Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Episode 15: Dark Warrior

Rita Repulsa concocts dumbest plan yet
Ninja kidnaps elderly idiot

Before we can see what any of the Ranger Teens are up to today, we're introduced to a doddering old man using a bunch of dime store chemistry props inside a cheap lab set. He exposits that his invisibility formula is almost complete and spills some on a cactus he has sitting on his lab table. There isn't a photo of this guys family to be seen, but he did spruce up his cookie cutter laboratory with a single depressing plant. This formula turns the cactus invisible, and let's try and map out exactly what you'd expect to happen in a scene with an invisible cactus.

A cactus, known for being sharp, is now invisible on a table where a character is moving his hands around. What you might expect to happen is Uncle Howard placing his hand on the cactus, causing himself physical pain, and pulling away comically. However that's not what happens at all, instead he just gently feels the cactus needle with his finger and rejoices that he made this formula work. No goofy moment of slightly hurting his hand or easy physical comedy. So then why make the invisible object a cactus if he's not going to hurt himself on it? This episode has three fucking writers and they didn't see the easiest gag to do with an invisible cactus?

Thankfully we get to the Youth Center so we can see the masters of dumb physical gags at work. Bulk is playing some arcade game and getting pissed that he keeps losing at it. Bulk should realize someone who can't walk four feet with falling ass backwards into a cake isn't going to have the manual dexterity to beat Donkey Kong.  Bulk notices Billy being a dork and demands a quarter from him, but Billy says he couldn't possibly have any spending them on a new pair of humiliating overalls. Bulk calls bullshit, so he holds Billy upside down and shakes some quarters out of him, then dumps him in a recycling bin. Billy you're a stereotypical geek, wouldn't it be smarter just to give them a quarter so they don't emasculate you in front of everyone?

Trini helps her tragic friend out of the garbage and says to cheer up because even though no one in their circle of friends will ever take him seriously again, her brilliant scientist Uncle Howard will be coming to town today so Billy can have someone to talk to about being lonely and talking like a thesaurus. Billy says he's tired of being the punchline of every joke on this blog so he's going to re-enroll in Jason's karate class, which is an impressive attention to detail. Billy did enroll in Jason's karate class in the pilot, and we've seen him humiliate himself pretty consistently ever since he became a Power Ranger, so we can assume he quietly withdrew from Jason's class after some sort of embarrassing incident.

Rita spies Uncle Howard working on his invisibility potion and conjures up a plan to steal it so she bitches at Finster to make her a monster that's invincible and clever. They've fucked this up 14 times, but Rita KNOWS today will be different. Finster whips up his newest monster, the Dark Warrior. When you think clever invincible monster, you probably think ninja decked out in camo gear.

Dark Warrior
Add in a scarf for fashion.

Uncle Howard finds his way into the Juice Bar, hiding his invisibility potion in his coat like it's a bottle of cheap hooch. Before meeting him Jason puts two and two together and realizes Trini's Uncle Howard is the same Uncle Howard who's a famous martial artist. No seriously, Trini's never before referred to uncle is a genius inventor with a minor in kung fu. Weird, he looks more like a confused doughy elderly Asian gentleman in a brown overcoat to me.

Uncle Howard

Trini spots the collection of tropes she calls her uncle and runs over to him and hugs him. Trini must be excited to see her uncle because she knows he'll tell her mom to knock it off with the dumbass dolls. Trini introduces her friends to her uncle and then...what?

Bet you can't pat his head at the same time.

If this is how Trini's family act with each other it's no wonder Sylvia felt so safe with that pederast clown.

Billy introduces himself to Uncle Howard with the best line in this entire show, "It's a pleasure to meet you karate scientist." Uncle Howard tells "Billy-San" that he'll be able to sharpen his body and his mind with martial arts, because the writers learned everything they knew about martial arts from The Karate Kid.

Rita commands Dark Warrior to keep an eye on Squatt, Baboo, and Goldar as they go to find Uncle Howard's invisibility potion. She also commands him to do it off-screen since they don't have the suit to film with. Is this all Rita wanted Finster to make a monster for? To act as a babysitter to her henchmonsters? What are you even doing Rita?

