Last week I mentioned how nutso it is to me that the ’90s X-Men cartoon could introduce a character like Apocalypse in the ninth and tenth episodes of a season and have him not be the main villain of the whole thing. It seemed normal to me at the time because I didn’t really know who Apocalypse was, but right now it seems completely absurd. He’s Apocalypse, for First Mutant’s sake! But that’s what they did, and they sure blow through a ton of story in episode 10, “Come the Apocalypse.”
A show about superheroes is only as good as its villains, and the X-Men show has some doozies. In one season, they’ve already introduced Magneto, Juggernaut, and the Sentinels, so by time Apocalypse came around, it was easy to think he was maybe just some pretender. I mean, Magneto was pretty amazing in his two-episode arc. And while we only got a glimpse of Apocalypse’s power—not to mention is booming voice and enormous visage—in “The Cure,” this episode made up for it in spades. Actually, maybe almost too much. Perhaps they were unsure if the show would even continue after the first 13 so they wanted to make sure they got in all the good stuff.
We didn’t get to see much of Warren Worthington III, a.k.a. Angel, in the last episode…and we don’t get to see much of him in this episode, at least not in his regular state. Right as the episode begins, we see Dr. Adler/Mystique turn him into Apocalypse’s first Horseman: Death. Or Archangel, as he’s more often called. Mystique then morphs into a wingless Worthington, telling everyone on Muir Island that he’s cured and everything will be all right of they do the procedure. Evil is one thing, you guys, but deception is something I truly cannot abide! Naturally, other mutants with powers they’d rather give up agree to the procedure and become War, Famine, and Pestilence.
Ultimately, where the movie doesn’t really work for me is with the Horsemen. Moreover, it’s the speed at which Apocalypse and his Horsemen start taking over, and then are easily defeated. While I’ve been applauding the way in which this show has paced itself and foreshadowed storylines and plots in advance, the Apocalypse stuff really could have used another episode or two, which they simply just didn’t have. I’m not faulting the writers at all. Like I said, they might not have thought they’d get more chances. But the speed at which they’re created and then dispatched, with Apocalypse leaving on a spaceship to fight another day, just makes them seem weak.
What I think does really work about the episode is, again, the way they depict Rogue. She’s just coming off of deciding not to give up her powers entirely, and her she is the one who figures out Mystique is behind everything (she doesn’t yet know her connection to Mystique, mind you), and who goes off on her own to find and fight Apocalypse. She almost gets killed in the process, of course, but she goes off on her own to do it, because she thinks she’s the only one who can. And, ultimately, she is the one who saves the day by using her natural mutant ability of sucking energy to zap Archangel, pulling all of Apocalypse’s evil out of him and into herself. She’s strong enough to overcome the evil that’s now inside her, and it allows him—head clear of Apocalypse’s influence—to use his considerable power to stop the Horsemen.
There’s also another moment here of Gambit trying desperately to get with Rogue, or at least flirt with him mercilessly. And while we’ve seen earlier in the series that Rogue “has a way with men” and uses her sexuality to make dumb guys let their guard down, she seems unwilling to even flirt with Gambit, which to me leans toward deeper feelings for the brash Cajun. But Gambit is always a bit off-putting, which leads the team to question his resolve, which will come in very handy with our next entry.
The theme of the first season of X-Men biting off way more than it can chew continues with a two-part “Days of Future Past” riff which introduces the idea of time travel into the narrative, and one of the coolest characters of the whole show, the time-traveler Bishop. Gambit is a major player in these two episodes, and we’ll talk about them both next week. Only two more weeks to go with this column, and they’re gonna be some corkers.
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and sure does love him some X-Men. Follow him on Twitter!