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X-Men ’97 Episode 9 Review: The Tale of Two Dreams – The Bastion, Xavier Dichotomy

In the ninth episode of X-Men ’97, “Tolerance is Extinction II,” we delve into the aftermath of divergent dreams that shake the foundations of the mutant and human worlds. While traditionally, we view Professor Xavier and Magneto as ideological opposites within the X-Men narrative, this episode interestingly repositions Xavier against Bastion, drawing complex and provocative parallels.

The Complex Identity of Bastion

Bastion, a character who deviates from his mystical comic origins, is intriguingly portrayed in “X-Men ’97” as not just a Sentinel but genetically a mutant himself—a technopath discovered during the era of the original five X-Men. His vast powers, including technopathy and the ability to manipulate his form and connect with extensive networks, make him a formidable adversary, underscoring the tragic irony of his rejection of his own mutant essence to champion the cause against his kind. His dream is to be humanity’s saviour – on the backs of mutant-kind.

Xavier’s Questionable Tactics

Charles’s dream – being humanity’s saviour – at the expense of mutant culture and sovereignty – is sort of counter to Bastion’s dream. Let’s dive deeper, Charles is a staunch advocate for mutant rights and coexistence and employs methods that raise ethical questions within the mutant community he aims to protect. He establishes a school which, on the surface, serves as a sanctuary and training ground for young mutants. However, his approach sometimes verges on utilitarian, as he seems to recruit these young mutants into his cause, often blurring the lines between education and indoctrination. This tactic of drafting what are essentially child soldiers into his vision of integration—aimed at blending mutant and human societies—can appear manipulative rather than nurturing.

Xavier’s strategy, though well-intentioned toward creating a harmonious coexistence, tends to overlook the importance of cultivating a distinct and vibrant mutant culture. Instead, his focus leans heavily towards integrating mutants into human society, arguably at the expense of erasing or diluting their unique identities and heritage. This oversight places him at odds not just with external adversaries who view his school with suspicion, but also internally with some of his students, who may feel more like tools in his grand design than individuals with personal autonomy.

Adding complexity to his character, Xavier’s interactions in the series often reveal a transactional nature to his affections and allegiances. As depicted poignantly in the episode discussions, his love and care, although profound, sometimes come across as conditional and extended as much as his students and allies contribute to fulfilling his romantic dreams. Rogue’s observation underscores this dynamic distinctly, pointing out that Xavier sometimes fails to recognize the X-Men as people with their own dreams and rights, instead viewing them primarily as means to an end.

This portrayal of Xavier prompts viewers to reflect on the delicate balance between leadership and control and leaders’ moral responsibilities in guiding those who look up to them. Such depictions challenge the audience to consider the implications of leadership that prioritizes ideological goals over its followers’ individual rights and cultural identities.

The Mutant Uncle Toms

This episode poignantly explores the painful themes of cultural betrayal and the complex quest for acceptance. Both Bastion and Xavier, in their unique ways, grapple with aspects of their identities that they ultimately reject for what they perceive as the greater good. Bastion denies his mutant heritage, choosing instead to align with anti-mutant forces. At the same time, Xavier overlooks the creation of a distinct mutant culture in his pursuit of integrating mutants into human society. These choices reflect a broader societal theme where individuals might feel compelled to forsake their cultural or racial backgrounds to assimilate or gain acceptance within a dominant or opposing group.

The narrative invokes the term “Uncle Tom,” a profoundly offensive epithet historically used to describe African Americans who were seen as overly subservient to white individuals. In the show’s context, this comparison highlights how Bastion and Xavier, in their actions, could be perceived as betraying their kind. This analogy is a powerful reminder of the real-world implications of denying one’s identity or heritage to conform to external expectations or ideologies, drawing a parallel between fictional dilemmas and actual societal challenges. This thematic exploration encourages viewers to reflect on the significance of cultural identity and the often harsh realities of seeking acceptance in a world that may demand conformity at the cost of personal and communal authenticity.

Magneto was Only Partially Right

The recent declaration by Val Cooper stating in episode 8, “Magneto was right,” captures only a fragment of the complex ideological spectrum within the X-Men universe. While Magneto’s advocacy for mutant sovereignty and the cultivation of a distinct mutant culture is compelling, it’s crucial to understand the nuances of his vision. Magneto’s approach, driven by his experiences and the trauma inflicted upon him, suggests a desire not just for equality but for a reversal of power dynamics, often veering into the territory where mutants would reign superior—a philosophy that raises ethical dilemmas.

Magneto’s stance could be seen as a necessary push towards recognizing and celebrating mutant identity in contrast to Xavier’s vision, which often seems grounded in integration at the expense of distinct cultural identity. If Charles had aligned with Magneto, providing a moral counterbalance to his more radical ideas, they might have prevented tragedies like the Genosha genocide. Magneto’s acknowledgment of his flaws, evidenced by his choice to invite Rogue as a co-ruler in Episode 5, reflects a self-awareness that Xavier sometimes lacks. This partnership could have balanced their opposing views, blending Magneto’s assertive push for mutant rights with Xavier’s ideals of peaceful coexistence.