The dumbfuck trio head into Uncle Howard's lab, and before they even come into frame we very blatantly see a small vial that says "Do Not Touch." Goldar spies the bottle that we know isn't the formula and demands Squatt to check if it's the right one. Squatt takes a swig of it and passes it to Baboo who does the same. It gives them a huge stomachache and Goldar gets all pissy that they were supposed to check it, not drink it. Then why didn't you stop them Goldar? What did you actually expect these morons to do? Wasn't Baboo making a fucking potion like just a couple weeks ago to turn people into punks? Why is he just being dumb like Squatt now? And Dark Warrior, get in here from off camera and tell them to knock it off. At least Rita takes their idiocy in stride.

Rita Repulsa mad
Dark Warrior agrees

After telling the Evil Space Aliens they're going to bed without dessert, Dark Warrior says he'll send down Putties to capture Uncle Howard instead of waste time on more meaningless scenes of Squatt and Baboo drinking from bottles. What is all this about again? Some bottle of invisibility goop? Remember when Finster made a monster that could turn invisible arbitrarily? Who cares, now they need that formula and a ninja to find it.

Billy and Uncle Howard enjoy a nice bland lesson of White Guy Karate in the park while the Putties show up to beat the shit out of a fragile nerd, and also Uncle Howard. The odds are still 10 to 1 they'll manage to botch this one somehow. Uncle Howard even does some karate that isn't half bad for someone his age. Granted he's 300 years old and does a couple kicks, but it beats my expectation of him clutching his chest and keeling over at the first sign of exertion. Billy is moderately successful at fighting a couple of Putties, so that must mean his character's developed now. Sadly he hasn't improved enough to stop the Putties from carrying Uncle Howard away and vanishing.

The Putties have relocated the old fossil to some cave in the middle of who gives a fuck. They tie up Uncle Howard and strap him to a bunch of boxes painted red that we get to pretend are TNT crates. Dark Warrior threatens Uncle Howard with violence against Trini if he doesn't tell him where the formula is, but Howard's so off his rocker he doesn't know what he did with it. Dark Warrior promises that if he doesn't remember what he did with the formula, the cave's going to blow in the next hour. The bomb is set to go off using what appears to be Hal 9000 taped on top of an Atari 2600 and some old alarm clocks.

I can't let you do that Howard

Billy runs into the Youth Center out of breath, likely because he beat a Putty and had to stop and tell everyone he saw on the way there. He tells the rest of the Ranger Teens that Uncle Howard's been kidnapped and they should probably do something about it. Ernie brings a set of black balloons over to Trini and says they were just delivered for her. They immediately pop when Ernie walks off and contain a note from Dark Warrior telling them to bring the formula to him or he's going to turn Sylvia into an orphan.

Just before we get out of control here let's pump the breaks for a second and look what just happened. This space ninja who just kidnapped an elderly karate scientist, gave a message to a fat Juice Bar owner in a Hawaiian shirt via exploding balloons, to a bunch of teenagers who managed to play this off like it was totally normal. Maybe some Putties disguised themselves to drop those balloons off, but no matter what, it's the weirdest goddamn thing I've ever seen a ninja do.

Ninja Blue Truck
....Second weirdest

Trini tries to act terrified of the prospect that someone kidnapped her uncle and his big dumb Pillsbury Doughboy belly, but she looks more like someone trying to decide which conditioner to use. The Ranger Teens head to the Command Center to see what Zordon has to say about all this Dark Warrior business, which he responds to by saying her uncle's potion has inspired Rita to hatch one of her most evil plots ever. The way Zordon talks is exactly how the commercials would when promoting episodes like this. Rita has a devious plan ready to kill the Rangers, find out what happens this Tuesday! Oh you're watching? Turns out it was just a stupid formula, see ya next week dorks.

