Let me get this out of the way fast: “Mutant Crush” is my least favorite episode of X-Men: Evolution. Yes, even more than “The Cauldron,” which I’m pretty sure is objectively the worst episode of the series.1
But while “The Cauldron” is terrible, it’s hilariously terrible. “Mutant Crush” is. Well. It’s a decently written episode, I guess. And it’s got a lot of moments I dig. It’s just also really fucked up and disturbing, and not in hilarious and pedantic ways.
Seriously: Shit gets dark in this episode. If you don’t want to read a humorous write-up of a story that is essentially about stalking and kidnapping, you may want to skip this one. I recognize that this is essentially a humor column, and I tried to find okay ways to be funny about this episode, but I mostly ended up with a lot of tonal whiplash, and a pretty high volume of commentary on the ways women are socialized to appease violent men, and some really inappropriate references to John Fowles’ The Collector.2
And on that note: Here is a link to the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s help page. NDVH is a pretty solid organization, and in addition to the actual hotlines–which include a phone line and web-based chat, both confidential and anonymous–they’ve got a very good list of resources, including LGBTQI and teen-specific stuff. (NDVH is, however, mostly U.S.-specific. If you know of international resources or have other specific recommendations, please stick ‘em in the comments, and maybe we can get something useful out of this clusterfuck of an episode.)
Right. So. LET’S TALK ABOUT SOME X-MEN!
We open at a monster truck show, which is awesome. A lot about this episode is awesome, actually. Honestly, I dig pretty much everything but the A-plot. In particular, there are a lot of great incidental details, including the fact that the (mostly unseen) driver of the car-crushing monster-truck that opens the episode is a lady.
Why can’t this episode be about lady monster-truck drivers having lady monster-truck-driving adventures? I would be so into that! They could hang out with Wolverine in his biker western, and Jean could become a monster-truck driver, and oh my god I want monster-truck-driving Jean Grey so badly.
As it turns out, though, the monster trucks are just the opening act–the main attraction of the evening is Fred “The Blob” Clegg Dukes, billed as the World’s Strongest Teenager™, and notable as the only teen member of the Brotherhood to keep his original name thus far. Fred may not be a monster-truck-driving lady, but otherwise, I’m still pretty much on board at this point: he’s got an adorable fauxhawk, the setup is a good nod to Blob’s original sideshow origin story,3 and I really appreciate that he’s billed for something that’s based on strength rather than size,4 even if his nickname is still “the Blob.”
I have pretty mixed feelings about how this episode handles Blob as a character. Over the years, he’s been the epicenter of a lot of terrible body politics and fatphobia, and it’s interesting and a little depressing watching Evolution try to navigate that. On one hand: the show does a pretty good job of building Blob up as a three-dimensional character and making him sympathetic. On the other hand: something like every third line about him, and every gag, is a fat joke; and while sometimes they’re there to highlight what assholes his peers are, there are a lot of performance and sight gags that play as the show making fun of a fat kid, which is particularly uncool in a show that’s supposed to be all about positively navigating differences.
But back to the monster-trucks! While I can’t speak to whether he is in fact the world’s strongest teenager, Fred is in fact hella strong, and pretty damn acrobatic to boot. He’s also wearing a cape, which he throws off professional-wrestler style, and I am 100% down with that choice.5
The audience is also pretty into it. So is Principal Mystique, whose impeccable powerbutch principal suit and fancy binoculars make her stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of a very county-fair crowd. I love that the character with the power to blend in literally anywhere does not give a damn about subtlety.
Fred soaks up the crowd’s adulation, and takes a deep bow–which, unfortunately, costs him his balance on the bumpers of the two trucks he’s just wrangled. He wipes out in the sand, and the crowd bursts out laughing in a way that makes me think they think it’s part of the show.
Know who aren’t amused? Wolverine and Jean Grey, the latter of whom appears to be on vacation in Wolverine’s biker western, based on her hat and fringed jacket. Like Mystique, they’re technically here to recruit Fred, but how awesome would it have been if they’d just all shown up independently because they’re super into monster trucks? So awesome. Why aren’t there more monster-truck-based superhero stories?
