Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Episode 10: Happy Birthday Zack



Birthday Cake Created With Magic Science.
Demonic Knight Birthed From Tree.






Ten episodes, that's how long as it took for the writers of Power Rangers to resort to making an episode revolving around a character's birthday. Usually things like this come up when a show has been going on for a while and we can see what kind of experience a character will have as they grow older. In Power Rangers it's just something to shoehorn in since there's footage of Black Ranger fighting a monster alone.

The Zackless Ranger Teens are inside the Juice Bar late at night setting up a surprise party for their token black friend. If any of these kids had parents, they might inform them that hanging out with an obese man in the dead of night isn't a great idea. That same obese man is dealing with Billy's awful new invention, the Cake-O-Matic. Instead of doing whatever you'd assume it does, it sprays blue foam everywhere because Billy doesn't know what the hell he's doing.

Ernie Cake machine
Cake looks delicious Billy, thanks.

Rita is watching this embarrassing display and decides to show these fools how a real birthday gets celebrated. She plans on sending a monster down instead of just waiting on Billy's inventions to kill everyone in the Youth Center. Finster assures Rita he's got just the monster to finish off "Good old Zack." This is the most malicious we've seen Finster, but it's just because he's an old fashioned guy who has a hard time dealing with Black Rangers.

When we see the teens again Kim says Trini's "Happy Birthday!" banner looks alright, and Trini really coldly tells her to get back to work. It's jarring because Kim is playfully suggesting Trini's artwork doesn't look the best, and Trini is telling her to get the fuck off her balls cause she has shit to do. We're supposed to believe these two get along with each other, mostly because they're both girls and that means they're best friends. Trini's probably just sick of hearing about how many deaf girls Kim has been able to teach how to dance lately.

Ernie takes time away from drowning in cake mix to inform the Ranger Teens about something he learned about the Power Rangers. Billy asks who the Power Rangers are, which might come across infinitely more suspicious than just saying "Oh yeah what'd you find out?" Are you really going to imply that you have no idea about the magical superheroes that are fighting bike riding witches with their dinosaur robots? There's feigning ignorance and there's being unbelievably suspect.

Ernie says he's learned the Rangers are regular humans, just like you and me, which he gathered from his sources on Infowars. Ernie goes on to say that they'll do for Angel Grove what Batman's done for Gotham City. This statement right here? This implies that Batman is not only real in the Power Rangers universe, but he's been kicking ass left and right while they've been fighting Rita. Take a moment right now to imagine the Batman/Power Rangers teamup that should be happening right now. Fuck your Dark Knight Heath Ledger garbage, I want to see Batman fighting Goldar hand to hand, while Joker melts Baboo's face off with a cyanide pie. Then Billy gets the Jason Todd Treatment.

Jason responds to Ernie's insider scoop with his own take on things, that he's learned the Power Rangers are actually space aliens. Ernie is completely floored and visibly collects himself as he treats this like a ground breaking discovery. Jason says to keep this concept under his hat, and Ernie struts off muttering about thermite paint and false flag operations.

This is an incredibly small moment, and it may sound pretty by the numbers, but it does a number of things I actually appreciate this show doing. Jason's response is playful, he isn't stammering this aliens thing out like he's afraid of getting caught, he's just casually messing around with Ernie. It's nice to see these characters acting like human beings other than "The red one who is strong." It also addresses the duality of the life they're living as heroes and teenagers, which has been limited to moments of the Rangers communicators going off and then giving some lame excuse about it being their watch. It's great to see something realistic in how these characters are portrayed.

Of course we have to follow this moment of realism up with Bulk and Skull busting in on the Youth Center because they smelled some geeks. Billy informs them that the Juice Bar is closed right now because they're busy blowing up balloons and inventing cakes. Bulk tells him to shove it up his ass, and then "threateningly" picks Billy up and sits him on the counter. This is the kind of thing you do for a baby, just with a little more force. What are you even trying to do tonight Bulk?

Bulk and Billy
And you THINK about what you've done!

Skull uses his newfound ability to read to deduce the Ranger Teens are holding a "BirtHey Part". Bulk blows his nose using Trini's bland banner, and Trini gets pissed. Skull takes her by the arms and says the two of them can paint another one after they have a little fun. All while he's very slowly guiding her hands down to his waist. We're really just watching a G rated attempted rape, and it's about as slimy as they're willing to get with Bulk and Skull.

She didn't even push him, he's just that clumsy.

Rita asks Finster what monster he has planned for the birthday party, and is asked by Squatt what she has planned this time, suggesting a fruit fly with attitude. I can only read this as the writers making fun of the weird shit they're adapting. Rita requests that Finster use something particularly nasty for this birthday, and Finster tells her he knows some of the dirtiest hookers in the galaxy, but they don't do parties so he's stuck using the Nasty Knight monster.

