Oh, Evolution Season One. You try so hard. And sometimes you hit your mark: sometimes it’s “Turn of the Rogue.”
And then, sometimes, it’s “SpykeCam.”
Here’s the thing about Spyke: he’s a character born of good intentions and just stunningly thin execution. He’s got a lot of potential, but the actual episodes that focus on him–which are fairly few and far between–and his eventual, deeply dubious fate are almost universally weak. I want to like this dude, and sometimes I really do–but often, it’s in spite of, not because of, the stories built around him.
Ah, well. We’ll always have Dracula: The Rock Musical.
The episode opens with Sabretooth stalking up to water tower blocked off by a gate thar reads–I kid not–“NO ADMITTANCE BY ORDER OF BS&P,” 1 which is pretty funny regardless, but may pack a bit more punch if you’ve been following X-Men ’92.2
Meanwhile at Bayville High, Evan is disappointed to have gotten a D on his paper on the Star Wars program. Evan, being a spunky teen who lives by sitcom logic, thought it would be a good idea to write his paper on the Star Wars movies. Of course he did.
“But I like movies!” Evan whines at his teacher. Look, kid, I like comic books, but did you see me turning in Victorian Lit papers on The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix?3
Just in case you’ve forgotten, I’d like to take this opportunity to note once again for the record that Evan takes the signature Evolution shirt-tucked-into-boxers look and turns it up a notch by wearing elbow pads at all times, including in class. I suspect that Evan may be the kind of person who would use the term x-treme–spelled like that–unironically, even before being associated with the X-Men.
Evan asks for a chance to make up for his failed grade, and maybe earn some extra credit, and his teacher responds by pulling a video camera of his desk. I know what you’re thinking, but this is a television show for children, goddamnit. Get your mind out of the gutter, pervs. Anyway, teach wants Evan to make a documentary film about the current events that impact his life, which sort of implies that the Star Wars program was being taught as current events in the year 2000; which, in turn, supports my “Bayville is a bubble in the space-time continuum where time passes but not in the linear manner to which we are accustomed” theory, for which I really need to come up with a snappier name.
Evan is duly impressed: “Whoa, a digi-cam! How cool is that?”4 He continues to describe the camera’s fancy features as he wanders off into the hallway: “instant rewind, digital zoom…” Someday, this kid’s gonna get a car, and he’s gonna TOTALLY FLIP OUT over the fact that has wheels.
In the fine tradition of Bayville’s vaguely DADAist signage, there is a poster on the wall of the classroom that just says BRA in big letters. Not quite sure what’s going on there, but yeah. That’s happening.
As it turns out, the camera is pretty legit impressive: from the window of Bayville High, Evan can get a pretty detailed view of the front gates of the Xavier Institute, completely with a grumpy Logan. Alas, Evan’s first foray into peeping-Tomhood is interrupted by Nightcrawler, who’s freaking out because his image inducer is on the fritz: he’s got to get home to fix it, but that means missing shop class. IF ONLY HE HAD A FRIEND WITH SOME MEANS OF–HEAR ME OUT–RECORDING THE CLASS! Evan to the rescue!5
Unfortunately, Evan’s not the only one with fancy digital gadgets: As he’s spying on the Xavier institute, Sabretooth–still perched on the BS&P water tower–is watching him through a pair of high-powered binoculars. Meta.
In the halls of Bayville, Evan catches Kitty and Rogue arguing. Kitty is pissed off because Rogue had a novel that Kitty had lent to Kurt, which Kurt then apparently lent to Rogue. NOT COOL, KURT. I’m 100% Team Kitty on this one.
Kitty is so flustered by Kurt’s terrible book-borrowing etiquette that she runs straight into a handsome young gentleman who you can tell is a cool dude because he’s wearing a sweater vest over a t-shirt. “Enter the love interest,” says Evan, who has apparently decided to take the inherent creepiness of the camera situation and just fucking run with it.
Sweater-vest’s name is Jason, and he’s hard at work hanging posters for the school play–which we know is Dracula from the tops of the posters. Jason tells Kitty she should try out–“We need girls who can sing and dance!”