Fred isn’t amused, either–in fact, the next time we see him, he’s wrecking his dressing room, punching holes in the wall.
That’s because Fred is really not fond of being laughed at. “I’m getting out of here for good,” he tells Principal Mystique, who’s swung by for a visit.
“That could be arranged,” she tells him. “In fact, I know somewhere where your talents would be truly appreciated.”
Can we talk about the recruitment scenes? Mystique is generally played as walking the line between sinister and sultry–she talks in vague innuendo a lot, in a tone that seems to tack an implied if you know what I mean to every sentence; and those characteristics give her recruitment of first Avalanche and now Blob some pretty serious casting-couch vibes. The Blob scene even closes with an incredibly creepy shot of Mystique smirking as Fred closes the dressing-room door in Jean and Logan’s faces. Of course, nothing’s explcit, and I suppose it could all be accidental; but the combination of the character, the power differential, and the staging bugs me.
Apparently the “more interesting” possibility Principal Mystique has lined up for Fred is… high school. Because she’s evil, I guess. She also assures him that he will have no trouble fitting in, because Mystique’s method of gaining her kids’ loyalty is all about setting them up for falls. Mystique is a jerk.
Fred is not the brightest crayon in the box, so he takes Mystique at her word, and finds himself in the halls of Bayville trying to make sense of his class schedule. This gives us our first hint–beyond the wrecked dressing room–that something may not be quite right with Mr. Dukes: instead of enlisting the help of a passer-by, he reaches out and collars one.
Alas, the passer-by he’s just snagged is none other than Bayville High’s resident douchebag QB, Duncan Matthews; so instead of advice, Fred gets taunts.
To which Fred responds by throwing Duncan down the hall and then ripping a pod of lockers off the wall to throw at him.
Until this point, Fred was pretty unambiguously sympathetic. Sure, he had bad personal boundaries and some anger management issues, but mostly he gave the same rough impression Toad did: a basically decent if poorly socialized kid who’d been treated pretty terribly by the world at large. He’s still sympathetic here, but it’s starting to become clear that there’s something else going as well: unlike Toad, who’s mostly just really easily manipulated; or Avalanche, who’s generally and indiscriminately mad at the world; Blob is both a victim and a bully.
Fortunately for Duncan and the dozen or so kids who had their stuff stored in those lockers, Jean Grey picks that moment to intervene. And this is where I want to stop watching.
Because–and you may not catch this if you are a dude–what Jean does here is play-by-play the way girls are taught to defuse dangerous situations with violent or potentially violent men. She’s not making friends with Fred, she’s appeasing him: focusing on him, even apologizing for Duncan, whose behavior she had absolutely nothing to do with. This is a guy she first saw when he was about to throw a locker pod at another student–a raging jerk, mind, but still.
And that’s when Fred starts to feel really scary. It’s not just what he does–sure, it’s extreme and violent, but Duncan is also the goddamn worst; and the violence in X-Men: Evolution falls within the superhero-cartoon bell curve, which means that even baseline humans can usually survive things like getting smashed under locker pods only a little worst for the wear. It’s how Jean reacts: that textbook mix of socialized niceness layered over fear. It’s that Jean is the one reacting to him that way, because even if she doesn’t use her powers as much this season as she will later, Jean is a telepath.
So: the urgency with which she intervenes, how cautious she is of Fred’s temper–those things mean something different coming from Jean than they would from most other characters, because it’s reasonable to assume that Jean can see something we can’t–yet.
First, though, it’s time for the b-plot! Thank god.
This episode, the b-plot is all about Cyclops and Rogue and their awkward nascent semi-friendship, and it is legitimately charming! (It’s worth noting that as a rule, the nominal b-plots tend to have more ongoing story ripples than the A-plots–this is above all a show about teenagers coming of age, and the social dynamics surrounding that–which I dig. Evolution took some major structural cues from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and this is one of the places where that plays best.)