Nasty Knight picture book
He charges about the same for a hand jibber though.

The Ranger Teens continue setting up the party and Billy says the only thing left to do is make sure Zack doesn't find out what they have planned. The exact next line is Ernie running up and saying Zack just walked by his office and he might be on his way in. We've only got twenty minutes to do this shit guys, we're gonna do it quick or we're not doin' it at all. We're also left to wonder why Ernie didn't just lock the fucking Juice Bar because it's the middle of the night and he's closed. Is he just trying to get someone to try and rob the Youth Center? Does he have a gun under the counter waiting for some no goodnick to walk in and he can feel justified in ending a human life?

The Rangers fast motion clean up as Zack wanders into the closed Juice Bar. Ernie says he's catching up on some paperwork, rather he's calculating how to stay in business with how much stuff he gives the Rangers on the house. Zack says Trini's mom said they might be at the Youth Center. Way to almost blow the fucking surprise party lady, only someone who could think a doll like Mr. Ticklesneezer is an acceptable hand me down would be that incompetent. Zack leaves while wondering where his best buddies in the whole wide world could have gone, because if all five of them aren't together then something is wrong with the universe.

The Rangers aren't the only ones up late tonight, as Rita and the Moon Crew are evidently down on Earth, and Baboo and Finster are forging a sword in the moonlight. It's just another weird magical thing that you shouldn't question. Finster can make clay monsters, but when it comes to making a special magical sword, you need to go down to Earth and hammer that shit out. Rita chants a spell to awaken the monster, who comes from inside a split open tree. It's actually a really nice visual and makes Knight look pretty imposing. Though that might be because last week we had to deal with Ticklesneezer.

Nasty Knight Born
The coolest things are always the most unnecessary. 

The next day at school, Zack drops incredibly blatant hints about his birthday. Stuff like "Do I look any older to you?" Kim feigns ignorance about Zack's very clear statement and acts none the wiser. We go through a Three's Company-esque gag about how Kim forgot something for someone she cares about, ending with the reveal that she says it's her poodle's birthday today. Zack gets sore in the ass about the whole thing and leaves because everyone forgot poor baby's birthday.

Zack mopes off to the mountainside, even though it seems like everyone else was still in school. He pisses and moans about how everyone is too wrapped up in their own lives and how he's fed up with this world. Zack's nihilistic disgust with the selfishness of the human ego is interrupted by Rita coming onto the scene and saying she's throwing him a birthday party, and even having Squatt film it for him. The only thing I wish we got here was a line from Zack about even Rita knowing it's his birthday. It might be corny, but what show do you think this is?

Zack morphs to fight Nasty Knight and gets completely eviscerated. He tries to be snarky and talk shit but Knight isn't having any of that and just fucking wallops him. Zack says this isn't how he wanted to spend his birthday, mostly upset that Rita misunderstood what he meant when he said he wanted to have a nasty night on his birthday.  As Squatt's filming the fight, his camera inexplicably just starts shaking and spits out four balls of light that explode. It has nothing to do with anything and feels like it's a shot the editor was supposed to cut but he didn't get the memo in time, so it feels like Power Rangers.

Squatt and Baboo idiots
It's a struggle every week to help you guys remember these two exist.

The other four Rangers morph to the scene to protect Zack. With all five rangers in the fight you expect Nasty Knight to start showing some signs of fatigue, but the fight just keeps going in his favor. He completely trashes all five Rangers even when they team up on him and makes them look like total chumps. The Rangers reel from their ass-whoopin when they notice something is odd about their weapons.

Nasty Knight Power Weapons
They're only slightly more useless than before.

Without their Power Weapons, the Rangers resort to using the Tower Formation on Nasty Knight. Instead of giving an inch he catches it with his shield and throws it the fuck back at them. It's one of the coolest things a monster has done yet. It just emphasizes how thoroughly Knight has been dicking them this entire fight and I love it.

Nasty Knight Tower Formation
Nasty Knight Don't Play

Rita can't just leave well enough alone and makes Nasty Knight grow. Rita, your monster is slaughtering these kids, do you really need to make him taller to finish the job? Just let him do it on his own. Every time you've made a monster grow you've had to watch them die. You aren't thinking this through one bit lady, just put Finster in charge then maybe we can get some results.

Megazord joins the brawl and tries to take on Nasty Knight without embarrassing itself in a fight. This is utterly in vain though because nothing Megazord does works. Jason calls for the Power Sword in the hopes to have a fair fight, but Knight burns out the Power Sword just like he did the Power Weapons. It's jarring how badly the Rangers are getting beaten this episode. Usually they get a hit on the monster or look pretty impressive, but I'm not exaggerating at all when I say how badly Nasty Knight has been buttfucking them.