Kitty asks Jason whom he’s playing, to which he responds, “I’m the, uh, male lead.” Dude. Just say “Dracula.” She will work it out.6
We finally see the full poster as Jason walks away, and y’all. Y’ALL. Bayville High isn’t just putting on Dracula. Bayville high is putting on Dracula: The Rock Musical. DRACULA: THE ROCK MUSICAL.
Dracula. The. Rock. Musical.
This episode just went from zero to sixty.
In keeping with Bayville tradition, the design for the Dracula: The Rock Musical poster is fucking amazing. It features what appears to be Count Orloff from Nosferatu, but he has teeny white bat wings and an electric guitar. Also an eye patch for some reason, because why the fuck not?
“Just when I thought you could not possibly get more pathetic,” Rogue tells Kitty. ROGUE. NO. There is nothing pathetic about DRACULA: THE ROCK MUSICAL. I mean, that is like, fundamentally the most hardcore thing ever created. It could only get more hardcore if it were performed by a cast made up entirely of monster trucks.7
“At least I’ve got a chance of getting cast, unlike you,” Kitty retorts.
Smelling blood in the water, Evan comes in for a close-up, just as Rogue tells Kitty, “Think about it. I was made for this play.” She’s not wrong, Kitty. NONE MORE GOTH!
Alas for Evan, his choice to hide behind the door of a half-size locker does not pay off, and Rogue and Kitty catch him filming.
“I better not see my face on that tape,” Rogue tells him, “Or they’ll be calling you Spyke-less,” which doesn’t even make sense as a threat, because aren’t Evan’s spikes organically generated? Or is she threatening to permanently drain his powers? Either way, Rogue, you gotta stop taking fight patter cues from Storm.
Meanwhile in the B-plot, Sabretooth has gone from watching a high school through binoculars to loitering directly outside, because he’s charming like that. And class is letting out, which means it’s time for Evan to up the ante on his tape and produce “an Evan’s-eye view of what it means to be a truly thrashin’ street skater.” Because really, when you’re entrusted with an expensive and delicate piece of equipment, why wouldn’t you immediately carry it around one-handed while doing fancy skateboard tricks?
Sabretooth growls, and the way it’s timed, it really seems like he’s pissed off at Evan for his poor camera safety, which would be pretty great. He follows Evan along, leaping from rooftop to speeding truck as Evan does a one-handed handstand on his skateboard, still holding the camera. Traffic safety aside, I’m pretty sure this is going to be one of those documentaries that makes people8 throw up.
Once again, Sabretooth is with me, because as soon as he gets an opening, he swoops down and plucks the camera out of Evan’s hands, then settles in an alley to judge the kid’s cinematography.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate that the closed caption at this point is tape rewinding. For the digital video camera with “instant rewind” on its feature list. X-Men: Evolution!
Nah, Sabretooth is not actually a film snob. (Actually, he might be a film snob. I’m gonna go ahead and say he’s a film snob, because the idea of film-snob Sabretooth is awesome.) He’s after Evan’s camera because he’s worked out that Wolverine is somehow associated with the Bayville kids, and by astonishing coincidence, he just happened to key in on the one student who had clear footage of Wolverine heading into the Xavier Institute.
Evan comes to in a pile of garbage bags, but his quest for vengeance is sidelined first by the discovery that his apparently indestructible camera is safe and sound; and then by Toad, who has somehow heard about Evan’s movie and wants to be in it. Toad shows off some legitimately fairly rad acrobatic moves, but Evan is unimpressed by any leaping that does not take place in conjunction with a skateboard.
“Take a hike, Tolansky,” he says. “I got too much respect for my craft.” Sabretooth watches from a rooftop, grinning and running his tongue over his teeth in anticipation of the debut work of a promising fledgling director.9
The caption for this moment is–I shit you not–“[long evil sigh].”
The next morning, Storm interrupts Evan’s morning routine of protracted yawning to call him down to breakfast. She spots the video camera on his shelf, and cautions him against taking a “Spyke-eye view” approach to the film, which Evan agrees to and then summarily ignores, because, teenagers. Fortunately, Storm is on to him, and tells him that they’ll need to take a look at his film before he turns it in.
Evan takes this advice to heart and goes on to be more judicious about the content of his film. HA, NO, JUST KIDDING. He decides to significantly up the creeper ante and by filming Jean trying on clothes by wedging the camera through a crack in the bathroom door.
