Ranger Station Episode 35: The Green Candle, 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, Kyuoryu Sentai Zyuranger, in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, Tommy trades being a Power Ranger for making out, in what can only be described as a metaphor for turning 13.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 35: The Green Candle, Part 2
Writer: Gary Glasberg and Stewart St. John
Director: Robert Hughes
Original Air Date: November 17, 1993
When you talk about the things that make Mighty Morphin Power Rangers great --- or at least what made it popular --- it's usually just the big stuff that comes up. The bright colors, the giant robots, the karate fights, the endless string of visually interesting and toyetic monsters, those are all the big, easy elements of the show's appeal, and they certainly do the job. But aside from those, there's one thing about the show that elevates it into its occasional brushes with greatness, and it's not one you hear about a lot.
One of the things that really makes Power Rangers work is that every now and then, the good guys lose.
One of this column's readers mentioned that in the comments section a while back with the caveat that this is usually just an excuse to blow everything up so that they can introduce the new toys, but regardless of the reasons behind the camera, it happens. And when it does, it adds a lot to what is otherwise a pretty formulaic show. It raises the stakes, and it shows that things can be lost just as soon as they arrive, and it adds a whole lot to the kind of weird quirks that lead you to end up with one guy eventually being the Green, White, Red, and Black Ranger. Which brings us to this week's episode.
When we last left off, Tommy had escaped from Rita Repulsa's Dark Dimension by stealing Goldar's sword in the middle of a fight (awesome), leaving behind the Green Candle that was magically tied to his powers. When it burns out, Tommy will no longer be the Green Ranger, so as we pick back up, the Rangers are debating just how they're going to get it back.
Tommy can't go himself, because his presence in the Dark Dimension will only accelerate the spell, so Jason volunteers to do the job instead. The only problem is that --- despite the fact that the Dark Dimension looks an awful lot like it might just be the other side of the Command Center if they moved a little bit of furniture out of the way --- it's not really the kind of place you can walk to.
Unless, of course, you have giant novelty tuning forks with hypno-spirals stuck on them.
Excuse me, I meant "Molecular Decoders."
Alpha 5 has tracked the teleportation energy that the Putty Patrollers use, which means that if they can head back to the park, they can replicate the teleportation and get to the Dark Dimension themselves --- and the sooner they do that, the less time they'll have to think about how they could probably just use this same technology to go to the moon and chuck Rita back into a space dumpster.
Speaking of Rita, she has decided that if a plan didn't work the first time, she might as well try it again this week --- and while that's been her philosophy for a while now in the macro scale, she usually dresses it up with a new monster, at least. This time, though, she's sending Cyclops back down to Angel Grove so that he can devastate the city with his optic blasts, which can only be kept in check by ruby qua-- wait, sorry, sorry, mixed my notes up again. This time, she wants Cyclops to disguise himself as the Dragonzord in Battle Mode to keep the Rangers busy while the candle burns out.
After Bulk and Skull show up to bother the Rangers in a scene where Angel Grove's favorite punks pretend to be monkeys and then literally fall into a trash can and roll down a hill, Cyclops makes his move, attacking downtown while disguised as the Dragonzord. Tommy, of course, can't let this stand, so even as his friends work to save his powers, he goes into action to battle the ersatz Dragonzord with the genuine article.
At this point, it's worth noting that you almost never see Tommy driving the DragonZord. Most of the time, he's just standing around fluting at it while it smashes up things on its own, and even in the opening credits, the shot we see of the Dragonzord has the Green Ranger riding on top of its head like a cake decoration. Imagine my surprise, then, when we not only saw Tommy in the cockpit, but got what I believe is the first ever shot facing out from inside a Zord:
It's pretty cool, even though that windshield looks absolutely nothing like anything we see from outside.
As the battle between the Dragonzord and Cyclops rages downtown, the Rangers finish up the molecular decoders in the park, opening up a portal for Jason. He steps through, only to find himself face-to-face with Goldar in a rematch of the fight they had in the Dark Dimension back in "Green With Evil." Surprisingly, Jason fares even better than Tommy, managing to bring Goldar down to a knee with a well-placed spin kick, but the fight itself doesn't last long. Before he can even come close to grabbing the Green Candle, Zack has to teleport in through a second portal to pull him out, so that they can go help Tommy --- a scene that gives us a rare FOX Kids onscreen mention of Actual For Real Death.
With the rest of the Rangers in play, the Ultrazord makes short work of Cyclops, but the damage has been done. The distraction lasted long enough for the Green Candle to burn out, leaving Tommy on the verge of being permanently depowered. And you can tell things are bad, because when he teleports into the Command center, Tommy's costume is already starting to look super cheap and flimsy.
Seriously, I try not to be too harsh on the show when they have to feature in-uniform American footage, but good gravy. That "armor" is basically just a shiny pillow, and while I absolutely want a pillow shaped like the Green Ranger's armor for myself, it probably shouldn't look that bad on the actual show.
