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SYFY WIRE Very Important Binge

Very Important Binge: X-Women

By Sara Century

Welcome to Very Important Binge (VIB), where SYFY FANGRRLS tells you how to navigate your favorite TV shows.

In Dark Phoenix (2019), J.Law's Mystique quips, "The women are always saving the men around here. You might want to think about changing the name to X-Women" to a hilariously baffled Xavier. This line might have warranted nearly universal eye rolls on the screen due to the film franchise's highly questionable treatment of its female characters overall, but she has a fair point: X-Women really do make the world go 'round, and they do not get the credit they are due.

The various X-Men animated series are unfortunately also not as female-focused as we would like, but there are a heck of a lot of gems out there if you look for them. To help you on your journey, we've compiled a starter pack of the great X-Women episodes of the X-Men animated universe.

X-Men: Evolution

X-Me: Evolution: Rogue Recruit

Rogue meets a guy named Cody at a party and almost immediately puts him in a coma by touching him, and this is how we learn that she is a mutant with uncontrollable contact-based powers. Much like Rogue of the comics, Evolution Rogue is the adopted daughter of the villains Destiny and Mystique. Mystique manipulates her by posing as various X-Men and attacking Rogue at her most vulnerable. This understandably puts a damper on any kind of healthy relationship between them.

Yet, Jean is able to reach out to the other girl and help her. Though Mystique continues to manipulate Rogue in hilariously Machevillian ways through the entire series, the X-Men still manage to get through to her. Evolution Rogue was the misunderstood goth kid we needed in the early aughts, and this is one of her shining moments.

X-Men: The Animated Series

X-Men: The Animated Series: The Cure

The X-Men animated series have had no shortage of great Rogue-centric episodes, but we would be remiss if we didn't mention this one. The X-Men discover that there is a man named Doctor Adler on Muir Island who believes that he can reverse mutation and thus allow mutants to live "normal" lives. While the other X-Men scoff at the idea, Rogue's powers cost her significantly more than theirs, and she considers the treatment.

Of course, when Rogue makes it to Muir Island, we discover that there's a lot more to Doctor Adler than meets the eye — namely, he's actually Mystique. Rogue ultimately refuses the treatment, which is for the best because it was definitely a trap, but we see a lot of growth from her here as she mournfully accepts her fate.

X-Men: The Animated Series

X-Men The Animated Series: The Phoenix Saga

The entire X-Men franchise, from comics to TV to film and beyond, struggles with Jean Grey. Consistently focusing her journey on the men in her life, this is a character that is always straining to break free, but when she does it usually leads to a surprising amount of, well, death. Which is a problem! Still, though Jean unquestionably deserves better, there are still some highlights. Jean in X-Men: Evolution is a highly capable and compelling character, but even in TAS, where Jean is best known for constantly fainting for no reason, she still has moments that stand out.

The TAS take on The Phoenix Saga is the best arc in all its many seasons. Sure, the standard tropes around Jean becoming "too powerful for her own good" are there, but for the first time in the animated universe, we also get to see her be a total badass. She helps save the entire universe from the threat of the M'Kraan crystal and the despot that wields it and gets her team home safe, which all looks pretty good on the old resume.

X-Men: Evolution

X-Men: Evolution: Walk on the Wild Side

Jean of X-Men: Evolution shows a noted improvement over her TAS persona. The portrayal still isn't perfect, but she is powerful and in-control in ways cartoon-viewers had not yet seen. In this episode, she grows annoyed with Scott's constant interference and grandstanding and tells him he needs to back off. She gets Scott Summers to apologize for "being a guy" and it is hilarious. Meanwhile, Magma and Tabitha Smith run wild and start a group of vigilantes, which a dissatisfied Jean promptly joins.

Any episode where Jean joins a girl gang led by Tabitha Smith that goes around beating up guys that creep on women is fated to be an instant classic, and this is indeed one of the great moments of the Evolution canon. The gang might not stick around for long, and Jean's foray into feminism is a little too short-lived, but we would be lying if we said we weren't rooting for her and her literal crew of vigilantes.

X-Men: The Animated Series

X-Men: The Animated Series: Storm Front

Earth is undergoing massive flux in its weather patterns and a surprisingly neon-colored hurricane rocks D.C. Who better than Storm to call in to help get things under control? Enter: hilariously obscure villain Arkon, who has caused the storms to gain protection for his planet, Polemachus. Ignoring the reddest of flags, Storm agrees to help this dreamy man in a loincloth. She travels to his planet and uses her powers to get the storms under control. Unfortunate side effect: she falls in love with Arkon, who does not come anywhere near being in her league.

This two-parter is a little goofy to say the least, but there are some fun dynamics as Wolverine, Cyclops, and Beast wander around Arkon's planet and perhaps a bit too slowly come to realize that it is indeed a slave society that Arkon rules with an iron fist. Storm does spend a lot of this story acting dreamy-eyed over a schmuck, but she also gets to show off her chops as she both prevents and causes several large scale hurricanes. Also, Jubilee is the one that finally gets through to her, so this episode features a lot of tender moments between two of the best X-Women around.