Ranger Station Episode 73: Green No More, Part Two
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 from Gosei Sentai Dairanger in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, say goodbye to Tommy -- or at least say goodbye to the Green Ranger.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 73: Green No More, Part II
Writer: Stewart St. John
Director: John Stewart
Original Air Date: September 28, 1994
"Green No More" should be great.
I mean, that first part kind of tricks you into thinking that it's going to be, right? Even though it's full of all the traditional Power Rangers plot shortcuts --- a mystical island in another dimension that just happens to look like it's about a 15-minute drive from Studio City, even Ranger costumes that are just alarmingly terrible, a monster that definitely doesn't seem like it should be notable enough to prompt the last appearance of the most popular character on the show --- but there's so much in place that it should be great. It's been building for weeks, and while they might not look great, there's an entire team of evil Power Rangers just waiting to be unleashed on the good guys.
There's even a lot of good stuff in this episode! But for everything that they have going into it, Tommy's final appearance as the Green Ranger for a full 20 years is genuinely terrible. And believe me, it hurts to type that.
The major problem is that outside of Tommy losing his Green Ranger powers for good --- and I'm going to go ahead and assume that you know there should be a big asterisk on "for good" there --- the episode just doesn't deliver on anything that it promises.
The one thing that's easiest to excuse involves Jason, Trini, Kimberly, Billy, and Zack being captured by Lord Zedd and held as powerless prisoner on Otherworld, his interdimensional island. After going through all that trouble and introducing them to his Evil Rangers --- you know, the juvenile delinquents in inside-out lucha libre masks and extremely unflattering pajamas --- he just decides to... let... them... go.
The reasoning here is that since he's taken away their powers, sending them back to suffer in a world that is soon to be ground beneath his skinless heel while they can't do anything about it is a pretty harsh punishment, and it is. At the same time...
Look, I don't want to be an armchair editor here, but it's been 22 1/2 years, so why not? Wouldn't it make way more sense, and be way more thrilling, if the other Rangers were taken prisoner and Tommy had to sacrifice the last of his power to rescue them, maybe even battling his way through five evil Rangers by himself to explain why he's so thoroughly and permanently burnt out? Like, there's a ton of dialogue in this episode about how Tommy always does the right thing and is "willing to sacrifice anything" to help his friends, so wouldn't that help underscore that just a little bit better than Zed just telling them to go back to, oh, I don't know, the garage laboratory where Billy invented a flying car and a machine that can switch bodies?
The only one that he actually keeps prisoner is Tommy, and friends, I have watched this episode two times today and I can't figure out what happens here. I mean, I get that Goldar is keeping him alive in hopes that Tommy will finally admit that Goldar is his better, and I even have to admit that I like that aspect of it.
Goldar has always had a more intense personal hatred with Jason, but Tommy was the one who was essentially brought in to be his replacement. The fact that Goldar is motivated almost entirely by spite and resemblance is a really nice character trait that doesn't come up nearly as often as it should.
Also, it would probably make him a great comics writer.
The thing that I don't get is why it is suddenly decided --- after being discussed nowhere --- that Goldar will finish Tommy off with a "time device." According to Goldar, it will send him "spinning off into space," which I'd think would make it a space device, but if you've read literally any piece of fiction ever, you know from the second it's introduced that it's going to be used to zap Tommy back to the real world. And again, I don't want to be the guy who's like "the Power Rangers should just buy guns and shoot Putty Patrollers in the face" or whatever, because I realize that this show is a) for children, and b) built on certain genre conventions, but for frig's sake, Goldar is a flying manticore who carries a sword. He doesn't need to go papercut Tommy to death with a Get Out Of Jail Free Card.
It's another one of those things where it almost delivers in a way that's really satisfying. We actually do get a quick fight between Goldar and Tommy where Tommy's guts, determination, and quickness give him a brief but fleeting edge. In the show, it gives him control of a McGuffin that he uses to blast Goldar (with no lasting ill effects), but wouldn't it have been better if Tommy had to think his way out of the situation?
