Ranger Station Episode 21: Green With Evil, Part V
With 800 episodes over the course of 22 years, the Power Rangers television show is arguably the single most successful live-action superhero franchise of all time, and certainly one of the strangest. Adapted from Japan's long-running Super Sentai series, created by manga legend Shotaro Ishinomori, the Power Rangers combined the giant robots and monsters of their Japanese counterpart with a completely different set of secret identities and problems, and became a pop cultural phenomenon. That's why we're looking back with an in-depth guide to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, including its source material, Kyuoryu Sentai Zyuranger, in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, "Green With Evil" reaches its soul-sizzling finale as we unveil... The Dragonzord!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Episode 21: "Green With Evil, Part V: Breaking The Spell"
Writers: Gary Glasberg and Stewart St. John
Director: Robert Hughes
Original Air Date: October 9, 1993
This week marks the finale of "Green With Evil," and while the whole saga has actually held up pretty well on a close watch, I have to admit that from a storytelling standpoint, this episode is a mess. Major plot points from the previous episodes --- like Goldar's attack on the city and the destruction of the Megazord, which should have been a huge turning point --- are dismissed without any explanation, and their impact on the characters is never even mentioned, let alone explored. It all just sort of stops rather than actually coming to an end.
From a giaint-robots-fighting-each-other standpoint, however, this episode is dope as hell.
As you may remember, last week's episode ended with the Rangers discovering that their verdant villain was, in fact, Tommy. In the first of this week's weak points, however, there's never a moment where they consider that Tommy is evil himself, they just immediately arrive at the (correct) conclusion that he's under one of Rita's spells without ever even discussing it.
I suppose that's actually something nice about the cosmology of the Power Rangers universe, in that humanity simply does not have the capacity for the kind of evil that you get from moon witches, but it seems like a bit of a cheat to have the solution to this mystery that we've been working on for five episodes just handed to them by the script.
Either way, their priority immediately shifts to rescuing Tommy. On the Moon, however, the priority is getting turnt up in celebration of their victory over the Megazord:
And again: Why are they partying right now? There is literally nothing standing in the way of Rita making Angel Grove a smoking crater. I mean, I suppose that's a reason to break for a party now --- it's not like they're going to rebuild the Megazord within the next, oh, 20 minutes or so, right? --- but you'd think that actually achieving their goals would be a better excuse to break out the cranberry and oyster juice.
Also, I think we can all agree that this scene needs a banner in the background, whether it's the traditional "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" or the Transformers style "WE ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING."
Back at the Command Center, Alpha is freaking out over the loss of their last line of defense, terrified that Rita will "destroy the Command Center again!"
And this, I think, is unintentionally revealing. I suppose that Alpha could be referring to Tommy's invasion of the Command Center a few episodes ago, but while he messed up the computers and emptied Zordon's tube, I wouldn't say that the Command Center itself was destroyed. Instead, this implies that Rita has, at some point in the past, actually destroyed Zordon's headquarters. Presumably this is what left Zordon entubed in the first place, some grand final battle that saw Zordon lose his body and Rita wind up in a dumpster for the next ten millennia. Alas, we'll never know.
We do know, however, that Kimberly is rolling her eyes so hard. "Beloved character" my left foot.
Anyway, while Alpha goes back to looking for Zordon, the Rangers start looking for Tommy, trying to locate him so they can break the spell. Fortunately for all concerned, we've all seen that Angel Grove is made up of five or fewer locations, so they're able to cover all of it at once. Kimberly gets the Youth Center, and when she shows up, Bulk and Skull make their appearance, watching news footage of the Power Rangers' defeat:
Couldn't agree more, fellas. Could not agree more.
Sure enough, Tommy's there, just glaring at Kimberly while he works out on a chest press machine. They both reveal that they know the others' secret, and while Kimberly offers help, Tommy pretty much just says he's going to murder her and her friends. Well, not "murder." It's still a show for babies on Fox Kids, so naturally he says "destroy" instead. Same diff.
Either way, this is when the episode gets awesome, because this is when Rita decides to summon the Dragonzord.
In the interest of charting the show's flaws, I do want to point out that it's never explained where the Dragonzord comes from. To be fair, it's never explained where the other Zords come from either, but at least with that we've got ten thousand years of Alpha and Zordon having nothing better to do to fill in the gaps. Here, it just sort of shows up, and if this is something that Rita's had access to all this time, it really raises the question of why she hasn't used it before.
But none of that matters, because the Dragonzord is rad as heck.
My girlfriend and I have vastly different opinions on architecture and design --- she likes classic homes with hardwood floors, overstuffed armchairs and antiques, I like things ultramodern, with lots of glass and chrome. We've joked about how our "dream house" would look like something that Two-Face would build, split down the middle between those two ideas. But we have also had serious, intense discussions about how our real ideal home would just be living inside the Dragonzord. It's that great.
