I like this episode, because this is where Evolution starts to catch its stride and find its voice. “Middleverse” is kind of a mess animation-wise, but it’s also a one-off, a lighthearted breath of fresh air before we dive headfirst into the Big Ongoing Story next episode.
It also gets bonus points for being a Forge episode, which is almost always a plus. Comics Forge tends to be dark and brooding and at the center of convoluted storylines and soap opera, but two out of three animated Forges are uncomplicatedly delightful. The best animated Forge, of course, is Wolverine and the X-Men Forge, who just straight-up is Miles to the extent that we had his action figure in college and more than one person assumed it was a custom portrait. But Evolution Forge is pretty great, too.
We open at Bayville High, which appears to be under the purview of yet another animation team. Jean is trying to convince the rest of the team to go to Duncan Matthews’ party, because Jean is your friend who’s convinced that everyone she likes will totally love each other and refuses to believe otherwise even if they have nothing in common and explicitly hate each other.
Scott is arguing against it, because he is sensible, but also because the b-plot to this episode is all about contrasting Scott as the uptight control freak with Kurt as the anything-goes bon vivant. Balance, X-kids, balance.
Kitty does not think that Duncan Matthews is a jerk. Evolution Kitty has terrible judgment. Also, I like the incidental detail that Evan drinks a ton of milk, because, y’know, bones.
Scott starts worrying that if they go to the party, there will be powers-related incidents: for instance, Kurt’s image inducer doesn’t make him less fuzzy to the touch.
“Heyyy, chicks dig the fuzzy dude!” Kurt explains.1 I assume chicks also dig dudes who talk about themselves in the third person.
“I’m trying to be serious here!” says Scott. I will never identify with this kid harder than when he is trying to come up with reasons not to go to a party.
“Dude! It’s just a party,” says Kurt, except his dubious German accent makes it sound like “potty.” And then he says it again, over and over and over. “Potty, potty, potty.” Kurt. Kurt, no.
“Hey, c’mon, Scott,” says Jean. “What’s wrong with a little socializing?” I imagine they have this conversation roughly twice a week.
Nightcrawler feels that Scott is cramping his style by preventing him from dancing with his tail out on picnic tables at school. It’s worth noting that despite a lot of conversations about the details of Kurt’s image inducer, how it actually works seems to vary not only from episode to episode but scene to scene. Anyway, there’s a very intense showdown, complete with yelling and close-ups, which Kurt ends by teleporting blind.
I keep thinking Kurt will either learn his lesson or end up embedded in a wall, but, no. This time, he lands in an old basement storage room–fritzing out his image inducer in the process.
The commotion attracts the attention of Rogue, who’s lurking nearby in the shade, reading Dracula. Never change, Rogue. She heads down to investigate, so Nightcrawler ports blind again, and lands in a dusty, shut-down lab.
But this isn’t just any dusty shut-down lab! It’s a dusty shut-down lab with a remarkably high-tech alarm system, complete with LASERs, which Kurt promptly sets off. Don’t the X-Men train specifically to avoid shit exactly like this?
Tripping the sensors immediately sets off an alarm, and a teenage kid–Forge–appears on the screen to inform the intruder that their presence has triggered a self-destruct sequence. What the hell, Forge? Who rigs a room in their high school to self destruct?! Are you some kind of supervillain in a super sweet 70s polo shirt?!
(Spoiler: He is not a supervillain.)
“I knew I should have paid more attention in computer lab!” says Kurt. It’s possible that Bayville has a significantly more sophisticated computer curriculum than my school did, but I’m really entertained by the idea that Forge’s fancy super-science runs entirely on rudimentary BASIC and/or LOGO.2
Rogue finds Kurt after the lab blows up, and they check it out together, because it’s not like we don’t all know she’s going to end up joining the X-Men next episode anyway.
“Whatever this stuff was, it’s thrashed now,” says Rogue. Remember when people used the word thrashed in everyday conversation? Those were gnarly days.
But wait! Sitting in the rubble is a spaceship-looking gadget that is inexplicably undamaged. Kurt and Rogue immediately grapple over it, because why the hell wouldn’t you want to mess with technology invented by a teenager paranoid enough to blow up his own lab? To no one’s surprise, the kids accidentally setting the device off, apparently vaporizing Kurt. WHOOPS.
