Friday, September 14, 2018

Power Rangers Reflections Redux #16: A Bad Reflection On You

Originally posted on August 2nd, 2007. The final of three Retrospective commentaries released that day, following the re-posted Blue Ranger Gone Bad commentary and the Once A Ranger commentary. I might repost that one eventually, but not anytime soon.

This first-season episode doesn't seem like much and most people probably don't believe it to be anything significant, but this is a uniquely significant filler episode. It didn't change the long-term status quo nor did it deliver a particularly strong story - the fight against clones and doppelgangers is the typical action cliché if there ever was one, but it did go against the everyplot formula that ran through the Power Rangers series. Not just with one significant detail, but with all kinds of stuff.

Before we go further, there's a fair chance some of you probably don't know what I'm talking about, so let me explain. A typical Mighty Morphin Power Rangers storyline goes like this: each episode opens with the Rangers involved in some school activity and Rita creates a monster based on the activity. The Ranger teens fight putties at first, then morph to fight the monster, then summon their Zords to take down the giant-sized monster. The episode ends with the school activity being a rousing success and Rita earning another headache. Some slight variations may include participating in contests, fund-raising, or something really mundane or generic. Almost every episode of Power Rangers was (and still is) scripted in this fashion.

Not this time.

To represent the stakes of this grandiose yet deceptively simple episode, we begin not with the Ranger teens at the Youth Center attempting to commit some good charitical deed, but instead we open with good ol' Zyuranger footage featuring Rita and her band of merry monsters. In this opening sequence of events, they discuss plans to create evil duplicates of the Power Rangers and ruin their good name. Well, the easier thing to do would be to form a soccer mom club complaining about how the Rangers are promoting violence and drug use, but that would be a bit too realistic and the kids would probably be stupid enough to admit it. So instead, we have the Mirror monster and a few putties show up on Earth and change into Evil Power Rangers. And you know they're EVIL POWER RANGERS because they're wearing EVIL BLACK SUNGLASSES and have EVIL LOW-BUDGET RED GLOWING EYES! HOLY SHIT, THAT'S EVIL!

The first step for the plan to go together would be to ruin the good name of the Ranger teens at school. So what do they do? They rig a water fountain so that it shoots whipped cream instead of water... or is it soap? Who knows? Anyways, the rigged fountain reels in a sucker; the school principal Mr. Caplan. You've got to feel for poor Caplan; what has he ever done to deserve such horrid treatment? He's run a fairly good high school (a little too good, but I digress). Why is he the victim of all this goofiness? Anyway, while Caplan is getting covered in soap and cream, evil Rangers laugh at him and just before cutting to commercial, evil Jason takes off his EVIL SUNGLASSES and shows off his EVIL LOW-BUDGET RED GLOWING EYES! WOW! THAT'S EVIL!

Back from commercials, the evil Ranger clones laugh and walk away... while the real Rangers CONVENIENTLY shows up and witnesses the Incredible Dancing Caplan (comes with free soap). Despite their efforts to help the fallen principal, Caplan cracks and sends them all to detention.

"But Mr. Caplan! We have to go to the Angel Grove Youth Center to help out with the Generic Fundraising Event to raise money for the local charities."

"No fundraisers for you! DEEEEEEEE-TENTION!"

"But what about little Roger? We have to help him make it to the forth soccer tryout."


So the real Rangers are stuck in detention with permanent residents Bulk and Skull. Naturally, hijinx is insured as the teens bare witness to Bulk's jumbo-sized lunch (cause he's FAT, see? That's FUNNY.) and his emergency detention survival kit, which happens to be a TV. Gee, Bulk's a pretty lucky bastard. My detention survival kit consisted of a blank notepad and some colored pencils.

So they pop in the emergency survival kit TV and after a brief showing of an old cartoon, a SPECIAL NEWS BULLETIN interrupts the exciting escapades to report that the Power Rangers have gone bad. How can this be? the teens ask. It's impossible, they say. But there it is; the Power Rangers shooting everything in sight and a fearful prospect from the newscaster that the Rangers had turned into the hoodlums they put out of business. IS THIS THE END OF THE POWER RANGERS?

Of course not, silly boy. The Ranger teens know they have to morph and confront their clones, but they have to sneak past Bulk and Skull first. This leads into one of the most stupidest forms of trickery ever, as the Rangers tell Bulk & Skull to cover their eyes and ears, then count backwards to ten. From this brief exchange alone, we learn two important points:

1) Bulk and Skull can't count.
2) If they can't hear the teens scream out their calls even with their ears covered, their hearing ain't that great.

With the Rangers escaping the wrath of Bulk and Skull, they morph and face off against the imposters. There really isn't much to say about these fights; they're your typical Sentai/Power Ranger fights. Lots of kicking and sparks a-flying (as opposed to the nonsensical explosions that occur every five seconds in current incarnations), the Rangers defeat their clones one by one (each one turning back into a Putty). When the last one is downed to reveal the Mirror monster, he still manages to hold his own with a few quick attacks, but ultimately it's all for naught.

A quick blast from the Power Blaster later, they broke the Mirror monster and the citizens gather around their heroes, admitting they were total idiots for believing the fakes were the real deal. Well, given how they couldn't identify the Rangers as the five teens who wear the SAME FUCKING COLORS AS THE RANGERS, I guess they could be forgiven. Also, that's another mirror they just broke. Seven years bad luck for all of them, now?

But let's not forget the more important detail: this is one of the few episodes in Power Rangers where they didn't need the Megazord to finish off the monster. It's generally a sigh of relief when an episode ends differently from the status quo. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen as the Rangers return to detention in time to embarrass Bulk and Skull once again. Oh well.

FINAL ANALYSIS: As it is, this is generally breaking the format a bit. Instead of starting with the teens, we start with Rita and her crew. The Rangers' problem doesn't stem from some public function, but the fact that they're stuck in detention with Bulk & Skull and have to devise a means of dealing with their fakes without blowing their covers. There's no Putty fight per se (although the fakes turn back into Putties when beaten) and there's no Megazord fight to end the show. While it's basically a cookie-cutter episode with a few good moments, it's a solid one at best and one of the few distinguishable episodes that isn't a multi-part storyline. I kinda like this episode, so it's a good show.


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