10 X-Men Episodes not long Buried
There’s no denying the effect that 90s cartoons like X-Men had on Pop Culture. There’s no denying the success that X-Men enjoyed. X-Men is still one of the highest grossing for children cartoons of the 1990s (second only to Batman).
What continues to remain to be inspiring is the way the creators and writers were able to circumnavigate the X-Men pantheon and create a cohesive link between episodes based on comics from the 1960s one week to those based on comics from the 1980s a week later.
What remains the swansong to this series amongst fans are the story arcs of the Savage Land, Beyond Good and Evil, the Phalanx and of course the Phoenix/Dark Phoenix sagas. So I’ve put together this top 10 list of X-Men stand alone episodes.
It would’ve been an easy way out to just pick the typical Wolverine or Rogue episodes (there certainly is a lot of them). So I made a conscious decision to stay clear of those as much as I could whilst ensuring that I didn’t include any episodes that were strictly part of an arc. Ie – a part 1 or part 2 episode.
Cold Vengeance (Season One, Episode Six)
Airing on February 6 1993, Cold Vengeance came after the infamous Night of the Sentinels (Parts 1 and 2) and Enter Magneto episodes which saw the X-Men team up to fight an endless array of infamous X-Men bad guys (and gals).
With the Sentinels as Season One’s chief antagonists and Magneto showing up every second or third episode to be a thorn in the X-Men’s collective sides it seemed after the first couple of episodes little more antagonists would enter the fray.
Despite this, showrunner Eric Lewald and writer Michael Edens made the gutsy play to bring the Sabretooth series subplot straight to the forefront of Wolverine’s myriad of issues.
Reeling from the events surrounding Morph’s death, the recent encounter with Magneto and the circumstances surrounding Sabretooth’s escape from the X-Mansion – Wolverine finds no other cause but to go self isolate to the Arctic. Unfortunately, for Wolverine, his peace is short lived when Sabretooth spends 90% of the episode hunting him and the Eskimos Wolverine is staying with.
While Cold Vengeance plays out as a great introduction to the decades long feud between Sabretooth and Wolverine, it also adds a great introduction to the mystery surrounding an unknown land (Genosha) that is welcoming mutants with open arms.
Two enemies: one in plain sight and one hidden under a shroud of mystery.
Red Dawn (Season Two, Episode Four)
There isn’t a single decade in recent memory whose Pop Cultural references lent into the paranoia of those damn Soviets more than the 90s. Red Dawn is no exception.
With the feeling of the Soviet Union nearing its end, the Russian military leaders make the controversial decision to reanimate a rumoured dead super soldier. You all know his name: Omega Red!
Omega Red leads the military to usurp previously lost territory but unfortunately it doesn’t end there. Honor and glory for the motherland quickly turns to totalitarianism as the Russian people are driven into squalor. This provokes Colossus to seek the help of the X-Men.
With Wolverine, Storm and (sigh!) Jubilee to render the assist. Upon encountering Omega Red it becomes apparent that the history between Omega Red and Wolverine rivals even that of Sabretooth.
History that will be drawn upon and explored further as the X-Men series progresses.
Beauty and the Beast (Season Two, Episode Ten)
Tacky episode names aside, Beauty and the Beast was probably the first time modern media taught me a lesson about what racism and bigotry actually is.
Beauty and the Beast kicks off with Beast working in a nearby hospital with a colleague of his to try at help a beautiful blind woman, Carly, see again. As the experimental surgery date is fast approaching we are introduced to this cute and forbidden love that Carly and Beast have for one another.
I say forbidden because the character of Carly’s father works both as a metaphor for intolerance and his overprotectedness – from having a daughter with a disability.
Surprise surprise Beast heals her. But not before a squad of angry squad of the Friends of Humanity abduct Carly which sets us on a path of Beast versus white supremacist nazis. While this is going on it provides an opportune moment for Wolverine to sneak into the Friends of Humanity headquarters and set Graydon Creed up for being a son of the most hated mutant of all.
It’s a cute story of forbidden love with a message that you can break through hatred and bigotry – if given the chance.
Mojovision (Season Two, Episode Eleven)
I’m almost certain this is where my love for Gladiators in a post-apocalyptic setting stemmed from. I’m sure that same can be said for quite a few folk out there. Would I really love Death Race and its sequels as much as I do without Mojo? Probably not.
Mojo, an alternate dimension TV despot, whose greed for ratings is matched only by his flatulent waistline and creepy insectoid spider legs – kidnaps the X-Men. Well, all except for Gambit and Jubilee. Though they’re hardly missed!
Mojo puts the X-Men through the runner – with an endless supply of no-win scenarios. All with the aim to appease his audience of billions of aliens hungry for Mojo’s brand of bloodsport.
Unfortunately, Mojo’s previous number one action hero, Longshot, isn’t too pleased with this arrangement of the X-Men being the new hit attraction. Organising a coux of his own, he sabotages Mojo’s equipment, leaving the X-Men with the perfect opportunity of escape.
But don’t worry, ladies, you’ll see Longshot again in a later episode. Entitled, yep you guessed it – Longshot!
Obsession (Season Three, Episode Ten)
Although a stand-alone episode, Obsession is an episode that could easily be viewed as a second part to Season 1, Episode 9’s The Cure. Following a few years after Warren Worthington aka Angel is transformed by Apocalypse into Death (who we come to know as Archangel).