Rogue is duly horrified, unaware that instead of killing Kurt, the gadget has instead transported him to an empty ghost school full of flickering ethereal students, including Evan and Kitty, who can neither see nor hear Kurt but do make themselves briefly useful by summarizing the b-plot.
Meanwhile in the parking lot, Toad is stalking a bug across Principal Evil Powerbutch Sigourney Weaver Mystique Darkholme’s parking space, but she ruins everything by, y’know, parking; probably on her way back from a hot date with Destiny.3
“Aw, my lunch,” complains Toad. Apparently Toad’s lunch is a bug that he found in the parking lot? It sucks pretty hard to be Toad.
Rogue, understandably wary of a gadget that straight-up murdered one of her peers, decides that the best way to dispose of the evidence is to carry it gingerly to a dumpster on the end of a broomstick. Alas, she trips and accidentally drops it at Toad’s feet. She tries to get him to leave it alone, but he will not, so she plays it cool and tells him that she killed one of the X-Men with it, which is a great way to ensure that he won’t be interested.
“Jeez, what is this? Abuse the Toad Day?” Yes, but only by virtue of the fact that that’s pretty much every day in this world.
Toad waits until Rogue leaves and fishes the raygun-spaceship-I-don’t-know-what-this-thing-is-but-it-looks-like-it-should-either-shoot-foam-disks-or-show-slides out of the dumpster, then promptly vaporizes the dumpster by mistake. It’s remarkably lucky how no one ever seems to accidentally points this thing the wrong way and vaporizes themself.
Back in the hall, Scott and Jean are arguing over whether Scott should apologize to Kurt; and again, I identify way too much with Scott in this scene. I mean, yes, he’s probably too uptight, but he’s not wrong.
Two dudes run by yelling that they saw a ghost–a blue and hairy demon.
Scott goes looking for Kurt, and Jean tries to contact Kurt telepathically, but he’s nowhere to be found.
Rogue overhears them, and looks super guilty. She’s fun in this episode–playing the conflicted-loyalties thing for all it’s worth
Avalanche and Blob wander up, and Scott demands to know what they did with Kurt, because it’s not like Kurt has a history of–or mutant power designed around–just fucking disappearing. Because the Brotherhood is full of contrary fuckers, they dig in their heels, implying that they did in fact do something to Kurt, even though we know better. Scott runs at them, and it doesn’t really matter what else happens because at some point Avalanche says, “Back off, Red, or I’ll rock ya,” effectively ruining everything about the scene forever.
Principal Mystique shows up to break things up. Lance and Fred say they weren’t doing anything–Scott just attacked them for no reason–which is in fact entirely true, even if it’s lacking some critical context. Principal Mystique yells at everyone, and drags Scott and Jean off to her office.
Meanwhile in the alternate universe, IT’S RAINING FURNITURE. That’s because Toad–now inexplicably in full costume–is zapping all the furniture in Mystique’s office. You do you, Toad. He dives out the window before Mystique can catch him, presumably to continue his reign of terror outside.
Mystique is understandably somewhat disgruntled to find her office empty. Scott and Jean head to the window just in time to see Toad cheerfully vaporizing Principal Mystique’s fancy convertible.
“I bet I know what happened to Kurt,” says Scott. Well, wherever he is, at least now he has a pretty sweet ride.
Jean and Scott see ghost-Kurt for a moment and Jean gets a brief brain-flash that he’s trapped somewhere.
Back in the other dimension, Kurt finally meets up with Forge, who is adorable. They bond over their rad mutations, and APPARENTLY IN THIS UNIVERSE FORGE’S MUTATION IS THAT HE IS MEGA-MAN4 AND I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT THAT. Fight, Forge, for everlasting peace!
In normal (by Evolution standards) Bayville, the X-Men have changed into costume and are chasing Toad through the woods as he zaps stuff. Everything he zaps drops through onto Kurt and Forge, because apparently Forge’s gizmo is designed to transport stuff not only between dimensions, but also to the nearest plot-convenient location.
The gadget was in fact Forge’s science-fair project back in ’78–a transdimensional projector that trapped him in another dimension, where he’s been hanging out ever since. I assume that either time passes somewhat differently in the Middleverse or Forge managed to bring along a shitton of weed, because he is awfully chill for a dude who’s spent twenty-two years trapped in a pocket dimension that apparently stops just short of the girls’ locker room.
