X-Men ’97’s Most Explosive Episode Just Changed Mutant History

X-Men '97

by Nicola Austin |
Updated on

Contains spoilers for Episode 5 of the new series of X-Men '97.

Whether it’s the iconic killer intro, the heartfelt central themes of acceptance, or the fun mutant melodrama, the animated exploits of Charles Xavier and his ragtag team of X-Men have long held a special place in ‘90s kids’ hearts. The beloved X-Men: The Animated Series proved a firm staple in the Saturday morning cartoon line-up – for many, it was the seminal superhero series. While the show would often strike a fine balance between epic apocalyptic battles and quieter, more character-driven moments (were you Team Cyclops or Team Wolverine?), no matter the struggle, the X-Men would always show up to save the day.

X-Men 97

Not anymore. Acclaimed revival series X-Men ‘97 kicked off with a fun, fully nostalgia-fuelled run of episodes transporting viewers back to the golden era of mutants – until, with Episode 5, ‘Remember It’, showrunner Beau DeMayo pulled the rug out from under viewers with a big, devastating shake-up. Check in on the X-Men fans in your life – they’re likely reeling in its wake.

The incredibly ambitious episode delivered a half-hour full of jaw-on-the floor twists and turns, topical politicking, and – most shockingly – the unexpected deaths of multiple beloved characters, tapping into comics lore while catching viewers entirely off-guard. As the climactic showdown unravelled, we lost not one, but two major X-Men characters in the process: the master of magnetism, Magneto, and the ever-charismatic, card-bending Cajun, Gambit. Suddenly, events in this formerly cosy cartoon world feel so gut wrenchingly final.

And the killer blow? The destruction and massacre inflicted by the Godzilla Sentinels took place amid a joyous celebration of mutantkind’s first major step in being acknowledged by humans, with the island of Genosha set to be fully recognised by the United Nations. On the brink of acceptance, the marginalised community there were brutally attacked and massacred, their safe haven destroyed, their dreams of peace suddenly up in flames. DeMayo pulled no punches.

Suddenly the warmth and nostalgia of the past proves little comfort.

Throughout the X-Men franchise’s impressive comic book run, TV shows, and subsequent films and solo spinoffs, the essence at the heart of the mutant team has always been one of hope, even in the face of adversity and hatred. Despite experiencing a multitude of prejudice and discrimination, acts of violence, and even fighting amongst their own kind (here’s looking at you, Magneto), the X-Men have always made it through, side-by-side. Until now.

After the episode debuted, DeMayo revealed that this instalment formed the centrepiece of his pitch for the series – noting how it mirrors the shared experience, shock and trauma of a generation growing up to face an uncertain future following the fallout of global tragedies such as 9/11 and the COVID pandemic. The world is now certainly a different place for those who spent their childhoods watching the Saturday morning cartoon, and this unexpected sudden shift in tone, paired with such death and destruction, makes the events of ‘Remember It’ feel all the more pertinent and emotionally devastating – much like the shock of witnessing the death of Wolverine in Logan. Suddenly the warmth and nostalgia of the past proves little comfort.

Following the series-opening twist that Xavier had left frenemy Magneto everything in his will, X-Men ’97 has centred a large amount of its narrative on the former villain’s arc: his attempts to win the trust of both mutants and humankind, honouring Xavier’s legacy of peace while battling his own vengeful nature. In these first five episodes, not only have viewers felt the loss of Charles Xavier, but they’ve also witnessed the obliteration of Magneto too. The two characters who started it all are both gone – and it cuts deep.

Furthermore, the death of fan-favourite Gambit will certainly hit hard for many, as the ragin' Cajun and Rogue were undoubtedly the romantic ‘it’ couple of both the show and comic books (move over Cyclops, Jean Grey and Wolverine!). Over the years, both mutants’ arcs have developed significantly after joining the X-Men – the charming energy-powered scoundrel transformed from outlaw to hero; similarly, Rogue began as a villain before joining the team. With X-Men ’97 putting a spotlight on their complex relationship and evolving dynamic – particularly with Magneto in the picture – DeMayo has invested significant runtime in furthering viewers’ emotional connection with the trio. And since Rogue and Gambit’s intertwining arcs were seemingly set to culminate in a coupled-up endgame, the latter’s subsequent sacrifice to save Genosha feels all the more heart-wrenching. As Rogue clutches Gambit’s lifeless body and utters, “Sugar, I can't feel you", it really does feel like the end of an era.

X-Men 97

In his statement after the episode, DeMayo hinted at Gambit’s true fate – and unfortunately, it’s not looking good for the iconic character. “Yes, it looked like Gambit’s story was going in a specific direction” he explains. “The crop top was chosen to make you love him. Him pulling off his top was intentional. There’s a reason he told Rogue any fool would suffer her hand in a dance. But if events like 9/11, Tulsa, Charlottesville… teach us anything, it's that too many stories are often cut far too short.” Gulp.

The climactic mid-season showdown has undoubtedly ripped up the rulebook, profoundly changing the direction of the series and the team roster. Despite being an X-Men property, well-known for integral characters not staying dead for long (welcome back, Hugh Jackman, in Deadpool & Wolverine), the gravitas of the events and DeMayo’s comments certainly imply that they may stick here – which would change mutant history. Marvel has previously pulled off devastating heartbreak with Iron Man’s sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame, and when they do, the stories feel all the more refreshing for it. Assuming that Gambit and Magneto are truly dead – the caveat here being that, if the show follows comic book storyline E Is For Extinction, (POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING) Magneto may survive like he did in a similar Sentinel attack with the help of the Morlocks – then the remaining group of spandex-clad superheroes will face an uncertain future, weighing up whether this is the time for justice or healing.

The Genosha attack looks set to have a lasting impact

Either way, X-Men ’97 just proved well and truly that it isn’t messing around. These events will have huge ramifications on the tail end of the season – opening up a whole new chapter for both the team and viewers alike; uncertainty abounds. There are clues for what might be next, though. With the newly-introduced Cable waiting in the wings – and the timey-wimey implications that come with that character – it could go down an alter-the-past-to-save-the-present route, just like X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Or perhaps there’s another villain waiting in the wings, as Sentinel sightings often point to mutant-aimed misdeeds from the architects behind the Sentinel program, Henry Gyrich and Bolivar Trask, who have both appeared in an earlier episode. If Grant Morrison’s 2001 New X-Men is a touchpoint –which also featured a slaughter on Genosha by Sentinels – the mastermind behind the attack could be super villain Cassandra Nova, who coincidentally (or perhaps not) is expected to make her live-action debut in Deadpool & Wolverine this July.

For all the darkness here, it seems X-Men ’97 has a bright future. Production for Season 2 is on track, with a third season recently confirmed by Marvel Studios producer Brad Winderbaum. The heroes will undoubtedly pick up the pieces and move on for a new era (and new look) of the X-Men – but the Genosha attack looks set to have a lasting impact. For now, viewers who have grown up with these characters will be waiting with baited breath to see whether the monumental gut-punch ending of ‘Remember It’ really does stick.

Suddenly the sad Wolverine meme feels all the more relatable. “To me, my X-Men” will never be the same again without Gambit.

X-Men ’97 is streaming now on Disney+

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us