Tuesday, December 1, 2015

MMPR Season 2 Episode 14: Missing Green



Jason Feels Bad About Something that Happened 40 Episodes Ago
Trini Disappears For Half the Episode, Nobody Bothers to Notice












I hope you dear readers have mourned the death of Tommy's Green Ranger powers after last week's tragic finale. Now the rest of the Ranger Teens are left to battle Lord Zedd's forces without their chronically impotent teammate dragging them down. Without their Make-A-Wish Ranger tagging along to get his energy absorbed, the primary five Rangers finally have a chance to let themselves shine once more. They now have the opportunity to become fully fleshed out characters!

Y'know, unless the episode revolves around how much everybody misses Tommy so much. Though that would be ridiculous.

Our episode starts with Zack helping Jason train for an upcoming karate tournament. While Jason could usually win any match with both nuts tied behind his back, something is distracting him from his usual hunkdom. Jason's problem is that every time he tries to strike, he's struck by the image of a disappointed looking Tommy. The very same image Jason saw when he introduced Tommy to his parents as "a good friend."

As soon as Zack asks what's wrong with Jason, he answers his own question, "It's Tommy? Isn't it?" He says this with such exasperation and pain that you'd almost think Zack's jealous over what Tommy and Jason had together.

I'll spare you good people from my childish assumption that two men who care about each other might be gay for the thousandth time and instead offer this theory: Is Zack supposed to be frustrated that Tommy replaced him as Jason's best bud? He seems awfully testy when he realizes Jason is dwelling on Tommy's situation. I could be making mountains out of dramolehills, but if I can find an inch of depth to this show then I'll furiously dig into it 'til I hit paydirt.

Jason says it's not Tommy's glistening abs that are on his mind, but the memory that he was the one that let Tommy's powers disappear in the first place. Jason refers to the Green Candle situation that was what initially de-powered the Green Ranger back in Season 1. Something that's been eating away at him so badly that he hasn't mentioned it once since it happened.

While I could piss and moan that this development was never foreshadowed or referenced previously, I'll refrain from all that shit. This is an idea that has a chance to give a character some depth. Jason hasn't lost one goddamn fight ever since he put on that Red Ranger suit, except for the moment of hesitation that cost Tommy his powers.

Initially I thought this was weird to address now. Why is Jason dwelling on Tommy's first power loss after his second occurred? Well the answer to this could be that the writers simply didn't think of this idea until now. Personally I'll take a thousand ideas that come a bit late than ever having to deal with something like "The Rockstar" ever again.

Lord Zedd takes notice of Jason's lingering regrets and finds this the perfect instrument for the Rangers' demise. Zedd declares Rita's Green Candle didn't have shit on what he's packing, as we cut to four brand spankin' new Ranger colored candles. Black, Pink, Yellow, and Blue are all represented by a candle that Zedd plans on using to extinguish their respective Rangers' power supplies. So why isn't there a Red Candle for Zedd to use? If I had to guess it's because Goldar melted it down his body last week and told Zedd it got lost in storage.

Billy's candle remains a safe distance away from the only candle of color.

Zack tries talking with Billy and Kimberly about what they can do to get Jason out of his slump. The only solution Kimberly can concoct is getting in touch with Tommy, because her character has finally evolved into a lamprey that can only exist if Tommy's around to latch onto. It's stunning to me that this show finally ditched Tommy for literal minutes, but almost instantaneously we need the other characters to go crawling back to him so we can keep all the kids who love the Green Ranger satiated.

While discussing Tommy's depleted powers, she uses the phrase "Ranger or no Ranger", which catches the attention of Bulk and Skull as they wander in the background. That's all well and good, but there's an itsy bitsy problem about what Kimberly says after that.

"Ranger or no Ranger, he's still our friend and Jason needs him. I know Tommy would want to help." 

The issue is that Kimberly says Tommy's name while the camera is still focused on Bulk and Skull listening to her. What the show wants me to believe is that Bulk and Skull heard Kimberly mention the Power Rangers off-handedly, and this has piqued their curiosity. What the show has shown me is that Bulk and Skull just heard Kimberly say in no uncertain terms that Tommy is absolutely, undoubtedly affiliated with the Power Rangers.

This is almost definitely a goof in the ADR department, because Kimberly's line happens off-screen when the camera focuses on Bulk and Skull looking at her suspiciously. It's just such a gigantic fuck-up because the way this scene is shot there's next to no way these two couldn't have possibly heard this conversation that they absolutely should not have been privy to. At least not if you want to keep this sub-plot running for the next 40 episodes. I'm sorry, this moment bugs me really bad, let me try and give it some context.

