Marvel Just Smartly Retconned an Infamous X-Men Episode

The origins of the Goblin Queen could be hiding in plain sight, but not without fudging canon.

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And just like that, X-Men ’97 has challenged everything we knew about the classic super-team. The introduction of Madelyne Pryor — a clone of Jean Grey who calls herself the Goblin Queen — in Episode 2, “Fire Made Flesh,” raised all manner of tricky questions. How long has this version of Jean Grey been a team member? When did Mister Sinister clone the original Jean, and when did he switch them out? The answers might lie in an episode of the original X-Men series, but there’s a chance ’97 fudged canon to introduce this storyline.

Mister Sinister first appears in X-Men’s first season, but he makes an even bigger impact in its second. He’s a major antagonist in “Till Death Do Us Part,” the two-part event that follows Jean and Scott Summers’ wedding. Sinister abducts the happy couple before they can even enjoy their honeymoon and gets very close to extracting their genetic material. The X-Men end up rescuing them in the knick of time, thwarting Sinister’s mission and apparently saving Jean and Scott from his skeevy science experiments.

As we learn in X-Men ’97, however, the X-Men weren’t really able to stop Sinister. Did he extract Jean’s DNA before she was rescued? It’s possible... but when would he have swapped the two Jeans?

The exact timeline of Sinister’s master plan remains a mystery, but the answer might lie in an original X-Men episode.

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Collider’s Maggie Lovitt suggests the swap actually takes place before the wedding. Sinister does appear in the Season 1 finale, “The Final Decision,” monitoring Jean and Scott from afar. And in X-Men’s correct viewing order, this episode takes place just before “Till Death Do Us Part,” so there’s a chance that Sinister’s plans were in motion even before he officially appeared in the series. That would echo Madelyne Pryor’s comic book origin, which revealed that Sinister had Jean’s DNA — and had created a clone — long before he actually performed the switch.

That said, Sinister might have switched the two Jeans in a different, more recent X-Men episode. Flashbacks in X-Men ’97 reveal that both Jean and Madelyne were in Sinister’s custody at some point. Even if he’d successfully cloned Jean before abducting her in the Season 2 premiere, he would have needed time to imbue the clone with the original Jean’s memories. He actually gets a second chance in the Season 4 finale, “Beyond Good and Evil,” and it’s safe to assume he doesn’t waste it.

Sinister would have needed time to execute his plan, which points to a story like “Beyond Good and Evil.”

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In “Beyond Good and Evil: Part 2,” Sinister partners with Apocalypse to engineer his perfect race of mutants. He abducts Jean again (but leaves Scott behind) and takes her to a realm outside space and time. That would have given him plenty of freedom to create Madelyne without interruption, and when Cable and Bishop eventually manage to rescue Jean, they could have taken her clone instead.

Either way, these theories do require a bit of a retcon. Since we never see Sinister’s planning, Jean’s switcharoo could have happened at any moment. We won’t have the definitive story until the writers of X-Men ’97 reveal it, which leaves fans plenty of room to speculate. But even if this development does fudge canon a bit, it’s still one of the most interesting X-Men stories, and it’s great to see Marvel embracing the weirder side of the team’s lore.

X-Men ’97 is streaming on Disney+.

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