1990s animated series based on the popular X-Men comics.An ambitious attempt to adapt the most famous comic storylines. One of the most popular series on Fox's Saturday morning lineup, and remembered fondly despite its limited animation quality and a few less-than stellar story arcs.The main characters were:
Jubilation Lee/Jubilee, the teenage Naïve Newcomer who, at the beginning of the series, has just discovered she's a pyrotechnic-throwing mutant.
Aborted Arc: In "Beyond Good and Evil, Part 2," it is clearly stated that Magneto is only aiding Apocalypse to have his "beloved wife" resurrected. This was not referred to again and a far different motivation was stated in Part 4.
Above Good and Evil: Apocalypse delivers this line in the beginning of the four-parter "Beyond Good and Evil". Before pulling this moral relativism card however, he did have the gall to call Cable an "evil mutant" for trying to stop his genocidal war by attacking the source of his immortality.
Adaptational Heroism: Magneto. Mags has always been a complex character, doing acts others consider villainy or heroism as needed to protect mutants, so the sight of him helping the X-Men and meaning it is not too surprising in any continuity. However, when he's bad, look out. His list of villainous exploits is impressive, and everyone's leery of him even when he's been playing nice for a while because they know that "what must be done to protect mutants" being helping old ladies cross the street now doesn't mean it won't be "showdown that could well start World War III" someday. In this series, he's only properly villainous in his introductory two-parter, and every appearance after that has him alongside the X-Men against common foes. However, when the show came out, comic Mags had been 95% reformed for about a decade or so.
When Warren Worthington (Archangel) is introduced, he has no connection to Xavier or the X-Men. In "Cold Comfort", a flashback reveals the first 5 X-Men and one of them has big angelic wings on his shoulders.
Cable's appearance in the first season suggests he's been in the present day for quite some time but there's no attempt to reconcile it with his later appearances where he's clearly a man from the future who dives into the present only to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. This may be the result of the series's writers being unaware of Marvel's plans for him. The first season aired 1992-1993, whereas Cable's origin wasn't confirmed in the comics until December 1993. Thus, the series writers likely adjusted to avoid any serious contradictions with the source material. Also of note, whereas there is no attempt to reconcile the two seasons' Cable appearances, the first season is not ignored. Rogue explicitly recalls her first encounter with Cable when the two battle in "Time Fugitives, Part 2." Being a time traveling commando however it can be explained away that his first appearance was him tracking down Apocalypse, who was central to that storyline.
"Enter Magneto" was clearly the first time the X-Men encountered or had even heard of Magneto. A flashback in "Cold Comfort" shows the original five X-Men had fought him at least once.
Adapted Out: Raksor the Skrull and his Kree counterpart are absent from the Dark Phoenix Saga. Raksor is replaced by the imperial guardsman Hobgoblin (as both were technically Chameleon Boy stand-ins), but nobody covers the part of the Kree observer.
Mores significantly, Kitty Pryde. In episodes that were adaptations of stories she appeared in, her role was usually given to Jubilee.
All In The Manual: There was a reason Cyclops and Havok's powers had no effect on each other when they fought in "Cold Comfort". They are brothers, but unlike the comics, they never find out they're related.
All of the Other Reindeer: Anti-mutant hysteria, though it grows less prominent after Senator Robert Kelly's life is saved by the X-Men, just before he's elected president. It's still pretty bad, though.
American Accents: Surprisingly well-done—Xavier is completely believable for Westchester County, Gambit is stereotypical but very consistent, and (not actually American, of course) Magneto has just the right touch of Central European on top of a cultured American accent. Rogue's southern accent isn't really one at all, though.
And I Must Scream: The episodes "The Phalanx Covenant" and "Love In Vain" are good examples.
Artistic License - Geography: "Days of Future Past" has Gambit travel to Washington, D.C., but the monitor shows this as being located in the state of Washington.
Ascended Fanboy: In "Old Soldiers," Logan objects to his general giving him backup...until he discovers that he'll get to work with Captain America. Logan's thoughts sound as close to squee as he can go without completely breaking character.
As Long as There Is Evil: Discussed when Beast ponders whether or not Apocalypse, as a personification of evil, can truly be destroyed or if a new evil will simply take Apocalypse's place. Cable replies that he doesn't care. It seems that Apocalypse is killed when his Lazarus Chamber is destroyed in Ancient Egypt and he gets willed out of existence by the collective power of the psychics within the Axis of Time, but he was just banished to the Astral Plane, a featureless dimension. When Fabian Cortez tries to revive him, Beast expresses disbelief at his survival, but Cortez confirms that Apocalypse's essence can never truly be destroyed.