Zack says he's figured out what Nasty Knight's doing to trash them so embarrassingly. He gives some mumbo jumbo explanation about how Rita's monster has been reflecting their energy back at them. All they have to do to win is reflect his energy back using their own. The Megazord fires some blue eyebeams at him, charges up the Power Sword, and cuts Knight's sword in half. Nasty Knight then gets killed off by the Power Sword now that he's defenseless. The Megazord kills him so fast we aren't even treated to the theme song being played and it's surprising how much you don't notice the music being played until it's gone.

Zack and the Rangers head back to the Youth Center to celebrate a job well done, only for Zack to finally see his surprise party. He gets super excited and hugs his friends, thanking them for lying to him for the majority of his birthday so he could get his shit pushed in by a Knight. The rest of the episode is nothing but a giant birthday party montage in the Juice Bar, while Billy tries to get his stupid cake machine working and everyone else has actual fun dancing. There's so much pure cheesy 90's bliss going on that I can't pinpoint everything, just that it's absolutely worth seeing to believe.


Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Video Cameras



Personal Thoughts



This episode is really good. Zack feeling like his friends forgot his birthday is a relatable problem that a lot of people have likely gone through. This episode's plot probably won't make much sense to any kids though, because their birthdays are treated with reverence so that they can appreciate how exciting it is to get older. It's the writers doing something that the target audience probably won't really comprehend, but it still works on its own merits.

What I didn't realize until watching these episodes in order was how this was the first episode that really focuses on Zack by himself. He's usually just a joker who messes around and likes to dance. It's probably not a great idea to make the first episode we have with a character one where they're explicitly out of character and bummed out, but since the Ranger Teens aren't much more than general stereotypes it's not treated too importantly.

Interestingly enough, the Japanese episode of Zyuranger this episode was adapted from revolved around the birthday of a little boy. Was that something they intentionally thought about while writing this? I don't have any idea, but it's interesting to see little parallels here and there.

There's a scene with Rita flipping through a book of monsters early on in the episode. It had really nicely stylized drawings of the monsters but we only see a handful of them. Minotaur, Bones, Chunky Chicken, and a few that actually show up a little later. When I was a kid I was so giddy that maybe there was a book like that out there of monsters and designs and all this goofy shit. What sounds like a patently idiotic idea was actually put into motion, because Japan has released art books of monster designs from Sentai shows throughout the years that I've actually been really tempted to buy. Mostly because I'm bad with money.

Something I've been meaning to show off is an example of how blatant the editing is when it cuts between Japanese stuff and U.S. stuff. I've mentioned before how I like when they blend it, and this episode provided a pretty direct example that I'd say works very well.


As a viewer you can likely tell something isn't exactly right, but it's also not distracting enough to make you question what's going on. This is the sort of thing I love. They film around things they don't have access to. They didn't have the Nasty Knight suit on hand, so fuck it, they'll just film at different angles to imply he's about to attack Zack. Maybe this is something only nerdy like me would notice, but tell me what you think. Is it distracting? Is it noticeable? Would you want Nasty Knight to be your dad?


6 comments:

  1. I guess Skull isn't doing it anymore, poor Billy :(

    Also, " I want to see Batman fighting Goldar hand to hand, while Joker melts Baboo's face off with a cyanide pie." this would make a pretty good Photoshop challenge. Why aren't there more ranger shops?

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  2. Already posted on the RC board but wanted to give you props on here too.

    You gotta love the delicious black stereotypes they give to Zack too. He just has to love to break dance doesn't he? Lol

    Interesting to find out he is missing the middle finger on his left hand.

    Anyway great work on this one!

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  3. A few things about this episode:

    1. you mean to tell me none of the 4 teens knew how to bake a simple cake? Not exactly rocket science....

    2. And for that matter, why did all four of them have to be there? I could see Jason being there to maybe help set up the decorations and such, and maybe Kim to help blow up balloons. Trini could/should have finished the banners at home way prior to Zack's Birthday, and Billy should have been with Zack at least so he would not wander on over to the Youth Center...

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  4. who sang the happy birthday zack song at the end?

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  5. Really, why WOULD Zack wander over to the Youth Center at night, after hours? Don't teens usually stay at home when it's dark? Or, at least, their parents would insist on it.

    I've been wondering about the song, too.

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  6. I just saw Yost at a con a few weeks ago. he said the cake o matic was a hollowed out microwave that they pumped foam into and he said it electrocuted him. Safety first, kids

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