As we’re nearing the end of the first season of the animated X-Men series from the ’90s, we’re seeing many, many things being set up and almost ready to pay off. Even episodes that didn’t give us a ton of plot gave us a lot in terms of character, with Rogue really becoming a major player. In the lead-up to the final episode, the series gave us what could very well have been a two-episode detour, but actually ends up being way more about the ongoing story arcs than I had remembered. And with “Days of Future Past,” we get yet another version of the evil future, and we get to spend some time with one of the coolest damn characters the show introduced—Bishop.
With the exception of the Phoenix Saga—which the show would tackle in subsequent seasons—”Days of Future Past” is easily the most famous arc in the history of X-Men comics, at least to that point. And it’s so indelible they did the same with the feature film a few years ago. The idea of an apocalyptic future overrun by Sentinels (and it all stemming from one moment) is a time-tested (pardon the pun) science fiction storyline. The entire Terminator franchise is predicated on it, for Pete’s sake. In all three of the versions of the story (comics, TV, movies) the person who time travels is different, and the person who is going to get assassinated is different, but the assassin is always Mystique, because who else would it be?
In the cartoon, the time-traveler is Bishop, a character that had only debuted in the comics the year before. He starts out in 2055 as a mutant bounty hunter working for the Sentinels, rounding up “renegades” which include a very aged Wolverine and a couple other mutants. After capturing them, the Sentinels decide he’s hit his quota and has been added to the list of renegades. This leads to a super sentinel called Nimrod to chase them to Forge’s outpost where Wolverine is meant to go back in time and kill the assassin…an X-Men. Bishop decides to do it himself, because he doesn’t trust Wolverine to kill and old friend, which is fair enough.
But when Bishop gets to the ’90s, he can’t remember why he’s there. Slowly putting things together, he knows he has to go to Xavier’s Mansion, and reveals that one of them is the assassin. Wolverine seems most dubious of this time traveler, but after Nimrod follows him to the present—and most of the X-Men have to fight it off with Bishop—everyone including Professor X is much more amenable. Rogue and Gambit were visiting Beast in jail for most of this, but when they return, Bishop suddenly remembers that Gambit is the assassin.
This TV series is what made Gambit as popular a character as he became, and a lot of it has to do with how he’s sort of duplicitous and that no one really trusts him. He’s incredibly hurt that people would assume he could do this awful thing. The rest of the X-Men decide to accompany the Professor to Congress to discuss mutant rights, leaving Wolverine to babysit Gambit and Bishop—but of course Gambit escapes and makes his way to Washington. But as we know, Mystique is the one behind the assassination of the hateful Senator Kelly. She brings back Avalanche, Pyro, and the Blob to create a distraction while she infiltrates as Kelly’s aide, then takes him aside during the ruckus and changes into Gambit so that the ACTUAL aide, tied up in the office, can witness it.
So, the plot pretty much follows what you’d expect if you’ve seen the movie or read the comic, but what makes this more than just a diversion before the finale is just how much everything in the second episode ties in to the greater narrative. Mystique reveals to Rogue that she was the woman Rogue called “Mamma,” the woman who took her in and tried to get her to use her mutant powers for evil. As much as Rogue hates her, she helps the shape-shifter escape, at which point Mystique says she was forced to attempt the assassination by Apocalypse, and equates her relationship to him with Rogue’s relationship to Professor X. Pretty deep.
And if that’s not enough, we see when Bishop goes back to the future that, though the assassination didn’t happen, the future is still crappy. Forge says something else must have happened besides the assassination of Kelly. It’s not over yet.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger which is pretty great: Professor X, Cyclops, and Jean go in to Senator Kelly’s office to find him kidnapped, with the exterior wall blown out. It wasn’t Mystique’s goons… Professor X knows who it is; his watch has stopped…and has been magnetized. WHOAAAAAA!!!! Magneto is back for the finale. That’s super great.
“Days of Future Past” is a crowning achievement for a great first season of X-Men. It was one of the best animated—and certainly best written—of the season. We’re down to the last episode of the season, “The Final Decision.” It’s going to bring together Magneto and the Sentinel menace with our good guys. And maybe Beast will be involved in some possible way. Let me know what you think of the animated “DOFP” in the comments below!
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and loves X-Men more than he remembered. Follow him on Twitter!