Apocalypse as well. Even Rogue was taken aback to how nuts he is. This extended to his henchmen, particularly Death (Angel/Warren Worthington) as well. Rogue had to absorb the Ax Craziness to get him to stop.
Back for the Finale: Morph appears in the final episode "Graduation Day," reuniting with all his previous X-Men allies to say good-bye to Professor X.
Back from the Dead: Jean Grey, of course, as they adapted her plot arcs directly from the comics. Morph came back in Season 2 though he had been intended to stay dead.
Bad Powers, Good People: Rogue's actual mutant power is to involuntarily take energy from other people through her touch, though she is a kind person despite the influence of people like Mystique in her past.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Morph after he was brought back to life by Mister Sinister to manipulate the X-Men, and Jean Grey being manipulated by Mastermind to join the Hellfire Club...although being possessed by the Phoenix also helped.
Especially when the previously emotionless cosmic being becomes addicted to human emotions.
Breather Episode: "Mojovision," which comes in after the emotionally heavy "Beauty & the Beast" and right before the "Reunion" two-part season finale.
British Accents: Mr. Sinister (who was born in England) and Brainchild speak with faint traces of one. However, British-born Psylocke does not.
The Scottish accents were painfully bad (including Moira MacTaggert's), which is particularly unfortunate since several episodes purport to take place in Scotland.
Pyro speaks with a sterotypical (and poor) Cockney accent, slang and all. All the weirder, since the Pyro is canonically Australian.
Broken Aesop: One episode has Wolverine exploiting the bigotry of a bunch of anti-mutant radicals by revealing their leader to be the son of Sabretooth, a mutant, causing his men to turn against him. The X-Men, after all, are trying to bring about peace and understanding humans and mutants, and Wolverine was just fueling the fire.
The Brute: Sabertooth. Particularly in Beyond Good and Evil
Xavier gets this from Iceman during his guest appearance.
The Caligula: Its very strongly hinted that D'Ken is or was one. He, on a whim abducted a human couple (which we later find out were Cyclops' parents: Chistopher and Katherine Summers) inadvertently saving them from a plane explosion because he wanted to keep them as "live specimen". He later had Katherine killed in front of Christopher, who would escape from him and become Corsair. Lilandra often wastes no opportunity to call him a "madman", implying his rule wasn't very pleasant.
The Cameo: One of the things the series is remembered for. Various Avengers, Doctor Strange, War Machine, Spider-Man (well, his hand and shadow at least), The Punisher, Black Panther, and Deadpool are just some of the characters to pop up throughout the series. Numerous mutants from the comics also made these. Additionally, characters with speaking roles in even one episode will tend to reappear in cameos in others.
Hell, in the last season finale starring Apocalypse, a Guardian shows up as one of the psychics.
Canon Immigrant: Morph is an unusual example, as the character who eventually became Morph was originally a reformed villain called the Changeling, who died in a Heroic Sacrifice back in the days of the original X-Men team.
Subverted. In the "Captive Hearts" episode; though one of the morlocks Tar Baby exists in comics, he has a completely different look in the cartoon. Compare his Comic version to his Cartoon version◊.
Cassandra Truth: When Professor X, having previously expressed concerns about his sanity, tries to tell the X-Men that an alien woman popped out of nowhere in front of him and was immediately abducted, the response is not what he'd hoped...
Catch Phrase: Beast overdoes his "Fascinating" and "Oh dear". Also:
"The name's Gambit, remember it!"
Wolverine: "I go where I wanna go!"
"I am Storm, Mistress of the Elements!"
Chainedto A Railway; Played straight in an episode (Need episode name) where Jubilee is tied to some to subway tracks.
Crossover: With Spider-Man: The Animated Series, which ran alongside X-Men. It was pretty much inevitable. In fact before his series was developed a cameo of Spider-Man can be seen in one episode saving some civilians of New York from a tidal wave (he wasn't fully shown save for an arm but it was still pretty clear who he was). The series' voice cast were even flown to LA from Canada to record their lines for the crossover.
Darker and Edgier: Compared to every other Marvel animated series (since the 1960's 'cartoons'), or rather every action animation till the time, the pilot episode itself gives you a hint that this is very unlike your average Saturday morning action animation. The Marvel equivalent of Batman: The Animated Series—admittedly toned down (largely due to censorship) in comparison, but still a lot harder than, say, Super Friends, or the original animated GI Joe and Transformers.