Anyway, Cyclops and Rogue are in English class together, and I’m going to digress for a moment here to tell you how very much I love their English teacher. He’s like Professor Garrity from Community if Professor Garrity gave absolutely zero fucks. You can taste this man’s ennui. Also, he’s making the students in his class learn love scenes from famous plays with assigned partners which is some epic trolling when your class is full of hormone-sodden teenagers.
It’s pretty much always funny watching Evolution skirt around Rogue’s lack of name. In this case, everyone else gets paired, leaving her and Scott–who, because they’re the last ones, just get an indifferent “you, and you.”
Surrogate Alex Paul6 thinks it’s hilarious that Scott is partnered with “small, dark, and sullen,” and the rest of the class concurs. Professor Not-Garrity has assigned them a love scene from Henry V, and it is obviously going to be painfully awkward.
Have I mentioned how much I like Evolution Cyclops? I really like Evolution Cyclops, in large part because he is just straight-up a really good person. While everyone else is laughing because he’s stuck working with the grouchy goth chick, the first thing he does is turn around and quietly ask her if she’s okay working with him. At this point, the X-Men and Rogue have kind of a tense ceasefire: they know each other’s secret identities, but they really don’t trust each other; and she’s got even less reason to trust them than they do, her.
This episode also does a pretty good job of playing Cyclops and Blob as contrasting counterparts. Cyclops is all about reinforcing other people’s agency in this episode, and he’s super careful of boundaries and consent with Rogue; while Blob, well. We’ll get there. Unfortunately.
In fact, we’re on the way there right now, because it’s time for lunch, and that means some gratuitous and stereotypical fat-kid-in-the-cafeteria bullshit, as if they couldn’t find any other way to demonstrate how pushy and menacing Fred is. Also, the lunch ladies at Bayville are kind of pushovers. Also also, the Bayville cafeteria is weirdly well stocked.
It also has amazing signs. “Judgement Day,” one of them announces. “It’s Trva–It’s True.” reads another. “Oh Did You Know?” demands a third. All of them appear to be written in crayon. Does Bayville High import its cafeteria posters from Silent Hill?
So, anyway, Fred–towering tray in hand–walks past Scott and Kurt. The X-kids are talking about the English assignment–Scott’s defending Rogue, and Kurt thinks the whole situation is the best joke ever–but Fred assumes that they’re laughing at him. He storms past them, sits down too hard, and upends a table, launching his tray across the cafeteria at–of course–Duncan. Jean jumps up to intervene–again–but before she can reach him, Fred slips in unidentifiable cafeteria-food goo7 and wipes out spectacularly. The other students find this hilarious, because teenagers are assholes; and Fred loses it and starts throwing the remains of his lunch.8
And then, he starts throwing furniture.
The show goes from coding Blob as sympathetic and humorous to coding him as really scary very fast and very smoothly. That’s going to continue to happen, and it’s both really unsettling and a really good object lesson in the fact that this series has very few unambiguous villains, especially when they’re teenagers. Even when Blob crosses a major moral event horizon–which he will (oh, god, will he ever)–he’s still kind of sad, and that’s uncomfortable in ways that are probably good for people to have to navigate now and then.
As Fred escalates from throwing chairs to throwing tables, Jean desperately tries to talk him down, and he ends up knocking her down and almost throwing a table after her, until it’s stopped by a mysterious blast of red energy that no one seems to notice in the general chaos. Table disposed of, Scott swoops in to back Jean up–which is a good instinct, because this dude is seriously fucking terrifying–which of course makes Fred even angrier, until Jean exiles Scott back to the b-plot.
While Jean talks Fred down, Scott runs into Rogue, who’s been watching the whole scene play out. “Wow,” she says, “y’all really look after each other, don’t you?” They almost get to have a real conversation, but are cut short by the arrival of Principal Mystique, who, in her continuing quest for the Mother of the Year crown, is doing her best to keep Rogue as socially isolated as possible. That won’t backfire spectacularly a couple episodes from now.
Meanwhile in the cafeteria, Jean tells Fred that he has to learn some self-control. “I learned to control my–gifts–at the Institute, where I live,” she tells him, and shows off her carefully honed control by telekinetically smashing a chair against the wall, because telekinesis is exactly the same as uncontrolled violent rage.
