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Why X-Men ’97 Episode 5 Is the Greatest Superhero TV Show Episode


Why X-Men '97 Episode 5 Is the Greatest Superhero TV Show Episode


Summary

  • X-Men ’97
    ‘s latest episode, “Remember It,” is an emotional rollercoaster full of powerful moments and a heartbreaking finale that shocked viewers.
  • The episode adapts and subverts key storylines from the comics, offering familiar but fresh perspectives on character relationships and tragic events.
  • The shocking mid-season turning point in
    X-Men ’97
    sets the stage for the future, hinting at potential dark paths and exciting storytelling possibilities.



This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the X-Men ’97 episode “Remember It”There have been many great superhero television shows with incredible episodes, from animated series like Batman: The Animated Series and Young Justice to live-action series like Jessica Jones or WandaVision. Many factors make a great superhero show, be it how faithfully it adapts the source material to where it decides to subvert expectations to examine it. Some are serious, and some are comedic. Yet it appeared everyone was taken aback by X-Men ’97‘s fifth episode, “Remember It,” which, for many, jumped to the top as not just a great X-Men episode but could be the best episode of a superhero television show ever.


X-Men ’97 has been getting rave reviews since it debuted on Disney+ on Mar. 20, 2024, with MovieWeb giving a glowing review to the first three episodes. “Remember It” pushed the series further than any fan expected, giving incredibly powerful emotional moments, fantastic action, and a heartbreaking finale that shocked many viewers. Some have compared it to the iconic Game of Thrones Red Wedding episode. “Remember It” was centered on the mutant nation of Genosha being welcomed into the United Nations. However, the moment of happiness was marked by tragedy that will change the X-Men and the series forever. Here is why X-Men ’97’s latest episode is the best episode of superhero television.


X-Men ’97’s Fifth Episode Is Emotional and Politically Topical

X-Men '97

X-Men ’97

4.5/5

Release Date
March 20, 2024

Cast
Jennifer Hale , Chris Potter , Ray Chase , George Buza , Catherine Disher , JP Karliak

Seasons
1

Studio
Marvel Studios

Franchise
Marvel


The mutant nation of Genosha has finally been accepted into the United Nations, and everything seems right as Professor X’s dream of mutant and human co-existence is closer than ever before. In a flash of green light, the dream dies as a giant spider-like Sentinel carrying a fleet of Sentinels attacks. Multiple mutants die, including Hellfire leader Sebastian Shaw, Irish mutant Banshee, Morlock leader Callisto, and even Jean Grey clone Madelyne Pryor.

Magneto, Rogue, and Gambit do their best to yield off the Sentinel forces but become overpowered. Magneto sacrifices himself to save Rogue and Gambit while failing to save the Morlocks. Gambit then faces off against the giant Sentinel, looking to distract it from killing more mutants. The Sentinel stabs Gambit, but Gambit charges the giant rod of metal piercing his organs to blow up the Sentinel and save the mutant nation, but at the cost of his own life. The episode ends with the X-Men watching the footage from Genosha in horror. Rogue holds Gambit’s burned, charred body, saying the heartbreaking lines, “Suga… I can’t feel you”.


The episode draws heavily from Grant Morrison’s and Frank Quietly’s “E is for Extinction” event that kicked off the New X-Men era for the comics. It also featured a massive, horrific attack by Sentinels on the island nation of Genosha. The significant difference here is that the horrors displayed are shown through the eyes of Magneto, Gambit, and Rogue on the ground, as opposed to the X-Men back at the mansion seeing it on television. The horrific images clearly call to mind multiple tragedies, including the Tulsa riots and recent bombings in Gaza. Yet the line X-Men ’97 is closely drawing to for many will be the events of Sept. 11, 2001.


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Since X-Men ’97 was announced, the looming inevitability of Sept. 11, 2001, has been on the audiences’ minds. X-Men ’97 has been a nostalgic throwback to simpler times of not just watching animated series like X-Men but the optimism the decade offered. It is hard to look back on the decade now, knowing what is just around the corner. X-Men ’97 uses that to its advantage, as the first four episodes are designed to give audiences the “classic” feeling of watching the original series, but with more crisp, clean animation. It was a nostalgic throwback that provided a sense of comfort. Yet it is clear invoking the classic vibe was done to assure a false sense of security before the rug is pulled out without warning, as is the case with tragedies.


