Editor’s Note: The below contains spoilers for X-Men ’97 Episode 5.

The Big Picture

The Sentinels’ devastating attack on Genosha pushes
X-Men ’97
from nostalgia to a sophisticated drama.
Cassandra Nova, the Sentinels, and Mister Sinister are some of the prime suspects.
Henry Peter Gyrich’s anti-mutant sentiment hints at his involvement in the Genosha attack.

The already impressive X-Men ’97 dramatically raised the stakes in its fifth episode. “Remember It” sees the X-Men and the rest of the mutant community enduring a devastating loss, as the mutant nation of Genosha is laid siege by an army of Sentinels, including an especially large, three-headed model of the mutant hating robots. The tragedy cost many mutants, including several members of the main X-Men team, their lives and completed the series’ transformation from a nostalgic adventure into a sophisticated drama of the highest quality. It also launches the show into what looks to be a particularly momentous murder mystery, as it’s not clear what villain initiated the horrific attack. That said, based on what’s already happened in X-Men ’97, and its predecessor, X-Men: The Animated Series, as well as Marvel Comics canon, suspicion naturally points to a few characters more than others. Here are the biggest suspects, ranked from least likely to most likely to have orchestrated the strike.

X-Men ’97

A band of mutants use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them; they’re challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

4 Cassandra Nova Is Behind the Genosha Attack in the Comics

Custom Image by Zanda Rice

The comic book story “Remember It,” is most directly inspired by “E is For Extinction,” the first arc in Grant Morrison’s influential run on New X-Men. In that arc, Genosha is also attacked by a monstrous, “wild” Sentinel, with this version of the strike resulting in the deaths of more than 16 million mutants. In the comics, the attack was organized by Cassandra Nova, a supervillain who made her first appearance in the arc. Cassandra is originally believed to be a previously unknown twin sister to X-Men founder Professor Charles Xavier, before it is discovered that she’s actually a parasitic alien connected to him that became his ideological opposite, hence her hatred of mutants.

The reason Cassandra is ranked so lowly despite being the culprit behind the Genosha attack in the comics is that one of the series’ creative architects has effectively already ruled her out as a suspect. In an interview with Inverse following the release of “Remember It,” X-Men ’97 supervising producer and head director Jake Castorena attempted to preemptively manage fans’ expectations, saying, “I wouldn’t get my hopes up for Cassandra Nova being a huge villain in our show.” While this of course doesn’t preclude the character from playing a different sort of role in the series it would be bizarre for a member of the creative team to so openly suggest that the series was diverging from the comics if that wasn’t actually true.

It seems like, even if there does wind up being an animated version of Cassandra at some point in the series, she won’t be responsible for the atrocity like her comic counterpart. This is especially surprising given that the character is expected to be one of the major antagonists of the live-action Marvel Studios filmDeadpool & Wolverine.

3 The Sentinels Might Be Controlled by One of Their Own

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the Sentinels effectively sent themselves. Several of the robots have developed minds of their own at points in various X-Men media, with a particularly notable example being Master Mold. A type of especially advanced Sentinel designed to produce and control other Sentinels, certain models of Master Mold have become sentient and sought to wipe out all of humanity, calculating that this is the only way to completely exterminate mutants, given the genetic links between the two species. This aspect of the comics was replicated in The Animated Series, in which various Master Molds (David Fox and Nigel Bennett) served as major antagonists.

Master Molds have been a thorn in the X-Men’s side for much of the franchise’s history, but there’s also a more recent Sentinel leader that could believably be behind the attack on Genosha. Bastion was first portrayed as a human politician named Sebastion Gilberti. He had a staunch anti-mutant stance and quickly gained significant influence in the U.S. government, initiating Operation: Zero Tolerance, which created an international anti-mutant strike force. After he develops rivalries with the X-Men and Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson, Gilberti’s corruption is exposed, and he is arrested by Iceman and S.H.I.E.LD.

After escaping, Gilberti discovers that he is not a human being at all, but a combination of a Master Mold unit and a Nimrod, a different type of advanced Sentinel from a future timeline. The two had been fused together by the mystical artifact known as the Siege Perilous, which also erased his memories. However, hearing about the planetary debate over mutant rights caused the combined being’s latent anti-mutant programming to compel him towards his murderous schemes. After discovering his origins, Bastion embraces his cyborg identity and Sentinel purpose, continuing to terrorize the mutant community until he is defeated by time-traveling X-Man Cable and robotic superhero Machine Man. He was subsequently beheaded by Wolverine, who at the time had been transformed into Apocalypse’s Horseman Death.