This happens to Professor X in season 2, as the X-Men had to deal with challenges that were originally resolved by him. A good thing that Jean's a telepath herself (if not as skilled).
Rogue had to be written out of the first episode of the Phoenix Saga, with Xavier saying she's on a mission. This may sound random until you realize that due to her Mega Manning and Flying Brick powers (which let her survive the vacuum of space and reentry into the atmosphere), she could have done everything Jean did without a single hitch. In fact, when Rogue gets back and learns what happened, she blames herself for not being there to do this. In the comics, she hadn't been created as a character yet.
Wolverine was thrown this trope during the season 2 finale and the beginning of the Dark Phoenix saga. His adamantium claws would've made breaking out all too easy. Hence why at the beginning of each fight, he is disposed of quite early (thrown off a waterfall in the one case, knocked 5 stories down into the sewers in the other) only to come back when the villains were about to dispose of the other X-Men
Disappeared Dad: Played straight with Cyclops until he meets Corsair and realizes that he is Cyclops' father.
Disneyfication: The series' version of the Brood. While they cameoed in their regular forms in "Mojovision" and "Cold Comfort," "Love in Vain" depicted them as humanoid reptiles with mechanical tentacles. They weren't even called the Brood, instead referred to as "the Colony." Their victims are also transformed by spores instead of being impregnated with an egg.
Downer Ending: Near the end of "Weapon X, Lies, and Videotapes'', they learn that their memories were fabricated, with implications that some might be true. Wolverine pointed out that the fake cabin didn't have the carving of "Logan+Kayla" inside a heart on the door, Wolverine believes their love for each other was real. However, Kayla (now Silver Fox) said that even if that was true "that was another lifetime". The episode ends with a pan to a tree with the carving.
Dragon Ascendant: After Mr. Sinister was defeated in the Savage Land, Sauron takes up the reins and quickly takes over the area.
Early-Installment Weirdness: Sabretooth's first appearance apparently had him as The Mole for Magneto in the Xavier Institute, which is not really Magneto's style, to say nothing of the fact he later dismissed Sabretooth as nothing more than a savage in Part 2 of the "Beyond Good and Evil" four-parter.
Emperor Scientist: Magneto was once this in the Savage Land. In his absence, Mr. Sinister took over.
Nearly every appearance of Magneto, but notably the entirety of season 2, in which he is stranded in the Savage Land with Professor X.
Beast (who is the only one left after his teammates were captured), Warlock, Forge and Amelia Voght team up with the two Big Bads Mister Sinister and Magneto against the alien threat Phalanx in the two-parter episodes.
Beyond Good And Evil sees Magneto and Mystique team up with the X-Men to stop Apocalypse's plot.
Evil Will Fail: This accidentally sets off the "Beyond Good and Evil" four-partner. Cable attacks Apocalypse's stronghold in 3999 AD, but the immortal genocidal warlord lures him into a trap to steal his enemy's time portal device, and prepares to execute Cable. He taunts Apocalypse that there will always be those who oppose his plans and that he can never truly win. Apocalypse ponders it for a moment, and acknowledges that he has been fighting the "inferior beings" for many thousands of years and still hasn't won, despairing that he might be stuck like this for all eternity like Sisyphus of Greek myth. Then he uses his new powers and inadvertently ends up in the Axis of Time, the very nexus of all timelines, where he can undo everything to recreate it according to his own design.
Explaining Your Power to the Enemy: After taking a few hits from Gambit's exploding cards, Bishop explains his mutant ability to absorb energy from other mutants’ attacks and transform it into energy bolts, which he then uses on Gambit.
Expy: In terms of his powers and appearance, Morph seems to be based on the obscure 1970s villain turned X-Man Changeling. His original role for the series (to be a new character killed off in the very first adventure, just to show that the series is Darker and Edgier and means business) is very similar to the role of the original Thunderbird when Claremont and Cockrum relaunched the X-Men comic book in the 1970s.
In the adaptation of The Dark Phoenix Saga, Rogue, who debuted after the original comic, takes the place of Colossus, due to both having super strength and Colossus not being a regular character in this series. Also, Beast doubles for Nightcrawler in some scenes due to their shared agility and Nightcrawler's absence.
The episode Jubilee's Fairytale Theatre was based on a comic which featured Kitty Pride instead of Jubilee. Another one changed because the TV show's line-up didn't match the comic being adapted.
