X-Men ’97: Unraveling Episode 5’s Surprises, Twists, and Heartbreaks with the Supervising Producer

X-Men ’97 Supervising Producer and Head Director Jake Castorena goes into the making of episode 5 and teases what’s coming up in season 1.

Rogue crying in X-Men 97 episode 5 and standing with Gambit in background

Following the major events of X-Men ’97 season 1, episode 5, supervising producer and head director Jake Castorena details how crucial the Marvel story will be for the sequel series. Long-time fans of X-Men: The Animated Series had their world turned upside down with the massive mutant massacre that took place in the middle of X-Men ’97 season 1. Viewers who have followed this incarnation of the Marvel mutants were forced to see tragic deaths in X-Men ’97 episode 5, as Genosha became the target of a Wild Sentinel.

The Genosha massacre will forever go down as one of the most crucial moments in the entire X-Men: The Animated Series mythology, as this becomes a new attack on mutants as they fight for their rights in a world that tries to eradicate them. With the X-Men’s new leader now gone, as well as a long-time member, the heroes will not only have to grieve but also find out who sent the Wild Sentinel to Genosha to begin with, as it is unclear who is responsible. Five episodes remain for X-Men ’97 season 1, and only time will tell if it will get worse before it gets better for the mutants.

Returning to S.R after previewing the first episodes of X-Men ’97, supervising producer and head director Castorena, spoke in depth about how episode 5 was constructed from the beginning, and the significance it will have for the rest of the season. Throughout the interview, Castroena explains how it was crucial to add consequences and major stakes for X-Men ’97, and how this will affect the larger Marvel universe within this series.

X-Men ’97 Supervising Producer Jake Castorena Breaks Down Episode 5

Gambit, Magneto and Rogue on Genosha in X-Men '97 episode 5

I have to start with episode 5 of the massacre. How did you guys work on this story from the beginning of season 1 up to this point? We’re only 5 episodes in, and you’re already doing this. Can you talk about the process of developing the story?

Jake Castorena: Yeah, luckily, the decision to go this route was one of those things that was made well before I was on the show, but it was about fine tuning and honing along with our directors, writers and everybody. There’s a fun question that I was asked, how did we juggle the sensibilities of what the OG show had versus pushing and raising the bar? Obviously, having consequences in episode 5, and to that point, speaking about the process, having it in there from day one, knowing that’s what we were going to do, that obviously helps. But by that point, it’s episode 5, the expectation is high for Marvel fans, ourselves, etc. So, we didn’t necessarily have the luxury of finding our voice throughout somewhere later in the season as we worked on the show.

We had to know what we were established from episode one from the go, so by the time we got to episode 5, it was working in a playground that we were, I don’t want to say overly familiar with or comfortable with, because there’s always growing stages. This episode is the first of its kind for where the show was going or potentially go. It was a mixture of just utilizing what we had to learn from the episodes already, and just kind of leaning into that, if that makes sens and then just utilizing [the] source material, whether it [was] from the script, inspiration from comics, inspiration from the panels themselves, throwing them in, it’s the best thing I could say is, as I’ve said before, it’s an insanely monumental team effort to get this stuff out to the world. So that’s how it happens.

I’m sure you guys have been looking at reactions online, so I’m asking on behalf of the audience, is Gambit dead-dead? Is Magneto dead-dead? What can you say about the fate of these X-Men? Were there other X-Men or mutants, who were considered to get killed off?

Jake Castorena: Oh, absolutely. The decision was never finite, like, ‘We’re doing this, we’re killing so and so and that’s it.’ This might scare fans, but it changed a bit, it bounced around on who it would be because for sake of story, for sake of pushing character arcs and tying everything in, based on where story trajectory was going, [it] was based on what character it was going to be.

But ultimately, obviously, we landed on Gambit and, Magneto. We know someone, a.k.a. Rogue, who is, especially in our show, who was very much intertwined with both. I implore audiences to ponder and be curious about what that would do to someone of Rogue’s caliber and potentially, I would say, focus less on what we have lost. I would focus on more who or what lies ahead, if that makes sense for you. But ultimately, at the end of the day, Gambit and Magneto are dead, and we’ll have to watch the series unfold to further understand what those consequences are going to be for. Not just for our team but for potentially for the rest of the world.

Who Watches The X-Men?

The Watcher looking over Genosha in X-Men '97 episode 5

Speaking of what lies ahead, in lights ahead, I couldn’t help but notice there was a shot in that beautiful night sky that looks very similar to The Watcher. Do you care to comment on those theories about supposedly someone watching out for these X-Men? With Kevin Feige, everything is connected, so what can you speak to this?

Jake Castorena: What I can say is, to that point of everything is connected, everything in the MCU is absolutely connected. Everybody on that side of the pond, as I like to say, they work really hard to make sure that happens. The cool thing about our sandbox with the 90s X-Men is a cartoon of it all. This was the MCU, before the MCU was really ever the MCU. This is where we learned about cameos and at least, for fans like myself, this introduced me to a lot of the characters that I later on went to the comics for.

In that vein, we really have our own sandbox to play in and don’t really have to worry about the intertwining of it all. You get to have all of the candy, you don’t have to pick with one side and to that point, what I will say is, any fan of the OG show will have noticed The Watcher cameo in the series. So it is not out of canon for the OG X-Men 90-97, to have The Watcher, watching or looking on.

