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Growing Pains
Review And Media by Stu

Episode #14 - Growing Pains
Original Airdate September 29th, 2001

The X-Men and The Brotherhood duke it out on a survival course, whilst Professor Xavier prepares for a visit from his half brother Juggernaut.

Written By: Steve Granat, Cydne Clark
Directed By: Frank Paur
Music Composed By: William Anderson
Guest Starring: Dale Wilson as Principal Kelly.

Review: The improvements in this season where certainly of the dramatic kind, with the show getting a much needed boot up the ass, with a much better show being the end result.

This episode is one of the seasons’ better episodes, and has a great sense of freshness about it. There was a lot about the episode that felt like it was ushering in a new beginning, such as the new recruits joining the Institute, a new school year starting and the introduction of a new Principal to replace Mystique who was pointless in the role to begin with.

The new recruits were actually a really cool idea. At the time, I thought having more characters in the institute would be the worst thing you could possibly do, but they worked, very well, in fact. Whilst the majority of them wouldn’t really do a whole lot throughout the series, it gave the Institute a bigger presence and made it feel more like a school, rather than just a place were Cyclops and co live. Speaking of Cyclops, his conflict with Lance here was better than every fight they had in the first season put together. We get to see Lance as a bad boy and Scott learns of the antagonisms that come with playing by the rules. Given how often the characters were portrayed as 2 dimensional shells previously, it was great to see them fleshed out a little more.

Whilst I wouldn’t compare this episode to the revamp Fantastic Four and Iron Man received after they had poor first seasons, but it wasn’t too far off. Just about everything improved, to some degree. The animation looked better, the scripts weren’t as corny and the overall quality of the writing improved dramatically. Even the quality of the directing was greatly improved upon, from the action scenes, such as the fight on the Soccer (it’s called Football, you damn yanks!) which is better than every one of the first season X-Men/Brotherhood brawls to the small, quite moments such as Amara picking which desk to sit at on her first day. It really made an already visually impressive show that much better, and actually reminded me a lot of Kirkland’s work on Batman, and how well he used the characters in these ‘smaller moments’. It seems his skills were passed onto each of the directors.

One of the things I liked most about this season was how much better The Brotherhood was treated. Now that they had all assembled and had grown out of Mystique’s shadow, it really gave a lot of them a chance to shine instead of being useless lackeys who had to fight The X-Men every other episode. I’ve never cared too much for Mystique, but this show did great things with her towards the end of this season. It’s clear that both her and Magneto survived the first season finale, but we did get a cool little nod to his presence in this episode, with the TV cameras suffering from ‘magnetic interference’. Between this and Principal Kelly possibly knowing of mutants existence, it was a hell of a way to entice interest in the upcoming episodes.

Growing Pains was a very appropriate title. After this episode finished, it seemed that X-Men: Evolution was ready to become one of the decade’s top cartoons after having a troublesome start. It set the stage perfectly for upcoming episodes, and more importantly, began making the first season a fading memory.