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X-Men ’97’s Astonishing Ending: Explained – Destructoid



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‘Tolerance is Extinction—Part 3’ brought the first season of Disney’s X-Men ’97 to a finale that was as emotional as it was epic. While our titular heroes send Bastion and his army of Prime Sentinels to the scrap heap, the rest of the world assumes that Charles Xavier and his students sacrificed themselves to save them.

Of course, this is a Marvel series, and the final moments of X-Men 97‘s finale reveal that the X-Men are alive. The episode also hints at where the show’s already-confirmed second season may be heading. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s break down the final episode of X-Men ’97 and what its many revelations and cameos mean for the series’ future.

X-Men ’97’s finale ends one story and begins a few more

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To say that things don’t look good for the X-Men at the start of ‘Tolerance is Extinction—Part 3’ is quite an understatement. By the end of the previous episode, a Bastion-possessed Cable had dealt a seemingly fatal blow to Jean Grey, and Xavier was locked in a psychic duel with Magneto, who was trying to send Asteroid M crashing down to Earth.

Thankfully, the tides of battle soon turn in the X-Men’s favor. Xavier convinces Magneto to let go of his pain and fight for a better future. At the same time, a Phoenix-Force-empowered Jean slaps a power-dampening collar onto Bastion, cutting the Prime Sentinel threat off at its source. Refusing to accept defeat, Bastion forces Asteroid M to continue its collision course, driving the U.N. to initiate the “Magneto Protocols” and send a wave of warheads toward the meteor.

Pulling together as a team, the X-Men fight as one and bring Bastion to his knees, allowing Magneto to stop Asteroid M’s descent with his magnetic powers. Unfortunately, Asteroid M explodes, and the X-Men and Magneto are caught in the blast, leaving Juibille, Sunspot, and Forge as the only apparent heirs of Xavier’s dream. However, six months later, a despondent Forge is approached by the X-Men’s time-traveling ally, Bishop, who reveals that the team is alive but scattered across time.

The past and future of the X-Men is apocalyptic

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One group of time-displaced X-Men, consisting of Beast, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Magneto, and Xavier, finds itself in ancient Egypt. They quickly run to the aid of a chalky-skinned mutant menaced by soldiers. After Xavier smooths things over with his telepathy, the mutant reveals his name is En Sabah Nur, which X-Men fans will recognize as the original nom-de-plume of the iconic X-Men villain Apocalypse.

As this happens, Cyclops and Jean awaken in a distant, barren future, where they encounter a clan of robed, tattooed warriors known as Clan Askani, another Apocalypse-related name that comic fans might have clocked. The clan’s leader, Mother Askani, arrives to question the pair, accompanied by a preteen version of their son Nathan Summers. Nathan, born in the series’ second episode, had to be sent to the future after the Techno-Organic Virus infected him, and it looks like this is where he ended up.

On top of all this, a post-credits scene confirms almost beyond a doubt that Apocalypse will be the big bad of X-Men 97‘s second season. Surveying the ruins of Genosha, the mutant nation that went up in smoke in X-Men 97‘s fifth episode, the present-incarnation version of Apocalypse muses on the sorry-state mutantkind is currently in, scooping one of Gambit’s charred playing cards out from the ashes before smiling ominously.

The X-Men may be about to enter the age of apocalypse

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If the hints are anything to go on, X-Men 97‘s second season will be a mash-up of several X-Men storylines centered around Apocalypse. While Apocalypse was one of the main villains of X-Men: The Animated Series, the series never explored the origins of the first mutant. With members of the X-Men face-to-face with the man who will become Apocalypse, X-Men ’97‘s second season is perfectly positioned to adapt 1996’s “The Rise of Apocalypse,” which followed En Sabah Nur’s rise from rebellious slave to tyrannical villain.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cyclops and Jean’s bleak future shares more than a few elements with the one featured in the infamous “Age of Apocalypse” storyline. This crossover event depicts an alternate timeline created when Xavier’s time-traveling son, Legion, accidentally kills his father before he forms the X-Men, allowing Apocalypse to conquer the world. Since the first season of X-Men ’97 focused on villains who wanted to exterminate mutants, it would make sense for the second season to pit the team against a foe who seeks to bring about mutant supremacy.

Apocalypse’s interest in Gambit, who gave his life to end the massacre of Genosha, might be the subtlest nod of them all, but it’s one fan of the Cajun card-slinger (like me) who was happy to see. During the “Blood of Apocalypse” storyline, Gambit joined the ranks of Apocalypse’s guard, the Four Horseman, specifically occupying the seat of Death. With Wolverine, who also became a Horseman, MIA, there’s plenty of reason to worry that some of the most powerful X-Men may not be fighting on the side of justice in X-Men ’97 Season 2.

X-Men ’97 sets the stage for an epic extended animated universe

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If there’s one thing that X-Men ’97 made clear throughout its ten-episode run, it’s that the X-Men aren’t the only superheroes in this animated reimagining of the Marvel Universe. X-Men: The Animated Series aired alongside a few animated Marvel shows, including Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Fantastic Four, and Incredible Hulk. Characters from one show would regularly cameo in another, and X-Men ’97 proved that it was ready to continue that pattern very early on.

While Captain America’s surprise debut in episode 7, “Bright Eyes,” was a delightful surprise, small potatoes compared to the array of cameos that crop up throughout the final three episodes. Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther are just a few of the heroes who show up to lend a hand in the fight against the Prime Sentinels. Perhaps the most surprising was the appearance of Spider-Man, who appeared both in costume and as Peter Pakerer, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Mary Jane Watson and Flash Thompson as Asteroid M closes in on Earth.

With most of the team on opposite ends of history and an increasing focus on non-mutant heroes, it looks like X-Men ’97‘s second season plans to build on everything that made the first season great while expanding the series’ scope to greater heights. Now that the stakes are higher than ever, only time will tell what the future holds for the X-Men.

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