Every X-Men ’97 Episode Ranked Worst To Best

Custom image of Professor X using his powers on a backdrop of sentinels and screens in X-Men '97

As a Marvel series that has garnered such widespread adulation, ranking the best and worst episodes of X-Men ’97 comes with a huge caveat: even its “worst” episode is exceptional. X-Men ’97 has proven what Marvel is capable of now that the eponymous team is back in the hands of the studio. Largely seen as the best adaptation of the X-Men ever produced, there are very few criticisms that can be leveled against X-Men ’97 aside from the notion that, at a runtime of 30–40 minutes, they are arguably too short.

Still, the celebrated series is not beyond reproach. Some episodes have nestled themselves in the collective memories of the audience a lot more firmly than others, with the best-ever X-Men ’97 episode being pretty easy to guess. Yet even the series’ worst episode puts Marvel in a somewhat awkward position as it is now under added pressure to ensure the X-Men’s live-action debut in the MCU is of at least the same quality.

10. “Motendo/Lifedeath – Part 1” Feels Like Filler

Episode 4

Jubilee wearing her glasses in X-Men '97 with Mojo in the reflection

“Motendo/Lifedeath – Part 1” is a mouthful of a title, but it conveys the patchwork nature of an episode in which two narratives are tacked onto a single showing. While most other episodes follow multiple narrative threads, the playful scenes involving the off-the-wall villain, Mojo, certainly feel more standalone as they explore a Jubilee and Sunspot side-quest. Taken on its own, this can feel like a somewhat unnecessary distraction from the series’ main throughline.

The X-Men franchise often comprises an allegory surrounding persecution and bigotry, drawing parallels with racism and homophobia. Jubilee and Sunspot’s subplot is a clear depiction of the latter as Roberto comes to terms with his mutant identity.

Nevertheless, the Jubilee and Sunspot subplot flourished from this focus. The “Motendo” scenes may have felt a little out of step with the rest – but they were undeniably fun. The episode offered a semblance of brevity sandwiched between heavy themes for which the show has become so widely praised. Even then, the “Lifedeath – Part 1” capably handled the more somber themes at which the whole series excels with Storm’s painful experience of losing her powers.

9. “To Me, My X-Men” Provides The Necessary Set-Up

Episode 1

Jubilee dancing with her powers in X-Men '97

X-Men ’97 debut episode aired simultaneously with the second and picked up where X-Men: TAS left off. With that in mind, it introduced the faithful content audiences could expect while debuting the new-yet-sleek animation style with a bevy of invigorating action sequences that re-established the X-Men’s “cool” factor. Content-wise, that’s essentially as far as it went before Magneto’s shock appearance at the end kicked off the series proper. For that reason, “To Me, My X-Men” felt more like a prologue.

Episode 1 did not dive headfirst into the heavy stuff – and quite rightly so. Instead, it was the amuse-bouche for what was to come, re-introducing characters and their MOs and teasing the fractured human-mutant relations plot with Sunspot’s debut. Much like “Motendo,” this episode leans into the fun side of the X-Men before things get decidedly heavier just one episode later. Unfortunately for both, the fact that the show deals with heavy themes so impeccably is what earns them a lower rank.

8. “Lifedeath – Part 2” Allows Time To Ruminate

Episode 6

Storm in the atmosphere with glowing eyes in X-Men '97

Storm is one of the X-Men’s most compelling characters, with a grandiose persona warranted by her omega-level powers. For her to lose her powers, then, carried a particularly strong sting that Lifedeath – Part 2 fully explored in her confrontation with and victory over the Adversary. It also confirmed what everyone already knew: that Charles Xavier lives. Other notable scenes included the arrival of the Imperial Guard in X-Men ’97 and their impressive displays of power.

The Imperial Guard featured Vulcan for the first time, who is Cyclops’ brother.

