Friday, September 28, 2018

Power Rangers Reflections Redux #17: Blue Ranger Gone Bad

So this is a bit of a historic point in this series, as we've not only (somehow) surpassed the old number of entries that I've done in relation to this format, but this entry is also the last of the reposts, which means the next two or three entries will be all-new written posts. That also means potentially slow updates, but I want at least THREE MORE before the year's up.

Jumping to the tail end of the second season, today's episode is Blue Ranger Gone Bad. Just guess who's the central character in this episode. If you've guessed Billy, give yourself a cookie. Now guess what the episode is about. If you've guessed Billy overcoming his shyness to ask a girl out, give yourself another cookie. Now guess what Zedd's plan revolves around... actually, don't bother with that one. You're probably out of cookies anyway.

The episode opens up with the Ranger teens in art class. Tommy takes pottery. Kimberly takes up painting. Billy, being the nerd that he is, decides to build a hologram (which is a mirror-like thingie - keep this in mind. It's important) Before Billy could explain how a holographic disc constitutes an art project, we cut to Bulk & Skull showing Art Teacher their crappy statue that I might be able to recreate with a bucket of Playdoh. According to them, it's a statue of the Power Rangers, but really, it looks more like a close-up representation of snot. A bit of advice, guys: let someone else do the work for you.

We then cut back to the next girl-interest for Billy, Girl #210, who shows off her project, which is a grey statue of Billy - Billy is flattered by the uncanny resemblance of him. That leads to the next sequence where the classroom is empty and Goldar takes over the room! Oh dear lord! Goldar has conquered the Art Class Room! Will anyone stop this madman?!


Zedd decides to chant before making his move, which prompts Rita to swipe the man's staff and do the deed faster with the much simpler "Blue Ranger Be Bad!" Well, it works... as the statue now becomes Billy or rather a clone. He even gets some of the mannerisms down. Yay. Time for a commercial.

When we get back, Billy is considering asking Girl #210 out to a movie and his friends agree, because not agreeing would go against the mandate of Power Rangers. It seems so nice to have a circle of friends that will agree with every decision you make, even if it's the wrong one... but I digress. Suddenly, the Rangers get attacked by putties and this leads to Putty Fight #563. In a moment  of distraction, Billy is taken away by vines and sent to another dimension. The owner of the living vines was never revealed, just like the driver of the hummer which ran over Kevin Nash in WCW was never revealed. Damn writers can't think up a simple name to go with a role. Someone ought to write a fanfic about that... don't look my way.

So now Billy is trapped in the evil Dark Dimension - the original one where Jason and Goldar had that awesome fight in the first season of MMPR - where he meets with Goldar, the two useless stooges, and our monster of the day, Billy-clone. Billy watches the clone as he is given real-Billy's goods and tells him that his friends would never believe he's real, which seems to indicate that our main-brain Billy has forgotten the cardinal rule of Angel Grove City: people are predominantly stupid because a smart person would check out the teen's preference of colors, compare them with the Rangers, and put the two together. The clone goes off on his mission to infiltrate the Rangers, while Goldar pulls a conveniently placed switch that fills the room (or rather Billy's side of the room) with sleeping gas... or maybe it's cigarette smoke. Who knows?

When we cut back to the exciting drama, Billy-clone decides to fit in with the others by declaring that instead of studying for the upcoming math class, he'll lift weights. Weights? Are you fucking kidding me? I mean, sure, Billy's mass had steadily increased since his initial appearance on the show, but I would rather attribute that to Billy taking some steroid-type formula of his own design as opposed to any physical activity on his part... certainly a better explanation than saying Billy's more built and active because David Yost (actor who plays Billy) goes to the gym regularly.

Next scene, we see Billy-clone lifting weights - thus showing that despite being a villain and evil clone, he is an evil clone of his word. Despite the fact that Billy has never been seen lifting weights nor has he ever shown any relative interest before in any particular episode prior to or since this one, the Rangers attribute it to Billy simply acting weird. Remember what I said about the cardinal rule? You'd think one of them would have realized that Billy never lifts weights and would single him out as the clone. In another "weird" moment, Billy approaches the bar where Girl #210 has been waiting for him. Despite her attempts at catching his attention, Billy-clone ignores her and she leaves. Good riddance if you ask me.

Dropping the girl talk, Billy-clone cuts to the chase and asks for the other Rangers' communicators due to some technical mumbo-jumbo that goes over the others' heads. All the Rangers (except Tommy the White Ranger TM) surrender their goods (while unaware that Billy-clone has also taken their morphers - never mind the means of doing so.) Thus, we declare Tommy the Smartest Ranger of the Episode by withholding his own wrist-watch instead of surrendering it to Billy-clone - he should be proud because it's the only smart thing he's ever done in his whole Ranger career.

