X-Men '97 episode 4 review: "Lighter, lower stakes, and so much fun"

Our verdict on X-Men '97 season 1 episode 4

X-Men '97
(Image: © Disney Plus)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

X-Men '97 episode 4 is lighter, lower stakes, and so much fun – but it throws in a beautiful and serious story that definitely deserved its own time and episode.

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Warning: Spoilers for X-Men '97 episode 4!

We started off with a bang: an action-packed two-episode premiere, followed by a devastating episode 3 with a shocking reveal that goes all the way back to season 3 of X-Men: The Animated Series. What if I told you that episode 4 takes us into a nightmare video game world, feeds us bison chili, and hits us with two love stories at once?

"Motendo/Lifedeath (Part One)" is exactly what it sounds like: two episodes mashed into one. The beautiful thing here is that one story is lighter, lower stakes, and so much fun – and the other is a heartbreaking tale that ends on an impossibly sour (and scary) note. I'm not exactly stoked that Lifedeath (Part 1) didn't get its own special episode, but I can also see why the writers decided to take such a sad and serious story and juxtapose it with one of the goofiest storylines they could possibly come up with.

X-Men '97

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

In episode 1, I was crying over the nostalgia of hearing the classic X-Men: The Animated Series theme song. Episode 4 treats us to an 8-bit version of the track, after Jubilee and Roberto (who has yet to take on the Sunspot moniker because he still refuses to use his cool solar mutant power) get stuck in a video game world created by none other than OG villain Mojo. You might remember the X-Men: The Animated Series season 2 episode 11 episode "Mojovision," where Mojo (in all his blobby glory) abducts the X-Men and forces them to star in his own creepily constructed TV shows. This time around, he sucks Jubilee and Roberto into a game world appropriately titled "Motendo" and makes them fight for their lives, telling them: "If you die in the game, you die in real life."

Elsewhere, part 1 of Lifedeath has just begun – with Forge determined to help Storm regain her powers after an attack from The X-Cutioner in episode 2. I challenge you not to tear up when Storm becomes frustrated, desperate to return to her old self. Sure, Forge appears to have pure intentions – but a surprisingly dark reveal makes the viewer – and Storm – question this. And as if the return of one OG villain wasn't enough, the Lifedeath part of the episode features a kidnapping from one of the most underrated X-Men villains of all time: The Adversary! Sheesh.

X-Men '97

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

With the seriousness of the first three episodes, I almost forgot that some of the best moments of the flagship series were campy and goofy. It was nice to return to the absurd, to the silliest looking characters and their vocal counterparts, and to be reminded that we're watching a superhero comic book series. On the other hand, it was also nice to see the beginning of such a beloved comic book arc, but I do think Storm and Forge deserved their own standalone episode. I get why the writers might have wanted to juxtapose goofy with devastating, and that they may have very well wanted to give us a break from the darkly serious plot lines – but something felt a little off. Lifedeath is one of the best story arcs in the history of X-Men comics, and I'm glad Part Two (which airs the week after next) will get the standalone time it deserves. 

The first four episodes of X-Men '97 are available now, with the remaining episodes set to drop weekly. For more, check out all the X-Men '97 Easter eggs you might have missed, our list of all of 2024's new X-Men comics, or, our guide on how to watch the X-Men movies in order.

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Lauren Milici
Senior Writer, Tv & Film

Lauren Milici is a Senior Entertainment Writer for GamesRadar+ currently based in the Midwest. She previously reported on breaking news for The Independent's Indy100 and created TV and film listicles for Ranker. Her work has been published in Fandom, Nerdist, Paste Magazine, Vulture, PopSugar, Fangoria, and more.