The X-Men ’97 Finale’s Dark TAS Connection Hints at a Sad Team Twist

X-Men '97's show runner has hinted at the themes of the final three episodes of season one, and it doesn't look good for the unity of Xavier's team.

X-Men 97
Photo: Marvel Studios

This X-Men ’97 article contains spoilers.

Like its predecessor X-Men: The Animated Series, X-Men ’97 remixes classic stories from X-Men comics to make them more palatable for television. But X-Men ’97 is also very much a continuation of TAS, returning to stories and themes that first aired almost three decades ago.

So it’s no surprise that season one showrunner Beau De Mayo has suggested that fans go back to a few classic TAS episodes ahead of the three-part X-Men ’97 finale, titled “Tolerance Is Extinction.” De Mayo points to the following story arcs specifically: “One Man’s Worth Parts 1 and 2,” “Sanctuary Parts 1 and 2,” “Descent,” and “The Final Decision.”

What do these recommendations tell us about the highly-anticipated finale of what some are already calling the best X-Men adaptation ever?

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Season one’s “The Final Decision” and season five’s “Descent” focus on Bolivar Trask and Mister Sinister, respectively, two baddies who have already made their presence felt in X-Men ’97. In “The Final Decision,” the team battles against Trask’s Master Mold, in a battle that results in a massive change of heart in the bigoted Senator Kelly. “Descent” takes place in Victorian England, where the geneticist Nathanial Essex matches wits with Professor X’s ancestor James Xavier while hunting Jack the Ripper. Essex loses when his wife Rebecca Grey, the great-great grandmother of Jean Grey, reveals his hideous experiments, driving him to become Mister Sinister.

But the more compelling plot points occur in the pair of two-parters mentioned by De Mayo. “Sanctuary” from season three sees Magneto establish a new base in space, dubbed Asteroid M, where he and his new group of followers, the Acolytes, welcome dejected mutants. And yet, when Fabian Cortez of the Acolytes kills Magneto and blames the attack on the X-Men, Xavier fears that his dream has indeed died.

The season four episode “One Man’s Worth” has an even more remarkable history, as it inspired Age of Apocalypse, one of the most popular comic book storylines of the 1990s. When the time-traveling villains Trevor Fitzroy and Nimrod kill Xavier long before he can found the X-Men, Earth has no defense against Apocalypse. In the new present, a radically different version of the X-Men and the Avengers do battle, while Bishop and his sister Shard try to set things right.

In other words, these storylines bode poorly for the X-Men. Old rivalries have cooled in the first season of X-Men ’97, with Magneto leading the team while Xavier explores space with the Sh’iar Empire. Magneto seemed to die in the Master Mold attack that destroyed Genosha and killed several mutants, including Gambit, but the most recent episode revealed that the Master of Magnetism still lived, albeit captured by Bastion.

The chaos on Earth has reached Xavier, certainly driving him back to Earth. But with Bastion’s Operation Zero Tolerance able to make Prime Sentinels out of he and Mister Sinister’s previous captive Bolivar Trask, Magneto’s eventual freedom may not be what it seems.

Moreover, all of this comes after the most shocking rebuke to Professor X’s dream of mutant/human peaceful cohabitation. When the mutants formed their own country on the island of Genosha, humanity seemed to respond by destroying the island and committing genocide against people who did nothing against them.

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In the comics, events such of these have driven the X-Men apart. Most recently, a furious Cyclops led a group of more militant X-Men, including Emma Frost and Colossus, in warfare against humanity. At the same time, Wolverine and Storm tried to hold to Xavier’s dream at the newly-built Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. The two groups clashed violently, trying to determine the best way to live in a world that hates and fears them.

Even if the final three episodes of X-Men ’97 don’t go quite as far as that, it’s clear that Xavier’s Dream faces unprecedented pressure, and the world of Marvel’s Merry Mutants will never be the same.

X-Men ’97 is now streaming on Disney+.