Tuesday, July 8, 2014

X-MEN Episode Sixty-Eight - September 7, 1996


The Phalanx Covenant (Part 2)
Written by Steven Melching & David McDermott

Summary:  Beast, Forge, Warlock, and Sinister travel to Muir Island.  There, they develop a virus that can render the Phalanx inert.  The Phalanx follow them to the island and attack.  The team escapes with Amelia Voght, but Banshee and Moira MacTaggert are captured.  At Amelia’s urging, they travel to the Arctic Circle and recruit Magneto’s help.  They travel to the Spire in New York City.  Warlock volunteers to release the virus, which could potentially kill him.  The Phalanx’s earthly presence is erased, but Warlock and his life-mate survive.  While Sinister escapes in the confusion, Magneto is reunited with Quicksilver.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Amelia Voght is a “first year resident” at Muir Island, as she tries to find a new life after the destruction of Asteroid M.  The implication this episode is that Muir Island has numerous patients, which is something we’ve never actually seen before.
  • Cameron Hodge reveals to the captive X-Men that mutants cost him “an arm and a leg” during their battle on Genosha.  (He means this literally, as we discover in the episode’s end.)  This is a reference to “Slave Island,” although I don’t recall any scene that could’ve left him without two of his limbs.  After leaving Genosha, Hodge somehow got a job investigating aliens for the United States government, which is how he encountered the Phalanx.
  • Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton is used as the means for the Phalanx to finally assimilate mutants.  The reasoning is that the Phalanx assimilate metal easiest of all, and since Wolverine has a dense metal skeleton, he’s somehow enabled them to assimilate all mutants.
  • Polaris appears as one of the mutants rescued in the Spire.  Aside from her and Quicksilver, no other members of X-Factor appear.
  • Forge says that he’ll build a spacecraft that will enable Warlock and his life-mate to return to their home planet, where they’ll fight for a peaceful revolution.  (Or, you know, die horrible deaths.  Whatever.)

Saban Quality:  In one scene, the jet the team uses to escape Muir Island is literally just dragged across the screen instead of being animated.

I Love the '90s:  Cameron Hodge taunts, “Is it alive, or is it Phalanx?”  That’s a reference to a Memorex ad campaign from…the ‘80s actually, but I guess it was recent enough for people to get the reference still.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  The Empire State Building is explicitly named as the location of the Spire.  Previously, Standards objected to specific references to cities or landmarks.

Production Note:  The closing credits are back to featuring a mini-scene from a previous episode.  This time, it’s the truly awful one about Rogue’s first boyfriend and the Brood unnamed aliens.

Review:  Without the bloat of a dozen crossover chapters, “The Phalanx Covenant” is pretty entertaining as a fast-paced two-parter on the show.  There are elements that don’t quite come together, like the attempts to up the stakes by allowing the Phalanx to assimilate mutants just as the team arrives in New York, but overall this is a welcome break from the series of forgettable single stories we’ve been getting.  The use of the show’s past continuity works to the story’s advantage, as characters from throughout the past four seasons materialize in unexpected places, but always with some logic behind their appearances.  Cameron Hodge would’ve been an easy character to drop out of the adaptation, especially considering his scant appearances in previous episodes, but the story’s that much better now that he’s been dragged out of obscurity.  Fans of the comics see another element from the source material brought into the show, and sharp kids with good memories will remember him as that blond guy in a suit from the first season.  Revealing Hodge as a multiple amputee might seem arbitrary at first, but it does finally pay off the “Covenant” in the title, and it’s one way to get around his more graphic maiming in the comics.  Unfortunately, this is the only element of the Phalanx’s anti-mutant roots the episode delves into, even if the writers use Hodge as much as they can to drive the point home.

I wonder now what Steven Melching & David McDermott could’ve done with “Beyond Good and Evil” had it been assigned to them, as this two-parter exhibits a much more coherent way to build on the show’s past.  In just two episodes, they touch on numerous areas of X-continuity, all while preserving the character drama that the earlier episodes captured so well.  Warlock is willing to sacrifice his life to stop his race, since he knows he’s responsible for the Phalanx’s arrival on Earth.  (The tease of Warlock sacrificing himself is likely a nod to his death scene in the comics.)  Amelia Voght and Magneto are allowed to respond to the events of their previous appearances, which not only serves to maintain the show’s continuity but also allows the characters to feel more real.  Picking up on the connection between X-Factor, Quicksilver, and Magneto is a great move that also draws upon the past while setting up a human moment.  Sure, this storyline is pure cheese in places, and the animators never really figure out the Phalanx, but there are more than enough moments that evoke the best elements of the series.

Credit to http://marvel.toonzone.net/xmen/ for the screencaps.

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