Imagine if in one of those Spider-Man movies, J. Jonah Jameson yells at Peter Parker to get him pictures of Spider-Man or he's fired. Then Peter responds "Yes sir Mr. Jameson I'll get pictures of Spider-Man" and then we cut back to JJJ's face before we hear Peter's line continue, "Which should be rather easy, because I am in fact Spider-Man."

So Bulk and Skull manage to hear only four words out of a conversation they clearly were listening to in its entirety, and conclude that the Ranger Teens are also trying to discover the identity of the Power Rangers.

Jesus Christ. Seriously? They don't even suspect the Ranger Teens for half a second? They don't assume Tommy is a Ranger after literally hearing him described as one? If that's the conclusion they're going to jump to, then why wouldn't you rewrite Kimberly's line to make it more vague? Sorry, let me calm down. I'm spending all this time arguing about the deductive reasoning of two guys that look like this.

Skull looks like a stoned iguana.

Zack drives the other three Ranger Teens out to a cabin owned by Tommy's uncle. Kimberly assumes this is where Tommy's vanished to now that his powers are gone and he isn't welcome in their presence ever again. Zack asks Kim why she's so sure he's here and she informs her friends it was the first place they ever got tongue deep in each other.

The Ranger Teens pull over to check their map, which involves all four of them getting out of the car and reading it out-loud. Not because this is what actual human beings do, but because it makes blocking a lot easier. Zedd commands Goldar to go capture the four Ranger Teens and bring them to his Dimension of Doom. Fuck's sakes guys we had a mystical evil dimension from Zedd the last two weeks. Wouldn't it behoove Zedd to take some time and consolidate all these dimensions he's got? He can't possibly be using all these things enough to get a good return on investment for them.

Goldar appears in front of the Ranger Teens and asks if they remember him from back when he used to do cool things in Season 1. The Teens morph as Goldar overlooks them from atop a grassy hill while they stand behind Zack's car. This needlessly complicated manner of framing only exists to set up a scene where Bulk and Skull are in clear view of Goldar, but are unable to see the Power Rangers behind Zack's vehicle.

I've been tolerating this secret identity sub-plot for a while now, but this week's instance doesn't make a goddamn lick of sense. Bulk and Skull's master plan is to take a picture of the Power Rangers when they confront Goldar. That's all well and good for them, but why should we in the audience care? 

This whole scene is staged as though Bulk and Skull are about to take a picture of something they shouldn't be seeing. All they're going to have is a photo of Goldar yelling at the Power Rangers. That's not incriminating at all. Sure it's in front of Zack's car, but if these two morons just heard Kimberly admit Tommy is a Ranger, I'm pretty sure they're not going to be smart enough to connect those dots.

The only saving grace of these lame scenes is Skull's camera.

I can't see that parrot without thinking "DEXTER'S SECRET"


Goldar blasts the four Rangers with energy from his sword that teleports them into Zedd's Dimension of Doom. I'd explain what it looks like, but it would be a waste of your time. It's nothing but the set from last season's Dark Dimension with a few candle holders in the foreground, and some bars that act as a prison for the four Rangers. In case you needed to be reminded that this show is incredibly cheap.

In front of the imprisoned Rangers, Goldar pulls out the remnants of Rita's Green Candle, which has just enough wax left to light up the other four Ranger Candles. Kim and Billy voice their objections, while Zack and Trini remain silent because the show didn't feel like finding old voice clips to dub in for them.

Zordon summons Jason to the Command Center to explain today's situation. The Rangers have disappeared and Alpha is scanning around to find their location. Zordon admits to Jason that the other Rangers really wanted him to win the Golden Pipe Karate Tournament, and they also knew how bad he missed Tommy's golden pipe. Ah yes, the Golden Pipe Karate Tournament, isn't that part of the "We Don't Know How to Shoehorn a Weird Looking Sentai Monster into the Plot so Name a Karate Tournament After it" Championships?

Zordon spoils the Ranger Teens surprise from earlier and tells Jason they were planning on getting into contact with Tommy to put Jason's nerves at ease. He also tells Jason that the other Ranger Teens got him an iPad for Christmas, because he doesn't know when to keep his giant mouth shut.

Lord Zedd has other plans for Jason. The overlord fires energy from his staff to turn the Golden Pipe trophy into his newest monster, Pipebrain.

