Ranger Station Episode 60: An Oyster Stew
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, the first season of Power Rangers comes to an end with... well, not much of anything, to be honest.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 60: "An Oyster Stew"
Writer: Shell Danielson
Director: Terence H. Winkless
Original Air Date: May 23, 1994
This week brings us the very first finale of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but there's no real way to know that if you're just going by the content of the episode, because there's nothing at all to distinguish it from anything else. It's just a standard-issue monster-of-the-week plot, with no lasting changes --- except for the one that's only really apparent in retrospect, and that I assume happened purely by accident. And when you get right down to it, that's really weird.
It would be one thing if Power Rangers as a whole was a purely episodic show without any ongoing continuity, even if it just happened to be based on a show that ended its season with, you know, God returning to Earth in the form of robot dinosaurs to explode Satan's head in the skies over Tokyo, but it's not. Not only does the show have a pretty passable "season finale" in the form of "Doomsday," it's readily apparent when you watch the whole series that the first episode of Season 2 feels like a much stronger cliffhanger than a neatly tied-up story of the Rangers fighting an oyster man.
The whole thing just underscores how weird and vestigial the last 20 episodes of the season are. As much as our lives are improved by the knowledge that the Pumpkin Rapper is out there somewhere distracting people with his sinister raps and rhymes, any sort of storyline progression just grinds to a halt. And again, that would be fine if the show was just doing monsters of the week, but the cornerstone of the entire "Zyu2" era was Tommy's return and the idea that he could lose his powers again if he went too hard fighting monsters. You would think that a season finale would be the time to deal with that. But that is not what they chose to do.
Instead, we get the (purely theoretical) resolution of Zack's relationship with Angela.
On the one hand, this actually is the show's longest-running plot at this point, having been introduced all the way back in Episode 14, so getting the final installment of it here actually does give us the closest thing we're going to get to closure for something like four more years. On the other hand, I feel like there are other things, maybe even things that involve giant robot dinosaurs, that could probably be a little more exciting.
Anyway, Angela has a birthday coming up, and since Zack has been failing pretty hard at becoming her boyfriend for about 45 episodes, he wants to do something special. Specifically, he's after a pair of pearl earrings, which he plans to give to her on a double-date with Tommy and Kimberly. Because, you know, nothing spices up a night of romance like having your two other friends hanging out in ill-fitting '90s formalwear.
At this point, we cut to the moon, and after all these weeks, it occurs to me that Rita Repulsa is maybe the only supervillain ever who develops plans exclusively through free association. This time, it goes: Pearl earrings > Pearls > Oyster > Using an evil oyster monster to destroy the ocean.
Seriously. Later in the episode, Zordon literally says that she wants to destroy the ocean, which is some Cobra Commander level blue-sky no-bad-ideas-in-brainstorming evil plotting.
This particular plan actually takes two forms. First, the Oysterizer and the Ecocide Pearl are sent to destroy literally 75% of the surface of the planet (which seems like a pretty insurmountable task given that Rita can't keep it together long enough to stomp on one suburb in California), while the Rangers themselves are targeted with a far more subtle plot: A set of pearl earrings that will unleash a spell of Stillness on anyone in the vicinity.
The only question is how to trick the Rangers into delivering this evil jewelry. Fortunately for her, there's something that you might not know about the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: They are not very smart.
When an extremely shady dude shows up with a trenchcoat full of loose accessories, Zack immediately jumps on his chance to get a pair of genuine pearl earrings for five bucks. To be fair, he does make sure to ask if they were stolen first, but that is the absolute limit of Zack suspecting that anything about this entire sketchy-ass situation might not be on the up-and-up.
Needless to say, it turns out that the shady guy selling gold chains and pocket watches out of a picnic table is actually a Putty Patroller in disguise, and that raises a whole lot of questions. Like, presumably, Rita could've sent him down looking like anything, right? Like, she could've had her Putties take over a jewelry store at the mall, or set up an estate sale somewhere on Zack's route home. Instead, she just made him look as much like a criminal as possible and hoped that everyone would just agree that this is fine and normal. Which is exactly what Zack does.
Thus, armed with a set of beautiful pearl earrings and a plan for a romantic serenade, Zack heads to Angel Grove's finest French restaurant with Angela, Tommy, and Kimberly, and oh my god.
Okay, first of all, on the 1-to-10 scale I've been using to chronicle '90s fashion, Zack and Tommy clock in somewhere around a 16, even before we get to the fact that Kim is just straight cosplaying as Blossom today.
Second of all, it's kind of weird that the finest French restaurant in town is, like, just some patio furniture and a trellis full of fake flowers, right? I mean, I'm more of a casual foodie than a gourmet, but I normally associate fine dining with, y'know, being indoors.