But Kurt’s presence–and, more significantly, his mutant power–changes everything! Forge whips up a gadget that’ll let Kurt briefly teleport back to “the real world,”5 so he can let his friends know what’s up and how to fix it.
Kurt is worried that the X-Men will thing he’s joking, because he is a sassy trickster; and we are all familiar with the classic parable of The Boy Who Cried Pocket Dimension.
Back in the Bayville woods, Evan pins toad to a tree by part of his costume that I had previously assumed was rigid. “Why don’t you stick around for a while?” Evan, you’re not Avalanche. Have some damn dignity.6
The X-Men are trying to interrogate Toad, but Rogue shows up and confesses to make them let Toad go. Rogue is fierce and awesome, and she has her teammates’ backs even when her teammates are objectively terrible.
“If you’ve hurt him–“ Scott starts.
“If you start threatening me, you’re never gonna find your friend,” Rogue tells him, and I know that every other sentence I write about Rogue in this episode is about how great she is, but seriously, you guys, she is so great.
From the next dimension, Kurt tells Scott to chill. Look, Kurt, it’s not that you’re wrong, but maybe save that one for a time when you haven’t been teleported into another dimension because you stormed off and then got reckless with technology you didn’t understand.
Meanwhile, Kitty and Even are figuring out the secrets of Forge’s fancy retro technology. It’s nice when Kitty gets to be smart, and frustratingly rare. You know what’s also frustrating? There’s no Hackers episode of Evolution. There should be. I’m pretty sure that every show that came out in the late ‘90s or early ‘00s was required to have at least one episode that took place entirely in cyberspace.7
Anyway, the kids figure out that the pulse has trapped Nightcrawler in another dimension. Cyclops decides that destroying it will bring them back. Why? That makes no sense.
Forge agrees. Apparently destroying the projector will in fact trap them in the Middleverse forever.
Scott really wants to blow up the projector. “Like, what is it with guys and explosions, anyway?” asks Kitty. KITTY. EXPLOSIONS ARE AWESOME AND GENDER-NEUTRAL. BOOM-BOOM WILL BACK ME UP ON THIS WHEN SHE JOINS THE CAST.
Forge’s temporary gadget lets Kurt teleport back for just long enough to say “Reset don’t–” which the X-Men then spend way too long trying to figure out. Evan insists that “Reset don’t” means “Don’t reset it,” because apparently Evan is under the impression that Kurt is a Horta or something.8
“A warning?” Evan argues. “From the goof-man himself?” Guys, I know Kurt isn’t good at taking things seriously, but he is currently trapped in another dimension. I am pretty sure he is on the level.
Fortunately, Scott is excessively cautious and ignores Evan’s exhortations to “shred that sucker.” I rest my case: boring, uptight people get shit done.
Scott eventually finds the reset button, which opens a portal to the Middleverse, but Kurt and Forge can’t get back through because Forge’s temporary dimension-hopping device is out of batteries. Can’t they just walk through the portal? I guess not, because, science. They teleport off in search of another power source.
While the X-Men are waiting for Kurt and Forge to get back with batteries, the Brotherhood attacks. Toad refers to the projector as a vape-ray, which I’m pretty sure is actually hip kids’ jargon for some kind of drug paraphernalia.9
But the really important thing about the Brotherhood is that we get to see Avalanche’s costume in action for the first time, and Avalanche’s costume is the stupidest thing ever. This kid is literally wearing an upside-down salad bowl on his head. This is happening, on my television screen, right now.
Cyclops is horrified by the news that Rogue works for Mystique. I… thought this was old news by now? Apparently not. Anyway, I am too distracted by Avalanche’s stupid hat to care about the story anymore.
Rogue walks out of the fight, and Avalanche makes a terrible rock-themed pun and makes his terrible using-his-powers face, which somehow manages to be even funnier when he’s dressed up like whatever the hell he’s dressed up like. Lance Alvers: the gift that keeps on giving.
Back in the Middleverse, Kurt teleports Forge to Mystique’s car (which, as you’ll recall, Toad zapped through earlier in the episode, along with most of her office furniture). “Far out, man!” says Forge.
