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X-Men: Evolution's 7 Best And 7 Worst Episodes

Debuting in November of 2000, "X-Men: Evolution" is the third animated "X-Men" adaptation to hit the small screen. While it may not match the prestige of the beloved 1990s show "X-Men: The Animated Series" in the minds of most X-Men fans, "X-Men: Evolution" has built a cult following thanks to its nuanced character portrayals and surprisingly riveting high school drama. The show's twist is that it depicts many of the most famous members of the X-Men while they're still attending high school, a move that hearkens back to the early X-Men comics that were published in the 1960s.

"X-Men: Evolution" was also the first animated series to debut after the release of Fox's live-action "X-Men" film in 2000, and the influence of that popular theatrical release is definitely felt in the show's look and tone. All of this helped to make "X-Men: Evolution" an exciting entry for X-Men fans, with many episodes really standing the test of time. Others, unfortunately, have not aged as well. With that said, here's a look at the best and worst episodes of "X-Men: Evolution."

Best: Fun & Games (Season 2, Episode 4)

One of "X-Men: Evolution's" greatest strengths lies in its teenage characters, and all the drama that one might expect would go along with being in high school. "Fun & Games" is a great example of just how much that drama elevates the show's quality, even overshadowing the superhero elements of the story at times. "Fun & Games" begins with Professor Xavier being called away from the school due to an issue involving Juggernaut's containment. Because the other teachers, Storm and Wolverine, are otherwise occupied, Professor Xavier leaves his eldest students, Cyclops and Jean Grey, in charge.

Unfortunately for Jean and Cyclops, the younger students don't respect the authority they were given, and set up a plan to get the two stranded in the forest so they can throw a party. "Fun & Games" is one of the show's lighter episodes, chock full of hilarious moments that help build the dynamics between the students. It also takes place at a pivotal moment in Jean and Cyclops' relationship, with their romantic tension at an all-time high, making their time stranded out in the wilderness together all the more exciting.

Worst: Grim Reminder (Season 1, Episode 11)

"Grim Reminder" offers one of many attempts to tell Wolverine's origin story, involving the dreaded Weapon X program. The episode kicks off when Wolverine begins having dreams about breaking out of the Weapon X containers and stumbling out into the snow. He decides to go investigate, heading off on his own. Unbeknownst to him, Kitty and Nightcrawler stow away in the jet he takes on his journey. This ends up being lucky for him, as his dreams are actually a telepathic calling from an unnamed Weapon X doctor, and his conflict with the doctor leaves Logan in need of Kitty's help to break free of his mind control.

While the mentor/mentee relationship between Wolverine and Kitty really shines in "Grim Reminder," the episode as a whole suffers from the oversaturation of Wolverine origin stories in X-Men media. In comparison to other adaptations, such as "X-Men 2" and various "X-Men: The Animated Series" episodes, "Grim Reminder" falls short when it comes to providing Wolverine with a satisfying backstory. Considering that he and the other teacher characters were never really the focus of "X-Men: Evolution" in the first place, it might have been better to just leave the Weapon X storyline alone.

Best: Survival of the Fittest (Season 1, Episode 9)

After spending the first few episodes of the series building the rosters of the X-Men and their rival group the Brotherhood, "Survival of the Fittest" pits the two teams against each other before forcing them to work together. The majority of the episode takes place at a summer camp where Bayville High is taking its students for a fitness retreat. Members of both the X-Men and the Brotherhood are there, and the two teams start a fierce competition. It's only when Juggernaut escapes and threatens both Mystique and Xavier that the opposing teams realize they need to stand together to protect their teachers.

"Survival of the Fittest" does a great job of utilizing the friction that has been building between the two teams over the handful of episodes leading up to it. Members of both teams had almost joined the other in previous episodes (Avalanche almost recruited Shadowcat and Jean almost recruited Blob, for example), making the competition extremely personal. The animosity between the X-Men and the Brotherhood makes it all the more satisfying when the groups finally do manage to team up for a common goal.

Worst: X-Treme Measures (Season 3, Episode 6)

"X-Treme Measures" is one of "X-Men: Evolution's" strangest episodes. What begins as a story involving Spyke's love of skateboarding snowballs into one of the show's darkest installments, and ends up having lasting consequences that hurt the show as a whole. "X-Treme Measures" kicks off with X-Men member Spyke, who is the show's only original character on the X-Men team, entering a skateboarding competition. The competition is sponsored by Pow-R 8 soda. However, it turns out that Pow-R 8 is toxic to mutants, and expands his mutation dramatically, permanently disfiguring him and making it impossible to hide his mutation.

While this sounds like an interesting premise to further develop Spyke's character, "X-Men: Evolution" makes the unfortunate decision to instead write Spyke out of the show, having him join the Morlocks and go underground. After "X-Treme Measures," Spyke only briefly returns for a cameo in Season 4. Given that Spyke was set up as the heart of the show in Season 1 as the group's newest recruit, giving him such a depressing ending feels unfair, especially when the events of the episode could have been used to guide his character arc in a new and exciting direction.