Pipebrain
He's packing a little pipe between his legs.

Zordon alerts Alpha and Jason with the lowdown on Zedd's new monster. He claims Pipebrain to be incredibly swift and powerful, which is Zordon's way of saying the monster won't be doing much and we need to make him sound impressive. Alpha notes that he's finally got a lock on the other Rangers and locates them inside of Zedd's Dimension of Doom. Zordon's greatest fears have once again come true this week, as Goldar is taking advantage of what he claims is the one weakness of the Ranger Team. Damnit! Goldar finally silenced Trini and her big mouth.

No, of course their one weakness is the fact that their powers can be drained via magic candle wax, something that leaves Jason fucking pissed. He watches his friends slumping in Goldar's prison as they suffer the same fate Tommy went through long ago, and he is not having any of it. He's the leader of this team and now he's left watching his comrades get drained down to normal.

It's not exactly subtle, but seeing Jason look this furious over his friends' situation is better acting than we get from this show just about every week. You're watching a person's emotional weakness come back to haunt them as it happens to other people they care about, and it's really satisfying.

Zordon leaves Jason with the warning that entering Zedd's dimension could also mean the loss of his powers as well. Jason asserts himself as a leader and tells Zordon he'll take any risk as long as it means saving his friends. Alpha reassures Jason that he made the right choice when he left Tommy's candle, which is a lot more powerful of a statement coming from the comic-relief robot than "Ay-yi-yi! This is dangerous Jason! Watch out for trouble! My circuitboards are on the fritz!"

In order to access the Dimension of Doom, Jason must defeat the lethal Pipebrain monster. The Red Ranger steels himself for this task before morphing and arriving in battle with Zedd's newest soldier. It's a fight that will test all of Jason's skills and abilities.

At least it would if it wasn't a spliced together snooze.

During my write-up on "The Mutiny Part 3", I mentioned how all of the early Season 2 Zord battles were spliced together from Zyu2 monster footage, and Dairanger Zord footage. All of the ground battle footage between the actual Rangers and the monsters didn't require this kind of editing, which made it far superior to the Zord battles that would not be able to show the Megazord and the monster on screen at the same time. This resulted in choppy and lousy looking fights that felt like a practical joke on the audience.

Well now we're out of Zyu2 monsters, and Dairanger monsters are getting tagged in. The problem with that is that the monsters from Dairanger fight a completely different group of Rangers that look nothing like our Ranger team.

Zack isn't feeling like himself today.

This means any ground battle footage from Dairanger that contains actual fighting is unusable. The only footage we can use of these monsters is them standing around looking threatening, or possibly firing an attack off-screen that the Rangers react to. Something like this.

Pipebrain Dairanger
Would you believe me if I told you this was one of the better splice fights?

Essentially, all my issues with the Zord battles and ground battles from earlier in the season have been flipped. Now the ground battles are unengaging while we wait for the Zord fight to look good. Yippee.

So Pipebrain stands off-camera while threatening Jason, and summons a batch of Z-Putties to do some actual fighting. Jason no longer reacts with old lines from Season 1, but what sounds like a 60 year old man trying to sound like Austin St. John. This fight was built up so fucking well, and you take all the wind out of my sails by having a grunting old man dubbing over a fight where he can never interact with his primary opponent. Thanks for nothing Power Rangers.

Lord Zedd is sickened by how boring this battle is and thrusts his Grow Bomb to Earth. Pipebrain becomes gigantic and Jason summons the Red Dragon Thunderzord. While the ground battle was lackluster, we finally get an opportunity to see a Thunderzord do something cool.

With flawless special effects!

The Red Dragon Thunderzord converts to Warrior Mode and squares off against Pipebrain. The monster and Zord strike a pose and begin their battle. With some nice martial arts moves, the Red Dragon Warrior Mode chops at Pipebrain repeatedly before kicking him hard and leaving him on the dirt. The gold plated monster slowly closes its eye as it admits its defeat. Even though it didn't explode and fuck almighty Jason you've been doing this for so long. How do you not know the score by now?

Surprising nobody, Pipebrain opens its eye and launches one of its phallic pipes to restrain the Red Dragon ThundercougarfalconZord. Pipebrain surges electricity through the pipe, which causes the Red Dragon to burst with explosions. Though things look dim, the Thunderzord refuses to give up. Red Dragon puts its hand to its ear and is empowered by the cheering voices of all the Hulkamaniacs across the nation. Unless they were blizzack people.

