Ranger Station Episode 55: Second Chance
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, Power Rangers proves that it knows only slightly less about soccer than I do, which is a pretty impressive achievement.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 55: Second Chance
Writer: Mark Litton
Director: Worth Keeter
Original Air Date: May 4, 1994
At this point, I think it's become pretty clear that Power Rangers is riding out the back half of its first season with some pretty mediocre offerings, but the weird thing is that I'm not really sure why. By summer of 1994, the show was a genuine hit, with fan-club videos, a merchandising blitz that couldn't possibly keep up with demand, and at least two knockoffs --- September's tokusatsu Frankenstein VR Troopers and October's astonishingly bizarre Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills --- in the works for the upcoming fall season.
With that kind of success, you'd think they'd be going even harder to capitalize on this particular iron while it was at the hottest it would ever be, but instead, the show itself just falls into this episodic holding pattern that's almost impossible to figure out.
It's easy to blame it on the fact that the show was attempting to marry new and extremely basic plots to the Zyu2 fight footage that existed without much of an underlying structure, but if anything, you'd think that would've made it easier to do something coherent. Even at their closest adaptations, Power Rangers definitely took a whole lot of liberties with Zyuranger's source material, and on top of that, they didn't even use all of the Zyu2 footage that the American producers had commissioned.
Instead, the 20 episodes that pad things out until they finally decide to start using the footage from Gosei Sentai Dairanger just sort of exist as this weird vestigial holdover that doesn't even get the first season up to the syndication-mandated 65 episodes. And I don't think there's any episode that embodies that feeling of being padded out more than this one.
I have legitimately watched this episode at least six times, and if it wasn't on in the background as I type these words, I'm not sure that I could remember what happened in it. It's like the Power Rangers equivalent of a brown sweater, or a soft static, or a magic eye picture that's on display right next to a pretzel stand. Sure, if you stare at it long enough, you're going to get something out of it, but soft pretzels are there right now and they're way more rewarding to experience.
Which isn't to say that this episode is boring, because right from the start, it is raising some genuinely perplexing questions. See, we open up in the Youth Center, where Ernie has just posted the roster for the new soccer team that he's coaching, and Roger just didn't make the cut.
So. Questions. First, Why is Ernie, of all people, coaching a soccer team? Ernie has never displayed an interest in anything beyond the Power Rangers, exotic fruits and the juices thereof, and Hawaiian shirts, and while I'm not saying those things can't overlap with The Beautiful Game, it also feels like any thoughts about any form of athletics would've come up maybe once or twice over the course of the previous fifty-five episodes. But I guess dude does work in a gym, sort of, technically, so I'll move past it.
Second, and far more relevant to the plot, is that Roger is the only kid who looks upset after the list is posted, so are we meant to believe that he is the only one who didn't make the cut? Did Ernie just straight up put everyone on the team except for one kid and not think that there would be a larger problem with this?
According to Ernie, if it was up to him, he'd give all the kids a second chance to try out, which is a truly insane thing to say, because everyone except for one kid did well enough to get on the team. The only one who needs a second chance is Roger, so... like... why not just give Roger another chance? Or, if you really want him to be on the team, why not just put him on the team? If you just did that, I'm pretty sure these kids would all be cool with it, but if you have to make everyone try out again, then I'm pretty sure everyone's just going to blame the kid who sucked so bad he couldn't make the cut the first time for the inconvenience.
It's not a good plot, is what I'm saying here. But since it actually is up to Ernie, this plot is in fact the "Second Chance" referred to in the title. So if you were hoping that this issue would see the return of one of Rita Repulsa's more notable monsters, I'm sorry to let you down.
Instead, Rita is inspired by all this talk of soccer to create what is, admittedly, a pretty cool monster: The Soccadillo!
Again, this is another monster where it doesn't seem like there's a whole lot of thought put into the design --- it's basically just an armadillo. There's not even an attempt at giving it a soccer-ball pattern, or cleats, or anything else that would tie it a little more closely into the soccer half of the equation. I mean, it doesn't even get lightly brushed by one of the Rangers and fall down claiming that it broke its leg!
