Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Series REVIEW: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers season two


By 1994 Power Rangers had hit the height of popularity, however the Zyurangerfootage was running out and Saban was left with the choice of whether to continue on with the original costumes or move forward with the aesthetic for the next Super Sentai show, Gosei Sentai Dairanger. So what they did was use both - creating a whole new Power Rangers experience that combined the two shows and continued the franchise in a neat fashion. The 52-episode second season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers continued the use of the five main Zyuranger suits, but would see the mecha, monsters and sixth ranger of Dairanger join the fray.

Our story continues with Rita Repulsa being overthrown by her own master - Lord Zedd, the self-proclaimed  "Emperor of Evil". As Zedd packs Rita back into her dumpster and sends her hurdling through space, he vows to finish what Rita could never do and destroy the Power Rangers. The rangers struggle against Zedd's far more powerful monsters and putty patrollers, and eventually the Dinozords fall against Zedd's first creation Pirantishead.

It's goodbye to Jason, Zack and Trini...

Calling upon the power of Thunder, the rangers pilot new zords to defeat Zedd's monsters, however the Green Ranger powers are fully extinguished and Tommy is forced to leave the team. After a brief absence, he returns with new White Ranger powers and becomes team leader of the rangers. Shortly afterward Jason, Zack and Trini are selected to represent Angel Grove at a teen peace conference in Switzerland, leaving the fate of the power team up in arms. Step in new students Rocky, Adam and Aisha to become the new red, black and yellow rangers!

And even though the rangers constantly face the threat of Zedd, Rita Repulsa isn't too far away and has her own plans for both Zedd and the rangers.

...and hello Rocky, Adam and Aisha!

Despite being marred with obvious problems, the cast changeover is handled better than other shows I've watched that did similar things. Rocky, Adam and Aisha all get a fair introduction before they become Power Rangers so the audience can get used to their characters and the changeover doesn't come a big shock. Of course by the time their introduction swings around Austin St John (Jason), Walter Jones (Zack) and Thuy Thrang (Trini) had already left the show, resulting in much stock footage, suit actors and "obviously not Jason" voice overs to continue the illusion that they're still around. It does become laughable at points, but I still give them credit for trying and trying to make the most of a bad situation.

While they may not be as instantly charismatic as their predecessors, Rocky, Adam and Aisha are fantastic characters and given plenty of opportunity to grow into their roles. Billy, who I considered the weakest of the original Power Rangers, has also significantly improved in this season. Gone are the constant awkward sentences, replaced by a character who is both a competent fighter and able to give off the impression that he's the smart one without having to resort to a ridiculous stereotype.

Tommy's return as the White Ranger is also something I found superior to the first series. Despite the fan consensus that the Green Ranger is some sort of badass, I never really feel that shows outside of the times he's being evil. Initially he's simply a bit player, and then he begins to lose his powers and is capable of very little, to the point of ridiculousness in season two. A unmorphed Tommy fares better against Goldar than the Green Ranger. The White Ranger powers see Tommy far better integrated into the show as a character, ranger and leader - even if he does come across a little overpowered in his repeated fights against Zedd's forces, able to take numerous monsters down on his own.

Without a doubt the most important aspect of season two is Lord Zedd, and his impact on Power Rangers as a whole. A completely original US creation, even from looks alone Zedd poses a greater threat than Rita ever did. A powerful mass of exposed muscle covered only by tubes, a skeletal frame and a nightmarish mask, even before he starts attacking the rangers Zedd makes his presence felt. The character was said to be too scary for children, leading to him being drastically toned down and married to Rita Repulsa. Since the wedding his plans and actions become more comedic, but at the same time Rita and Zedd make an effective team and seeing them together is just as, if not moreso, interesting to watch as it was when they were acting separately. If there was a competition to decide what wholly original part of Power Rangers was the best, it would undoubtedly be Lord Zedd.

Lord Zedd, Power Rangers' finest creation

Bulk and Skull have also developed into much more interesting characters. While they're still the bullies they were in the first season, they now have their sights set on revealing the identities of the Power Rangers. Cue a whole season's worth of elaborate plans and gadgets, some of which actually work, and two characters that have become far more involved in the plot and less about getting covered in food. The episode "When is a Ranger not a Ranger" sees the two actually save the day, and marks the first major bit of character growth for the two that would continue right up until Power Rangers in Space.

Back and better than before

With the Dinozords gone, our robot battles are now provided by the Thunderzords. Although a much bulkier design and elaborate design than the original Megazord, the Thunder Megazord still fits right into the aesthetic of the show. I question some of the renaming Saban did to the Dairanger mecha (a unicorn without a prominent horn, a griffin that doesn't look anything like a lion or an eagle) but the stock footage used to morph the Dinozords into the Thunderzords really helps convey the "upgrade" feel these zords have. The Tigerzord remains one of my favourite Power Rangers zords, and there isn't really a lot to say about Tor the Shuttlezord - who is easily the weakest of the bunch. A carrier zord with little introduction, and an even more underwhelming Ultrazord combination.

"We need Mega Thunderzord...I mean Thunder Megazord power now!"

But that's not all! As Lord Zedd gets a zord of his very own - Sepentera, which towers over the Thunderzords and has the potential to be the most devastating foe the rangers face. Unfortunately this potential is never lived up due to the uselessness of the Dairanger footage, but Saban certainly have fun with it and it adds a bit more flavour to Zedd's drop into more comedic antics. Though a source of massive power and destruction, Serpentera gets very little done because it constantly runs out of energy - leaving Zedd and Goldar to have to make a hasty retreat.

That isn't to say it isn't without some flaws. The main one being the writers insistent to make everything leaving the show to look inferior to what's about to come. The Green Ranger was near-useless in the first lot of episodes, and then Jason, Zack and Trini were made to look pretty awful in comparison to Rocky, Adam and Aisha. At least with Tommy is made some sense in terms of the story, but to see veteran rangers become so useless just before they leave is just jarring. There are also a few naming errors (they can't decide whether its Thunder Megazord or Mega Thunderzord to start with) and a brief appearance of the original Megazord in one fight sequence, but nothing quite as glaring as the first season.

The first season of Power Rangers may have been good, but the second season is really where it comes into its own. With more original footage and ideas it provides something to please both parties - a continuing narrative for Power Rangers fans, and a completely different viewing experience to Dairanger for Super Sentai fans. While sometimes noticeable, the footage is stitched together well to produce excellent stories, and the season is full of fantastic multi-part stories that remain among the most memorable in Power Rangers history.


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