Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 49: Return of an Old Friend Part 1


Rita Repulsa Expresses Disdain Over Parental Abandonment
Cake Based Physics Discussed At Length









Okay guys I've got to drop an honest to goodness bombshell. Something big is happening today and I'm not quite sure how to explain it. This episode is going to reveal something so goddamned stunning that you'll think Rod Serling wrote it. I'd ask if you're ready to find out the big twist, but nobody ever could be, so let's get it out of the way.

The Ranger Teens have PARENTS!


Yeah, I know. I'm left pretty astonished too. Only twice in this series has anyone's parent been mentioned. Coincidentally both times it was Trini's mother, leading to my pet theory that the Ranger Teens refused to let her do anything significant because she was a freak who wasn't born in a genetics lab accident like the rest of them.

Well now my world's turned upside down, all these karate kids have parents? You bet your ass they do, because it's Parents Day at the Youth Center and all the Ranger Teens are so excited to hang out with their folks. Man say what you want about Power Rangers, but this show nails how it feels to be a teenager.

Trini's dad engages in a friendly arm wrestling match with Jason's dad, while their wives sit off to the side and gently chuckle at their husbands embarrassing display of masculinity. Oh sorry you probably want to see what the Ranger Teen's parents look like. Well basically they all have Van Houten Syndrome and have to look exactly like their kids so the audience doesn't get lost in the complex narrative at work.

Billy's dad begs Jason to give him a chance to humiliate himself.

Oh and I wasn't just being snarky up there. That is Billy's dad observing the arm wrasslin. He informs Jason that his douchebag son is testing some new invention before the big Parents Day celebration gets underway. Just as Billy Sr. tries to talk up his embarrassing son a little more, Skull comes into the Youth Center and insults Billy right in front of the kid's dad. The best part is Billy Sr. just quietly bites his lip and accepts his son will always be worthy of mockery and ridicule. Like father like son!

Skull's brought in a camera to film the festivities, and to shoot some b-roll of Kimberly hugging her mom for 'batin purposes. He spies Zack and his family hanging out by the punch bowl, and zips over to get some footage of the only black family in attendance.

Skull barely hides his disdain for anyone without anglo saxon superiority.

Skull continues to shoot some more footage and adorably gets happy to see his parents schmoozing with Principle Caplan.  It's sweet to see Skull, who by all accounts is a total shit, really have a lot of love and admiration for his parents. All they're doing is talking to the Principal and he's filming them with pride.

I like that the show didn't take the easy route with Skull and have him treat his parents like a total dick. He's all giddy to show them all the dumb shit he does, and where he and his friend Bulk get up to all sorts of hoodrat shit. I can't blame 'em, I'd be pretty stoked if my dad was Diet Macho Man Randy Savage.

Along with his beautiful wife Elizabeth Skullovitch.

Principal Caplan suddenly becomes frustrated at Skull filming the festivities, because he doesn't want these high school students to have a record of their beloved family memories later in life. Caplan then starts interrogating Skull about where Bulk and his stupid parents are. Is this event mandatory? Christ Caplan you're a real stickler for making your students show up to arbitrary shit. Hope all the kids with dead parents take their failing grade in stride.

Skull informs the principal that Bulk's big dumb family is on their big dumb way in their big dumb car. Suddenly, the walls of the Youth Center start to shake as we hear a tire screeching sound effect. Debris falls from the ceiling as many of the Parent's Day patrons poorly act like they've been shaken around. I honestly wonder how much restraint it took the writers to not make this scene a joke about Bulk and his family being big fat people. Because just like the rest of the families, Bulk's parents lo-


Holy shit WHAT?! This show actually fucking got me! All that set up with the identical parents and Bulk's dad is just a scrawny dude in a business suit. Sweet Jesus, that is honestly a really good punchline. It's not exactly the hardest joke in the world to pull off, but it makes all the casting of parents who look like their children play out as part of a gag. It's significantly smarter than half the stuff Power Rangers does, and might be the first time we see a joke revolving around Bulk that isn't inspiring you to point and laugh at him. Juxtapositional humor in MY 90's karate children's programming? What a time to be alive.

On top of that, we get a pretty impressive scene of a cake being catapulted into the Bulk family's faces. I know this sounds like standard Bulk shtick, but it's actually a joke that's told with some competence. When the car crashes into the Youth Center (off-screen of course) and everything starts shaking, we see Ernie land near a table where the cake remains sitting stagnant.

