Whatever it Takes was a seriously mixed bag. The A-Story was extremely limited to begin with. There was barely enough material to fill the episode. This lack of plot required some additional material in the form of the Wolverine/Morph storyline and the Xavier/Magneto storyline.
Let’s tackle the A plot first. The whole idea of self-sacrifice has been done to death on any television and film production anyone can possibly imagine. Sometimes it can be effective. This episode fails on that subject. While the idea of Storm having a spiritual son can provide some interesting material for the character, the execution left much to be desired. At least it provided viewers with the opportunity to see Storm’s home land deep in the African wilderness, near the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
The Shadow King was a very interesting character in the comic books. His potential was wasted in the adaptation process. If it weren’t for the excellent animation and visual design on this menace, the episode could have been even worse. The whole plot follows the pattern of a road movie where the characters follow the path and overcome their obstacles in order to arrive at their destination. After Storm’s son is possessed by the Shadow King, Rogue and Storm fly to Mount Kilimanjaro in order to set things right. When Storm arrive and puts out the fire in her home village, we actually get a good notion of her past as a goddess to these people. It’s one of the few decent bits of characterization in this whole story.
Storm finds the Shadow King and gives her own body in exchange for her son’s freedom. That’s the real intent of the Shadow King. I never really understood as to why Storm fascinated him so much. We get some of these answers in Season 4’s Xavier Remembers. Rogue is forced to take charge and save Storm somehow. Meanwhile, Mj’Nari (I think that’s his name) can be a real pain to Rogue as he desires to save Storm by any means necessary. This is a less than subtle method to stretch the plot. Rogue finally realizes that the Shadow King entered this world through a rift in the astral plane, located inside Mount Kilimanjaro. Storm manages to free herself from the Shadow King by using an efficient method Rogue used to dodge Pyro’s flame in Days of Future Past.
The chase begins as the King returns in order to possess Mj’Nari once again. This leads to the best sequence of the episode. Speed always works as a way to increase the tension. Mj’Nari enters the rift and eludes the King in a desperate race to exit the astral plane before the rift collapses. This part actually works and saves the episode.
I presume the reason the rift opened in the first place is due to the fact that Xavier’s powers are not working, while he’s stranded in the South Pole.
Wolverine’s story was promising, but it ended abruptly. It’s as if the writer reached a dead-end and lacked a solution. Logan tracks Morph to a bar in the middle of the Amazon and begs him to return to the X-Men. It’s obvious Morph is still very confused from his recent experience and gets hostile with Wolverine in order to prevent him from taking him back. This is merely an opportunity for the animators to play with different forms for Morph, including Sabretooth. After he beats the hell out of Wolverine he simply claims he has to deal with his crisis himself and Wolverine simply lets him go without a fight. This was a sorry way to stall this story until the end of the season.
Xavier and Magneto finally escape their snowy burial and find themselves in the Savage Land, where Magneto once had a base of operations. It’s clear their powers don’t work in this bizarre tropical environment. For some unknown reason, Xavier’s legs actually work. It doesn’t make sense. His paraplegic condition was never a result from his growing mutant powers. He shouldn’t be able to use his legs at all. But the writers needed a way to make Xavier easily mobile in this hostile environment, so I can forgive that flaw and assume the mutant power excuse. They come immediately under attack by wild men, forcing them into a waterfall, setting up an unnecessary cliffhanger.