Best: Joyride (Season 2, Episode 8)

"Joyride" is an episode that only works because of its excellent character dynamics. The plot involves the Brotherhood member known as Avalanche wanting to leave his crew and join the X-Men. He's mostly interested in changing sides because of his crush on X-Men member Kitty Pryde, though it's clear at times that he also really wants to turn over a new leaf. Unfortunately, he has bad timing, and he happens to join just as the younger mutants, led by Iceman, decide to start stealing cars at night and going on joyrides. This leads Cyclops and other X-Men members to blame Avalanche, and by the time they realize it wasn't him, his view of the X-Men has soured; ultimately, he leaves to rejoin the Brotherhood.

Of all the X-Men characters that "X-Men: Evolution" depicts, Avalanche is one of the of the most heavily altered from the comics, giving him dimensions rarely seen in other versions. While the Avalanche of the comics is a violent brute, "X-Men: Evolution's" Lance Alvers is a brooding teenager who often wants to be a better person, but struggles with his situation as a mutant and falls back into bad habits. "Joyride" really solidifies his place as one of "X-Men: Evolution's" most compelling and relatable characters.

Worst: Operation: Rebirth (Season 2, Episode 14)

"Operation: Rebirth" is another Wolverine-focused episode, and much like "Survival of the Fittest," its handling of Logan's past, and the characters that come along with it, leaves a lot to be desired. The episode introduces Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a former associate of Wolverine. He enlists Wolverine's help in recovering Rebirth, the machine that turned Captain America into a super soldier during World War II. Wolverine had believed the machine to be destroyed, having worked together with Captain America to make sure it was never used again.

Much of the episode focuses on the relationship between Wolverine and Captain America. The two served together during World War II, and Captain America was one of the few people that had truly earned Logan's respect. Sadly, this relationship never feels genuine enough to care about. The episode employs numerous flashbacks, but each one only uses narration from Wolverine, never giving Captain America any dialogue. Not being able to actually see how the two interacted and worked as a team leaves their friendship feeling hollow, and the episode's stakes nonexistent.

Best: Ghost of a Chance (Season 4, Episode 7)

"Ghost of a Chance" is one of "X-Men: Evolution's" most experimental episodes. While the mixed scores on IMDb show that "Ghost of a Chance" might not have been for everyone, the episode also includes one of the series' most memorable and intriguing mysteries. After a dirt bike accident leaves Shadowcat stranded in the desert, she ends up meeting a mutant named Dani Moonstar. Shadowcat brings Dani back to Xavier's mansion, and the two quickly become best friends. But after a few days, Dani suddenly disappears, with no one remembering she existed except for Kitty.

The episode really stands out thanks to the mind games it plays with Kitty as well as the audience. "Ghost of a Chance" is told completely from Shadowcat's perspective, leaving the audience to wonder if Kitty really did invent Dani in her mind. Her fellow X-Men teammates, save for Nightcrawler, don't believe her, sending Kitty on a quest to find her friend and prove she's real. The final twist reveals that Dani was in a cocoon the entire time, and had mentally reached out to Kitty for help, putting a memorable spin on the character and her impressive set of powers.

Worst: Retreat (Season 2, Episode 12)

While "X-Men: Evolution" typically succeeds in adeptly blending the lighter tones of the show's school drama with the darker themes of bigotry that the mutants face, "Retreat" ends up being a strange tonal misfire, and its story involving bigfoot hunters capturing Beast to sell him to bigfoot aficionados plays Beast's capture way too heavily as a goofy romp, not giving his enslavement the seriousness and gravity it deserves.

"Retreat" starts out on a promising note. Kitty, knowing that Beast has been feeling depressed, organizes a field trip with the New Mutants and asks Beast to be their chaperone. The plan goes well initially, with Beast feeling at peace out in the forest and the younger mutants getting a chance to relax. Things go sideways, however, when a group of hunters capture Beast. Beast tries to reason with one of them but is unable to talk himself free, leaving the New Mutants with the task of freeing him. The episode's oddball premise sadly leads to little laughs or intriguing social commentary, and barely feels like the same show.

Best: The Stuff of Heroes (Season 3, Episode 2)

"The Stuff of Heroes" takes place in the aftermath of the events of the Season 2 finale that ended up publicly exposing mutants to the world, thereby putting the lives of every member of the X-Men in danger. Xavier's mansion has been destroyed, and the X-Men members that hadn't been scattered prior to the destruction hide out inside a cave and are watching the mutant hearings on TV. While Wolverine's first instinct is to fight back against humans, Cyclops stops him, knowing it will only make things worse.

Eventually, Cyclops rallies the X-Men to take down Juggernaut, who's been on a destructive rampage. This episode is one of the best when it comes to displaying the X-Men as a superhero team. Cyclops finally comes into his own as their leader, charismatically leading them to victory against Juggernaut, even in the face of overwhelming hatred toward mutants from the people they're trying to save.