Ernie breathes a sigh of relief as we cut to a shot of the cake sitting there safe and sound. There's a beat, and suddenly the table gives way underneath Ernie and the cake launches itself forward. That single second of peace before inexplicable cake related chaos is absolutely essential to making this joke work. 

Bulk's mom gets smattered in white goo for the second time in 20 years before Bulk Sr. swabs some of the frosting off her. He tells his wife she's even sweeter than ever before giving her a jovial smile.

Guys I'm serious here this is the best gag. Bulk's parents are some adorably loving middle class 90's couple who somehow managed to birth an asshole greaser. We're not even two minutes in and this episode has me enamored.

Okay enough about Bulk's adorable family unit, because Kimberly's mom and dad just showed up. How do I know it's them? Because the mom's dressed in pink. Duh.

Why's her husband wearing a tie with planets on it?

Kim's mom asks Trini where her daughter is, and note that Kim's father has already arrived. The show spells it out pretty clearly that Kim's parents are no longer together. Kim Sr. is now hanging out with this dude and his embarrassing planet tie, and Kim's dad is the only parent not clinging to a significant other. We'll talk about all that shit later though, in the meantime just know Kim's new dad looks like a total dud. 

You'll never guess who isn't too excited about Parents Day. Rita's watching the event unfold as she moans out a miserable "PAPA!!" It doesn't really play in writing, but the delivery is so odd that it makes me laugh every time. Nothing but Rita yearning for her dad, who I assume is some monster man made out of snakes.

Squatt and Baboo take notice that humans attach a lot of importance to their parents, and then congratulate themselves for coming to such a brilliant realization 11 episodes before the season is over. Rita requests Finster whip up a monster for her to kidnap the Ranger's parents, and he suggests the wicked Dramole monster. A creature who will spew out hypnotic gas to....kidnap all of the parents? Hypnosis doesn't seem like it's that necessary if you're going to kidnap someone, but far be it from me to question this overgrown rat monster.

If I looked like that I'd be hiding underground too.

Scorpina tussles Goldar's dog fur hair while giggling over the Dramole's virtual invisibility underground. Also to remind the audience she didn't die offscreen after Crystal of Nightmares. Rita and her crew plot out the details of the Rangers surrender, which consists of holding their parents hostage and offering their safety in exchange for the Power Rangers unconditional surrender. It's not as brilliant as her "Make Red Ranger Itchy" plan, but it'll suffice.

Trini wanders outside to find Kim sulking alone. She looks incredibly forlorn and as soon as Trini sits with her she lets it all out. Kimberly is terrified that her mom and dad are going to be in the same room together since they've hardly spoken with one another since they got divorced. Kim then tells her friend she sometimes thinks this divorce is all her fault and her dad probably won't even show up to see her.

I know this probably seems incredibly on the nose and hammy, but I honestly like it quite a bit. I know this episode was the first time I'd ever heard anything about parents splitting up, and I think it's because kids shows were finally done sweeping it under the rug. For every painfully embarrassing 90's attempt at handling a serious issue, we get a scene like this that hits home.

The writers were clearly using their noggins making Kimberly the character with divorced parents. As much as I focus on the other actors, Amy Jo Johnson is almost positively the strongest of the cast. She manages to make this scene land without it becoming far sappier than it needs to be. Her character is focusing on a realistic tension that children do after their parents split up. Every time they try and humanize one of these chunks of cardboard I appreciate it, so I hope you don't mind a step away from the physics of flying cakes.

Trini tells Kim this divorce has nothing to do with her and her dad is inside waiting for her now. Also that doofus her mom is banging with his dumbass tie is there too. When she hears her parents are cordial with each other, Kimberly gets excited again and prepares to head inside with Trini. Before the girls can go meet up with their parents, a group of Putties leap in to confront them.

Alpha takes notice of the fight and says the girls look to be in trouble. Zordon stifles a laugh and asks if Alpha realizes they're just fighting some dipshit Putties, but the cyborg insists the girl Ranger Teens need help. Alpha 5 contacts Jason and Zack, and tells them to bail the girls out while he tries to get a hold of Billy. Wait a second, They can't get into contact with Billy and Billy Sr. said his son is busy with his "invention." Sounds like Billy just got his new fleshlight in the mail!

While the Ranger Teens are kept busy outside, the Dramole digs underground right into the Youth Center. As the monster digs it starts spewing smoke to hypnotize everyone inside, as well as distract us from what terrible actors the parents are. Jason Sr. asks what's going on and then mugs for the camera like he's an extra in a MAD TV sketch. Kimberly's step-dad and his awful tie very gingerly walks with his wife while ignoring the chaos going on in the Youth Center. Everyone inside soon disappears while we hear the Dramole gurgling underneath the surface.