The cultural shock of 9/11 was baked into the series revival from the beginning. X-Men ’97 writer Beau DeMayo broke his social media silence after Marvel fired him before the premiere to explain his thought process behind the episode. On X (formerly Twitter), he shared a note:

The X-Men have always been a reflection of the world around us. X-Men: The Animated Series concluded in 1996, three years before the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999. Since then, mass shootings have become more widespread from 2012’s Aurora theater shooting or Sandyhook Elementary months later, Parkland High School in 2018, and Pulse in 2016. The number of shootings is far too high even to begin to list.


Still, it is clear that the generation who grew up watching X-Men: The Animated Series have lived through some horrific scenes and found themselves a lot like the characters in the episode, watching a genuinely horrific evil unfold before their very eyes. This is heavy material for any show, but for X-Men ’97, an animated series on Disney+, to tackle it is an impressive accomplishment, and to do it with weight and gravitas is truly remarkable.

X-Men ’97 Episode 5 Adapts and Subverts the Comics

As mentioned, “Remember It” heavily draws from the three-issue story “E is for Extinction” from 2001, which kicked off the New X-Men era and brought the X-Men comics into the 21st century. Yet the episode also sprinkles plenty of other key storylines from other comics while putting their own unique spin on them that subverts what fans expect. While many think the high mark for an adaptation is how closely it adapts to source material, sometimes an adaptation succeeds by knowing what to change.


The best example is how it mixes and matches different storylines from the comics to tackle the Jean Grey/Scott Summer/Madelyne Pryor storyline. In the comics, Cyclops left Madelyne Pryor and his newborn son to reunite with his ex-girlfriend Jean Grey, who was revealed to be alive. This was a mandate by Marvel Comics as they wanted the original X-Men to reunite for a comic titled X-Factor that upset longtime X-Men writer Chris Claremont. For many, it was a major character assignation moment for Scott Summers that he never really recovered from, even though Marvel tried to make it better by having Madelyne turn evil.

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Here, Cyclops finds himself confused between his feelings for Jean and Madelyne, and he even feels a great connection to Madelyne because she is the mother of his son. Instead of leaving her for Jean like in the comics, the show now grapples with the complex feelings of having loved Madelyne and thinking she was Jean for so long. The storyline of the psychic affair is also pulled from the comics but tweaked.

In the New X-Men comics, Scott is having a psychic affair with Emma Frost, to which Jean finds out. That is a clear-cut situation where Scott is in the wrong, but the show giving it to Madelyne makes the act more complicated because, up until a few weeks ago, that was the woman he knew as his wife, which is harder to shut off mentally for him. Mixing these elements from the comics allows the story to be familiar but new, offering a fresh perspective that might work better than in the comics.


Then there is Gambit’s heroic act. One of the best scenes in the episode is when the Morlocks, a race of sewer-dwelling mutants who have been given a home on Genosha, think they are about to die from a Sentinel, only to be saved by Gambit swinging into action. This moment holds particular weight as it is a subversion of Gambit’s relation to the Morlock from the comics. In the comics, Gambit’s tragic backstory details him playing a role in the Mutant Massacre, where a group of the Morlocks were slaughtered. This was something about his past he hid from his teammates for years, which they discovered and were understandably upset. Here, the creator allows Gambit to now be the Morlock’s savior, at least for a brief moment.

Tragedy Built on Character Relationships in X-Men ’97


The X-Men have always been a great social metaphor, and their powers allow for a great display of action, both of which X-Men ’97 has excelled in. But what made the X-Men so popular for so long was that it operated a lot like a giant soap opera, with characters having a lot of emotional baggage with one another and whether there were romances. Part of what makes the death of Magneto and, more specifically, Gambit so compelling is how much the episode and the season have been built around developing the relationship.