However, Magneto’s belief in mutant supremacy, encapsulated in his “Mutants are Gods” philosophy, is problematic. It mirrors the dangerous precipice of turning hurt into a justification for oppression, reminiscent of historical tyrannies where the oppressed become oppressors. A poignant comic panel aptly captures this: “Anybody who chooses to use terror and violence has the ‘power to oppress.’ My hurt is bigger than somebody else’s rights is what made the Nazis.” This highlights the peril in Magneto’s method, underscoring the fine line between seeking justice and perpetuating cycles of violence.

So, while Magneto’s vision contains elements of truth—especially in advocating for the recognition and empowerment of mutants—it also harbours the potential for creating new forms of dominance and conflict, thereby requiring a more nuanced and balanced approach to mutant leadership.

Family Reunions are Messy as Hell

We did have some fun with the reunions, which were more like a drama-filled reality TV show! It’s as if the producers said, “Let’s spice things up a bit.” Enter Mother, The GOAT, Ororo “Storm” Munroe, who floats back into the scene with all the majesty of a weather goddess—seriously, can we get a little thunderclap applause for our queen? The core X-Men team comes together, too, but boy, is it messy as hell. Scott, Roberto, and Rogue are handing out drags like Black Friday and Xavier’s the hottest sale item. If Xavier had any hair left, these read sessions would’ve scalped him clean! Meanwhile, Bastion has a teary moment with his mom, showing that even psychopaths can squeeze out a tear or two—aww, bless his evil little heart. And Magneto? He’s reuniting with his old pal, Asteroid M. Someone get this man a plushie; he needs a cuddle!

With Reunions Come Reckonings: Expanding on the Turmoil and Triumphs

After moments of joy and the epic dragging of Charles come some sorrows and high-stakes reckonings. The bill comes due for Rogue, a character who embodies the spirit of Colossus, as she chooses to side with Magneto, a decision influenced by the ‘Fatal Attraction’ comic. This move, steeped in the tradition of seeking autonomy over mutant destiny, echoes Colossus’s pivotal decisions during the original ‘Fatal Attractions.’ The animation mirrors this alignment, as Roberto, lacking foresight like his comic counterpart, makes the critical error of abandoning Jubilee. This highlights a recurring theme of personal sacrifice and the quest for belonging, evoking a sense of empathy and connection with the characters.

Jean Grey’s evolution is a testament to her strength and resilience. In the animated series, she channels the depth of her comic book saga, particularly from the ‘Fatal Attractions’ period, when every character was pushed to their limits. Jean’s confrontation with Sinister not only revisits her complex relationship with her clone, Madelyne Pryor but also showcases her as a formidable force. The beating she put on Sinister was a moment of triumph, a testament to her power. Her scenes were among my favourites. I loved how the team choreographed the fight, giving us some real depth and finesse to using both her and Sinister’s offensive powers, inspiring a sense of admiration in the audience. Sinister also finally gets his prize, Cable, and we see him possess the Summers boy and pit him against Jean in a telekinetic showdown. Now many people are thinking this is a call back to the recent Sins of Sinister, however I think this is a call back to “X-Men: Deadly Genesis” #2, published in 2006. In this issue, Mr. Sinister is shown manipulating the genetic material of Charles Xavier, a pivotal moment in the storyline involving the Summers brothers and the early days of the X-Men.

We also see Cyclops’s transformation in the series—his rejection of Xavier’s overbearing guidance—parallels his more militant stance in later comics. This shift is reminiscent of his character’s trajectory post-Fatal Attractions,” where he increasingly questions the pacifist boundaries set by Xavier and opts for a more assertive approach toward mutant protection.

We also got a casual piece of information—Moira is not a mutant in this reality akin to her comic counterpart; Charles has confirmed that she’s dead, and the timeline has not reset.

The episode’s gut punch, however, was a nod to one of the most shocking moments in X-Men history—the brutal extraction of Wolverine’s adamantium by Magneto in X-Men #25—is not just a literal painful reunion but a symbolic reckoning of past actions resonating into present crises. This event underlines the enduring theme of “Fatal Attractions”: the drastic actions taken in the name of ideology and survival, which continue to echo in the latest episodes of “X-Men ’97.”

Final Verdict: Omega Level Entertainment

This episode challenges the viewer by positioning Xavier and Bastion as figures who may betray their kind for what they perceive as the greater good. Bastion rejects his mutant identity to align with anti-mutant forces, while Xavier potentially sacrifices distinct mutant cultures for broader human integration. Meanwhile, Magneto advocates for mutant sovereignty, yet his methods risk mirroring the oppression he opposes. These dynamics prompt viewers to question who the real antagonist of the season is: Is it Charles, Bastion, or Magneto? Each character’s complex motivations blur the lines between heroism and villainy, emphasizing the nuanced nature of their conflicts.

Gird your loins, friends – next week’s finale is bound to be an onslaught…. see what I did there?

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