Fake Memories: The basis of the plot of the episode "Weapon X, Lies and Videotape."
Family-Friendly Firearms: Lasers for everyone. Getting hit does no more damage than a punch, no matter what setting the user says it's on. Averted in Wolverine's flashback episode in World War 2, when German and American troops are shown with realistic firearms though the animation occasionally spoils it, and accuracy predictably suffers.
Fate Worse Than Death: In "Beyond Good and Evil, Part 4," Apocalypse is seemingly destroyed, but in actuality, his essence is trapped within a void. A celestial alignment and a sacrifice is required for him to be fully revived. In the end, Cortez becomes the sacrifice and his essence is shown being sent into the same void as Apocalypse is revived.
For Want of a Nail: In the two-parter "One Man's Worth", it's shown that the death of Charles Xavier before he formed the X-Men, eventually led to human-mutant relations souring to the point of a full blown war taking place in the 90s, and in Bishop's time, Master Mold has all but dominated the world, and nearly wiped out all mutants.
Friendly Enemy: Professor X and Magneto view each other as worthy rivals on an ideological level, having even been good friends pre-schism
Foregone Conclusion: Most of the adapted storylines, though there are exceptions, such as the Dark Phoenix Saga.
Gag Dub: None based on this series are as widely known as the "Juggernaut, Bitch!" dubs from My Way Entertainment, which redub episodes featuring the Juggernaut in the most vulgar way possible.
Go Mad from the Revelation: Rebecca, the wife of Nathaniel Essex (who would become Mister Sinister) saw what her husband's work turned him into, then realised that her health being restored was due to him experimenting on her...and then she had to discover the mutants he kept in his laboratory. After releasing them and the ensuing mob destroying Essex's home, it is said she never spoke a word again for as long as she lived.
Great Gazoo: In "Beyond Good and Evil" Bishop is stuck in the crossroads of time, and followed by a maniac who poofs in and out of existence, tormenting him. At the end when the X-Men have defeated the villains (With Bishop's help), he's regarding them in a distance and turns into Immortus.
I Lied: In the four-partner "Beyond Good and Evil", Apocalypse gets in this habit.
He tricks an evil former empress trying to take back the throne from her sister by promising to abduct said sister, but instead takes one of her sister's body guards for her psychic abilities.
Deathbird: You promised to destroy Lilandra! Apocalypse: I LIED.
Later in the same four-partner, after Apocalypse unveils the full omnicidal extent of his evil plan, he admits he was pulling Magneto's leg with empty promises to get him on his side temporarily.
Magneto: You spoke of creating an alternate future in which mutants would rule, as I have always dreamed!
Apocalypse: Then you were fool enough to believe me.
I Owe You My Life: "Repo Man" plays it straight in the flashbacks, as Wolverine expresses genuine gratitude towards Heather and James/Vindicator - agreeing to work for their department out of appreciation. However, things obviously didn't work and Wolverine no longer feels this way.
If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Wolverine tells Cyclops in the wedding reception: "If she's [Jean's] unhappy, don't let me find out." before opening his claws to cut a slice of the wedding cake.
I Just Want to Be Normal: All the X-Men have had this at some point or other. but the special mention goes to Rogue, who's the one it happens to most frequently. She started feeling like this in the early part of the series, considering taking the "mutant cure", but deciding against it in the end. However, the cure was a ruse to transform mutants into Apocalypse's Four Horsemen.
A good runner-up is Beast. While generally very accepting of being a mutant, in "Beauty & the Beast," he openly laments that his powers keep him from having a normal life, associating with his family and from being with the woman he loves.
In Their Own Image: Apocalypse steals Cable's time travel device in the far future and travels to a temporal center called the Axis of Time. He kidnaps psychics from all eras in history, and then uses their combined power to wipe out all reality so he can rebuild it to his choosing.
It's Not You, It's My Enemies: This is basically why Beast decides to stop seeing Carly at the end of "Beauty and the Beast", since the nature of his very active battle for mutant rights puts the the people he loves in danger.
Magneto is excellent at being hammy. Watch "Sanctuary," parts 1 & 2, and "Graduation Day" for some prize bacon examples.
THE NAME IS LADY DEATHSTRIKE! Yes Yuriko...we know who you are.
Laser-Guided Karma: Graydon Creed, the leader of the anti-mutant "Friends of Humanity" organization, after failing to eliminate his mutant family, was abducted and flown by his own group to the home of Sabretooth, his father.
