As a nerd of a certain age, I grew up on the 90s X-Men The Animated Series. As is the package deal with being a nerd, I had to get allergy shots every Saturday morning, so my dad would set up our VCR to tape episodes of the cartoon when they aired. It was the best part of my week. I didn't even care if it was a rerun. X-Men: The Animated Series was a pre-cursor to other more serialized geek shows (and definitely what prepared me for my love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and LOST).
I'd watch episode of the cartoon and immediately reenact them with my X-Men action figures. The cartoon sometimes tackled themes that baby gay Ian most definitely did not understand but I'd also like to think it helped shape me into the shitty liberal I am today. The cartoon taught post-allergy shot Ian a lot about social injustice without that young fifth grader even knowing it.
And then there was that one Christmas episode. Let's revisit, shall we?
The episode opens on Jubilee, Rogue, and Cyclops singing Christmas Carols around their oversized Christmas tree at Xavier’s Mansion. No one is particularly great at singing but they make it a point to say (and show) how bad Cyclops is. And he is bad. Like, hilariously bad. The cartoon knew these characters really well and show what a boring leader-type Cyclops is.
Wolverine, who Rogue hysterically calls “Grumpus,” is sitting staring at the fireplace right next to them. He hates Christmas yet is making sure he’s in the one room of their giant mansion where people are putting up decorations and singing Christmas Carols. He’s just sitting and staring into the fireplace like a he’s pondering about his lost sled Rosebud. Jubilee asks him to join their singing about Wolverine gives his beloved sidekick the stinkiest stink eye.
Cyclops—yes Cyclops—says Wolverine hates fun. GIRL.
Rogue says it’s Jubilee’s first Christmas as a member of the X-Men. This episode is from the fourth god damned season of the show. Jubilee freaks out about the regular lookin’ star tree-topper, saying she’s never seen one like it, even though their tree doesn’t seem to phase her even though it’s bigger than my first NYC apartment.
We then cut to Jean Grey flipping shit on Gambit for trying to help her cook Christmas dinner. She even uses her powers against him—it all feels like a Max Wittert comic. All it needs is someone telling Jubilee to shut up at the end.
This kitchen scene also begs the question, why is Gambit dressed like a cartoon Disney chef if he wasn’t supposed to be helping? “The day I need your help in the kitchen is the day that I STOP COOKING,” is legit what Jean yells at Gambit as she uses her powers to throw him against the cabinets. She’s seconds away from yelling, “I AM DARK PHOENIX.” That fact that Jean is about to go full Dark Phoenix on Gambit for trying to add’ cayenne pepper to her food, so you can be sure Jean’s food is white as hell.
We then cut to Beast, who is shown hanging upside making non-alcoholic ale (which he at first calls ale but then makes sure, because it’s a children’s cartoon, to say it’s non-alcoholic) and is speaking like Frasier Crane after he’s hit the blunt too hard. But also, Beast has got some THIGHS.
We then find Professor X and Storm…watching all the holiday events on surveillance cameras? Which, I guess, it’s technically not just a living space but a dangerous superhero headquarters but I don’t know, man—what if like, Beast had to fart or Rogue needed to pick her butt?
There’s a very loud explosion and Storm, sounding like an early 90s Jenna Maroney, yells, “Under attack—on CHRISTMAS EVER?” Storm, girl, the mansion is under attack very other day. But this specific attack ends up only being Beast’s cranberry glaze exploding because…sure. Wolverine runs in, hoping it's an attack and is disappointed to learn his teammates aren't being ripped apart by the likes of Sabretooth, it's just some holiday hijinks.
Jubilee then convinces Grumpus to go shopping with her and Storm on Christmas Eve in NYC. I’m no Grumpus (OK, maybe I am) but even I think that sounds like the fucking worst. She then, once again, mentions how it’s her first Christmas with the X-Men AND DID EVERYONE FORGET IT’S THE FOURTH SEASON AND SHE’D BEEN IN THIS CARTOON SINCE THE VERY FIRST EPISODE?!
During their short mall visit, Wolverine gets so mad at a salesperson who sprays him with cologne that Storm literally has to grab his arm so he doesn’t stab the god damned salesperson.
Storm then points to the exit and tells him to escape and he runs out of the mall. Sure fine whatever.
With no real transition at all, we then cut to a scene of them all ice skating in what looks like Rockefeller Center. Wolverine tells Jubilee she doesn’t wanna know what he’d consider fun right now and like…CAN GRUMPUS TAKE A XANAX?! Is he about to stab jubilee too? The Morlocks crash onto the ice rink in a stolen ambulance. We then get to the main plot—the Morlocks need help. It’ a snoozer of a plot. They tell Storm she's their leader (after that very comic accurate episode where she wins leadership over them when kicking Callisto's ass) but she’s never around to help when they need it (which is a very legit complaint). We find out Leech is sick and needs help but was turned away at the hospital because even this cartoon understood what the X-Men stood for better than the movies ever did. The X-Men arrive in the Morlocks's sewer hideout to find everyone gathered around Leech.
Storm agrees to help, Jubilee complains about her presents/missing Christmas Eve dinner, and Wolverine continues to be Grumpus. Storm and Callisto fight next to Leech as Wolverine finds out Leech is dying. Wolverine yells for Storm and Callisto to shut up and it’s kinda hilarious. Storm asks the shapeshifting Morlock, Ape, to transform into a…table (seriously) so Wolverine can lie next to Leech as they try some weird mutant blood transfusion thing. I had to google this, but Ape is a legit Morlock from the comics and not someone made up for the cartoon. That’s another thing Fox could’ve learned from this cartoon—they almost always used legit characters from the comics and not half-assed versions or made-up characters for the background (like half the students at Xavier’s in the movies).
Jubilee meets a little girl Morlock who asks her, “what is miracles?” because this episode is very heavy-handed. The little girl looks like Lady Gaga when her eyes are all big in the “Bad Romance” video but…more precious and green.
We then cut to Jean and Gambit’s kitchen fight. Jean calls Gambit a swamp rat and throws a fucking giant stick of broccoli at him, which Cyclops deflects with his optic blast and Rogue catches. It’s a really silly beat. Everyone needs to relax and smoke some weed.
Professor X enters and tells them Storm called him and blah, blah, blah. The idea of a whole episodes based on Jean and Gambit fighting over cooking is way more interesting than what the episode actually based around. Beast and Rogue come in and Callisto instantly starts yelling and Best yells, “ONE MOMENT” and I honestly have never been more aroused by Beast.
Beast says Wolverine’s blood transfusion worked—Leech wakes up and everything is fine (unless you’re a sewer dwelling Morlock because then you’re still, well, a sewer dwelling Morlock). The little girl Jubilee has befriended shows Jubilee the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Leech set up for the Morlocks. It’s all very precious or whatever.
Storm then realizes she’s a shitty fucking leader to the Morlocks and gives said leadership back to Callisto. It’s as dramatic and wordy a monologue as you’d expect from an animated version of your theater major ex. We then see Jubilee give out her presents (which she says are mostly food???) to the Morlocks. The X-Men skip Gambit and Jean’s Christmas Eve dinner.Cue Gambit and Jean arguing because the rest of the X-Men are eating in the sewer with the Morlocks. Jean’s edible must’ve kicked in because suddenly she’s ten times more chill than Gambit about it.
This episode is weird and dramatic and precisely the kind of nonsense that made this 90s cartoon PERFECT.