The episode came immediately after “Remember It” and offered a little breathing room from those traumatic events. Unfortunately, that heart-wrenching conclusion begs to be addressed a lot sooner, and taking the narrative to an entirely different planet feels somewhat frustrating. Xavier’s X-Men ’97 debut, however, helps rectify this as he rightly foregoes a new life in favor of aiding his X-Men in crisis. The sequence of Storm re-embracing her immense powers, meanwhile, makes for a gorgeous visual that helps inspire hope in the wake of the traumatic preceding episode.

7. “Bright Eyes” Shows The Reality Of Grief

Episode 7

Captain America talks to Rogue in X-Men '97

With Episode 6 taking a breather from the tragic events of Episode 5, “Bright Eyes” finally deals with the immediate aftermath. In doing so, it unveils the series’ overarching villain, Bastion, the smooth-spoken mastermind behind the heinous events of Genosha and Magneto’s survival. The episode reduces Mr. Sinister to a secondary villain (which may have been frustrating for Sinister fans), compounding the threat posed by Bastion and his Prime Sentinel army.

The real highlights of “Bright Eyes,” however, involve Rogue. She is seen here dealing with grief in her typically rambunctious manner, craving a punch-up with just about anyone who draws her ire, but specifically Trask. Her rage briefly puts her at odds with Captain America, one of the more exciting and fleshed-out cameos of the series. Grief and how it is dealt with comprise the primary undertones of “Bright Eyes,” as it expertly engenders sympathy for the mutant plight and their desperation in the face of the incoming threat.

6. “Fire Made Flesh” Is A Visual Marvel

Episode 3

Madelyne Pryor realizing her power in X-Men '97 episode 3

Fire Made Flesh” may not be as pivotal as later episodes but it expertly leans into the visual freedom of animation, depicting some of the entire series’ most memorable scenes as Madelyne Pryor brought hell itself to the X-Mansion – or, at least, visions of it. Pryor’s villainous turn reintroduced the iconic X-Men villain, Mr. Sinister, whose appearance was almost as welcome as the X-Men. Pryor’s new look, meanwhile, is a fabulous adaptation of the far more risqué outfit from Marvel Comics.

Between Madelyne and Jean’s telepathic powers, there are plenty of visual delights to indulge in throughout the fast-paced episode replete with scenes depicting the X-Men’s array of powers. It also fleshed out Cable’s backstory, rounding out a thread that was introduced in the original series with a compelling subplot. In the space of one episode, “Fire Made Flesh” helped make Pryor’s death and heart-wrenching goodbye to her son in “Remember It” much harder to stomach.

5. “Mutant Liberation Begins” Sets The Bar

Episode 2

Nathan Summers with his mother and father in X-Men '97 episode 2

Mutant Liberation Begins” is the true launchpad to the series as Magneto is seen throwing himself into the role laid out for him by Charles Xavier in the face of humanity’s persecution. This episode saw the X-Men tussle with the Friends of Humanity, a hate group headed up by X-Cutioner. Despite going toe-to-toe with a cohort of humans without superpowers, the high stakes are exemplified by Storm losing her powers and the threat of Magneto reneging on his promise to Xavier so early in his tenure.

The fact that he doesn’t and that the X-Men continue to pull their punches against an onslaught of bigotry make for some particularly poignant moments that set the tone for the rest of the series. The delivery of X-Cutioner’s “whining” line in a beautifully choreographed fistfight with Cyclops, meanwhile, is a stark establishment of X-Men ’97 being unafraid to deliver pertinent messaging. This unabashed willingness to embrace the allegory set the rest of the show in good stead while Magneto’s show of power and restraint made him more compelling than ever.

4. “Tolerance Is Extinction – Part 3” Sticks The Landing

Episode 10

Xavier trying to take control of Magneto's mind in X-Men '97 season 1 episode 10

The X-Men ’97 finale is near-perfect, satisfyingly wrapping up every plot thread while leaving audiences on the edge of their seats with a substantial cliffhanger ending. The episode features Bastion at his most monstrous as he attempts to clinch victory from the jaws of defeat, ironically distancing himself even further from humanity with his physical transformation. Cyclops’ noble motives persist as he attempts to embrace Bastion into the X-Men fold despite everything. The only real flaw of the episode was the slightly cheap and especially fleeting Phoenix Force MacGuffin.

