Wednesday, April 23, 2014

X-MEN Episode Sixty-Four - November 11, 1995


Beyond Good and Evil (Part 2): Promise of Apocalypse
Written by Jan Strnad

Summary:  Deathbird attempts a coup of Lilandra’s throne, but is double-crossed by Apocalypse, who reveals that he was only interested in the psychic Oracle all along.  Lilandra sends a telepathic message to Xavier, warning him of Apocalypse’s plans.  Cyclops suggests spying on telepaths in order to find the next one targeted by Apocalypse.  In England, Archangel’s family castle is robbed by Psylocke.  Soon, Psylocke is targeted by more mutants who have joined Apocalypse’s side: Sabretooth, Mystique, and Magneto.  Magneto is able to ward off the X-Men and bring Psylocke to Apocalypse.  In 3999, Cable and Tyler attempt to break into a secret government time machine.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Sabretooth is taken captive by the X-Men, while Mystique escapes.
  • Gamesmaster makes a cameo at the end, as the latest telepath kidnapped by Mr. Sinister.
  • Psylocke makes her first full appearance on the show.  She doesn’t have a British accent, however.
  • Archangel is now wearing the retro costume he adopted in the comics in 1995.
  • Sinister claims that Apocalypse will reward him with “a new breed of human” that he can engineer.  Now that he exists outside of time, he can monitor his experiments over the course of centuries.  Magneto, meanwhile, is working with Apocalypse because he claims that he can resurrect Magneto’s wife.
  • Apocalypse reveals that he landed in the “temporal control center of existence” after getting knocked off-course in the previous episode.  He’s spent centuries inside, planning his next scheme.

“Um, Actually…”:  Psylocke is portrayed as a mutant rights activist that steals in order to (somehow) advance the cause.  This is an invention of the cartoon, as she’s the daughter of an elite British family in the comics and worked as a fashion model and airplane pilot before becoming involved with Captain Britain and later the X-Men’s adventures.  She also claims that her brother fights for mutant rights, which is puzzling.  Her two brothers in the comics are Captain Britain and Jamie Braddock; the mutant is Jamie, and he’s always been portrayed as utterly insane.

"Actiiing!":  Apocalypse’s voice sounds deep and menacing again.  What is going on?

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  Psylocke doesn’t stab her opponents with her psychic knife in the cartoon.  Instead, she shoots it out of her hands like a laser blast, which I suppose is less menacing.  In one scene, she does appear to stab Archangel, but it’s in the chest and not his head, and the scene is framed from a distance.

“Huh?” Moment:  Psylocke is referred to as “dark haired” and “raven haired” on two separate occasions by Archangel and Wolverine.  Did the producers really think Psylocke’s purple hair was supposed to represent black, as opposed to, say…purple?

Review:  As the story reaches the halfway mark, the immediate point of the serial remains unclear.  “Throw in every character you possibly can” is obviously the goal of the storyline, but that doesn’t make the story itself inherently interesting.  Apocalypse’s abrupt dismissal of Deathbird in the opening scene contributes to the disjointed feel of the story.  If Deathbird’s only a pawn to be so casually dismissed, why was she with Apocalypse at the end of “Sanctuary” in order to tease this story?  That obviously implied that she would have some significant role to play, but she’s kicked out of the plot very quickly.  She contributes virtually nothing, and seems to be appearing solely to check off a box on the list of slightly obscure X-characters that haven’t had speaking roles yet.  

As the episode goes on, there is that basic fanboy thrill of seeing characters that haven’t appeared in a while, or at all, on the show.  That helps to keep up the momentum, but by the time Magneto finally appears in the final minutes of the episode, just seconds after Archangel, Psylocke, Sabretooth, Mystique, Wolverine, and Shard have the obligatory fight scene, there is a sense of “What is this?” that’s hard to ignore.  To the producers’ credit, Magneto’s justification for working with Apocalypse is explained very quickly, and it does allow Magneto to stay relatively in-character, but he’s yet another character cluttering the story.  It’s also frustrating that after looking great (again, by AKOM standards) in “Sanctuary,” Magneto’s back to such a bland look this episode.  Every character looks wooden this episode, with the exception of Psylocke, who seems to be drawn fairly consistently and with about as much “grace” as you can expect from AKOM.

While the main story feels a bit muddled, there is some effort to insert the character drama that was initially the hallmark of the series.  Storm objects to Cyclops’ plan to simply tail telepaths and see which one Apocalypse kidnaps next, claiming that it’s cruel not to warn them that they’re in danger.  She also suggests that he wouldn’t be so eager to sacrifice others if Jean weren’t involved, which is surprisingly harsh, but also accurate.  I wouldn’t say the X-Men get into a “debate” over this, since the conflict is resolved by Xavier bluntly telling Storm that this is what must be done, but the brief scene is one of the better inter-team conflicts of the show’s run.  Later, Strnad attempts to give Archangel some personality, as opposed to allowing him to scream hysterically about “Ah-POC-o-lips!” for the entire episode.  The Archangel/Psylocke romance from the comics obviously influenced the decision to have them flirt/fight, and while the dialogue is obviously corny, the scene is surprisingly entertaining.  I would argue Psylocke was the last of the major X-characters to appear on the show, so if nothing else, the episode provides some fan-service.  Unfortunately, her character has been totally rewritten for reasons that never become obvious, so it’s hard to say that the wait was justified.  So, yes, mixed feelings about this serial so far.

Credit to for the screencaps.

1 comment:

kerry said...

I, too, was baffled by the multiple references to Psylocke's famous purple hair being black; you'd think someone would have caught that somewhere in production.

Speaking of which, Jan Strnad's name is misspelled in the opening credits as "Strand"--whoever was in charge of putting the names in must have assumed the unusual spelling was a typo.

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