Zordon does have something interesting to say though, that Rita's plan is to use the invisibility formula to make the Rangers disappear forever. I actually forgot that was her plan as I wrote these notes, and it gets fucking dumber the more I think about it. We've seen the invisibility formula just makes things....y'know INVISIBLE. They're still there you just can't see them. That wouldn't make the Rangers unable to stop her or her monsters, it would actually make them able to blindside her forces who wouldn't be able to see them. They would be nearly unstoppable against her monsters unless Finster can slap some infrared goggles on a moose or whatever. Being invisible would make home life a little awkward, but Trini's uncle is the one who invented it. He'd probably be able to fix things for her. This goes down as Rita's dumbest plan yet, including her plan to put things inside bottles.

The Rangers teleport to the cave Uncle Howard is being kept in and have a fight with the Putties guarding it. We get a nice moment of Billy punching a Putty and making it fly back, all while he looks at his hand with confusion as to how the hell he did that.

The Rangers really easily beat up the Putties but it's nothing we haven't seen before. It'd be more interesting if we had other things like Trini being uncomfortable or not fighting well because she's worried about her uncle, but instead they just all kick 8 different flavors of ass and it's nothing but some karate to keep the blood pumping. Don't get me wrong, all the actors have a unique style to their fighting, it's just that you can only see the Rangers fighting by a cave so many times before you just tune out and want something more visually appealing.

Billy spies the bomb and is asked by the rest of his team to defuse it. Billy looks unsure that he can actually defuse some galactic ninja bomb but he says he'll try, and Uncle Howard says his karate training will help him focus his mind. Shut up old man, just let the nerd cut the wire and stop blathering. Billy does exactly what you'd expect and pulls the wire, saving Uncle Howard from hilariously exploding. This episode does get one extra star for not having the timer countdown to exactly one second before the bomb explodes.

Uncle Howard wanders off while muttering about where he could have put his formula. He actually wanders even further into the cave, where he is soon after devoured by bears, but whatever at least the bombs defused. The Rangers morph to fight Dark Warrior in the park so we can finally see him in action. Dark Warrior grapples with the Rangers using their Blade Blasters and kicks them around a bit. Kimberly, high on the fact she's been able to kill two monsters by herself, tries to take him down solo.

Dark Warrior Gif
You count the arrows one, two, and three.

DW isn't havin' this Ranger noise though and blasts them with a wrist mounted cannon. The Rangers are unable to do a thing to him before Rita decides to make him grow. Do you think this is going to get you that potion Rita? Just cut your fucking losses lady.

The Rangers bring in the Megazord to fight Dark Warrior and he actually fares pretty well against the giant robot. Warrior tries using his katana but it gets knocked out of his hands, so he upgrades to a massive chain scythe to tie Megazord up. You can tell Dark Warrior is trying to beat Megazord in terms of speed which is pretty cool for such a bland monster. The Rangers use the Power Sword to cut the chain binding them, and destroy Dark Warrior.

Uncle Howard wonders aloud where he left the jar while he watches Billy and Jason spar during karate class. Billy actually manages to catch Jason with a move, but Jason counters back as if to say he's still got a way to go. Billy then gets awarded his yellow belt and you actually feel pretty good for him, the guy's improving. We've been able to see his growth as a character as he's disciplined himself to be stronger.

It's been built up for several episodes that Billy isn't as good a fighter as his friends when they aren't morphed, so you actually get time to feel bad for him humiliating himself, and much better when you see him improve. It's a slow burn, and it works way better than having him be shitty at karate then instantly amazing the next episode.

Bulk and Skull show up and start antagonizing Billy because we have a few more minutes left to kill. Zack almost goes after them but Jason says he can handle himself; again, a very nice moment. Then it all goes completely down the pipes.

Uncle Howard sees his formula sitting on the counter at Ernie's, right where he left it if he had bothered to look for 3 seconds. He notices Bulk and Skull harassing Billy and decides to take matters into his own hands. Uncle Howard drinks his stupid formula and "Let's Get Invisible's" himself. He heads over to the bullies and, whilst invisible, kicks their asses. The bullies run away as Uncle Howard reappears next to Billy while laughing. He clearly finds it funny that he was able to prevent Billy's character growth and render a significant portion of this episode meaningless. He also seems proud that his stupid potion can just be undone whenever the invisible person feels like being visible again. Thus undoing the supposed effectiveness of Rita's entire dumb as shit plan. Thanks for nothing Uncle Howard!

Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Ninja Balloon Telegrams

Personal Thoughts:

This episode is, aside from Billy getting some development, completely middle of the road to me. Rita's plot is ludicrously dumb, the fights feel pretty bland, and Dark Warrior is easily one of my least favorite monster designs all season. He's just an ugly looking ninja with some dumb frog face. It doesn't reach a level of disdain I had for an episode like Big Sisters or For Whom the Bell Trolls, but it also doesn't feel as strong as I, Eye Guy or Happy Birthday Zack.

The original Japanese plot was actually pretty similar to this episode's. Dark Warrior was trying to seek out an elixir in the Sentai episode that provided immortality. As children are blissfully unaware of their impending deaths, it's probably a smarter choice to change it a little bit. I appreciate they took the time to even change Rita's plan accordingly, just not the way they turned it into the dumbest plan possible.

This episode is the first time we see Baboo filmed in U.S. footage, as the scene with him, Squatt, and Goldar was unique to Power Rangers. The U.S. costume for Baboo is fine aside from the mouth which just looks like a blob of blue paint. The Japanese footage of Baboo was a guy in the costume with his face and mouth mostly exposed so he could act with his expressions. All of the shots of Baboo here try to hide his ugly ass paint mouth so you can't see how terrible it looks. You'll have to look close but it's definitely there.

They also tried to use Dark Warrior in U.S. footage but very clearly didn't have the suit, so they tried to stage shots with him off camera in the foreground. It works better than that awful U.S. Madame Woe shot, but I'm almost positive they just let whoever was wearing the costume wear jeans underneath the little bits of camouflage foam.

If those aren't Levi's at the bottom left of this picture I'll eat my hat.

It may not seem very strange that Dark Warrior's ground fight didn't have a very definitive ending, but in the Japanese footage he was actually defeated before growing, which makes Rita's insistence on gigantifying him more logical. They had to cut the scene of him being defeated for two reasons; 1) There was a little Japanese girl being held hostage by him as he was getting attacked and 2) Yellow Ranger used a ninja trick of creating doppelgangers to blitzkrieg Dark Warrior. The writers must not have felt like trying to make sense out of that scene or give Trini any focus, so they nixed the whole thing. It was a pretty cool moment that ended with the monster getting daggers thrown at his stomach. You can still see the shot of him reeling from the hit in MMPR but it's easy to miss that he's been wounded.


  1. "Goldar gets all pissy that they were supposed to check it, not drink it."

    Gotta give the point to Squatt 'n' Baboo here, though. It was dumb to drink an unknown potion, yes, but how are they supposed to "check" it without trying it on something? Dumping it all over the counter would have raised Goldar's ire, too, I'm sure. And even then, if they did have the right potion, it would be all gone. If Goldar was so picky about how they'd test the stuff, he should have done it himself. Or commanded them to use a dipstick. What a bitch.

    "This goes down as Rita's dumbest plan yet."

    Serious question...is there ever a dumber one? I'd have trouble imagining it, unless she eventually commits suicide on the assumption that she'll be able to haunt them as a ghost.

    "they just all kick 8 different flavors of ass"

    JASON: Two!
    TRINI: Four!
    ZACK: Six!
    KIMBERLY: Eight!
    BILLY: Billy!

  2. So Trini's accented uncle, named "Howard", is Japanese, it seems (he calls Billy "Billy-san"). So is Trini supposed to be Japanese?

    1. Don't be silly. There's no such place as Japan.

  3. This episode's shitness all begins to make sense when you realise it was written by Ronnie Sperling, Jeff Deckman, Mark Hoffmeier. This episode brought to you by the geniuses who made a dream episode that wasn’t ,meant to be and the man who invented the pedo clown and introduced kids to the concept of vore.