The Dragonzord is also the tipping point in terms of robot demographics. It's been pointed out that I pretty consistently refer to the Zords as "Giant Robot Dinosaurs," but that's not really accurate; only three of the five, a slim majority, are actually dinosaurs; the Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, and Pterodactyl. The other two, Mastodon and Saber-Toothed Tiger, are mammals that went extinct long after the dinosaurs, right around the time that Rita was getting thrown into her Dumpster up on the moon.
I've always maintained that it's easier to say "Giant Robot Dinosaurs" than "Giant Robot Extinct Animals From Various Historic Eras," but the Dragonzord wrecks even that taxonomy by bringing the dang Monster Manual into things. So for simplicity's sake, I'm sticking with "dinosaurs," and we can all just agree that I'm aware of the inaccuracy.
Anyway, while I've been talking about taxonomy and extinction, the Dragonzord has been just straight wrecking Angel Grove:
There's not much the Rangers can do about it, either. The Megazord was, after all, destroyed in the last episode, seemingly cast down into the fiery pits of Hell itself, so there's no way the Rangers have anything that can stand up to another giant robot right?
Wrong. The minute that Alpha 5 finally locates Zordon, Zordon teleports the Rangers into said fiery pits, and they emerge piloting their 100% undamaged robot pals once again:
This is almost unforgivably stupid. There's no reason at all given for reversing the destruction of the Zords --- even something as simple as Zordon using whatever vague, nebulous power he has to hold them together while he was "lost" would've been something, but we don't even get that. Instead, the stakes that were established in the last episode --- and anything going forward, for that matter --- are just swept off the table.
But the keyword there is "almost." The fight that follows between the Megazord and the Dragonzord is so awesome that you can forgive pretty much anything that leads up to it:
Nevermind that the Zords were destroyed, never mind that the Megazord was defeated by a giant dude just beating the crap out of it and that a giant robot dragon is probably stronger than just some dude who is pretty good at karate --- okay, really good at karate, I don't want to get on JDF's bad side --- and nevermind that the Dragonzord will go on to be considered the Rangers' trump card in future fights, none of that matters. This is, hands down, the best Megazord fight we have seen on the show.
For a fight that, in reality, was two people in super awkward costumes and a wire rig pretending to punch each other, it's shockingly physical --- at one point, the Megazord throws the dang Dragonzord through a mountain. It's so great, and the fight that follows between the Green and Red Rangers is pretty awesome, too:
That thing where the Rangers will punch someone and they'll just straight up explode in a shower of sparks is maybe my single favorite thing in tokusatsu, and we get a lot of that in this episode.
So much, in fact, that the Evil Sword of Darkness is shattered and the spell that made Tommy evil is broken.
But while he's no longer evil, he does still have his Green Ranger powers, including the control over the Dragonzord --- the Dragonzord that just happens to fit with all the other Zords in a secondary humanoid "Fighting Mode."
Again, not really addressed. I guess there's just an intergalactic standard for fighting robots.
With that, Tommy officially joins the team, and while that's inevitable, it is a little anticlimactic that he just immediately falls into step with the rest of the Rangers. Even the original five had some reluctance back in the first episode, and Tommy, someone who was brainwashed into becoming part of Zordon and Rita's conflict and just woke up on the beach four days later, should at least have a lot of questions.
Fortunately for those of us who were okay waiting 23 years to get it, this actually is something that's being explored in the current Power Rangers comics, but here, our dudes just skip straight to being Best Friends Forever.
Or at least until halfway through Season 2.
I think it's probably clear by this point that I am by no means a Super Sentai purist, but I will say that Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger does a better job of answering my questions than the final episode of "Green With Evil" by a pretty wide margin. That's not too surprising, though --- they have twice as much space to work with. See, in Zyuranger, the saga runs six parts, not five, and this week's episode is pieced together from both "The Guardian Beast's Great Riot" and "Combine! Gouryuzin."
As you may recall, we discovered last week that Daizyuzin is God, and that, having cut Him off from His conduit of Gaiatron energy that He is connected to through the sun, He was defeated and cast into a pit of fire by the Green Ranger, a sequence of events that raises a lot of questions about this new theology. But regardless, it's a victory for Bandora and her boss, Satan, so they're celebrating just like their American counterparts. The difference? They have a horn section.
While everyone is partying --- and in Lamy and Grifforzar's case, straight up making out --- Burai is upset. Bandora keeps talking about how she's going to destroy the Earth, but Burai's evil doesn't extend that far. The only thing he wants to destroy is Geki; the Earth is for ruling.
At this point, Burai steps to Bandora, and considering that he just killed God, you might think he'd have a pretty clear advantage in this fight. He does not.
As soon as Geki takes a swing with his evil sword, Hellfriede, though, Bandora vanishes, and then reappears outside, standing on the moon, taller than the Bandora Palace, breathing fire and shooting lightning out of her hands. Then, she hits him so hard that he lands on Earth, which I remind you is 238,000 miles away.
