Ranger Station Episode 58: Football Season
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, Tommy keeps accidentally doing karate when he's trying to do football! You know, teen problems.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 58: Football Season
Writer: Cheryl Saban
Director: Terence H. Winkless
Original Air Date: May 9, 1994
I know that I've been a little grumpy about these last few episodes, and there's a part of me that wonders if it's just me. I mean, the average viewer probably isn't going to have quite my level of strong feelings about that miserable excuse for a game show, or think that it's an unpardonable sin that an otherwise fun episode like last week's had a monster that didn't match up with its framing plot. So every once in a while, I have to sit down and ask myself, am I just expecting too much out of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers?
No. No I am not. And I know that, because this week's episode does everything this show should've been doing all along.
It's got an innovative use of the monster, a thematic resonance that runs through the entire episode, a #relatable #teen problem, and it even features a bunch of weird variant Putty Patrollers that don't ever show up anywhere else. It's kind of everything I want out of the show, and while we still have a couple weeks left before it all comes to an end, I'm willing to declare it the best episode of the Zyu2 era.
I mean, don't get me wrong --- it doesn't exactly make sense. But it does come about as close as I think we're likely to get.
As you might've guessed from the title, it's football season at Angel Grove High (because football season starts around May, right?) and that means that it's time for tryouts! The thing is, Tommy's a little nervous. See, he's devoted so much time to karate that he never picked up the finer points of football.
And this, I think, would've been a nice way to add a little depth to Tommy's character --- which, even by Power Ranger standards, is about as shallow as a pudding cup. A good lesson for kids to learn is that you just can't be good at everything, and while it's always good to try new things and do your best, sometimes you just have to be happy embracing your strengths and accepting your weaknesses on their own terms. I mean, if you're so good at karate that a floating head literally puts you in charge of a robot dragon, it's okay that you're not that good at football.
It's a good lesson, but it's not the one we're going to learn today. Spoiler warning, but Tommy, who has never played football, is going to be Angel Grove's star quarterback in about eighteen minutes.
He does at least have to work at it, though.
It turns out that Ernie was "an All-Star Fullback" during his college days before he found his true calling (juice), and he's willing to share that knowledge with Tommy and help get him into shape for the team. So while the rest of the Rangers go off to have some fun, Tommy and Ernie hit the field for some pretty amazing scenes where Tommy just keeps accidentally doing karate, throwing jump-kicks at a tackling dummy or defaulting back to his fighting stance.
He's not the only one struggling to make the team, though. Bulk's also having a bit of trouble, somewhat compounded by the fact that he's got Skull for a trainer instead of Ernie.
And look: Bulk should absolutely be on the football team pretty much by default. I mean, think about what we know about him. He's big, obviously, but he's also very strong --- the more obsessive viewers among you may recall that he held the bench press record at the Youth Center before Jason finally broke it. Also, while he's not exactly what you'd call graceful, the one skill that we know he has from seeing it over and over and over is crashing through things.
I don't know much about football, but I do know that being a large strong man who can crash through things is a pretty useful skill in the game. That Bulk is struggling and not just already lording his status as Angel Grove's version of The Fridge over Tommy is this episode's one big wasted opportunity.
They do make up for it with subtext, though.
That's Bulk on the bottom there. He's learning ballet to improve his agility, you see.
Needless to say, Rita sees all this going on and decides that she should probably go ruin everyone's day with a monster attack. First, a gang of Putties show up to wreck a flag football game between the other Rangers, and then Zordon alerts them of the real threat: The Rhino-Blaster.
For the record, Zordon makes a lot of extremely awkward football references over the course of this episode, and I love it. He's just so desperately trying to sound "down" with the kids, but with all the success you'd expect from someone who spent the last ten thousand years talking to Alpha Friggin' Five.
Anyway, the Rhino-Blaster is, as Zordon says, "vicious and strong," but he also has one more key advantage. When the Rangers show up to fight him in the park, they find that he's not alone. He has an entire team of Putties helping him out.
A football team.
For some reason, sticking putties into a few football uniforms make them roughly eighty-four times more effective than they would be otherwise. Thanks to a spiffed-up look and a little bit of theming, they beat the Power Rangers to a pulp, setting them up for the Rhino-Blaster to rhino-blast them right into the Multidimensional Vortex, a pocket dimension where they're trapped without the use of their teleporters or communicators.
Fortunately, there's a sixth ranger out there to save them,and since he's been practicing football for five, maybe six minutes at this point, it's time to take a break anyway. Thus, Tommy heads into action, taking on the Rhino Blaster solo.
So, remember how I said that for all its qualities, this episode doesn't exactly make sense? Well, this is where it kind of goes off the rails. According to Zordon and Alpha, the only way for the Rangers to free themselves from the Multidimensional Vortex is for Tommy to trick the Rhino-Blaster into trying to send him to the Vortex, and instead just throw his Dragon Dagger in there so that they can... man, I don't even know. Cut themselves out? Are pocket dimensions built along the same rules as burlap sacks? Who knows?
Point is, Tommy does, the other Rangers do, and then the Megazord and Dragonzord make short and sadly non-football-themed work of the monster.
When we return to the Youth Center, it's an unspecified amount of time later, and Mr. Caplan is ready to read out the roster of the AGHS Football Team --- a team whose mascot is never actually mentioned, and who I have a lot of questions about. Like, is this supposed to be a bear?
There's literally some kid in a costume there, and I have no idea what it's meant to be. Let's go with bear. Angel Grove Grizzlies sounds about right, right?
Anyway, Caplan reads off the roster, and it turns out that Angel Grove's team consists of Jason, Billy, Zack, Bulk, and Generic Background Teens Bob, Matthew, Ryan, Michael, Thomas, and Paul --- and Tommy, of course, who is literally introduced as the team's star quarterback.
First of all, maybe wait until you have played one (1) game to make that distinction. Second of all, and this is an honest question, when are these kids going to have time to play football? Seriously, even if they weren't Power Rangers, half of this team is constantly teaching karate to children or inventing flying cars, and they're also the four of the six best students in class! That's a very difficult schedule to maintain, and there is no way that they're not also going to be called away from every single game to fight some hateful capybara sent by a moon witch!
Seriously, by the second game of the season, that team's going to be Bob, Matthew, Ryan, and Mr. Caplan's toupee.
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: The Rhino-Blaster itself is, aside from all the football puns, a pretty garden-variety creation from Finster's oven. I do think the Football Putties go a long way towards making up for it, though. 8/10
Radness of the Music: This episode not only features a new song from Ron Wasserman, the genuinely incomprehensible "5-4-1," but also has a weird, highly generic rap that plays over the flag football game and sounds like something they'd use to replace music they didn't have the license for on the WWE Network. 7/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: One thing I really appreciated about this episode was that while Bulk learning ballet is played for laughs, they don't go for the standard disbelief about football players learning coordination through ballet. Skull just gets out a book and points it out, and Bulk agrees that t seems pretty likely. That's trust, friends. 6/10
Moral Lessons: You have to be good at everything, or else you're basically a failure. I mean, do you want to be like Tommy, or Thomas? 2/10
'90s Fashions: I keep staring at Ernie's shirt and thinking that I'm about to see a 3D picture resolve itself. 6/10
Total For Episode 46: 29/50