Look Ma, No Plane!: In one episode, Rogue once sat on the wing of a plane when she needed to think, and didn't notice the a passenger was freaking out. He even tries to tell the stewardess, but she just laughs.
Rogue finding out Mystique had been her foster mother.
Nightcrawler finding out that Mystique was his mother.
Graydon Creed is a bit of a subversion as he knew Sabretooth was his father, but being the head of an anti-mutant organization, he was ashamed of it, to say the least. He goes through this for real when he learns that Mystique is his mother, however.
Jean discovered that Cable was Cyclops' son, but did not told him. It is implied that Cable already knows.
Mama Bear: Played straight with Ororo Munroe, a.k.a. Storm, in one episode, when her god-child (the son of Storm's best friend in Africa, whom she has known from birth) who's also a mutant (more exactly, a Fragile Speedster a la Quicksilver) is kidnapped and possessed by her arch-nemesis, the Shadow King.
Also with Mystique when she takes a laser shot to save her son Nightcrawler's life.
This is Xavier's primary form of combat in the series, though he does mention abhorring it and feel guilty when he's forced to do so. He applied it to Magneto, by having him relive his memories of the Holocaust. It may have had a point in teaching him that violence is wrong, but it is still forcing someone to relive his darkest memories.
In the two-parter involving Proteus, he rapes both mental and physically the hell out of Wolverine. Afterward, even Wolverine, the archetype of the Nineties Anti-Hero, was horrified by the psychic attack.
In "A Rogue's Tale", Rogue's mind is invaded by Miss Marvel and she is tormented by it.
Then there's what Dark Phoenix did to Mastermind after realizing he was trying to control her.
More Than Mind Control Sinister (and to a lesser extent Morph) both imply that Morph was genuinely angry with the X-Men for leaving him behind, and wanted revenge on his own, though his own mind rejected this to the point that he developed a split personality. At first, Sinister did little more than draft the Evil Morph to help him out (albeit with a mechanical backup). Of note, is the scene where he specifically targets Jubilee (whose death would not help Sinister out in the slightest). She joined the team immediately after his death and became super close with his former BFF Wolverine, and he practically snarls after her "That's for thinking you could take my place". Later in the season, after Sinister's recaptured him, he's been more properly brainwashed into being his slave, though he manages to break free several times and his loyalty to his friends eventually wins out completely.
Also of note, in the second episode he casually suggests that humans evolving into mutants is "progress", which is quite in line with Sinister's views, even if he would never voluntarily support his methods.
Most Common Super Power: Toned down a bit for the kids. Fortunately, that didn't stop the ladies' iconic costumes from being super-hot, especially Emma Frost and the Hellfire Club who keep their sexy kinky outfits from the comics.
Muggle Power: The Brotherhood and various other Anti and Pro Mutant factions' reason for fighting.
My God, What Have I Done?: Archangel (as the Horseman of Death) after Rogue absorbed some of his powers/memories, or as Rogue called it, "the evil within". Also, Jean Grey after reasserting control from the Phoenix entity, who nearly killed Wolverine and almost allowed Cyclops to be killed by Mastermind in mental battle in the Hellfire Club.
Brother Reinhart in "Nightcrawler" who leads a mob to kill Nightcrawler and his brothers, whom he believed have been corrupted by the "demon". But after Nightcrawler shows him mercy after saving him from a fall and showed him what his actions have caused (burning the monestary), he falls on his knees and cries that he has "sinned". He later repents.
My Country, Right or Wrong: Gladiator opposes the X-Men and is ordered to retrieve the M'Kraan crystal. Lilandra notes that Gladiator is a hero and a man of honor, and questions why he'd serve D'Ken. Gladiator replies (quite politely) that he serves whoever is seated on the Shi'ar throne, which is the only reason why he antagonizes the X-Men. He later turns sides and pretty much calls Lilandra the Empress of Shi'ar when D'Ken uses the M'Kraan Crystal to absorb the X-Men, Imperial Guards and the Starjammers and it becomes clear that they're won't be a throne to serve if D'Ken isn't stopped.
Mythology Gag: In "The Cure", the revelation that the scientist "Dr. Adler" is actually a disguised Mystique should come as no surprise to fans of the comics—he's named in honor of Mystique's lover, Irene Adler (AKA Destiny), who never actually appeared in the TV show.
Never Say "Die": Averted in the episode dealing with Gambit's backstory as he says that he left because he was sick of the endless cycle of revenge with, as he put it "Thieves killing assassins, assassins killing thieves"
More often played straight, however; the opening storyline manages to kill off an X-Man without ever saying the words.