Jean’s strength with and control over her telekinesis vary wildly between episodes. In S1E2, we saw her both casually exercise fairly fine control and hold up a collapsing building. Here, it seems to take heroic effort for her to fling a cafeteria chair. It’s not a resounding case for the quality of the training she’s selling;9 but then, Blob probably hasn’t seen the rest of the season.
It’s also interesting watching the gradual shifts in the ways Jean interacts with Fred. She’s overly conciliatory, but mostly when they’re around other people: for a long time, it doesn’t really seem to occur to Jean that Fred could be a danger to her. Alone with him, she’s more direct and assertive, more willing to set boundaries. That’s a quality that defines Jean in contrast to most of the rest of the X-kids: she’s very socially capable, but, as such, she’s also more heavily defined by her social context, and the wants and needs of the people around her.10
Right now, her Xavier Institute recruitment spiel is somewhat undermined by the fact that her head keeps shrinking and growing in proportion to the rest of her body, which is a running problem in this episode. The quality of the facial animation in Evolution is kind of a grab bag at this point, and Jean rarely comes out ahead in the consistent-jawline lottery. Also, the animation switches styles pretty noticeably a couple times in this episode, as if it’s getting shuffled between multiple studios without a lot of communication.
She’s also apparently not too keen on the observational-skills front, because she skips off to class without her backpack. How do you even do that? You’re at school, Jean! Fred notices, and starts to call after her, but when she turns around to ask what he wants, he changes his mind and tells her, “nothing,” as if the backpack is not clearly visible in his hands.
The trouble, see, is that Jean is standing there with Scott, and Fred is an extremely jealous dude. (It’s worth noting that at this point, Scott and Jean are pretty firmly in friend territory, which significantly amps up the creep factor on Fred’s possessiveness–especially when he starts rifling through Jean’s backpack, finds a photo of the two of them, and engages in a little original-cartoon Wolverine homage.)
Remember those Collector allusions I promised? Yeaaaah. Fred’s about to go full-on Clegg. In fact, the next time we see him, he’s lurking in the bushes outside Bayside High, waiting for Jean to emerge. She does–having inexplicably changed into a business-casual outfit that makes her look even less like a teenager than usual. She’s walking with her friend Taryn, who’s basically Paul’s female counterpart, and roughly as interesting.11
And we’ve got another set of animators. Again. Take a drink!
Fred waylays Jean to ask her out for a soda. Jean is busy–her outfits don’t randomly change themselves, after all–and suggests they catch up the next day.
Which is when we see the other side of Fred’s anger: he’s intensely possessive and jealous, and when he doesn’t get what he wants when he wants it, his first instinct is aggression. Taryn, like Scott, picks up on the fact that something is seriously not okay here; but once again, Jean sends off her backup and tries to talk Fred down on her own (although this time, she seems a little less confident about it).
Again, I can’t emphasize enough how much of how Jean responds to Fred in this episode reflects the way women are socialized to deal with dangerous men. She’s nice–so nice, and so willing to give him another chance and see the good and the hurt behind the violent behavior that she doesn’t recognize just how dangerous he is until he crosses a clear and physical line. The accuracy of this episode is, honestly, part of why it makes me so uncomfortable: Jean makes an uncannily good viewer stand-in.
Here, she’s avoiding confronting Fred in front of people, trying to justify her “no” without damaging his pride. It’s not until he physically grabs her that she raises her voice, and even then, she stays carefully calm, reassuring him that they’re friends.
He responds by dragging her away to “talk… in private.” I am not using the term dragging figuratively: he literally drags her, while she digs in her heels and tries to pull away while yelling at Fred to let her go. You can almost see the lightbulb click on as she realizes what’s up.
Fortunately for Jean, they’re near a construction site, giving her a whole lot of cinderblocks to use as ammo. Unfortunately for Jean, Fred’s power set is strength, immobility, and invulnerability. He stands there and mocks her while she throws cement at his head, until she accidentally brings the whole scaffolding down, knocking herself out with an errant cinderblock in the process.