After everyone has vanished, Billy rushes in and notes that he's late. He also wipes sweat from his brow and checks his hand to make sure no tissue bits are stuck to his palms. He also seems to have missed the fact that his friends were fighting Putties right in front of the Youth Center that he just entered, and he's ignored all of Alpha's attempts at contacting him. Glad you're on the team dickhead.

While Billy is perplexed to see the Youth Center empty, Rita realizes she can put the Blue Ranger under the Dramole's spell and use it to gain access to the Dragon Dagger. In addition, she can live out her fantasies of being a sexually frustrated teenage boy.

While the Putties are being defeated, the Dramole's smoke billows over Billy's face, causing him to fall under the Space Alien's spell. Rita informs Billy she is now his evil mistress, and demands he teleport into the Command Center to get her that Dagger. Now that he's under Rita's spell, Billy is sporting some kind of electric halo. In case we couldn't tell he was evil from his constantly furrowed brow and blank stare.

Every 90's Horror Movie Poster.jpg

EVIL Billy starts manhandling Alpha 5 and calls him a poor excuse for a transistor radio. Hey Rita, does that Dramole have any magic smoke that can provoke good one liners? Billy shuts down Alpha and starts shit talking Zordon for being a big inflated windbag, to which Zordon says he didn't give Billy superpowers to hurt people's feelings. Since Zordon is incapable of doing anything but blathering, Billy summons the Dragon Dagger and vanishes.

The rest of the Ranger Teens head inside the Youth Center to see there isn't a soul left inside. Kimberly spots her mother's scarf left discarded on the floor, and knows something is up since she gave that to her mom for her birthday. Maybe she was wearing it to spare your feelings and threw it off when she realized how ugly it was. Or her husband yanked it off before the two of them got sweaty in the Juice Bar bathroom.

The Ranger Teens teleport into the Command Center where they ask what happened to their parents. Zordon tells them their weird ass inbred parents are safe for now, despite their genetic material being tainted for the next few generations. Zordon tells his slaves that Billy stole the Dragon Dagger and beat the shit out of Alpha 5, so they need to stop him from letting the Dragonzord fall into the wrong hands even if that means murdering Billy in cold blood. Jason says they won't need to go that far, but Zordon gives him a wide eyed glare and says "That was an order Red Ranger."

Trini somehow manages to reactivate Alpha, having retained a handful of the gobbledygook Billy spewed at her about technology. Once the robot is back online, the Ranger Teens morph to try and stop Billy who is en route to Rita's Dark Dimension. They then use their mighty powers as efficiently as possible.

Well we did all we could do.

Goldar summons a few Putty Patrollers to keep the morphed Rangers busy after he shoves Billy to the ground for no particular reason. Just in case we forgot Goldar is the bad guy in this scene. While the Rangers fend off the Putties, EVIL Billy looks confused as he sits on the ground and rubs his sore ass. Is he not under the spell anymore? Cause he still has that electric halo, so looks like the editor didn't know what was going on and fucked it up.

The four Rangers then start taking on Goldar to keep him away from Billy, but Rita's second in command is too quick for them and nabs the Dragon Dagger. Billy starts throwing a fit as Goldar cackles about his new toy. Even if it is out of the box and has lost all value. Goldar tells them their only option remaining is to give up their Power Coins in exchange for their parents lives. Zack asks why they should listen to his bullshit and Goldar rather astutely tells them "Because you really have no other choice." What a perfect asshole. I love him.

Billy morphs to accompany his friends and make up for how bad he's ruined Parents Day, only to see Goldar using the Dragon Dagger to summon the Dragonzord. The Zord becomes furious over how ignored it's been for the past 9 episodes and goes on a rampage, demolishing everything in sight. The Rangers call on their Dinozords to stop their lumbering ally in the hopes that they can head off Goldar.

It's Megazord VS. Dragonzord with the Rangers parents at stake. Before you get excited, just know that this fight is roughly 30 seconds long and ends faster than it began. With the Rangers unable to subdue the Dragonzord, they bail out of the Megazord and land in front of Goldar. Looking at this now I still don't know what the Rangers were trying to accomplish. Goldar has your parents lives in his hands and you start antagonizing him by fighting the Dragonzord? What's that accomplishing? Oh right we needed to use some Sentai footage. My mistake.

