Ranger Station Episode 50: Return Of An Old Friend, 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, the Green Ranger is back! Sort of! Mostly!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 50: Return of an Old Friend, Part II
Writer: Shell Danielson
Director: Worth Keeter
Original Air Date: March 1, 1994
While most of the original Power Rangers are pretty one-note characters --- arguably even less, with Jason in particular approaching the previously theoretical milinote of characterization --- Tommy brings a really interesting duality to the table, and not just because of that week where he was evil.
No, Tommy's two sides come from the fact that sometimes he's the total badass that we all remember. That's something that's helped along by the haze of nostalgia, sure, but it's not entirely a fabrication. To keep him apart from the other Rangers, thanks to his Japanese counterpart spending most of his time in a poorly furnished extradimensional apartment and only showing up at the climax of the action, there's a lot of footage in the first season of Jason David Frank just doing legitimately impressive martial arts and yelling his signature "SICK-IYAHHH!!"
Even without that, there's the fact that the Green Ranger made his first appearance by kicking in the back door of the Megazord and punching everyone else so hard that they flew out of a giant robot's face.
But sometimes --- pretty often, in fact --- we see the other side of Tommy, which is that he's a complete doofus.
The combination of JDF's inexperience as an actor and the show's tendency to write its heroes as sanitized to the point of being downright saccharine means that when Tommy's not being mind-controlled into a life of evil, he tends to approach everything with this constant wide-eyed surprise. Compared to how he acts in the fight scenes, with his laser focus and brutal-looking side-kicks, "Tommy" sometimes feels like a completely different character than "The Green Ranger." But it's actually pretty charming.
At least, it is in this episode, when Tommy wanders into Parents Day to find that everyone's apparently been Raptured, and just stands around for a minute looking confused. Admittedly, this is a pretty confusing situation, but c'mon. Not only is he in Angel Grove, where stuff like this is happening on a literal daily basis, but he was a Power Ranger. Anytime something unusual happens, he should probably just assume it's the result of moon witchery.
Also charming? When Tommy is immediately teleported to the Command Center, Jason greets him in the most hilariously overwrought way that he can:
Okay, first of all? You are literally teenagers. Secondly? You saw each other fifteen episodes ago. Even counting for the gap between the Zyuranger episodes and the weird, vestigial Zyu2 era, that's, like, three months. "Welcome back, old friend" might be a little more intense than necessary.
But intensity, it seems, is the order of the day. As you may recall from "The Green Candle," Tommy lost his powers when Rita Repulsa's magical Green Candle was threatening to permanently drain them. In order to avoid the fate of Rita gaining control of the Dragonzord, he passed them onto Jason along with his power coin --- the only Power Coin they have left after Goldar conned the rest of the Rangers into handing theirs over.
So here's the thing: Obviously, Tommy had to come back. He was just too popular to stay away for long, and the idea of a Ranger whose powers are limited, even dangerous to use, is a pretty compelling one. But by the threadbare, strained-to-the-breaking-point logic of the show, why does it have to be Tommy?
The one thing we know about the Green Candle is that it's specifically tied to Tommy himself --- Rita made it when he was brainwashed into working with her in "The Green Candle," so it's not tied to the actual power as much as the guy using it. Since Jason still has his Power Coin, and since it seems that the Coins, not the Morphers are what allow the rangers to Morph --- they only give Goldar their Power Coins --- why doesn't Jason just pop the Dragonzord coin into his own Morpher and do it himself?
I suppose the argument could be made that the Ranger identities are specific to the person using them --- so like, Jason couldn't grab the Triceratops coin and Morph into the Blue Ranger or anything --- but if that's the case, how has he been using the Dragonzord coin all this time to summon the Green Ranger's armor and the Dragon Dagger? And, if you want to get really nerdy about it, Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger/Power Ranger Super Megaforce --- in which any Ranger can transform into any other Ranger from the entire history of the franchise as long as they have the proper item --- and Ressha Sentai ToQger, in which the Rangers frequently swap their colors among themselves --- show us that's not the case.
So why, then, do they have to bring Tommy back, when doing so puts both his life and Zordon's at risk?
Seriously: If you have a plausible answer, tell me. I'm stumped.
Anyway, the only way to restore Tommy's powers is for Zordon to charge him up directly using his own life force, and despite the fact that Billy identifies this as something that's probably going to kill them both, it's exactly what they decide to do. They are, after all, desperate, and sending the Green Ranger on a suicide mission to recover their Power Coins seems like the best idea they have. And it works... for a while.
Tommy's able to recover the Dragon Dagger and the Power Coins, but after only a few minutes of fighting, his powers (and Zordon's connection to this dimension) fade to the point where Tommy collapses onto the floor of the command center, unmorphed and comatose.
Well. I say "comatose." The show, via Alpha 5, defines his condition as "his readings are very low." What readings, exactly, are never explained.
With the Rangers back in possession of their Power Coins, they still face the problem of their parents (and Bulk and Skull) being held hostage in another dimension, and Rita's Dramole monster and his mind controlling armpit gas.
Fortunately, thanks to the plot contrivances that drive this universe, beating the monster will automatically free their parents and set everything right again. Because of course it will.
Speaking of contrivances, we have an entire fight with the Dramole. All of the Power Rangers except Kimberly are taken over by the Dramole's mind control --- the producers specifically requested scenes that could blend into a Tommy/Kimberly romance when they were getting the Zyu2 footage, so she's the odd one out --- and she's quickly overwhelmed by the others. Back at the Command Center, though, it turns out that Tommy was somehow able to absorb the energy of the force field protecting the Power Coins, re-energizing his Ranger Powers and leaving him with the ability to help out his pals.
With Tommy's intervention, the Rangers are freed from the Dramole's influence, and from there, it's a pretty quick walk to another explosive victory for the Rangers, courtesy of Titanus and the Ultrazord.
With the Dramole defeated, the Rangers' parents are returned to the Youth Center, and weirdly enough, they have no memory at all of being kidnapped by actual monsters. Before they can reunite, though, Tommy has a choice to make. Even though his powers are back now, there's no guarantee that they'll last, and there's a chance they could fail in the middle of a fight, leaving him completely vulnerable to being murdered by an evil pumpkin or a football-playing rhinoceros.
I'll let you guess what he chooses.
And with that, the Rangers are all returned to their color-coded families for some welcome but unexpected displays of love...
... and a disastrously messy food fight started by Bulk and Skull.
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 Dramole is, in all honesty, kind of a mess. I've mentioned before that the Zyu2 monsters are, by and large, pretty much a letdown, and a mole who can control minds with armpit gas doesn't do anything to lessen my impression that they were just assembled by drawing random words out of a hat. 5/10
Radness of the Music: This episode marks the official debut of The Mighty RAW's "Go Green Ranger Go," which is both awesome and, given that it features lyrics like, "Goldar's gonna get youuuuuu TONIGHT!", almost alarmingly specific. 9/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: Barely in the episode. Very disappointing. 1/10
Moral Lessons: I think ascribing any sort of moral choices to this episode would be tantamount to going out into your front yard and trying to decide if a rock in your driveway was good or evil. 0/10
'90s Fashions: Maybe Tommy's actually confused in that opening scene about where they found that weird light-green vertically striped shirt instead of regulation '90s plaid. 5/10
Total For Episode 46: 20/50