What I will say is, is it necessarily The Watcher looking out for the X-Men or is it The Watcher looking on at events that need to occur for the sake of a timeline or ripple effect? I would hesitate to say The Watcher is looking out for the X-Men or for mutants, because he’s not doing a great job in that moment. [laughs] Right. But that was definitely – and this escapes me right now because it’s been almost two-three years working on this stuff – I don’t remember if that wasn’t in the script, per se, but it definitely came up early on in the rooms and in the conversations, like, ‘Oh, can we put The Watcher in there?’

Because it is a significant moment, genocide is about to happen and we’re introducing, the mutant massacre, similar to E for Extinction, story inspiring storylines into the episode. How could The Watcher not be there to witness this. But it’s pretty great. Shout out to our paint team and production designer Anthony, who worked really hard to get it just right to where if you blink, you’ll miss it. So it’s been really fun to see the reactions of fans catching The Watcher on the rewatch. So that’s been really fun.

Is Captain America Coming To X-Men ’97?

Captain America's shield in the new X-Men '97 midseason trailer

There was a certain shield belonging to a Marvel fan favorite, Captain America, in the new trailer. Are we going to start getting a little more sense of what this version of the Marvel Universe is up to right now? We had crossovers in the past with Spider-Man, but what can you speak about as we lie ahead for the final five episodes in terms of more Marvel connections?

Jake Castorena: Ah, man, that’s cool. I love that question too, because the reality is, you’re gonna see cameos and while I will hesitate to confirm verbally who we will see, [I’ll] let the footage speak for itself and let you ponder that how much you will but what I can say is, something that I spoke with earlier and a talking point that comes up with this episode in particular.

One of the biggest tonal things that we are introducing into the series into our characters is the real consequences. While there were consequences [where] people got wounded and hurt at the end of the day, nobody died in the original show. Morph died and came back. Wolverine got wounded really bad [and] was out for half an episode, you know. Nobody died there, those kinds of consequences weren’t there. We’re turning that on its head on this show. Leading into the consequences as what are the consequences of Genosha, not just for our characters but worldwide? What are the consequences in this world where we’ve just experienced the mutant massacre, a mutant genocide, the mutant 9/11 equivalent?

The act of something so shocking, something, that really can both bring people together and its core or divide them like they’ve never been before. That’s what I would say is for fans to look forward to cameos or what characters may or may not come in. This may or may not become a worldwide issue now, and who is responsible for what and how do you deal? What’s healthy? What’s not? Who do you turn to? What are the lines crossed when it comes to mutant freedom, liberation, and people having the right to exist? Lots of potential ramifications and a lot of weight, a lot of emotional, and just political. Physical weight, just a lot of weight that will happen and come from there. I will say, I look forward to the fans getting to watch and discover what these consequences are.

The X-Men’s Coming-Of-Age Story

Rogue cradling dead Gambit in X-Men '97 episode 5

Would you say that the massacre is essentially the end of innocence for the X-Men, and is this really the true coming-of-age story for them?

Jake Castorena: I would say yes, because that was the goal, in the mission statement from the scripts, those vision from from day one, it was there. That’s something that I love that was always talked about in the room was Trask’s line from episode 1, ‘You have no idea what it feels like to be left behind by the future.’ That was always a talking point and this is the X-Men’s moment to understand what he meant by that. This is their version of that, ‘Oh, s–t, we’re now forced to look at ourselves, how do we respond to this?’ Yeah, that was intended from day one and that was something that myself and the team wanted to help carry through.

New Mutants Joining X-Men ’97 Season 2

Magneto speaking in front of several X-Men in X-Men 97 season 1 episode 2

We’re excited for the end of the rest of the season, but also, we know that X-Men ’97 season 2 is on its way. Are there any mutants we have not seen yet that you’re excited to finally bring into this world or maybe even bring back from the original series that we haven’t seen in season one?

Jake Castorena: Yes… [laughs] Unfortunately, I will leave it there because you need to get through season one first. But yes, an absolute yes, some personal favorite characters and some that may have been in the OG show and that we’ve seen before, maybe glimpses in some that we may have not seen animated before. But you will just have to stay tuned in to find out. But yes, I can confirm that there will be cameos and new characters and it will be good.

The Three-Part X-Men ’97 Season 1 Finale

Magneto fighting a giant Sentinel with cars in X-Men '97 episode 5

I know the final three episodes are like a three-part, so on a scale from 1-10, how much of a game changer will this be for the mythology X-Men: The Animated Series and X-Men ’97?

Jake Castorena: I hesitate to say game changer in a way because we are on the shoulders of the OG show. If you change too much, it is no longer that X-Men show. But to follow suit and follow through with storylines and consequences and story points that we have established so far, to that I will say I appreciate working on this and the stories we were telling because it also challenged my POVs as well. As a person, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s very interesting.’ What happens when the villain potentially makes a good point? What happens if a man like Sinister is validated in some way?

I’m trying to think of ways to say it without giving anything away because it’s a great question because that is so essential to the core of the episodes as well. In truly answering that I will be giving a lot away about the three-parter. So, what I will be coy in saying is you just have to tune in to find out!

About X-Men ’97

X-Men ’97 revisits the iconic era of the 1990s as The X-Men, a band of mutants who use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them, are challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

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