After the Marvel Comics event House of M, in which Avenger and X-Men frenemy Wanda Maximoff/the Scarlet Witch neutralized the powers of most of the world’s mutants, the anti-mutant terrorist group called the Purifiers retrieved Bastion’s head and attached it to a Nimrod unit, restoring him to “life.” Bastion subsequently unites many of the X-Men’s human enemies into a cabal bent on eliminating the last vestiges of the mutant race. Despite opposition from superheroes including the black ops mutant assassination squad X-Force, he was nearly successful until he was finally defeated in the Second Coming crossover event in which Cable returned from the future with his adopted daughter Hope, the first mutant born since the House of M, who many believed was a mutant messiah.

In the fourth episode of X-Men ’97, a picture of who appears to be Bastion in his Gilberti form can be seen in Forge’s (Gil Birmingham) cabin. And since Forge revealed some of his inventions had been adopted by the government for use against mutants, it would make sense that his story may connect to the Sentinel arc. Plus, having the mutants go up against the AI threat of rogue Sentinels would add yet another timely layer of social commentary to X-Men ’97. But given that they’ve already done so in the original series, and just recently defeated another human-controlled Master Mold (Eric Bauza) without much trouble in the season premiere, it might seem somewhat repetitive and anti-climactic if the machines were acting alone.

2 Mister Sinister Has a History of Mutant Massacres

Image via Marvel Comics

Initially a Victorian-era scientist, Nathaniel Essex becomes obsessed with mutation and transforms into the immortal supervillain Mister Sinister. In his quest to create a race of all-powerful super-mutants that he would control, Sinister has run afoul of the X-Men many times in both comics and The Animated Series. He’s already appeared in X-Men ‘97’s third episode, voiced by Christopher Britton. It was revealed that he created Madelyne Pryor (Jennifer Hale), the clone replacement of Jean Grey (Hale), so that she would conceive a baby with Scott Summers/Cyclops (Ray Chase), which she did. Sinister subsequently abducted their son, Nathan (who will grow up to become Cable), to experiment on him, but his parents and the rest of the X-Men rescued him.

Both Madelyne and Nathan (as Cable) were present at the Genosha attack, and Sinister has frequently been teased as having a major role in the series, so he’s a strong suspect for the atrocity. While killing so many mutants might seem counter-intuitive to Sinister’s obsessive experimentation — especially as the Sentinels’ energy weapons vaporized many of their victims, so there aren’t even genetic samples to collect from them — he was behind the similarly horrific Mutant Massacre (which “Remember It” draws some inspiration from) in the comics, so his involvement wouldn’t be entirely out of character. And he’s twisted enough that it would be easy to believe that he possibly had a change in motivation and became more concerned with getting revenge against the X-Men and their allies for past defeats than continuing his perverse science work.


‘X-Men ’97’ Is a True Soap Opera — and That’s a Good Thing

I love the smell of melodrama in the morning.

1 Gyrich and the Humans Would Be the Most Fitting Villains

Image via Marvel Entertainment

In the series premiere, while investigating the distribution of Sentinel technology to anti-mutant hate groups, Madelyne read the mind of Henry Peter Gyrich (Todd Haberkorn), the bigoted former NSA agent who shot and mortally wounded Charles (Cedric Smith) in The Animated Series’ finale. When she did so, she started having nightmarish visions of a vague apocalyptic event, which now seem to have been prescient hints at the upcoming Genosha attack. Given this, it seems almost guaranteed that Gyrich had to have been involved in the strike, or at least knew it was coming for the plot to make sense. And his involvement could point to that of a larger conspiracy.

In 2019, the X-Men comic book franchise was relaunched, with most of Earth’s mutants living united as part of one nation, on the sentient island Krakoa. During the ensuing era, which is coming to its end this year, Krakoa’s most dangerous enemy has been Orchis, an organization of human and other antagonists that even includes some former allies of the X-Men who believe their newfound prosperity upsets the balance of the planetary, or even universal, status quo. Gyrich is a prominent member of Orchis and, despite taking place in Genosha, the lavish mutant celebrations shown in “Remember It” recall many held during the Krakoa era. Given this, and the widespread popularity of the Krakoa-era comics, it would not be surprising if Orchis or a similar group were integrated into X-Men ’97.

There are plenty more potential culprits in the X-Men canon, from Cable’s maniacal clone Stryfe to the pathetic Donald Trask III, who initially gave Cassandra access to the Sentinel in “E is for Extinction.” But, given how heavily the series has focused on anti-mutant prejudice, it would only seem appropriate for that to be the motivation behind the horrific tragedy, so Gyrich and/or any other bigoted humans would make the most sense as the antagonist.

X-Men ’97 is available to stream on Disney+ in the U.S.

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