reaction to Proteus’ reality-warping quite well, exposing the cartoon’s audience to one of the very few times Wolverine's ever shown any weakness, and giving Cal Dodd another direction to take his performance.  Remaking Joe MacTaggert as a “family values” candidate not only fits the climate of the ‘90s, but it provides Proteus with a legitimate reason for hating the guy.  The scene where he visits Joe’s home and sees the new family, including his half-sister, is unusually dark by the standards of the show.  Just the idea of an older, divorced politician with his second family being the source of derision is rare enough for Saturday Morning Television, and it’s a nice reminder that the series can still go places you wouldn’t expect it to.  I also enjoy stories that have the X-Men working to defend bigots, as much as they might not want to, because it emphasizes a basic heroic ideal behind the concept that’s too often forgotten.

There’s not enough here to save the adaptation, however.  Almost none of the interpersonal conflicts from the original storyline are represented, mainly because the producers have decided to cast a team of X-Men that only includes one member present in the original story.  (Two if you count the semi-retired Banshee, who disappears for much of this adaptation.)  Yes, Wolverine has some great moments in the comic, but where’s Storm, Phoenix, and Cyclops?  Is there anything in this two-parter that matches Phoenix’s growing concern over her powers (mirrored by the nigh-omnipotent Proteus), Storm’s determination to stand down Proteus and save her friends, or Cyclops’ unorthodox method for bringing Wolverine back into the fight?  The story’s even missing that classic moment, the most important moment in Wolverine and Cyclops’ past I would say, where Wolverine finally acknowledges that he does respect Cyclops as a leader and a man. 

Why drop Rogue and Beast into a story that has nothing to do with them?  I wouldn’t expect Nightcrawler, Havok, and Polaris to be represented since they’re designated guest stars on the series, (even though they also have great moments in the original issues, or at least in the Classic X-Men backups) but what about the regular cast?  Cyclops and Storm are appearing in every other episode anyway, so why exclude them?  And wouldn’t it be great if the audience actually got to see Jean in an adventure in-between the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix serials?  I’m not asking for Colossus to suddenly join the team and then kill Proteus on his first mission, but more fidelity to what made this story great in the first place would’ve been nice.  For pity’s sake, this is a “Proteus” adaptation that has a happy ending!  Even Joe MacTaggert decides in the end that he loves his son and mutants are all okay with him.  That’s missing the point of the original by a country mile.  What’s frustrating is that the show hasn’t shown so much of a willingness to sanitize the material in the past, which makes me wonder what exactly was happening behind the scenes.  I wouldn’t expect any actual murders or rotting corpses on the show, but it’s shocking that an adaptation of such a dark story could be this bland.

Credit to for the screencaps.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Yeek, looking at that screencap, I had forgotten what a big, blocky tank Xavier's hoverchair was on this show! Why they couldn't just use Jim Lee's elegant design is beyond me.

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