“I swear,” grumbles Nightcrawler, “That homie’s lingo is so wack.”10 Kids, amirite?
Of the Brotherhood, the Blob has by far and away the most practical and flattering costume. It’s basically a cut-up t-shirt, pants, and a cargo vest, and it has lots of pockets and is generally pretty okay looking by the standards of super-gear. It does not, however, save Blob from the Power of Teamwork, and Scott and Jean knock him the hell over.
“You and me got a date, pretty Kitty,” says Avalanche. “How about a ride on the concrete coaster?” Christopher Gray, who voices Avalanche, is rapidly rising to the top of my “voice actors I would like to interview” list, because I cannot even begin to fathom how a human being delivered these lines without cracking up. Maybe Christopher Gray is a robot, sent back from the future to destroy us, but he got distracted and ended up becoming a semi-obscure voice actor instead.
This entire fight is entirely pointless. They’re trying to sustain it on the strength of character clashes, banter, and innovative strategy, but none of those are really enough to carry it, or to make me care about anything other than making fun of Avalanche.
Know what I do care about? I care about the fact that instead of cannibalizing Mystique’s car for parts, Kurt and Forge have decided to pull a straight-up Back to the Future and roar out of the pocket dimension in a convertible. It is a damn shame that we don’t really get to see much more of Forge after this episode, because he is a delightful scamp, and “time-unstuck genius teenager who may or may not have been created by Dr. Light to take down Dr. Wily’s evil robot hegemony and avenge the death of Light’s noncanonical11 lady-friend” would be a super rad premise for a spinoff.
The car crashes back into regular Bayville, trashing the projector in the process. Forge is mystified by the fancy newfangled airbag technology. I, on the other hand, am concerned that Mystique’s airbags don’t deflate after deploying, because that’s a serious suffocation hazard for the sake of a time-travel gag that isn’t even all that funny.
Rogue watches sadly from behind a tree as the X-Men file home. She does shit like this a lot, and it always stays juuuuust this side of the tragic-versus-creepy line.
Scott tells Forge that he can crash with the X-Men if he wants. “Xavier’s cool,” he says. “You’d like him.” That fact that Scott thinks Xavier is cool explains a frightening lot, when you think about it.
Forge declines in favor of finding his parents. His assumption that they’re not only alive but still living in the same house strikes me as a trifle overoptimistic, but whatever.
As Forge heads off to what will at best be a deeply traumatic Flight of the Navigator-style reunion, Scott and Kurt apologize and make up. Everyone has learned valuable life lessons! Fist-bumps all around!
And oh, hey, Scott not only successfully makes a joke, but has also decided that maybe it will be okay to go to Duncan Matthews’ party after all! Of course, Kitty and Kurt are still freshmen–and thus not invited–and Kurt’s image inducer is definitely broken, so as soon as they show up, they’re gonna get kicked out and also maybe murdered by an angry mob with pitchforks.
And that’s what you get for making Cyclops try to loosen up.
1. “He’s not wrong!” Amanda Sefton yells back from season two.
3. I wonder if sometimes when people ask Mystique where she’s headed, she poses all dramatically and says, “I have a date… with Destiny!” and they’re all impressed, but then Mystique just picks up Irene Adler and they go to the movies or something.
4. Or at least he has an arm cannon. The important thing is that it’s more than enough to justify Protomen references.
5. How sweet would it be if this episode had been like the G.I. Joe episode of Community, and instead of landing back in regular Bayville, Kurt teleported into an Evolution toy commercial, or maybe into Grant Morrison’s New X-men run? But, no, it is not to be. Evolution is many things, but alas, aggressively meta is not generally one of them.
6. I feel like maybe Evan’s powers would be better suited to an era when boner just meant embarrassing foul-up. In the land of the vernacular boner, the bone-spike-shooting mutant is king.
7. No, “Fun and Games” does not count. Don’t be ridiculous.
8. Forge didn’t blow up his lab to be petty! He blew it up because you bastards were mining his eggs for minerals!
9. I would totally not put it past ‘70s Forge to build an interdimensional projector that was also a fancy bong.
10. Or, as Hulu closed captions put it, “That homies Lingo is so whack.”
11. If you don’t think an Evolution-style Mega Man cartoon with “Beards Going Nowhere” as its closing theme would be awesome, I will fucking fight you.