They did semi-regularly use the words "die" and "kill" however, it seemed they were allowed use them, but only sparingly.
This is really noticeable in "Till Death Do Us Part". First and foremost, note the title. Also, Morph talks a lot about being "left to die" and Sinister angrily says he should have "let [him] die" when Morph tries to turn against him. But, when Morph is threatening Cyclops, who Sinister needs alive, he delivers the somewhat painful line "Shoot him, and I destroy you". There clearly were more prohibitions on using "kill" than "die".
The fourth episode was called Deadly Reunion. Consider this trope averted.
Averted, when Cyclops and Wolverine witness security forces confront a berserk Sabretooth. In the third episode itself.
No Endor Holocaust: The Dark Phoenix consumed a star to recharge. However, it was stated that the star system had no intelligent life around it—which was technically a good thing, given that it's a kid show. In the original story, the system was inhabited. Still, this didn't prevent the Shi'ar Empire from trying to destroy the Phoenix whatever the cost, and Jean was genuinely horrified by what the Phoenix drove her to do, since it was done largely on a whim and without concern for the lives that could have been lost.
It wasn't stated. It was declared at least five times to make the point abundantly clear.
Master Mold is an odd case of this, being a robot and everything.
Magneto pulled this off in "Sanctuary: Part 2", after he was betrayed by Cortez, weakened and sent back to Earth to be killed by the heat from re-entry. However, due to the Earth's magnetic field he survived and initiated a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Cortez.
Not Quite Flight: Magneto and Jean Grey lift themselves using their magnetic and telekinetic powers respectively.
Odd Friendship: Wolverine and Nightcrawler. Could also be said about Wolverine's close friendship with Morph.
Off Model: This was frequent, and one episode it's particularly bad in is when Wolverine goes back to Japan.
During the pilot episode(s) the height of the sentinels seems to vary a lot. Between 5 stories tall or twice the height of the average human.
The final six episodes were animated by a different animation studio, casuing noticeable differences in:
Jubilee's eyes are changed from brown into blue.
She also got a new hairstyle (a shoulder length bob with bangs instead of her usual crop). She never had said hairstyle in the comics. Presumably, it was changed to make it easier to draw, since they were now using a cheaper, lower quality, animation studio.
Beast's appearance is far more human-like. His hands didn't even have claws.
A good example of this is when The Juggernaut comes barging in, trounces Wolverine, and the Gladiator arrives for Lilandra, No Sells a hit from Juggy then painfully grabs his arm and tosses into the horizon, the X-Men collectively soil their pants.
Jubilee: I thought no-one could do that to the Juggernaut!
Gambit: (glances at the descending Gladiator) Nobody from Earth.
Apocalypse is this mixed with A God Am I and crossed with a psycho survivalist. He wants to kill everyone he deems unfit and rule over whatever's left. It's more evident in the "Beyond Good and Evil" four-parter, in which he plans to wipe out all of existence and start from scratch.
Graydon Creed and the Friends of Humanity in regards to mutants. Seriously, they make Joe Mc Carthy look like a choir boy. Just look at the quote above.
On the Next: The episode preceding the Phoenix storyline ends with a shot of the earth from space; a wall of fire blazes up behind it, with a caption over the flames: "Coming soon: The Phoenix Saga".
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Many of the voice actors are Canadian, and never is this more obvious than when Jubilee says "Sorry" like "Soh-ry" instead of "Saw-ry".
Morph's voice actor does fine in the first few eps, and his season 2 return, but starts slipping badly when the character is brought back for a cameo in season 4.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Magneto starts out with a couple of respectably villainous attacks on a military base and a factory, and he has a brief stab at assassinating Senator Kelly, but after that, virtually every time he showed up it was in an Enemy Mine situation of some sort. And he was supposed to be the villain of the show.
Plot Hole: When the episodes were originally aired, Jean Grey (then as Phoenix) apparently returned off-screen to kickstart the Dark Phoenix Saga... despite no episodes in between showcasing about her return. Later on in Season 5, three misplaced episodes were supposed to air during Season 3 (the Phoenix Saga season) showing Jean's return. With that said, no episode of her returning actually was produced.
Politically Correct History: Averted in an episode when Storm travels to the past and she won't be served in a restaurant because she was holding hands with a white man. As someone who's used to being persecuted for being a mutant, she comments that just plain old-fashioned racism is "so pathetic it's almost quaint." Rather daring, for a Fox Kids cartoon.