To be fair, there is a weird little clever twist to it, with Tommy using the time device to contact himself in the past and orchestrate his own escape. But here's the thing: This kind of scene only works if YOU'RE ACTUALLY DOING THE SAME SCENE TWICE IN TWO DIFFERENT TIMES.
If you were paying attention to our last episode, you'll know that the spectral, time-tossed Tommy who appeared to himself in the past just said "Remember... communicator... that's all I can say!"
This time, we get a completely different scene, where a third Tommy (who's from the future, I GUESS?) shows up and literally hands our Tommy his communicator. We never see this scene happening again anywhere in the episode. Friggin' nonsense, man.
And maybe the worst thing about this entire episode? The Rangers never fight the Dark Rangers. They literally just stand around until Tommy shatters the crystal that Zedd's been using to steal his powers, and that is that. They don't even stick around as enemies --- the episode ends with Jason buying them a all 90-cent sodas and asking if they can start over and be friends, to which they readily agree despite never being seen again.
If the show was planning this far ahead --- and if we absolutely had to introduce five evil Power Rangers and then NEVER FRIGGIN' FIGHT THEM, one of the most infuriating things I've seen on this show --- then I imagine this would've been a good time to introduce a new group of kids who could potentially replace the existing Rangers. Imagine how much more weight this would have if it was Aisha, Adam, and Rocky showing up.
But really, that's being unfair. It's not like anybody knew that three of the people on the cast were going to start wondering why they weren't making more money and head off to a "peace conference" from which some of them would never return. But we'll get there eventually.
The final element of not-quite-delivering actually turns out for the best, which might be the most surprising thing about this whole episode. The Turbanshell.
I promise you that I don't want to be the "...but in JAPAN..." guy, even if that's the premise of this entire column, but you might recall that Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger did not exactly cuss around when it came to setting up its Big Challenges. When Burai died (in "Burai Dies!"), the monster that he was facing was a giant shape-shifting Cyclops who would end up serving as the herald of Great Satan.
Tommy, on the other hand, has to fight a giant hermit crab, which is significantly less threatening.
But when it actually goes down --- after Tommy is able to recover the Rangers' morphers and recharge himself for one last battle through some deus ex machina plotting that essentially boils down to Zordon shrugging his non-existant shoulders and saying "that's what it says in the script" --- it turns out to be pretty awesome. While his shell is essentially invulnerable, Zordon explains that they can defeat the Turbanshell by heating up its insides, and then freezing it from the outside, and Tommy volunteers to do the inside-heating.
Step one of the plan is to disguise himself as a watermelon and get eaten.
Step two? Oh, you know.
He just shoots it from the inside with his laser rifle.
Remember when I said that I didn't want the Power Rangers to have guns? I take it back, this actually rules.
And with that, Tommy's time as the Green Ranger has come to an end -- but if you remember how this went down last time Tommy lost his powers, you might be surprised to find out that when he says he's going to miss the other Rangers, he specifically adds "while we're on school break." Almost as though he'll be... back?
Goodbye forever, Tommy.
We'll see you next month.
Good news, everyone! This week's episode marks the final use of the Zyu2 footage, meaning that from here on out, we'll be seeing Power Rangers actually adapting Gosei Sentai Dairanger --- for an extremely loose definition of "adapting."
Just wait'll you see what they're eventually going to do with Episode 13: "Ka-Kabuki Boy!"
We are officially through with the spotlight episodes and back to the fairly standard Super Sentai plots, but that doesn't mean that things aren't going to get very, very weird in a few minutes. It just means that this weirdness is going to come in a form that does not involve getting an anthropomorphic piece of tofu drunk and then beating it into unconsciousness.
Instead, our monster this week is Kabuki Boy:
He has the power to invisibly attach himself to someone's back and turn them into an evil Kabuki performer. And the fact that he uses this power for evil is a real shame --- just think of all the good he could do in the high-stakes world of Quantum Fighting!