Which leaves her at Fred’s mercy.
So, yeah. I feel… weird about this. Uncomfortable. Because I do get the point of this story–it covers ground that matters, all about agency and consent, and ultimately about teamwork and solidarity–but it’s also about taking the woman with the strongest power set and casting her as an unambiguous victim in the first episode that really focuses on her. And I hate that. I hate it so much. I hate it when it happens in the comics, and I really hate it when it happens in this show, because Evolution gets Jean right in ways that X-series rarely do.
Know what else is focusing on Jean? Fred, whose responds to his crush’s apparently fairly serious head injury by carrying her off to an abandoned ironworks, tying her to a chair with what appears to be a brass railing, and completely filling the room with candles. Jesus. Fucking. Christ. Had he been planning this out ahead of time? Because it can’t have been more than an hour since he grabbed her at school, and that’s a whole fucking lot of candles.
“This can’t be happening,” says Jean, who has clearly read the BS&P notes from the first animated series. Sorry, Jean! It’s a new century, and cartoons aren’t just for kids anymore! Take some time to enjoy the expansion of the medium, because you won’t be going anywhere for a while.
Unable to break free on her own–she’s got a nigh-invulnerable opponent and probably a pretty bad concussion based on how long she was out–Jean sends out a psychic call for help to the Professor, who–along with Wolverine–is busy supervising a game of all-powers-allowed football on the grounds of the school. It’s like the Danger Room, but with 100% fewer killer robots!
Wolverine is also wearing a karate gi with a stylized version of the X-Men logo on the back, for no apparent reason. OKAY, THEN.
I really want to put together a supercut of Evolution Kitty running into things. It just never stops being satisfying–unlike her laugh, which I imagine is sampled from the literal soundtrack to literal Hell.12
Fortunately for me, Kitty’s nightmarish cackle is interrupted by Jean’s psychic distress call. Wolverine sends Nightcrawler off to get Cyclops, then growls, “I gotta ride.” NEVER CHANGE, WOLVERINE.
There’s no time for a magical-girl transformation this round, but we do at least get a moment of Wolverine revving his bike and a close-up on the exhaust pipes. The Wolverine Show is the best show, y’all.
Back by Bayside, Scott and Rogue are practicing their Henry V scene. It’s adorable and awkward, and Rogue even tries flirting briefly (with absolutely no success, because it’s Scott).
This Scott-and-Rogue subplot is going to last for several seasons, and it never stops being both heartwarming and kind of sad. On one hand, they’re awesome friends; on the other hand, she has this awful crush on him, and I’m pretty sure it’s because, for her first few weeks at Bayville, he is literally the only person who is remotely decent to her. Anyway, they’re about to bond over their mutual alienation and broken superpowers when Nightcrawler ruins everything by ‘porting in with the news that Jean has been kidnapped.
“I swear, he’s like an annoying little brother,” says Rogue. OHO–I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, SHOW!
Scott immediately figures out that it must have been Blob who took Jean, and demands to know if Rogue knew anything about it, which is kind of gauche but also kind of a reasonable question, considering that she runs around with the bad guys.
And then comes my favorite moment of this entire season,13 in which, on the way out to find a kidnapped teammate, Scott and Kurt find time to make a Star Trek joke before teleporting away.14 Not only that, but it’s so smooth and so fast-patter that it is clearly evident that they do this all the time. I love these goofy nerds so much, you guys.
Meanwhile, Wolverine is tracking Jean on his motorcycle, to the strains of a truly amazing electric guitar solo; because in addition to being roughly 30% more awesome than surrounding series, the Wolverine Show comes with its own Hardcore Cool Guy Action Soundtrack. Of course it does.
Professor X can’t pinpoint Jean’s location, since she has no idea where she is, but he’s narrowed it down to a general area. You’d think Cerebro might be helpful here? But, no. Also, why do the X-Men always refer to Fred as Blob? He’s not even a supervillain yet, and it was only ever his stage name. Not cool, X-Men.