Red Dragon Warrior Mode pulls out its staff and uses it to slash the pipe restraining him and emasculate Pipebrain. After beating on the creature, the Red Dragon Thunderzord starts spinning its staff around which disorients the Pipebrain monster. With its opponent on the ropes, the Red Dragon busts out its own finishing move to take Pipebrain down.

Red Dragon Thunderzord GIF
Why don't we get the Thunder Saber for the trillionth time? 

With the monster destroyed, Jason arrives inside Zedd's Dimension of Doom. As Goldar gloats about his inevitable victory, Old Man Voice Jason tells him to think again. Gold and Red engage each other in combat with Goldar temporarily gaining the upper hand. Jason spin kicks the crony's sword out of his hand to even the odds, before kicking him right into the display holding the Ranger Candles.

Despite the fact these candles had insignificantly sized flames atop them, their tipping over causes the Dimension of Doom to become covered in flames. Obviously this dimension is where Zedd stashed all his kiddy porn, so he kept it coated in gasoline in case the feds ever got nosy. This is naturally followed by the evil emperor demanding Finster to magnet all their hard drives.

Goldar teleports out of the hotbox as Jason grabs the key to his team's cell and unlocks it. Jason asks for the weakened Rangers to fork over their Power Coins. While their energy drains, Jason places the coins atop each Rangers' candle. With the Coins in place, Jason uses his own Tyrannosaurus coin to cause the other coins to glow. This surge of energy somehow restores both the Rangers and the Candles to full. Look, we're at the zero hour and we needed a resolution that makes as much sense as anything else. Who cares?

Jason hands his friends their Power Coins as the kidnapped Rangers teleport out of the Dimension of Doom one by one. As Jason gets ready to vamoose, Goldar's hand suddenly grabs his leg and tells him to get his ass back here. Even though Goldar teleported away when the dimension caught fire earlier. Sorry to those of you paying attention. Whatever, he's here now for some more tension, at least until Jason kicks him in the face and teleports out.

As Jason escapes we get one of the most pathetic lines from any character ever. Goldar exclaims to the vanishing Red, "My life is dedicated to destroying you!" Holy shit Goldar. Maybe join a book club or something. You are wasting your golden years.

Alpha brings the four non-Red Rangers into the Command Center. They're left asking where Jason is and worry that he may have been lost in the Dimension of Doom. The show wastes a few seconds pretending Jason is in danger before he abruptly appears and the crisis nobody was concerned with is resolved.

Speaking of things nobody cares about, Alpha manages to locate Tommy on the Viewing Globe. Hey Kimberly, maybe instead of going on a road trip and getting kidnapped by Goldar you could have asked your robot slave where he is. Just an FYI for next time.

The Ranger Teens watch as Tommy appears in the Viewing Globe, writing a letter for Jason. In case you didn't know what the contents of this letter were, Tommy helpfully reads what he's writing out loud. Instead of this scene using a voice-over we have Tommy awkwardly reading his own letter to nobody in particular. While this could possibly be the result of nonsensical production decisions (a particularly callous assertion), I'd prefer to believe this is the only way Tommy is capable of writing something due to his crippling case of "Too Stupid to Read Syndrome."

Tommy's letter amounts to "It's cool you didn't save my powers, please go be good at karate now." Jason takes these kind words to heart and heads off to the Youth Center to win some golden pipes or whatever. Jason shows up to Ernie's with the other Ranger Teens, excluding Trini. She was busy doing something the writers didn't feel like including because she was in the middle of disputing her contract, so let's just say she went fishing this week.

Bulk and Skull stop the 4 Ranger Teens to brag about their photographic evidence of being close to the Power Rangers. Unfortunately for the bullies, it turns out the camera was only able to capture a moment of Skull knocking over a bird's nest earlier. Phew! I was really concerned that Bulk and Skull would have a picture of the Power Rangers, and that would…be bad because I guess…Um…

So Jason joins the tournament and performs some good old-fashioned white guy karate. Not in a fight with anyone of course, but all alone on a shoddy blue gym mat. Why do all of the karate tournaments on this show act like people do karate the same way I masturbate? Even though the karate isn't getting busted on any pipe-faced monsters, we do get some cool poses from Jason.

Is Ernie doing a one handed cheer?

