Movie Reviews

X-Men 97s Gambit Death Was Sad, But I'll Never Get Over The Other Tragedy Nobody Talks About

gambit leech

Warning: This article contains spoilers for X-Men ’97 season 1.

X-Men ’97 featured an enormous cast of complex characters, and surprisingly, many of them had their death onscreen, including the card-throwing New Orleans mutant Gambit. However, with the series already revealing some of its seeming deaths to have instead been fakeouts, it’s likely more of these may yet still be undone, making them less impactful down the line. Still, audiences have grown affection for many of these Marvel characters throughout the years, and contending with their mortality has made for effective, emotional television, with audiences already wondering what characters will appear in X-Men ’97 season 2.

Gambit, the Cajun card-thrower, has been in the X-Men comics since 1990. The original X-Men: The Animated Series came shortly after and drew significantly from the Jim Lee art style from which Remy LeBeau was created. Consequentially, Gambit was a character that grew and was shaped by the animated series nearly as much as he informed the structure and feel of the show itself. The two were symbiotic, and the character became indispensable to the original series and the ’97 reboot, making his death in X-Men ’97 episode 5 was a dark and meaningful moment. However, another rises above it.

Leech’s death in X-Men ’97 is a darker, more harrowing moment than Gambit’s. Attempting to keep the Morlocks safe, Leech believed in his compatriots and their ability to protect them. While his ability to suppress the X-Gene helped to disguise mutants from the scanning of Prime Sentinels, Leech was not able to do much to protect himself and his people. Following this, the sequential cutting down of Leech and the Morlocks is a heavy and sad moment of horror, terror, and loss that, surrounded by so many other deaths, was not even allowed time to be reflected upon.

Gambit, however, dies a hero. As the Prime Sentinels continue their reign of destruction of the Mutants, Rogue attempts to attack them before being stopped by Gambit. The resulting death of Gambit, as he charged the Prime Sentinel and sacrificed himself to blow it up with one of his cards, is a moment of heroism, not defeat. Gambit is allowed a final moment to make a difference in saving the woman he loves and wreaking destruction against his enemies.

Even if it is as Apocalypse’s horseman, a return by Remy LeBeau is seemingly inevitable. The character has been one of the cornerstones of the animated series since it began, and with the mutant team now spread out across time, a return by Gambit in one form or another is very likely. Based on what Apocalypse’s return sets up for X-Men ’97 season 2, a return of iconic characters thought dead seems par for the course for the future of the series. While Gambit’s death has lasted long enough to provide impact, it is unlikely the character is gone forever.

Leech’s return, however, would soften the impact of the series. If every death inflicted by the Prime Sentinels was able to be undone, then none of those deaths would matter. Leech will likely remain a casualty of that storytelling and of the necessity to resist forces that wish to suppress mutants. The audience must not forget Leech’s efforts to connect with people and how his appearance was enough to make him unsuccessful in most cases. While Leech was accepted by the Morlocks and the X-Men, the battles for equality that make up the fundamentals of the series still remain.

Appearing in the first season of X-Men: The Animated Series, the young Morlock Leech has always been a sympathetic character. The Morlocks have followed an interesting trajectory in the series, initially antagonizing the X-Men before some gray areas and similarities began to appear, leading to rare moments of cooperation. Leech is a figure who is caught between worlds, inherently made the target of callous mistreatment due to his physical differences.

In the original series, Leech tricks the X-Men into a trap by the Morlocks. In this trap, however, he has a change of heart, and winds up assisting Cyclops. Facing the kindness and acceptance that the X-Men offer has been important to the character throughout the series. Leech has dealt with alienation throughout his entire life, and has only been looking for people to accept him – which looked just about to truly happen for him with Genosha before his death. This also led him to join the Morlocks, making his inability to save them in his final moments so tragic.

X-Men ’97 will feature additional mutants as it continues, and there is certainly hope that many now-dead heroes may return. Gambit will more than likely reappear, and other heroes of his stature surely will as well. However, for storytelling like this to work, some of these deaths must remain permanent. Much as audiences might wish for Leech to return, restoring him to life would undercut the impact of his death. The team in X-Men ’97 must grow as time goes on, and failures must be kept as lessons to learn from, which looks set to make Leech’s sad ending concrete.