The restaurant and the earrings are only part of Zack's plan, though. The real pièce de résistance is that he's also going to have Angela serenaded by the cherubic sounds... of Bulk and Skull.
If you guessed that this scene would end with someone just plowing into a cake, congratulations. You have been paying attention for the past year.
Still, even with the disastrous end of his "Singing Telegram," Zack has hope that his romantic ace in the hole can save everything. Unfortunately, as soon as Angela puts on her earrings (while Zack and Tommy are conveniently away cleaning themselves up from being caked by Bulk and Skull), everyone in the restaurant is zapped with the Stillness, freezing in place.
And honestly, while I didn't think much of it at first, this really is one of Rita's better plans. As we can tell from the fact that Tommy and Zack weren't affected, the range of the Stillness spell seems to extend only to the dining room --- and possibly the kitchen --- of a moderately sized French restaurant, but not the bathrooms. That's a pretty tight area, but even so, she manages to get four out of six Rangers, leaving only Tommy and Zack. If she'd detonated this thing in the Youth Center instead of waiting for Zack to get a date, there would've been no one left to stop her.
As it stands, Zack and Tommy are left to teleport to the command center and told that the only way to break the spell is to shatter the Oysterizer's pearl, and we get one last look at their fancy outfits before they morph:
That jacket. Jeez Louise.
Once they go into action, things don't go so well. It turns out that the Oysterizer has the ability to spit an acidic gel, and within moments, he takes out Zack, threatening to burn through his costume. That's when we get a little something extra. In order to help his friend recover from the Oysterizer's attack, Tommy lends Zack some of his power, making Zack the third (and final) Ranger to have his costume modified with the Dragon Shield:
I think you'll agree that this is a much better fashion choice than the both of them opting for collarless shirts.
Armed with the Green Ranger's additional power, Zack is able to take out the Oysterizer and break the spell by literally just punching it one time, unfreezing the other rangers and allowing them to go into action, too --- and believe it or not, this leads to the only time in the episode that it actually feels like a season finale. Since the Oysterizer is aquatic, the Megazord has to chase it into the ocean and fight it on its own terms, underwater.
The script for this episode makes sure to mention on two separate occasions that this is a first, and while the effects aren't all that convincing, we at least get a background for the fight that that I don't think we've ever seen before, and some pretty convincing peril for the Megazord:
The idea here is that the Megazord was simply not designed to function underwater, so when the Oysterizer briefly gets the upper hand, Tommy has to summon the Dragonzord --- which is perfectly capable of functioning underwater, as it rises from the sea every time it shows up --- to even the odds.
Thus, odds evened, the Oysterizer is knocked back onto the shore (another nice monster-battle set that I don't think we've seen before) and then summarily defeated.
Ah, but what of Zack's love life?
Since any date in which you are magically paralyzed by a pair of earrings bought from a cartoon hobo can be safely considered a disaster, Angela understandably walks out as soon as the spell is broken.
But all is not lost! The next day at the Youth Center, with Bulk and Skull backing him up on electric guitar and harp, Zack sings an apology to Angela and promises to always be himself rather than attempting to impress her with lavish gifts. It's a solid moral, albeit one that requires Angela to readily agree that she was being a little too materialistic even though we have no evidence that she actually asked for any of these gifts.
With that, the episode ends, and remember how I said that there actually was one weird change that came through in this season finale? Here it is: Despite the fact that they actually seem to be ending this one by starting a relationship with each other, this is not only Angela's final appearance on the show, but the last time that she's even mentioned. After enduring both magical paralysis and a song where Zack tells her to smile, this is it. She's gone, and when we come back, it will be as though she never existed.
Which really makes me wish that her actual final scene had been walking out on Zack in the restaurant.
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: I have a lot of jokes written and discarded about the Oysterizer, but the only one I think I can get away with is "Zordon's advice to focus on the pearl pays off when it drives the Oysterizer wild." 5/10
Radness of the Music: This episode features the song "Fight," which is different from the song "Combat," but only in the strictest sense of the word. 6/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: Only True Friends will dress as cupids and form a singing telegram duo that only has the slightest understanding of what a singing telegram actually is. 8/10
Moral Lessons: Zack's lesson about being yourself and not trying to impress your crush by throwing money around is all well and good, but nobody ever mentions that maybe it's not a great idea to buy jewelry from some dude's jacket in the park. 5/10
'90s Fashions: One thing that I actually really like about this one is seeing Trini in a really preppy skirt-and-sweater combo. I really like the idea that these are kids who come from different social strata, and Trini as a character is never really explored at all beyond the idea that she can interpret Billy's jargon for the other kids. But yeah, Tommy's jacket and Zack's vest are just... just astonishing. 16/10
Total For Episode 46: 40/50