This actually presents a unique problem for the Rangers --- instead of just being able to show up and hit the monster with illusion trains or flamethrowers, they have to worry about the actual human being being controlled, as it's their body on the line.
Quick sidenote: Is anyone else hungry for some KFC?
But that raises the question: Is he truly the real monster here? I mean, yes, he is the actual monster who was sent by the immortal Gorma tribe to murder humans (and also do a couple of regular robberies, because I guess Shadam, Zydos, and Gara's BDSM gear ain't gonna pay for itself), but in another, less literal sense, couldn't man be the real monster here?
This man, I mean.
This is Master Guhan, Rin's ersatz grandfather, who's visiting from China on the trail of Kabuki Boy. He's the master inventor of the Dai Tribe, to the point where he's the one who came up with the Aura Changers that allow the Dairangers to take their Ch'i-powered superhuman forms.
According to him, the only way to defeat Kabuki Boy is to distract him with either a kabuki play or Beijing opera, which led me to believe that we were going to be going into what is actually a pretty standard tokusatsu plot about the characters putting on a show.
But then this thing swerves pretty hard.
Before the Dairangers can even start in on this whole "putting on a play" thing, they stumble onto Kabuki Boy and end up chasing him to the scene of a jewelry store robbery, where he possesses the robber. And then things get weird.
Because then the villain pulls out a friggin' gun and starts shooting at the Dairangers.
Listen, I did not know it was going to be Gun Week here at Ranger Station either, and I'm as surprised as you are.
It's worth noting, of course, that the Power Rangers and their Japanese counterparts are always running around with guns and cannons of some kind, but they're also always removed from the world of reality. Like, you're not going to mistake the MMPR-era "Blade Blasters" for an actual gun, right? But this thing? That's just a monster whipping out a Beretta and shooting actual bullets at the Dairangers.
There's one really interesting thing about it, though. The Dairangers (and their American counterparts) have always had super-powers that were extremely vague by design, but judging by their reactions here, they're definitely vulnerable to being shot when they're in their human forms. Once they transform --- which they do at the last second as Kabuki Boy unloads on them --- the bullets impact with the same traditional sparks that you get from when they get attacked with magic swords.
Eventually, the Dairangers corner the monster, and he threatens to jump off the rooftop on which they're fighting, which would prove fatal to the robber's body.
And Guhan just straight calls him on his bluff.
And he's almost right. The fall does not, in fact, kill Kabuki Boy, who escapes in mid-air. It does, however, most definitely kill the robber, and the camera lingers on his pallid corpse as the Dairangers check on him and discover that their actions have resulted in the death of a human being. Guhan is utterly unconcerned, and Rin sheds tears at the idea of her Grandfather being so callous that he could order a murder in the name of pursuing one of the Gorma, and then the police show up, surrounding the Dairangers and the dead body of the robber they allowed to jump to his death.
None of this is a joke. That is how the episode ends.
What the actual heck, Dairanger!
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: We covered Turbanshell last week, and Kabuki Boy --- shockingly enough --- will actually have an American counterpart later in the season that is somehow even weirder and more culturally insensitive than you are expecting. 5/10
Deviation From The Source: 10/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: For the first time in the entire series, Bulk and Skull don't appear at all in this episode, but also that gives us a good opportunity to mention that the Power Rangers are real quick to forgive these violent new kids that were being positioned as their arch-nemeses, which is real nice until you remember how much they love to laugh at Bulk after he faceplants into a cake. Buncha jerks.. N/A
Moral Lessons: Persevere, even in the face of Goldar and his Time Device! 9/10
'90s Fashions: You only really see it on the few episodes where he's wearing a tank top, but nobody ever talks about how Billy was, like, super ripped. He looks like he's in developmental under the name Jayson Blue or something. 7/10
Total For Episode 46: 31/50