Regardless, the finale was rife with exceptionally poignant moments. These included Scott and Jean’s unwitting farewell to Cable, Morph’s masked confession to a dying Wolverine, Xavier’s successful attempts to quell his old friend’s righteous fury, and Rogue’s visceral imitation of Gambit’s final words. Although everybody survives the final encounter, tragedy persists as the episode ends with humanity’s bigotry against the mutants being renewed as a Friend of Humanity candidate forges ahead in the polls. Finally came the three-pronged cliffhanger that confirmed an even bigger big bad for Season 2 and the resurrection of Gambit under tragic circumstances.

3. “Tolerance Is Extinction – Part 1” Unleashes The Mutants’ Full Potential

Episode 8

A bunch of sentinels floating in the air X-Men '97 season 1 ep 8

The desperation of the mutant plight comes to a head in the first of a three-part finale. Bastion’s dystopian future is revealed as an “absolute point,” delivering what feels like unwinnable stakes as his plan gets underway in earnest. Yet the tenacity of the X-Men is encapsulated in the fight involving Nightcrawler and Wolverine – one of the best in the series – against the seemingly unkillable Prime Sentinels.

The episode warrants most praise, however, for how it brings a decades-old story full circle. Magneto’s attempts to embrace Xavier’s MO have failed both him and mutant-kind, giving rise to the definitive line of the episode: “Magneto was right.” Despite the implications, “Tolerance is Extinction” makes it hard to reproach Magneto’s wrathful response while demonstrating just how godlike his powers can be, evidently proving that he has shown significant restraint this whole time.

2. “Tolerance Is Extinction – Part 2” Encapsulates The X-Men’s Magic

Episode 9

Magneto being attacked by Professor X in X-Men '97 episode 9-1

With Xavier back in the driving seat, “Tolerance is Extinction – Part 2” provides the payoff that the series has been building towards. Once again, Xavier finds himself at odds with his old friend, whose plight is more sympathetic than ever. The blood-pumping scenes of impeccable teamwork – teased in the first episode – are in full force in Episode 9 as the X-Men attempt to stave off an extinction event that endangers the very people who have been trying to kill them. In short, it is the X-Men in all their glory.

True to form, this does not end particularly well for them. Truly high stakes pervade every battle as even Jean Grey finds herself overcome by her brainwashed son’s similar power levels. The choreography in the bouts against Magneto and Sinister is the best in the series, with twists and turns culminating in a picture-perfect recreation of one of Marvel Comics’ most iconic panels. The ending makes it feel as though hope is lost before the finale would thankfully undo what appeared to be a few fatalities.

1. “Remember It” Will Never Be Forgotten

Episode 5

Magneto protecting the Morlocks in X-Men '97 episode 5

X-Men ’97‘s halfway episode was a finale all of its own and delivered an episode that rang out across the Marvel fandom. While the most memorable sequence from the episode included the titular line from Gambit during his sacrifice, the sheer quality of every sequence, start-to-finish, can’t be overstated. In particular, the moments leading up to the cataclysmic Genoshan massacre to the tune of Ace of Base’s “Happy Nation” are haunting, heartbreaking, and a masterclass in mature storytelling in an animated series.

The ripple effects of “Remember It” extended further than subsequent episodes, as it sparked a furor online and drew even more eyes to X-Men ’97. Gambit was already a popular mutant, but his heroism and smooth-as-silk final words mean that X-Men ’97 has catapulted him back to the forefront of the Marvel zeitgeist. X-Men ’97 is now predicted to be in the running for an Emmy Award win (via Variety) – and it is probably fair to say that this tearjerker of an episode is largely to thank.

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