It’s really hard to review a series where the episodes were shown out of order. Do I review them as they aired, or as they were originally intended? I’m following the episode order on Wikipedia for the sake of convenience.
The first episode of this season is the debut of Nightcrawler, which was a long time coming for a fan favorite. While they focus heavily on his religious side, I think they did a great job of representing our dear fuzzy elf. This was followed by adaptations of two important X-men storylines – the Age of Apocalypse and Proteus. The AoA is reinvented pretty dramatically here to fit in more with the cartoon’s timeline, but a lot of the same costumes were used. It’s interesting to note that they put Wolverine and Storm together romantically, something that has at least been hinted at from time to time in the comics. The Proteus storyline is also largely changed, but remains true to its roots of a boy with uncontrollable powers. I haven’t read the original storyline so it’s hard to comment on its accuracies.
Next up are two family related episodes, one for Magneto and the other for Mystique. The Magneto episode, “Family Ties” suffers from the same problem as the Phoenix Saga interpretations did – the High Evolutionary and his mutates (which were introduced early on in X-men stories) look really outdated next to the modern characters. The Mystique episode, “Bloodlines,” is based on X-men Unlimited #4 and I’m pretty sure is the first issue that revealed Mystique was Nightcrawler’s mother. I love both the episode and the issue because they highlight Rogue and Nightcrawler, but apparently my opinion is not the popular one. A lot of the story was later retconned in the comics.
Next up are two Wolverine episodes. The first, “Lotus and Steel” is pretty much season one’s “Cold Vengeance” set in Japan rather than Canada. It’s pretty boring. The second, “Weapon X, Lies, and Video Tape” (fun parody title, isn’t it?) deals with Wolverine’s false memory implants and is much better. Their attempt at a Christmas episode is also fairly Wolverine centric, with the added cheesiness of having Jubilee learn "what Christmas is really all about." “Have Yourself a Morlock Little Christmas” is its name, and you’re much better off not watching this one at all.
The season ends with a four parter that was originally intended to be the end of the entire series. “Beyond Good and Evil” features more time traveling by both Bishop and Cable, all in relation to the fact that Apocalypse is kidnapping all the world’s telepaths so he can destroy the universe and rebuild it as he sees fit. The nicest thing here is that they introduce Psylocke into the series. While it’s kind of odd to introduce a character during your intended series finale, I really love the attitude she has here. The only strange thing is that they twice refer to her as having black/raven hair when it’s clearly lavender. Rachel Summers, the Gamesmaster, Typhoid Mary, Stryfe, and a few other Marvel comics characters I don't recognize are also shown among the telepaths.
I’m not sure that this really would have made a good series finale, as there is just not a lot of wrap up to be found. The most that can be said is that Psylocke, Archangel, and Bishop being present with the X-men at the end makes up the current team that was in the comics at the time. They made lots of mentions to Apocalypse being the embodiment of all evil, and he is banished to the Astral Plane at the end, but seeing as how Mr. Sinister and his crew are allowed to go free, it’s not like they’ve just created peace on earth.
One of the great things about the series is the way they would always throw in quick cameo appearances of various Marvel comics characters like the telepaths I mentioned above. Also during these episodes, there’s a rather annoying guy hanging out with Bishop the whole time who claims to have created the nexus of time, but it’s been so long he doesn’t really remember and he’s basically just the janitor now. At the very end, after Bishop and all the others have left the nexus, he transforms into someone else. I know he’s supposed to be someone from the comics, but I don’t know who.
First person to identify him gets a no-prize.