But still, it's a pretty cool idea, and as much as an Armadillo curling up into a ball and rolling at its enemies is a pretty easy leap to make when you're trying to design a monster, it's also one that works really well, especially if you go as far as having the Putty Patrollers kicking it at Jason and Tommy while they try to help Roger get better at soccer.
To be honest, though, the best part of that particular attack is that Rita starts smack-talking a literal ten-year old from her palace on the moon.
Never change, Rita Repulsa. You are already the best.
Somewhat complicating matters is the fact that Tommy isn't there for the initial fight, having landed himself in detention, after he dodges out of the way of some Bulk and Skull-related shenanigans in the hallway and ends up bashing his communicator watch into a wall, damaging it:
On the one hand, this is another weird element of the show that feels like a vestigial element of Zyuranger that never quite worked in Power Rangers in the first place. If they don't have to write around Burai not being involved in the rest of the show --- and if they already have the built-in plot device of Tommy's powers being limited when he gets them back --- then why do they keep having to write stories where Tommy is conveniently removed from the action?
But on the other hand, it gives us an entire scene of Ms. Appleby explaining to Tommy that he shouldn't let his pager go off from his friends beeping him in class, and that's the kind of quality '90s plot point that I am here for.
With Tommy out of action, the Putty Patrollers attack Jason and Zack, kicking the Soccadillo at them and then posing like they're about to drop the hottest mixtape of 1994.
Eventually, though, after plenty of scenes where the Soccadillo menaces the Rangers by rolling up into a ball and floating at them threateningly on a clearly visible string, the rest of the Rangers join the fight. The thing is, the Soccadillo is completely invulnerable when it's curled up, and even the Rangers' rarely seen Pyramid Attack, where they stand on each other's shoulders because that's how logic dictates attacks work in the world of Super Sentai, can't seem to harm it.
With that being the case --- and since the Soccadillo has the ability to attack its enemies while balled up --- you'd think it would just, you know, stay that way. And yet, it unrolls long enough for the Rangers to get the upper hand, and for Rita to make it grow.
The fight that follows is pretty standard, and again, that feels like a huge missed opportunity. Like, how great would this episode be if the Megazord and Dragonzord were booting a giant evil soccer ball monster around the cardboard cityscape like giant robot dinosaur Pele? Instead, we just get the regular attacks, complete with Zack helpfully suggesting that they use the power sword. You know, like they always do.
The one bright spot is the actual explosion of the monster, which is truly amazing this time:
I don't know if they adjusted the amount of explosives they put on the set or just let the camera linger on it longer, but it's pretty incredible to see flames towering at what should be like forty feet high.
But what of young Roger? As the Rangers celebrate another victory, Ernie announces that the second set of tryouts have gone well enough that he not only made an entire second team, but that Roger's the captain! So let's hear it for the Angel Grove Second Bests!
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: Soccadillo (or to use its full proper name, The Soccadillo Monster Ball) is the very definition of a monster that's halfway to being great. 5/10
Radness of the Music: This episode brings us another appearance of "Combat," which is great, but it's way overshadowed by a scene in detention where Bulk and Skull are engaging in "sumo thumb wrestling," and someone decided to score it with China.mid. You know exactly the musical sting I'm talking about. 0/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: On the other hand, the sumo thumb wrestling scene involves Bulk and Skull literally taping pictures of their own faces to the tips of their thumbs and smooshing them together. Sometimes, I only have to point out the subtext, and I don't have to draw any conclusions beyond that. 8/10
Moral Lessons: If at first you don't succeed, try again --- but only if you can make everyone try again no matter how well they did. 5/10
'90s Fashions: Trini's outfits in general are that somehow perfectly cyclical to be back in fashion now, but the one she rocks in this episode is on point. 10/10
Total For Episode 46: 28/50