Back at the killing jar abandoned factory, Fred tells Jean that this is gonna be the best night she ever had, which comes out every bit as creepy as you’d expect. He’s proposing dinner and dancing, and I’m really curious as to how he’s planning to execute the latter with Jean tied to a chair.
Jean tries to explain to Fred that you can’t force someone to like you, to which Fred responds, “Why not? I’m stronger than everyone!” There’s something really childlike about Fred’s understanding of basic social dynamics and consent; and if anything, it makes him even scarier.
Fortunately for Jean, Wolverine and his wailin’ guitar riffs have just pulled up outside. How can Wolverine follow scents on a motorcycle? At like 60 MPH? Whatever, he’s here now!
Because he lives in his own magical universe, Wolverine calls Professor Xavier on an honest-to-god signal watch, then–ignoring the prof’s caution to wait for backup–pops his claws and cuts an X through the door, because this is literally the only way Wolverine knows to enter rooms. He surprises Fred, who’s ducked out to grab a turntable–presumably pre-loaded with “Every Breath You Take”–and they yell inarticulately at each other, then square off.
Remember how Blob used to perform as the World’s Strongest Teenager™? Spoiler: He is still definitely hella strong–enough to casually toss a several-ton boiler at Wolverine. There’s more yelling, and Jean tries to use the opportunity to pry away the railing that’s holding her to the chair, but it’s a no-go. She does, however, manage to pick up a filing cabinet, conveniently blowing out the candles on top in the process. I guess the network was cool with kidnapping, but drew a line at arson?
In the next room, Blob and Wolverine are still at it, and if you are wondering if they are still yelling like champs, the answer is yes. Yes, they are. “She’s my friend,” Blob insists, midway through crushing Wolverine. “You can’t take her!”
Luckily for Wolverine, backup arrives just in time to deliver a snappy comeback: “We’re just giving her a way out–through you, if necessary!” Remember how I said that Cyclops was all about agency in this episode? Cyclops is all about agency in this episode. Also, his banter has improved considerably since the fight with Sabretooth, which is unsurprising, since it’s not like it could have gotten any worse.
What Cyclops is not is invulnerable, which is a problem, since Blob–unfazed by optic blasts–pitches Wolverine at him, taking them both out of the fight and knocking off Cyclops’s visor for the third time in four episodes. Seriously, does this thing have no failsafe of any sort? What is wrong with these people? (It’s not an issue here, because Cyclops is unconscious and thus has his eyes closed, but still.)
Cyclops and Wolverine may be out for the count, but there’s someone else on the scene, someone in super kickass industrial goth boots. Hi, Rogue! I’m not sure why Rogue’s arrival is treated as super mysterious, since those boots are super recognizable and the first thing she does is go up to the unconscious Scott and touch him to steal his powers.
Meanwhile, inside the ironworks, Jean pitches the filing cabinet at Blob, which goes about as well as you’d expect, given that this is a guy who laughed off the same optic blasts that leveled a stadium. He picks up a large piece of industrial equipment that someone who is not me might be able to identify, but before he can throw it at Jean, he’s hit with–more optic blasts?
“Leave her alone, you yahoo!” yells Rogue, because Rogue is the absolute goddamn best. She can also control Cyclops’s powers, which is a bit of continuity I genuinely appreciate–it’s usually a toss-up whether writers remember that his lack of control is brain damage, not an intrinsic part of the power set.
“Whatch’a gonna do to me?” Blob taunts, “Make me wear bad make-up?” Blob, shut the fuck up. Rogue is a delicate cemetery flower, and she’s going to steal your powers and use them to kick your ass while Jean watches in open-mouthed awe.15
“You can’t hurt me!” Blob insists. “I’m the Blob!”
“Nah,” says Rogue, “You’re just garbage that wanted a date.” I’m not too happy that Jean doesn’t get to rescue herself here, but if someone else was going to have to, I am pretty goddamn glad it was Rogue, whose commitment to a gag is such that, after calling Blob “garbage,” she ends the fight by throwing and then blasting him all the way to the city dump–which is pretty damn impressive precision, given that she’s never used either his or Cyclops’s powers before.