Worst: Mutant Crush (Season 1, Episode 4)

"Mutant Crush" serves as the introduction of Fred Dukes, better known as Blob, one of the X-Men's most popular villains. The episode starts with Jean and Logan scouting Blob and hoping he'll join the X-Men. Blob, who has trouble making friends, quickly becomes attached to Jean, who helps him to calm his outbursts of anger. But when Blob tries taking their relationship in a romantic direction, Jean turns him down, as she is already dating a guy named Duncan. Giving in to another angry outburst, Blob knocks Jean out, ties her up, and tries to force her to be his girlfriend.

In many ways, this episode just feels ... icky. "X-Men: Evolution" tries to paint Blob as a sympathetic figure, building him up as someone who is more misunderstood than evil, but once he knocks out his classmate, kidnaps her, and tries to force her to be with him, all of that development goes straight out the window. Future episodes seem to realize this, and rarely reference his early obsession with Jean, trying to repair the likability of the antagonist. Sadly, the events of "Mutant Crush" can really overshadow some of the good character-building moments Blob gets later.

Best: Shadow Dance (Season 2, Episode 11)

As tends to be the case with many high school shows, romance plays a big role in "X-Men: Evolution's" continuing storylines. Also as with many other high school shows, that tension largely comes to a head during a school dance. "Shadow Dance" focuses largely on Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, one of the X-Men's best characters. Kurt, who uses a device that hides his furry blue appearance while at school, is surprised when a non-mutant girl at his school, Amanda, asks him to be her date to the Sadie Hawkins Dance.

Kurt really likes Amanda and agrees to go, but tries his best to hide his true self from her, worried that if she touches him, she'll realize that he has a unique appearance and might be scared off. In the end, it turns out she knew all along, having seen his device malfunction at one point, and was more attracted to his furry blue look. Nightcrawler's story with Amanda is a heartwarming one, and a refreshing twist on the show's usual "humans being afraid of mutants" storylines. It also features a fun side plot involving Jean and Rogue, who both want to ask Scott to the dance but end up both being too late after another girl at school asks him first.

Worst: Cruise Control (Season 3, Episode 13)

"Cruise Control" already had a lot going against it when it was originally aired out of order, but the episode's weak storyline, which focuses on the New Mutants member known as Magma, helps to make the episode one of "X-Men: Evolution's" least memorable adventures. The episode's story starts with many members of the X-Men going on a pleasure cruise to try to relax. However, Magma becomes ill, and she is brought to a nearby island, where she discovers new powers that tie her to the local volcano. When it erupts, Magma merges with the volcano to harden the lava and save the nearby town.

The episode features a lot of moments that stretch the show's believability in a frustrating manner — things like Cyclops blasting apart an iceberg to save their ship, or a town being saved (despite having lava flowing through it) because Magma was able to harden the lava, deprive the episode of its stakes. In addition, it being aired out of order put it in an odd spot in the show's overall arc. It technically serves as the finale of Season 3, following the epic two-part "Dark Horizon" episodes, which set up Season 4's Apocalypse plot. The weird side story ends up feeling out of place when sandwiched between the Season 3 Finale and Season 4 premiere, both of which feature Apocalypse.

Best: Mainstream (Season 3, Episode 3)

"Mainstream" picks up just after the X-Men's triumphant victory against Juggernaut at the end of "The Stuff of Heroes." Despite saving humans from the Juggernaut, the X-Men have had to go into hiding, living in the ruins underneath the old mansion. While the previous episode primarily dealt with how the world reacted to the reveal of mutants living among them, "Mainstream" gets into the ways the town and the X-Men's former classmates react. Xavier tries to convince the high school-aged mutants to return to school, but many of them are hesitant, worried about how they'll be treated.

In many ways, "Mainstream" is one of the most heartbreaking and realistic episodes of "X-Men: Evolution," showing the many different ways mutants would likely be mistreated in the real world. While some non-mutants, such as Scott's ex-girlfriend Taryn, refuse to associate with mutants, Jean's boyfriend Duncan tries to exploit her powers to cheat on tests, while others flat-out bully them and try to run them out of town. It's "X-Men" at its most compelling and emotionally resonant for anyone who's ever felt outcast or otherized.

Worst: Adrift (Season 2, Episode 6)

"Adrift" is "X-Men: Evolution's" lowest-rated episode on IMDb at a 6.2/10, likely due to how detached it feels from the rest of the series' storylines and how stretched out the story feels. The story focuses on Scott Summers' attempts to continue rekindling his relationship with his brother Alex, who grew up with a different family after the two lost their parents in a plane crash. The brothers hang out in Hawaii together, but when a storm rolls in and sweeps a surfboarding Alex out to sea, Scott grabs a boat and races in to save him — and ends up getting stranded as well.

While the episode's plot is meant to give time to the Summers brothers and allow their relationship to grow, it instead feels like it's out of ideas and constantly stalling for time. It doesn't help that Alex is a relatively minor character in the storyline, and many viewers just aren't invested enough in him to get excited about "Adrift's" lost at sea plot. Moreover, the episode's lack of attention to its other main characters keeps viewers who aren't excited about the main plot from getting into one of the other storylines, leaving "Adrift" feeling lost at sea, much like its heroes.