Two things have happened in my re-watch of the first season of the ’90s X-Men cartoon: 1) I’ve become incredibly appreciative of the deep, complex, not-dumbed-down storytelling and writing, and 2) I’ve become all too aware of when the animation isn’t firing on all cylinders. I get it; this was an inexpensive Canadian production and they had to ship a lot of the animation overseas. Maybe different houses didn’t have the same standards as others. Even some odd Batman: The Animated Series episodes early on had this issue. But even the worst looking Batman episodes don’t really have the same level of shoddiness as some of the X-Men episodes do. Sadly, episode eight, “The Unstoppable Juggernaut,” was a culprit of lacking animation.
Following “Slave Island,” which was such an important episode in a lot of ways (and with episodes about the mutant cure, Apocalypse, and the “Days of Future Past” arc all on the horizon), an episode like “The Unstoppable Juggernaut” might seem like a bit of a step backward. But while the animation isn’t the best, it’s actually a good, solid episode for one main reason: it shows the X-Men working together again. Not really since “Night of the Sentinels” have we seen them all working together.
When the team gets back to the mansion, they find it destroyed, without knowing who or what did it. They discover, to their relief, that the Professor is in Scotland, on Muir Island. (We’ll catch up with him next week.) But the question remains: who demolished the school? Wolverine tracks a scent while Rogue, Storm, and Jubilee follow. Jubilee and Wolverine then meet who they think might be the culprit: a Russian immigrant who has been hired to demolish a building. But he’s, of course, a mutant named Colossus, so he destroys the building very easily and the other workers get angry. Wolverine tries to fight the giant metal mutant, but he doesn’t seem to be the guy they’re looking for.
By the title of the episode, we know who it really is: Juggernaut, who is revealed to be Charles Xavier’s half-brother. Now, I’ve never really understood Juggernaut’s whole thing. He seems to look down on mutants because his powers are magical, not genetic. But that is never explained, really. Jean Grey also cannot affect his mind because of the helmet he wears.
Once the X-Men catch up to him, we find him robbing a bank. For what reason? Just for kicks, it seems. After destroying the mansion and finding Charles not there, Juggernaut just decides to peace out and rob things.
Along with Colossus, the X-Men have to try to defeat Juggernaut, and while a lot of this is just simple action using the not-so-great animation quality, there are a few cool beats for each of the characters. Wolverine gets tossed around by both Colossus and Juggernaut, but we get to see how resilient he is. Colossus and Juggernaut have a game of dodge ball using National Guard tanks. Jubilee even gets to prove her mettle, even if she is totally no match for the big brute.
Colossus is in jail at one point and Rogue and Storm try to break him out; Rogue uses her wiles on the guard, and it works! But they also happen to find Beast in jail, still awaiting his trial. It’s a nice little moment to remind everyone that Beast isn’t just a character in the opening titles; he’s an X-Man.
The ending of the episode proves the coolest, though, and it allows Rogue and Jean Grey each to shine. After managing to get Juggernaut’s helmet off, Rogue tries to drain him of his powers, but because they’re magical and not mutant, she absorbs a lot of his personality as well and flies up into outer space, screaming about how Charles is the one their parents loved and nobody loved him. It illustrates why Cain Marko hates Charles Xavier so much, through Rogue. Right after, Jean uses her power on Juggernaut to make him forget what happened and she too sees too much rage and hatred for her mind to handle. But it works, and Juggernaut runs away, unsure who he is.
Even though Colossus decided not to join the school—despite Wolverine telling him the professor would welcome him in a heartbeat—he proved to be a very great asset. I sort of wish Colossus had stuck around. He’s a cool character.
“The Unstoppable Juggernaut” is an okay episode that seems like a bit of a breather before the heavier stuff starts again. Next week we have episode nine, “The Cure,” which includes the return of Cable, plus the beginnings of the Apocalypse storyline It’s some good stuff, let me tell ya. Let me know your thoughts on this episode in the comments below!
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and a lover of all things X-Men. Follow him on Twitter!