Archangel has become so obsessed with finding and destroying Apocalypse that he has commissioned several archeologists to research ancient tomes as a means of finding Apocalypse’s weakness. As well as an answer to finding and destroying he who was once named En Sabah Nur.
This leads to the X-Men finding an ancient ship hovering above the ocean that conveniently has the power to destroy Apocalypse. They soon learn, however, that this ship belongs to Apocalypse and is more foe than friend. However, Archangel’s obsession with destroying Apocalypse almost leads the X-Men to the deaths. A fact that causes Archangel to self-exile once again.
This episode is loosely based on the Celestial ship Prosh that Apocalypse discovered and claimed. Having appeared across X-Men continuity 110 times.
Cold Comfort (Season Three, Episode Fifteen)
How can I not mention the only episode that stars Iceman: The Coolest X-Man? Pun intended.
Without boring you too much, this episode is both a win and a loss. It’s a win in the way that it contains Iceman (finally) and highlights the adolescent tension that Cyclops had with Iceman when growing up. It’s also a win where it introduces X-Factor for the first time. The loss is that (with the exception of Forge) this is the last time we see X-Factor and Iceman.
This is a story of change in relationships and a story about how people change. About how you when you lose sight of the thing that brought you and your loved ones together can result in an inevitable loss. A loss that can be heartbreaking – as Iceman discovers.
Weapon-X, Lies and Videotape (Season Three, Episode Nineteen)
Without a doubt my all time favourite Wolverine episode. An episode that explores just enough about Logan’s past without revealing too much and that keeps you guessing once the synth heavy end credits start rolling.
When I was a kid there were very little mysteries that evoked a sense of awe and mystery than the origin of the people who laced Logan’s bones with adamantium. Remember folks, this was pre-internet days in Australia. I was still riding a Kangaroo to school in those days and there were no comic book stores around for this 12 year old to ransack to find the answer.
This episode kicks off with Professor-X trying to help Wolverine with nightmares he’s having which soon led him to the abandoned facility in Canada where he was given his adamantium bones. Beast follows in hot pursuit to help his friend and the two of him are soon met by the likes of bloodthirsty Sabretooth, Maverick and Silver Fox.
This episode explores the conditioning that all members of Weapon-X went through and kicked off my life long obsession with psychological conditioning in covert warfare. It also succeeds in humanising Sabretooth just enough to make you start to empathise with him. Only to suddenly have those empathetic feelings ripped out from under you.
This episode adds to the Weapon-X mythos whilst not giving away too much.
Courage (Season Four, Episode Three)
You know I had to mention this one. You had to have known I was going to mention this one. The inevitable return of Morph to the X-Mansion after his years of therapy from one Moira MacTaggert.
When Morph returns to his friends there’s this brief moment between him and Wolverine that chokes me up every time. Heck, I’m feeling a bit misty eyed as I write this article.
But when a weapons facility getting broken into reveals Morph’s greatest fear: the Sentinels are back – Morph succumbs to paralysing dread. Because Morph wasn’t just left for dead by the Sentinels back in season 1. They basically killed him.
If there’s ever an animated cartoon that highlighted the effects of PTSD and its effects on an individual. It was this Show and it was this Episode. I’m not going to spoil the ending for you (those who haven’t seen it).
Suffice to say – if you’re not cheering by the end then you’re not a real X-Men fan.
Secrets Not Long Buried (Season Four, Episode Fifteen)
It’s easy to paint Cyclops as the team asshole especially when all of his decisions go against the greater the need the team has. Though, after a few seasons of the X-Men you start to realise that Cyke is a quintessential team-leader that the X-Men need.
With his central-preoccupations being Jean Grey and leading the X-Men into battle, the dynamics of Cyclops can easily be looked at as Two-dimensional to the passer-by. This is why I included “Secrets Not Long Buried” in this list.
Secrets Not Long Buried features Cyclops and only Cyclops. No other X-Men. Cyke is on his way to meet an old friend and pseudo-father figure, Taylor Prescott, in the desert. Cyclops’ one man plane is hit by an energy blast which causes him to lose his powers.
Cyclops is found by a doctor passing by and brought to the town Taylor Prescott lives in. A town where all the residents are mutants. Save for Prescott who cannot be found anywhere. Eventually, it turns out that there is something sinister at play in this small town.
This episode taps into the strength of Cyclops, his vulnerabilities and unwavering loyalty to a world of peaceful Human/Mutant co-existence.
And when it’s not doing that, it’s busy offering up a veritable smorgasbord of B-list mutant characters who we’ve come to know and love over the years. Tusk, Watchdog, Forearm, Solarr and Toad are just a few I can think of at the moment.
Bloodlines (Season Five, Episode Six)
Oh boy! It was a bold move for the X-Men writers to even contemplate doing an episode that taps into the Children of Mystique. But to actually do it and achieve a cohesive storyline in a 30 minute episode? Wow. Hats off to you.
Bloodlines kicks off with local racist scumbag, Graydon Creed, being given one last chance by the Friends of Humanity to prove himself by taking out his mutant side of the family. Which just so happens to be Mystique and by proxy, Nightcrawler, and his adopted sister, Rogue.
Without revealing too much, this episode is a great exploration of the unwavering devotion Nightcrawler has to his beliefs. And, at times, the fallacy of them. Not to mention the tragedy of Mystique’s existence as a shape shifter.
While this episode seems a little incestuous at times, it explores a tangent in the X-Men comics that fans have asked for years and answers the question “What’s dinner like over at Mystique’s house?”