The first season of X-Men Evolution was a very simple, straightforward teen action/drama show for kids. Simple, if important lessons and ideas that children need to understand while also being fairly faithful to the comics. Considering the era it was made in, and even now, it was faithful and wanted to push some ideas forward. The second season goes bigger.
The second season pushes to be bigger and better than the first season in ways that make me think this is the show they always wanted to make, but uses the time wisely so it wasn’t jarring. This season starts off with the Xavier institute getting a fuller cast of students aside from the main six. The Brotherhood, now directionless, feels more bold and daring without their leader Mystique. The first big change comes in getting mutants out in the open to add an extra layer of tension, possible stories, and political theming to everything. That pays off almost immediately with the how that intersects with the new principal and his own schemes. It is just overall bigger and better.
When I started this little series I knew X-Men Evolution was my idea of X-Men, what I didn’t know was that my idea of X-Men is basically just this season. I had seen a couple episodes of season 1, but upon watching season 2 I had seen most all of them, and looking ahead at 3 or 4 I don’t recall anything.
Overall, though, this season is overall consistent with last season. Much of the writing, animation, and adaptation done to the X-Men carries over. Oddly enough dialogue has increased in quality over anything else. There are many, many lines that are very good and help build character or theme more than last season.
The episode structure is very similar from last season. It’s a majority of one off character episodes that have a story developing subtly in the background with a climactic two-parter at the end. However it is both better and worst this time around. It is better based purely on how much more thematically consistent the season is based on the first episode’s thesis. In that the Brotherhood wants mutants out in the open and every episode deals with people’s reaction to mutants when they see them. It is worse because many episodes are just fine and make the season uneven.
This unevenness comes from the increased cast, and the New Mutants specifically. Many high school shows have to deal with younger characters coming into the show but that usually happens much later. Starting in season two here the cast grows quite big with staples like Beast joining the crew while the New Mutants like Jubilee, Iceman and other I’ve never heard before like Samara, Wolfsbane, and Cannonball are also added. These new characters just do not have a whole lot of personality to them, and often have the same arc of being cocky but put in their place. They also take away from the core cast as the new characters are given the spotlight. This leads to the shows biggest problem.
With having thematically consistent one-off episodes that don’t dedicate their time to background stories going on it makes parts of the status quo, or character motivations unclear. Scott, Jean, and Rouge have a love pentagon with two high school classmates that kind of just stews. Both Jean and Scott are too timid to really take the next step so they both settle with who comes to them. That could be an interesting story but the show doesn’t seem to realize this. Similarly, Mystique and Magneto are is doing their own work in the background but it’s not clear on their goals or motivations till the last episodes.
Most of the season is good, enjoyable X-Men fair. They build the world in fun ways, like Logan working with Captain America in WW II, and save Magneto from a PWO (Cause I guess Concentration would be too dark) camp, or have interesting stories on abusive parents who take advantage of their children’s gifts. They’re good, but last two episodes really show how interesting the season could have been. In the final episode it has Xavier and the X-Men dealing with Magneto while Mystique and her gang have their own plans, and humans have a faction of their own at play. It shows a series with a nice scale that balance all those different stories, goals, and arcs well that it makes the fact most of it hasn’t been concretely setup unfortunate. Magnet just shows up with his own team, and Trask is around now. Both could have used more setup overall and shows how much better the season could have been if it juggled the different stories better.
There are more connections I noticed from this series that spread out to the rest of the Marvel universes. Scarlet Witch shows up, and when she gets her outfit it seems really close to the MCU version. Kitty, again, feels like she was part of the inspiration for the Joss Whedon version of that character as well. And finally, a group of female mutants creating their own team is something revisited in the comics often.
This season is far bolder than the previous one. For one it gives a dangling plot thread with Apocalypse on the horizon. On top of that it ends on a very interesting cliff hanger that gives the show a lot of potential now that we are reaching less well worn territory for me. It is exciting, and maybe they can balance the individual and season long stories better.
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