Friday, September 19, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy-Six - September 20, 1997

Graduation Day
Written by James Krieg

Summary:  At a hearing on mutant legislation, Henry Gyrich attacks Xavier with a device that sends him into a coma.  Gyrich is restrained, while Xavier is left near death.  The attack on Xavier soon motivates disenfranchised mutants into waging war on humans, a war Magneto is eager to lead.  As Xavier’s condition worsens, the X-Men realize that only advanced Shi’ar technology can save him, but there’s no way to reach Lilandra in time.  Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine infiltrate Magneto’s base before he can launch his attack on Genosha.  Jean convinces Magneto to “supercharge” Xavier’s brainwaves with his powers, so that Lilandra will realize Xavier is dying.  Magneto agrees, and soon stands with the X-Men as they watch Lilandra take Xavier to the Shi'Ar home world.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Henry Gyrich doesn’t match his previous model at all.  He now has black hair and no sunglasses, with a personality much closer to that of the unhinged Graydon Creed.  Gyrich has no clear evidence Xavier is a mutant but attacks him anyway.
  • Sunfire and Feral are the mutants leading the charge against humans on Genosha, until Magneto arrives and takes over.
  • Morph returns, impersonating Xavier on a televised message designed to calm angry mutants.
  • The idea of Lilandra taking a critically wounded Charles Xavier to the Shi’ar Empire comes from Uncanny X-Men #200.

Saban Quality:  Jean Grey’s costume is continually miscolored throughout the episode, with an extra strip of blue appearing on one side next to the giant blue stripe that’s already in the middle of her uniform.

Review:  After a seventy-six episode run, making it one of the longest-running action cartoons in American history, X-Men finally concludes.  X-Men arguably hasn’t aged well, but overall the show deserves a lot of credit for pushing the boundaries of what’s expected from kid’s entertainment and for introducing a new generation of fans to the characters.  (It’s very possible that the X-Men film franchise wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the success of the Saturday Morning series.)  I wish I could say “Graduation Day” is an incredible closing chapter for the series, but the truth is the best final episode the show could ever receive is “The Final Solution,” all the way back in the first season.  “Graduation Day” has a few poignant moments, particularly when Xavier gives every X-Man a small speech while on his deathbed, but the episode is marred by a busy plot and, not surprisingly, some terrible animation.  

This is the sixth and final episode animated in the “new look” style used to close out the show’s run, and it’s also one of the weakest.  The new models divorce the show from the comics source material without really adding anything in return.  Too often, the series resembles something Hanna-Barbara hacked out in the early 1980s, a problem that’s painfully evident this episode.  Out of six, only one episode has actually utilized the new designs well and remained competitive visually with one of the “outdated” looking episodes.  For the final episode, you might expect some discernible increase in quality, but the bulk of the episode is clumsy and lifeless.  There is one bright moment, during the X-Men’s fight with Magneto on Genosha.  Out of nowhere, for around a minute, the animation dramatically returns to the quality Philippines Animation Studio previously brought to the show.  It seems obvious someone decided to bring in the studio’s A team for this scene, a cruel tease of what a true series finale for X-Men could’ve looked like.

The story is oddly ambitious for the series, especially when you consider that the two-part Ambien substitute “Storm Front” was originally going to be the show’s finale.  Having Xavier face death while Magneto assembles an army of mutants for his long-threatened race war is an appropriately big idea for a closing story, but there’s no way that’s going to fit into twenty minutes.  This should’ve been the story reserved for the four-part “Beyond Good and  Evil,” or perhaps the show should’ve been even more ambitious and dedicated all of the six closing episodes to this storyline.  In retrospect, this episode is an unlikely precursor to everything from the “Eve of Destruction” storyline in the comics (the predecessor to Grant Morrison’s run) to the third X-Men movie.  There’s a lot that could be done with these ideas, but almost all of the impact is blunted by the rushed execution.  Actually, every time anyone in any medium tries to do the giant “Magneto wages war” storyline, the execution is always botched.

Credit to for the screencaps.


Matt said...

Now that you mention it, it does seem odd that with a commission for only six additional episodes, they didn't just dedicate them to one story. Heck, maybe the producers thought about that but the network fought against it. It would've been a smart way to go, though -- bring back the heavy serialization of the first couple seasons for one last hurrah to close things out.

Anonymous said...

It always cracked me up that everyone in the room got a personal goodbye message from Xavier except for Beast, who is actually the first character to speak once the farewells are over. And he's standing right there the whole time. Awkward.

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