X-Men: The Animated Series | Season 1 Episode 3: Enter Magneto
Writer: Jim Carlson, Terrence McDonnell
Story Editor: Eric Lewald
Story Consultant: Bob Harras
Supervising Producer: Will Meugniot
Line Producer: Larry Houston
Original Air Date: 27 November 1992
Synopsis (from IMDB): As the Beast waits for his arraignment in court in front of an anti-mutant public, Magneto tries to break Beast out of jail, only to receive resistance from Beast. An old enemy of Wolverine’s pops up, and the X-Men take him in. Magneto then attacks a military base, trying to bring mutants together against the oppression brought upon.
After watching this episode, I am more confused than ever regarding where we are on the timeline. In the first two episodes Storm told Jubilee that she graduated Xavier’s school already but decided to stay, because the X-Men are an excellent institution for mutants and a haven. However, apparently the X-Men never had any foes in those days because none of them know Magneto (except Charles, of course). So they lived peacefully(?), and now all of a sudden threats rise left and right of them? All of this seems very strange. It’s like they needed an excuse for the original X-Men to be older and had no better idea of how to do it.
But let’s talk about the story. Last time, Hank got abducted by the Mutant Control Agency. We speculated what the goal of this organization might be. One of their modus operandi seems to include imprisoning mutants and putting them in front of a judge. In prison, Hank reads a lot (e.g., Animal Farm) and gets bullied by the guards. They say things like: “oh, it tries to read” (I am paraphrasing), suggesting that mutants are unintelligent. Phrases like these remind you of things racists would say in our world. They serve a multitude of purposes: on the one hand, they suggest that Mutants are not equal to homo sapiens or deserve the same rights; on the other hand, they also refuse to acknowledge them as a person.
But Hank, the mutant he is, trusts in the system and even after Magneto shows up and offers him to break him out, he stays. The two mutants briefly discuss the two philosophies of how to fight for mutant rights. Magneto even uses the phrase “sense of brotherhood.” There is a sense of community. But Hank wants to change the system peacefully and not by force. You have to admire him for that.
In court, the judge shows him how the system really works. Though he did not break out of prison and it clearly was Magento’s fault, the judge denies bail. Hank makes some excellent points, but this court does not listen to reason. As he is escorted back to his cell, Sabertooth shows up. We saw him once before, in a news broadcast in the first two episodes. He was the broadcast’s example of a rampaging mutant. Why Sabertooth shows up is not entirely clear, though, in the way Wolverine talks about him and the adventures they had.
I am not even sure what this scene adds to the episode. Why Sabertooth? Why in court? Maybe this is the creator’s way to establish a character over time and give him the role of the antagonist later on. In my opinion, it would have been better to keep him in the background.
However, the other X-Men want to know who this Magneto is, so they confront the Professor and he remembers some things from his past. He hadn’t thought about them in a long time it seems. Weirdly enough Charles worked in a hospital to help people. Magnus also worked there as a doctor. One day they are forced to reveal their powers to each other. This incident reinforces their friendship. I don’t understand why Charles did not know that Magnus is a mutant. He has mental abilities and should be able to tell if someone has extraordinary capabilities as well. I mean, his one big goal in life is to bring mutants together. Thisis the reason why he built Cerebro. Or did all of this happen after the incident? As I said, the timeline of this show is very confusing and memories like those add to it.
The finale of this episode takes place on a military base, which is a subtle nod to the first X-Men comic. Magneto wants to use their missiles against them. With his powers, he can destroy tanks and deflect bullets, which, at the very least, establishes him as one of the most powerful mutants. Storm, Cyclops, and Wolverine barely manage to fight him off, and, in the end, he is able to launch the rockets.
At this point, I am confused again. Rockets. In the air. Why don’t you destroy them before they can hit the ground? Cyclops could disable them with his laser beams; Storm could redirect them with her powers; there are a few options. Instead, Storm decides to make it more suspenseful by short-circuiting them. To do this with three rockets at once is a close call and very risky to all the people involved.
The last image we get to see is Magneto, watching them. He asks himself why Charles has decided to turn against his own kind.
At this point, I am not so sure of the reasons why this show was or is so famous. Maybe I am too deeply invested in the comics right now to appreciate the TV show. What do you think? Does it get better? One can only hope.