And the last we see of Blob this episode, he’s sitting in the city dump, covered in garbage, yelling at seagulls to stop laughing at him. It sounds funny, but it’s actually sad and fucked up and unsettling, just like every single other thing he does in this episode.
Back at the ironworks, Rogue is sheepish and apologetic and awkward; and Cyclops totally leads her on by way of Henry V. Not cool, dude.
Jean wants to know why Rogue helped them. “I don’t know,” she says, and runs. Jean tries to go after her–remember, Jean’s the one who almost got through to Rogue in the first place, by way of the magic tire gauge–but Wolverine stops her, claiming that Rogue “ain’t ready,” although the X-Men now totally owe her one.
And that’s that.
If I remember correctly, this story is never revisited. Never. Fred gets to keep going to Bayville. In a few episodes, the X-Men and the Brotherhood will team up; in fact, Professor Xavier will team them up, presumably knowing full well what’s gone down today.
That lack of acknowledgement freaks me out almost as much as the story itself. I mean: This wasn’t a heroes-versus-villains scuffle. It wasn’t the Brotherhood messing with the X-Men because they’re the bad guys and the X-Men are the good guys. It was a dude kidnapping and assaulting a peer, both in their civilian identities, and that is a very different kind of thing.
Again, “Mutant Crush” isn’t exactly a bad episode–it’s deftly written, and it’s definitely effective; and I genuinely enjoy both the B-plot and a lot of the incidental moments and details. That said: the hands-down best part of finish this write-up–for me, at least–is that I never have to watch it again.
NEXT WEEK ON X-MEN: EVOLUTION: That one Dwayne McDuffie pitch, but played completely straight.
1. Actually, “The Cauldron” is a two-parter, so it might technically be the two worst episodes of the series.
2. …I write, as if there is such a thing as an appropriate and tasteful way to make jokes about a novel that is literally about a man who kidnaps a lady and keeps her locked in a basement until she dies. (Side note: in addition to being a delightful pastoral romp, The Collector manages to be even more aggressively classist than Season One of X-Men: Evolution. I KNOW, RIGHT?!)
3. Agency, politics, and portrayal of sideshows in superhero media is a subject that definitely bears further discussion, but today is not the day for that. Today is a day for teenagers fighting monster trucks.
4. In the comics, the Blob’s size is an expression of his mutation. In Evolution, it’s not: we know this because Rogue stays the same size when she absorbs his powers, (but–for instance–physically alters when she absorbs Sabretooth’s).
5. I wish he had kept wearing capes. They’re not practical for a grappler, but he could have thrown them off dramatically before every fight. Are there any superheroes who do that? There should be.
6. I’m pretty sure Paul Surrogate Alex has a couple different voice actors over the course of the series, and whoever’s voicing him here seems to be doing their best Don Adams. It is somewhat jarring.
7. I honestly can’t figure out what else to call this stuff. I have no idea what it’s supposed to be. It looks like the unidentifiable piles of mush Calvin’s family always has for dinner in Calvin & Hobbes.
8. Are large-scale food fights a real thing that happen in schools, like, ever? I have never encountered one, nor do I know anyone who has.
9. “That’s what the Xavier institute is all about,” Jean tells Blob, “Control.” Which, well–that’s certainly one way to look at it.
10. Somewhere in all of this, there’s probably a long and involved essay about how gender inflects Jean and Professor X’s relative roles in the team and interaction with their respective telepathy, but I’ll probably save it for S2E2.
11. Taryn and Scott will briefly date during Season 2, and it will be super awkward, and no one will ever speak of it again.
12. English lacks adequate words to explain how obnoxious Kitty’s laugh is. It’s just spectacularly awful, and I kind of want it as a ringtone, because I am a goddamn monster.
13. Not counting the time Cyclops finally tells off Professor X, but that’s a given.
14. Oh, like you wouldn’t.
15. “Someday, I’m gonna be in a girl gang with her,” Jean thinks, wistfully. “Maybe next season.”