Some people’s children, man.
Jean hears the camera when Evan tries to zoom in, and telekinetically slams the door in his face. “Touchy, touchy,” complains Evan, who has apparently decided to spend his moment in the spotlight making a bid for worst character on the show. See, Evan, you’re gonna think it’s because of an unsightly secondary mutation, but shit like this is really why you’re going to end up living in a tunnel when you grow up.
Evan goes off in search of “some real action,” and finds Wolverine and Cyclops training on the lawn, which I guess basically doubles as a huge outdoor Danger Room.10 Danger Lawn. Whatever. The point is, there is literally no portion of this educational institution that is not laced with deadly weaponry, in this case fancy electronic guns that fire spiky electrified cannonballs.
Evan decides that crashing his elite teammates live-ammo training session with a video camera and a skateboard would be an awesome idea, and almost gets hit by some errant saw blades for his trouble. Wolverine saves him–god only knows why–and grabs the camera to erase the training sequence footage, and check what other gems Evan has managed to record.
What else, it turns out, is Sabretooth, who–master of subtlety that he is–left Evan a “thank you” video for cluing him in to Logan’s location. NICE GOING, EVAN.
As if on cue, proximity alarms go off. Good thing all those lawn cannons were already up and running, huh?
No, I kid. Sabretooth and his fancy pauldrons11 give no fucks about your puny lawn cannons. Fortunately, Storm and the rest of the kids were already posed dramatically behind the door in full costume, just in case. Sabretooth just kind of hangs out while they hit him one by one, then splits.
Professor Xavier–who could probably shut Sabretooth down with a thought–spends the fight watching impassively on a monitor and telepathically guilt-tripping Wolverine for letting Sabretooth track him down. Professor Xavier is a jerk.
The Professor is confident that Sabretooth won’t be back to the mansion, because “he knows the automated defenses will detect him.” What automated defenses would those be, Professor? The ones that completely failed to deter him like ten minutes ago? Or are you actually referring to your students as “automated defenses” now?
Wolverine concurs: Sabretooth is going to want to get Wolverine away from the mansion, alone; and to do that, he’ll need a hostage. Professor X decideds that this will have to be a kid from the school, which strikes me as overly complicated. Wouldn’t it be simpler for Sabretooth to grab a random passerby, maybe one without superpowers? Or does Logan basically only care about saving the lives of people he knows personally?
Doesn’t matter! Because Evan is listening in, and after giving his camera a stern talking-to, he decides that it’s his responsibility to fix the mess he’s made. But how? He gets an idea from the B-plot, where Kitty and Rogue are still fighting over Dracula: The Rock Musical auditions, this time because Kitty’s hogging the only copy of the soundtrack. Evan, sensing the opportunity for a trap that’s roughly in line with the level of common sense he’s previously demonstrated, decides to lure them off to the woods to practice dancing.
“Ladies, ladies,” he says, “Maybe we can all help each other out here.” Oh, Evolution porn dialogue, never change. You are the wind beneath my wings.
Sabretooth watches them leave from the bushes, making a noise that the Hulu closed captions describe as “[growling SOFTLY].”
Meanwhile, everyone else is grounded. “Until I nail that hairball, none of you leave the premises,” Wolverine growls to Scott, who’s understandably kind of pissed off that Logan has decided to hold the entire school hostage to his weird courtship rituals.
In a clearing in the woods, Rogue and Kitty are practicing terrible dancing to what I assume must be the soundtrack to Dracula: The Rock Musical, whose lyrics involve lines like “Ooh, what’s shakin’/You got the vampire’s loooove.” I really wish this episode was just Dracula: The Rock Musical. How awesome would that have been?
Kitty and Evan–who have clearly never been to a goth club–are both judging Rogue for the fact that her definition of “dancing” basically involves slow-motion posing and disaffected glares. Like the beacon of good choices that he is, Evan suggests that Rogue “shed them gloves and give K-girl a tiny tap” to gain some of Kitty’s awkward but enthusiastic flailing skills, because why learn to dance the hard way when you can absorb your classmate’s skills and personality by way of your out-of-control and potentially fatal mutant powers?