Goldar tells the Rangers their time is up. There's no out anymore, it's either their Power Coins or their parents. Given this Sophie's Choice, the Rangers realize there's only one thing they can do. They can't fight back anymore, they can't get their parents back without complying, and even Zordon tells the Rangers that this decision is completely theirs to make as it involves their civilian lives.

The Rangers make up their minds. They'll trade their Power Coins for the safety of their parents. Each Ranger walks up, one by one, and places their Power Coin into a small black box Goldar summons. As they give him their coin, their Ranger costume dissolves away from them as they lose the powers they held so dear. Kimberly tries telling Goldar he had better not hurt her parents, but he tells her to be silent. It's so perfect. He holds all the cards and the Rangers can't even trash talk him anymore.

Zack and Trini give up their coins next, with only Billy remaining. He apologizes for being the cause of all this after giving Goldar the Dragon Dagger, but there's no heroics for him now. All he can do is give Goldar the final Power Coin and complete their trade. Now that he has what he wants, the Rangers demand their parents safe return. Goldar responds to their pleas as follows.

Whoops!

Sorry kids, guess you trusted the wrong dog monster. Goldar tells them he never had any intention of returning their parents and they can suck his big gold balls because the world's going to be over soon. The Ranger Teens are near tears as Goldar cackles at them once more before he vanishes with their Power Coins in tow. Well maybe next year's Parents Day won't be such a bust.

Back in the Command Center, the Ranger Teens lick their wounds while Zordon politely tells them to get out of his goddamned Command Center if they don't have a Power Coin. The Ranger Teens see a vision of their parents on the Viewing Globe and are happy that despite how bad they botched everything today, at least their parents are safe. Well for another hour or so, then when Squatt gets a hold of them all the Ranger Teens will have new siblings.

Kimberly says there's nothing left for them to do, because Goldar's taken all their Power Coins. Jason solemnly says they still have one more Power Coin left, and pulls it from his pocket. We then cut back to the Youth Center where someone walks inside. All we can see are the person's feet as they walk past the mess that Dramole caused. The camera pans up and as we see our mystery man, we also get to hear Wasserman give his two cents lyrically.

GO GREEN RANGER!

Oh SHIT.


TO BE CONTINUED




Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Planetary Ties


Personal Thoughts

What an incredibly awesome surprise. I didn't remember much about this episode in terms liking it or not, but I would almost definitely put it in the top 10 of Season 1. As much as I love Bulk and his goofy parents, the stand out scene for me is Goldar taking the Ranger's Power Coins. It's a really fantastic moment where we see the heroes at their lowest point. It's so good man. Seriously. It shows you how big of a scumbag Goldar is and makes him the perfect loathsome cocksucker of a villain that you want to see beaten down.

I mentioned Zyu2 earlier, and while you could technically call this episode a "Zyu2 episode" it uses very little new footage. Dramole is only seen incredibly briefly in Finster's explanation of the monster, but is otherwise hidden underground for the entirety of the episode. It's almost like they forgot they had the monster's costume and felt the need to cheat shots with him. Old habits die hard I suppose.

Speaking of Zyu2, there is one nifty little scene the folks in Japan shot for Power Rangers to use. It's an alternative formation of the Megazord! It's not as fancy as the Zyuranger footage but it still looks pretty cool. Check it out.


I don't want to discuss too much more but I'd like to briefly mention the fight the Rangers have in the Dark Dimension with Goldar and the Putties. This is the first time that Power Rangers would film a U.S. exclusive fight scene with the morphed Rangers. Usually we would only get Sentai footage of the morphed heroes, and unmorphed Putty fights in U.S. footage. Now that the show is starting to get some moxie, they're mixing and matching styles. It actually looks relatively good for a first effort, and sets the stage for what's to come later. So stay tuned!



3 comments:

  1. "Nothing but Rita yearning for her dad, who I assume is some monster man made out of snakes."

    Season 3

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  2. It's been fun following along, and also I'm glad to see you get as excited as I do about the alternate formations of the Zords and the different camera angles when they align. Maybe it would be a fun project, once you complete the series, to compile these? I would think these would be areas of interest:

    Different Zord combinations (Dragonzord in Battle Mode, Ultrazord, etc.)
    Different camera angles of formations
    Individual Dinozord battles (I loved it when you would see the indfividual Zords fight instead of immediately form Meazord)
    Use of the Power Blasters/Power Weapons (especially when they used these, and not the Zords, to win battles)

    Even if not, you've provided more than enough entertainment and fodder for my nostalgia trips. Thanks!

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  3. That Evil!Billy screencap above initially reminded me of the "Re-Animator" poster, but I guess I remembered it slightly wrong.

    ReplyDelete