The obvious question is why doesn't Bandora just do this sort of thing to the Zyurangers themselves, but either way, it's a nice reminder that she's still a pretty big threat after losing every episode. I mean, we see her throw a magic wand from the Moon to the Earth all the time, but having her do that to an actual person is a pretty big thing.
For his part, Burai proves that he's a tough customer by surviving. When he lands in a forest, however, he's not alone --- there's a weird ghost child bouncing a ball nearby.
Friends, I have played enough D&D in my time to know that this is Bad News.
Sure enough, when Burai picks up the ball, he finds his hand stuck to it, and when the ghost child sends it careening through the woods, Burai is dragged along. He ends up in a strange room with the same black backdrop that I think we've all come to recognize as belonging to another dimension, lit by candles. One candle is, of course, green, and the ghost child declares that it represents Burai's life, and once it burns out, he'll die.
The good news, though, is that this weird little room exists outside of time, so as long as Burai stays here, the candle won't burn down.
Burai doesn't believe any of this, and thinks the whole thing is ridiculous, something that seems pretty unlikely given that he is himself a man from dinosaur times who was raised by a gnome in a magic forest. If that's your background, then a ghost showing up to announce your impending death via candle sorcery is probably going to be something you take to heart.
Alas, Burai decides not to stick around, and the ghost makes it easy for him by presenting him with his own Legendary Weapon: Zyusouken, better known to American audiences as the Dragon Dagger:
In addition to its more stabby qualities, Burai can use it to teleport himself into and out of his candlelit apartment, and also use it to summon and control his own Guardian Beast: Dragon Caesar.
Incidentally, I've always kind of assumed that the distinctive song that Tommy plays on the Dagger to summon the Dragonzord had to have been an American addition to the show, since they refer to it as a "flute" and the music is clearly the product of a horn section. It turns out that is not the case --- it's actually the same brass riff in Japan, too.
Needless to say, Burai summons Dragon Caesar, which starts just tearing up Japan, literally smacking buildings down with its claws while Burai rides around on top of it:
And with Daizyuzin dead, there's nothing that can stop it. Or is there?!
It's at this point that Geki gets so furious with Burai that he basically attempts to fistfight a giant robot dragon (awesome), but while that's going on, Barza is back at Zyuranger HQ, praying for a resurrection. And lo, he doth receive.
But it's not just Barza's prayers or Geki's wish that Daizyuzin would return that has brought the Guardian Beasts back to life and raised them up to Heaven --- it turns out that in the absence of sunlight, magma is pretty much soaked in Gaiatron. Casting them into a pit allowed the Beasts to recharge, and believe it or not, this actually kind of makes sense. We do, after all, see both the Tyrannosaurus and the Pteranodon rise up from lava and a volcano every time they appear. Burai, having not watched the show, was overconfident in his destruction of Daizyuzin, and will now suffer the consequences.
We get the same great robot fight that we have in the American version, with the difference being that there are no pilots in the Tyrannosaurus or Daizyuzin --- or Dragon Caesar, for that matter. Instead, they are fighting over their own free will, which is pretty awesome.
Geki and Burai throw down, too, and even though Geki defeats him --- and even though Daizyuzin orders him to kill Burai, Old Testament style --- Geki refuses to take his brother's life. Instead, he turns his back, giving Burai the chance to murder him if his hate is so strong. Burai, though, can't do it, and instead he sheds a single tear that dissolves his evil sword into dust.
And with that, Burai joins the team. But there's one more problem --- when Burai uses his dagger to go back to that small room, the candle has burned down to half of its previous length, and the ghost is there to tell him that he only has about 25 hours of life left. And he'd know --- turns out he's not a ghost at all, but Clotho, youngest of the Fates.
This show is weird.
In Ranger Station, each episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will be graded on a scale of one to ten in five categories, with a final score awarded with a maximum of fifty points.
- Weirdness of the Monster: Does the Dragonzord count as a monster? I mean a robot dragon is pretty weird on its own, but not when you've had 20 episodes to get used to a robot mammoth running around. 3/10
- Deviation From the Source: MMPR definitely could've used more shots of the Zords floating in the clouds watching over mortals, but aside from that, it's pretty close. Even that green candle's going to come back at some point. 4/10
- Bulk and Skull Friendship: I don't know if we'll ever get there, but Bulk saying that he and Skull should be on TV is a good bit of foreshadowing when you know that a few years later, they're going to film a pilot where they're running a hotel while their roles are played on Power Rangers by a literal pair of chimpanzees. 5/10
- Moral Lessons: If you have a friend who's acting weird, it's probablyjust because there's an evil sword causing trouble. Take him to a quarry and punch him 'til you're pals again. 2/10
- '90s Fashions: Zack's shirts have been amazing since day one, but has anyone ever offered up a convincing reason why Billy is wearing a sleeveless boiler suit? 6/10
Total For Episode 21: 20/50