Apparently Jason did really impressive poses because everyone in the crowd cheers for him. In a stunning upset sure to shock the entire audience watching at home, Jason somehow manages to win the Golden Pipe tournament. Upon receiving his trophy, Jason dedicates this victory to Tommy. It's also dedicated to his lifelong fan Goldar who has dedicated his entire life to Jason's improvement. Goldar watches from outside the Youth Center window and sheds a tear of pride while massaging his golden pipe.



Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Hulk Hogan



Personal Thoughts



While this episode has a genuinely strong premise behind it, I can't help but feel underwhelmed. Jason feeling guilt for Tommy's lost power is handled pretty intelligently, and we get a return to white guy karate in what feels like the first time in months. This episode should be a genuinely strong Jason focus, but when every line he has while morphed sounds like a dying grandfather it becomes much harder to enjoy. The attempt at shooting a ground battle with Pipebrain is okay, but when you cut all of the monster's fighting moves, you make him look really underwhelming. Not to mention there is some weak ass Bulk and Skull material this week. Oh wow, eggs fell on them. What else is on?

I also briefly mentioned Trini's absence, which means she has joined Zack and Jason's ranks as an actor who is sick of this dumbass show and has stopped showing up for filming. I wanted to mention it previously when they replaced her dialogue with previous season's lines, but she has so little to say it's near impossible to tell. Just know that from here on out any morphed dialogue from Trini, Jason, or Zack will either be performed by a terrible sounding stand-in, or use recycled lines from previous episodes. Don't worry though, I'm sure Haim Saban will handle this private matter with dignity and grace and keep his actors well taken care of.

So Pipebrain! He's the first monster we're going to be getting from Dairanger footage, and the first monster who appeared in Dairanger at all. His presence signals a change in Season 2 that I'm not too keen on. For the majority of Season 2, all the new monsters that show up are going to appear near exclusively in Sentai footage. While that wouldn't necessarily be a problem for Season 1, there's a bit more to it now.

I often mentioned in Season 1 how uncommon it was for the production staff to have monster costumes to film new scenes with. This wasn't a giant issue in Season 1 since the show could use the majority of the Sentai footage to fill in any gaps in storytelling.

The problem is that during Season 2, the production didn't seem to have more than half a dozen of the Dairanger monster costumes. So without being able to shoot new footage of the monsters, the show can only use what was already shot for use in Dairanger and repurpose it in Power Rangers. This would mean that the only footage that can be used of the Dairanger villains are scenes of the monsters standing alone somewhere while gesturing, scenes where they attack something off-screen and then cutting to our Rangers reeling from a hit, or scenes of the monsters in giant size. Anything where they're in frame with the Japanese Rangers or the foot soldiers would be unusable for use in Power Rangers. Including scenes such as these.

Dairanger's strength was in its gratuitous testicle abuse.

What makes this even worse is that Dairanger's highlights are unquestionably in its ground fights. The Zord fights are often not much to write home about, so what we get in Season 2 is a bare bones watered down Dairanger experience. Don't misinterpret that as whining about Power Rangers disrespecting the original source material. It's more that Power Rangers is cutting the crusts off their sandwich before tossing the sandwich in the trash before chowing on raw crust.

From here on out Season 2 hits some strange territory. What follows are a lot of Putty fights, a lot of monsters folding their arms, and our lord and savior descending from the heavens to sell us more toys. Maybe I'm just testy because I miss Zyu2 stuff, or maybe I'm just being a big old grump. I report, you decide!





4 comments:

  1. At least Jeff is very creative with what he does actually get to do.

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  2. Is that really the monster? It looks a like a kindergartner's macaroni art project.

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  3. You've now entered territory that pisses me off to no end. It would have been so easy to have Zordon say, "To help you in your fight against Lord Zedd, I've upgraded your Power Coins and now your suits will look different when morphed. Your colors will remain the same except for Zack, who will now be the Green Ranger." It would have solved so many of Saban's problems and allowed them to use, what in my opinion, is one of the coolest looking Sentai suits ever, as well as sell more toys.

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    Replies
    1. Kinda late to the party on this, but it's important to remember just how much people running Power Rangers were afraid of killing the goose laying the golden eggs. It was just as possible that kids would get mad that everything was different and stop watching as much as them running to their parents and demanding the New Stuff. All the weird edits, all the terrible fights because footage doesn't match up, it all boils down to a deep fear that nobody wanted to be the one known for killing Power Rangers.

      I mean, shit, it's not the wrong method. The franchise has continued, but what remains the most iconic core of it? The original suits, the original actors, the original robots.

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