Remarkably, Kitty and Rogue decide to go along with this plan, which nets us an ET-style fingertip touch, some more HBO porn dialogue, and a strobe-illustrated moment of power transfer.
Evan is impressed with Rogue’s newly stolen dancing skills, but Sabretooth, who has higher standards, picks that moment to attack.12
“I’ve been expecting you,” says Evan. “You gotta be sharp if you wanna mess with the Spyke.” That’s it. Done. I am straight-up rooting for Sabretooth at this point.
Luckily for Evan, Evolution Sabretooth is not comics Sabretooth, so instead of getting dismembered on the spot or tortured to death in a warehouse basement somewhere, the kids actually manage to hold their own until Logan shows up and distracts Sabretooth just long enough for Rogue to sneak up from behind and absorb Sabretooth’s powers.
This turns Rogue into kind of a werewolf who does not actually look much like Sabretooth, and everyone makes a lot of jokes about body hair, because the only superpowers that really matter are adherence to heteronormative beauty standards.
“You planned this, didn’t you, porcupine?” Logan asks Evan. “Planned” is a pretty generous term, since this particular gambit involved all the foresight of a pratfall. Seriously, how are these children still alive, aside from being characters on a network-supervised cartoon?
Oh, wait, I just answered my own question, there.
The kids want to know what Logan is going to do with Sabretooth, to which the answer turns out to be “have Charles Xavier wipe his brain, then throw him out of the blackbird in fucking Antarctica.” Your heroes, ladies and gentlemen.
Back at Bayville High, the X-men settle down for a bracing night at Dracula: The Rock Musical, which has apparently changed its name to Dracula: The Rock Opera.13 If you were hoping for more than a passing glimpse of this no-doubt epic theatrical masterpiece, you are shit out of luck: as the curtain rises, we cut to Evan’s video, which is about how his family is a bunch of weirdos who live in a mansion on the edge of town like some kind of peppy and brightly colored Addams Family. It’s actually a little heartwarming, but we miss the conclusion in favor of cutting back to the end of Dracula: The Rock Whatever, where Rogue and Kitty are dancing awkwardly to a tinny soundtrack piped in from somewhere in the wings as Jason descends from the ceiling in a fancy coat.
Really, though, isn’t that what family is all about?
1. I’d like to think the water tower is full of discarded lockpicks and instances of the word “kill.”
2. The rest of you can google it later.
3. No. No, you did not. HI, DR. BRADSHAW!
4. Hey, grown-ups! Remember when digital cameras were kind of a huge deal?
5. I’m pretty sure attendance policies aren’t generally “yeah, it’s cool if you skip as long as your buddy has a video camera,” especially in fundamentally hands-on classes like shop; but maybe Bayville is more flexible, what with their rampant superhero population and dubious Current Events curriculum.
6. Actually, the way Jason phrased it, she might come to the not-unreasonable conclusion that he was playing Jonathan Harker. WORDS MEAN THINGS, JASON. WORDS MEAN THINGS.
Tangentially, I like the idea that Bayville’s casting is sufficiently gender-progressive that Jason has to specify that he’s playing the male lead, like they might otherwise assume he had been cast as Mina. Go, Bayville!
7. As it happens, there actually is a real Dracula: The Rock Opera, but it’s spelled Drakula, and it’s not the show Bayville is putting on. THE MORE YOU KNOW! (It is not, alas, performed by a cast of monster trucks, but I can dream.)
9. Something like half the shots of Sabretooth in this show are super close-ups of his face. It’s creepy at first, but it crosses the line into profound silliness pretty fast
10. The whole system is automated, which makes me wonder if the Xavier Institute lawn is just super modular in general, like maybe setting 66A is laser cannons, and 66B is croquet.
11. It’s been a while since we last saw Sabretooth in action. I’d almost forgotten how very, very anime he is. So anime. I bet he goes brooding with Vincent from Final Fantasy VII, assuming Vincent ever got his pants back after Cloud stole them for Kingdom Hearts. In other news, I have clearly put way too much thought in to this.)
12. The first thing he does is smash the CD player, because Sabretooth is a champion of truth and beauty. “Haven’t you goddamn kids ever heard of Sondheim?”
13. Personally, I’m holding out for its third evolution, Dracula: The Rock Oratorio.