Now we cut to the park and after some suspicious behavior from "Billy" (which is mainly him saying he left his hologram disc at home... even though he never went home), Tommy continues his "smartness" by contacting Zordon to confirm orders to modify the communicators. As expected, Zordon says there's nothing wrong with the communicators. Rita, realizing the jig is up, sends Goldar and putties after the Rangers, who soon realize that they are missing their morphers and accused Billy-clone of the crime. Yeah, because Billy-clone likes to stick his hand up people's asses.

During the scuffle, Kim takes Billy's bag of morphers, communicators, and Playboy magazines and tosses it up a tree where it is left hanging. Oh yeah, that's a smart move. In a bit of pure comedy, Aisha is tasked with getting the backpack of morphers, only to see that it's guarded by putties. Her immediate reaction is to shout out that "we need our morphers!" Yes, Aisha! They're in the backpack that they want you to try and get! Someone wasn't thinking straight when they wrote that bit.

Of course, the fact that the Rangers don't have their morphers is not much of a disadvantage as they still manage to beat up Goldar and the putties. Anyone who actually surprised by this should stop reading right now... or send a better monster. In this case, our monster of the day is created from Tommy's art project (I was almost tempted to write Tommy's pot) and he proceeds to zap the Rangers with explosions.

One quick note: in the scene where the Ranger teens are being exploded, Kim's hair seems to cover her face. I wonder if this was a stand-in for AJ or if she just hated the little sparkly thingies and needed to protect herself by hiding behind her hair.

Meanwhile, Billy discovers that he can short out Goldar's force field by deflecting the laser with his hologram disc - you know, the one he left at home. With Billy free from the force field, Alpha detects him on the scanner and teleports him to the battle field where he encounters the clone as he grabs the backpack of goodies. Stupidly, the clone falls as soon as he grabs the bag, allowing Billy to pick up the bag and toss it to the other Rangers, all of whom seemingly recovered from the explosive sparklers. Billy and clone then morpher (a cool dual-morph sequence) and nobody can figure out which Billy is which. They quickly figure out which is the fake Billy and which is the real Billy. How? Well, the fake Billy calls the hologram disc a mirror... okay.

With the fake exposed, the real Billy stands side-by-side with the other Rangers and they all shoot laser beams at the clone. The clone Ranger does a nice job of deflecting a few laser shots (which effectively makes him a better Ranger than the heroes themselves - think about that), but eventually gets overwhelmed by sparklers from his suit and disappears in a cheap flash of light. It's at this point in time that we ask "What the hell happened here? Did the clone die or did he quickly escape, never to be seen again?" Who knows what happened, although this particular conundrum has inspired a couple fanfics to be written... really good reads if you know which ones I'm talking about. Either way, it's safe to assume that he's dead... some death scene. Cheap bastards.

But anyway, let's not forget that we have a monster to confront and toys to sell. So Zedd makes the monster grow, Rangers summon their zords, they fight, and the monster is defeated. Yay. You know, I sort of wish they started mixing up the format a bit. At least in some first season eps, the Power Blaster was more than enough to kill a monster. (In fact, the next couple episodes being reviewed breaks the mold a bit.)

In the final moments of our episode, Billy goes up to Girl #210 and asks her out. Word has it the relationship didn't last long because Billy wouldn't lift weights. Meanwhile, Bulk and Skull reveal their art project to the class (proudly admitting that someone else did the work for them) that will serve as a gift to the Power Rangers: a small statue of Billy The Gold Ranger.

No wonder people would assume Billy would be the Gold Ranger in Power Rangers Zeo - they watched this show and pointed it out as evidence.

This was a fairly solid episode that makes limited use of its Sentai footage and focuses on presenting a gripping (in terms of childrens' television) story that is the focus of the episode. This type of Ranger episode would eventually translate into multi-episode story arcs and would even dominate an entire series in the form of Power Rangers In Space, which was a space-based series despite the fact that the original Sentai it's based on was a video game concept. Looking back on those days, it's truly sad that watching these old episodes with the limited budgets and cheap production values have manage to hold up fairly well and entertain me more than the current crop of Ranger shows - which are essentially effortless cut-and-paste jobs intending more on selling toys than presenting anything resembling a good show.

Blue Ranger Gone Bad is a solid episode; not one of the best, but still a great show.

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