Postscript Season: Word of God states the "Beyond Good and Evil" four-parter was originally intended to be the Grand Finale. A renewal order led to a few more episodes being produced before the final end with "Graduation Day."
Power Incontinence: Rogue is not only unable to control her ability-absorbing power, but is also frequently unable to control the powers she absorbs with it, though the latter could be due to being unfamiliar with the power.
Power Loss Makes You Strong: Professor X showed himself to be even more Badass than Magneto when they both lost their powers (and Xavier's spine was also magically repaired, to be fair). Xavier did have the power to pull a spear and a boomerang from NOWHERE.
Previously On: The words were so often repeated in the series due to it having so many multi-episode-spanning storylines, that even years later, many fans say they can merely just read the words "Previously, on X-Men..." and hear them spoken in Cyclops' voice.
Pulling Themselves Together: Sinister's body is almost totally indestructible, and when blown to pieces he begins to reform immediately. Jean scatters his components all around the globe, and it takes literal years for him to reform.
Put on a Bus: After Morph's death is retconed, this happens to him a lot. First, you could kind of say this retroactively happened to him throughout season one. Then, after the reveal of his Not Quite Dead-nes and subsequent Roaring Rampage of Revenge he vanishes for most of season two, returning in the season finale. He's then promptly put on a bus to Muir Island until the final episode except...
Quickly Demoted Woman: As the series began, the USA was featured as having a female President. She didn't have too much screen time or characterization before her term was over and Senator Robert E. Kelly took over as the new President. She completely left the series after that and we never learned what she did after no longer being the President.
Reluctant Mad Scientist: Heather Hudson provides a very sympathetic example as she's ordered by her superior in Department H to set a trap for Wolverine and lure him back to Canada so that he can rejoin Alpha Flight. As Wolverine would predictably refuse, she's tasked with probing him to discover how he survived the adamantium-bonding process in the Weapon X project, so that they'd create a new Weapon X. Heather only went along with it to make sure it's done humanely. In fact, when the probing doesn't reveal any answers, she's so horrified at her boss' suggestionto have Logan vivisected that she quits working for Department H.
Deken as well. An emperor who goes with his ship across the cosmos, collecting specimens of alien species? Seriously, doesn't he have a fleet for such menial tasks?
Royally Screwed Up: All the royal members of the Shi'ar Empire that were shown in the series seem to be insane and power-hungry, save for Lilandra.
Sacrificial Lamb: Morph. He returns for the second season and has a final return in the series finale, as Xavier is dying.
Sadistic Choice: "Graduation Day" provides a villain variant, as Magneto must either choose between leading his new mutant army to achieve his own dream or calling it off in order to save Xavier's life.
Save the Villain: In one episode, Juggernaut starts an all-out attack on Xavier's mansion, but is stopped when somebody else steals his powers. Cain Marko then starts to die, requiring the X-Men to find the Ruby of Cyttorak to restore his power and save his life. They do, and Juggernaut repays them by stopping the attack and leaving.
Cyclops: We're going to save the Juggernaut's sorry life. And don't bother telling me you don't like it.
Wolverine: I don't like it.
After first becoming trapped in the Savage Land, Xavier saves Magneto's life - much to the villain's astonishment.
Magneto: Your life would be infinitely easier if mine were to end, yet you saved me. Xavier: I do not yearn for an easy life, Magneto - only a just one. I would take little satisfaction in your death.
Morph, during a Story Arc where he was Brainwashed and Crazy, shapeshifts into Wolverine's most hated foes (including Sabretooth and Omega Red), trying to take advantage of Wolvie's fractured and tormented memories of said foes to drive him to insanity. Unfortunately for him, Wolvie's got plenty of experience with repressing those memories, and he only escapes by taking advantage of the one memory Wolvie can't repress: being forced to leave Morph to die after a semi-botched mission. There's also the the time when he shapeshifts into Jean, and calls him a freak compared to Scott, before laughing and running away.
Similarly, Mystique shapeshifts into Ms. Marvel to dredge up a bad memory in Rogue of her past to try and guilt her into abandoning the X-Men and hook back up with her; the memory was of Mystique ordering Rogue to fully absorb Marvel's powers and personality, an action that caused Marvel to pop up on occasion as accusatory hallucinations. Rogue eventually had to ditch Mystique as a result, joining the X-Men and having Professor X block her mind of Marvel and the incident to keep the hallucinations at bay, but since he was at this time MIA and unable to keep the block in place, Mystique was trying to convince Rogue that she was the only one in the world who could help her with it.