The only way to prevent total disaster is for Tommy to give up his Power Coin, transferring the power to another Ranger to keep it away from Rita. He does, giving Jason the Dragon Dagger and his ill-fitting pillowy armor --- and the Dragonzord --- before morphing back to his human form for good. But on the bright side, his romance with Kimberly kicks off in earnest with a kiss, and she assure hims that his friendship with the other Rangers will never change, so we can all definitely look forward to seeing him show up in every episode of the show, even when he's not fighting alongside the Power Rangers.
This week's episodes are based on the events of Episodes 41 and 42 of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, and before you read any further, this might be good time to talk about what appears to be the Japanese attitude towards spoilers. You run into this a lot with shows like Sailor Moon and the Super Sentai episodes of the '90s, but those things will just straight up tell you exactly what happens right after the credits finish rolling, and considering that they occasionally involve major plot twists, that's a little surprising.
Anyway, the episodes are called "Blaze, Burai!" and "Burai Dies," and I was really tempted to just leave it at that and call it a day.
As you may recall, Burai only has four hours left on his death clock, and when Dora Gansaku shows up disguised as Dragon Caesar, he's forced to leave his timeless room to go help out the rest of the Zyurangers. And this, it turns out, was all part of the plan. Not only does Bandora want to run out the clock on Burai's final hours, she wants to destroy any hope of retreating or saving him:
Thus, when Burai finally grabs Zyusouken and heads off to summon the real Dragon Caesar to battle the imposter, Bandora herself descends from the Moon and goes into the Timeless Room, destroying it with her magic. Burai shows up to stop her, and for the first time on the show, we actually get to see Bandora going one-on-one with one of the Zyurangers --- and needless to say, it's awesome.
Considering she does almost all of her fighting by proxy, it's sometimes difficult to remember that Bandora is a straight-up Satan-worshipping space witch, and when she starts throwing lightning around and blowing things up while the Green Ranger is helpless to even lay a finger on her, it's pretty amazing.
Either way, Burai has no choice but to face the final four hours of his life. There's one catch, though --- every time he has a vision of himself being carried to the land of the dead, he notices a boy sitting on the side of the road. You will also notice this, as they show it about fourteen times over the course of two episodes, but while you might be content to just roll your eyes at how they've padded this out into a three-parter, Burai wants to do his best to save this child. So, as is the way that most things happen on Zyuranger, he just starts running around Tokyo until he finds the right child.
The kid's name is Kouta, and it turns out that he's Burai's biggest fan, so --- without telling him that he's fated to die in about three hours --- Burai decides to give him an awesome day of riding around on top of a robot dragon:
Unfortunately, when Bandora strikes again, Kouta is buried under rubble and is seriously injured, on his way to the death that Burai's vision foretold.
While all this is going on, the Zyurangers are trying to find a way to save Burai, and finally, the Great Sage Barza discovers the answer: the Elixir of Life, which is hidden in the Sacred Land and which can reverse anyone's fate even if they've been doomed. The problem is that nobody knows where the Sacred Land is, and there's only one way to get there:
Fortunately, the Rangers are on pretty good terms with God --- or at least the collection of robot dinosaurs that He inhabits when He walks the land of His creation.
They do some praying, and after zapping away everyone's Dino Bucklers for some reason, Daizyuzin sends Dan and Goushi are sent to the Sacred Land to recover the elixir while everyone else is left to deal with Dora Gansaku. While they've been busy, you see, Dora Gansaku has been terrorizing the city in the form of Daizyuzin, and has turned the fickle population against the Zyurangers, to the point where they are literally trying to stone our heroes to death.
Even Goushi and Dan run into trouble, when the statue that holds the elixir comes to life and tries to fight them.
It all builds to the point where Geki, who has of course been Daizyuzin's most faithful follower, snaps and begins to yell directly at Daizyuzin Himself:
Daizyuzin grants the Zyurangers their power so that they can defeat Dora Gansaku, but that's only half of the problem. Sadly, when the statue that's fighting Dan and Goushi reveals itself to be both a goddess and Clotho of the Fates, they find out that Burai's fate is sealed:
The only thing they can do is fulfill his final wish of saving Kouta, which is exactly what they do. Burai, with his dying breath, passes his powers and the Zyusouken to Geki, and then we see him happily riding into the Land of the Dead, secure in the knowledge that he has helped an innocent child avoid a cruel fate.
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: "Rita builds her own Megazord" is maybe the easiest possible plot to come up with when you're writing Power Rangers, but "Rita has a giant cyclops with a dopey grin who just pretends to be the Megazord" adds that special touch. 4/10
Deviation From the Source: Tommy lives, and in a way, that's a shame. I mean, I don't want him to die, but "Tommy has to fight his way out of the land of the dead" is the MMPR Halloween episode I think we all wanted 6/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: Is there any higher sign of friendship than being a 17 year-old in high school who will still go out to the park and hide in the foliage to make monkey noises with your main bro? 8/10
Moral Lessons: Stay loyal to your friends, even if that means fighting Goldar. 5/10
'90s Fashions: For some reason, Jason's regular jorts are even more '90s than when he wears those weird red ones. 7/10
Total For Episode 21: 23/50