Audiences have seen Rogue’s struggle with choosing between Magneto and Gambit, and Gambit dies, never knowing that, in the end, Rogue chooses him. Meanwhile, Rogue has to watch two men she cares for deeply and loves die within a matter of minutes. While audiences who watched X-Men: The Animated Series already had a lot invested in Gambit and Rogue, for a new audience, they needed to sell that relationship and dynamic quickly. Gambit might not have been a major character in many of the early episodes this season, but the creators put a lot into making sure audiences cared.


“The crop top was chosen to make you love him. Him pulling off his shirt was intentional. There’s a reason he told Rogue any fool would suffer her hand in a dance, even if it ended up not being him suffering. But if events like 9/11, Tulsa, Charlottesville, or Pulse Nightclub teach us anything, it’s that too many stories are often cut far too short.”

The romance angle makes for great drama and extends to the complex relationship between Wolverine, Jean Grey, Scott Summers, and Madelyne Prior. Cyclops and Jean Grey, alongside Gambit and Rogue, are the most iconic X-Men couple, yet the two have undergone many challenges. In this episode, both Jean and Cyclops are faced with the prospect of new romantic partners outside of one another. Jean Grey is still trying to piece her memory back together, feels distant from Scott, and ends up kissing Wolverine. Meanwhile, Jean discovers that Scott has been romantically communicating with Madelyne telepathically, having a sort of psychic affair.


Both Cyclops and Jean Grey are forced to confront one another about their relationship. Notably, the episode never paints one side as more right than the other but gives both a chance to air their legitimate grievances. Their argument about their feelings ties in with Nightcrawler’s quote about love that he said to Gambit earlier in the episode when he says, “There is no love without sin, for love is best measured in what we forgive.”

These complex love stories, with tragic, doomed romances and conflicting feelings, have made the X-Men so beloved and is a factor Marvel Studios should consider when bringing them to live-action, as it could make the X-Men bigger than The Avengers.

What Comes Next in X-Men ’97


“Remember It” is incredibly shocking, given that it is only Episode 5, meaning there are still five more to go. This was the true mid-point for the season but also a major turning point that might change the X-Men forever. Yes, the presence of Cable in the episode might suggest some time travel fix to all of this, and many of the mutants who died will be brought back, but that would seem at odds with the goal of the episode. This episode dared to kill off beloved characters like Magneto and Gambit, showing there is danger in this world and no character is safe. It would also undercut some exciting possibilities for the future of the series.

X-Men ’97 might have originally seemed like a throwback to the past, but it is now about bringing these specific versions of the team that were locked in the 1990s into the present, dropping them into storylines that were created after X-Men: The Animated Series aired, and figuring out how that meshes with the world and characters of X-Men ’97.


The episode offered some exciting teases for the future. Many fans noted that Emma Frost was not present among the dead mutants. In the “E for Extinction” comic, Emma Frost discovered she could turn her skin into a diamond as part of her secondary mutation, and she would eventually join the X-Men team. X-Men ’97 might show that Emma Frost survived, discovered her new power, and could join the team in season two following Gambit’s death.

The other is Cyclops’s speech while being interviewed. Cyclops expresses his frustration with needing to be a model citizen for humanity’s sake so they will feel safe around him. His line, “I have to stomach your questions and prove that I’m a person.” is one that echoes how many marginalized people feel that they need to be an example of the model minority to make others in power more comfortable. It is a great moment on its own, but one that could be teasing Cyclops to go down a darker path, particularly when he finds out Madelyne died on Genosha, one where he is more like Magneto and will fight for mutant acceptance by any means necessary, like in 2011’s X-Men Schism or 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men.


X-Men Schism might be the next starting point for the future of X-Men ’97 as mutants like Rogue and Cyclops may no longer believe humans will accept them, breaking them up from other members of their team who still believe in Xavier’s dream of mutant co-existence. The future of X-Men ’97 is certainly exciting from a storytelling perspective, if not incredibly heartbreaking. One thing is certain: everyone will remember this episode for years to come. X-Men ’97 is streaming on Disney+.

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