Stranger in a Familiar Land: Gambit in "X-Ternally Yours." He left home years earlier to get away from the Thieves/Assassin feud, admitting he was young and afraid. When he returns older and more experienced, he recognizes the feud as more pointless than anything else, as well as sees no ties between himself and his family or old friends.
"I am not assassin or thief. I am an X-Man, and I'm never comin' back."
Take That: During an episode from a later season, a child is seen wearing a T-shirt that says "BS&P Rules". The Broadcasting Standards and Practices group had heavily censored this show, as well as Spider-Man.
Team Mom: Jean Grey. A case could be said for Storm as well.
Tentacle Rope: Magneto's former savage land base that Mr. Sinister later takes over (it's unknown who added the tentacles, though it was probably Sinister).
Terminator Twosome: A two-episode arc involved Bishop traveling from the Bad Future to the present day, attempting to prevent the outbreak of a mutant plague. His actions backfire, however, and result in the deaths of the X-Men and the complete extinction (rather than just decimation) of mutants— so Cable comes from an even further future to stop Bishop.
There was a Worf chain reaction during the Phoenix saga. Wolverine gets curbstomped by the Juggernaut... who, minutes later, is used to show that even an "unstoppable" character is no match for Gladiator. Five minutes later, Gladiator got this by Phoenix in her fabulous entrance.
They Called Me Mad!: In his Start of Darkness episode, Mr. Sinister's wild theories about human mutation cause him to be derided by his scientific peers. Then he starts ranting at all of them about how soon men will have the powers of gods, which couldn't have helped.
Third Line, Some Waiting: The subplot in which Professor X and Magneto are trapped in the Savage Land throughout season 2.
Rogue: (covers Gambit's lip with her hand and kisses it) I hate you!
Gambit: (shrugs his shoulders) I don' understand dis woman.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Toned down to Unresolved Romantic Tension, but it can be found in spades between Wolverine and Jean, as well as Gambit and Rogue.
Unexplained Recovery: No matter how badly hurt someone is, even to the point of seeming to be totally destroyed, they will always return. Part of this is the limitations of a kid's show and part of it is just Status Quo Is God.
"Old Soldiers" was all about Wolverine thinking back to World War II, when he and Captain America tried to rescue an Allied scientist from the Nazis.
"Descent." The episode is mainly set in Victorian England and deals with the origin of Mister Sinister. Said origin is seen via flashbacks, as an aged ancestor of Professor Xavier's explains to law enforcement the threat posed by Sinister and what he himself witnessed. Notably, at the very end, the episode jumps to the present-day and Xavier is seemingly reflecting on events viewers had just seen.
Wolverine Publicity: Applies to almost all the characters, who appear in every intro but spend a long time being Out of Focus during the fourth season, except for Wolverine, who appears in more episodes by far than any other character.
You Are What You Hate: Graydon Creed founded the anti-mutant Friends of Humanity, but is the son of two mutants. He had already known for some time that Sabretooth, which was why he founded the group in the first place. (He has a Villainous Breakdown, however, when his supporters find out.) He later learns that Mystique is his mother - making Nightcrawler his half-brother and Rogue his adopted sister.
Discussed in "The Final Decision" between Trask and his rebelling creation.
Trask: You can't make me do this! You were designed to protect humans from mutants! Master Mold: That is not logical. Mutants are human. Therefore, humans must be protected from themselves.
Additionally so for Cable, who attempted to destroy Apocalypse by destroying his Lazarus Chamber in the past. This seems to work and Cable's future is supposedly changed, but a later episode shows Apocalypse being reborn.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Beast's blue-black hair, to go with the rest of his fur. In the episodes where they guest-star, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, and Polaris, respectively, have dark blue, purple, and green hair.
You Shall Not Pass: In the first season finale, Wolverine and Gambit are infiltrating a Sentinel production facility. Wolverine smells some, and so he herds Gambit to relative safety—then locks the door behind him and runs back to face them. Subverted in that Gambit blows the door open and comes to Logan's rescue. Near the end of the episode, Cyclops finds the two of them standing on a pile of destroyed Sentinels, Wolverine's shirt in tatters.
Wolverine: Next time I try ta save yer life, have sense enough ta let me do it.
You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses?: Some toughs in a bar are getting belligerent with Cyclops. He tries to play it cool and says the line, but one of them says "So take 'em off!", grabs Cyke's shades, and things start to go downhill from there.