Sunday, February 19, 2017

MMPR Season 3 Episode 9: Passing the Lantern

Homeless Wino Educates Teens on Proper Lighting
Rita Joins the Alt-Right Community

For someone who doesn't remember much about Season 3, I sure find myself recalling a lot of it when I read episode titles. As soon as my eyes landed on "Passing the Lantern," I knew for a fact that this was an Adam focus episode. In that regard, Season 3 is impressing me.

One of my big gripes about Season 2 was how each of the Rangers was treated as an interchangeable piece of flesh that served to spout off lines until Tommy saved the day. Now, we're actually getting honest to goodness character focuses on them! We get to talk about the Rangers that aren't our golden god Thomas K. Oliver. Even if we don't learn a goddamned thing about Adam, at the very least we'll get to see him in the driver's seat of an episode. My standards of quality have been ground to the dirt, I grant you, but I still get happy when I see Power Rangers doing something right. Maybe someday, we'll actually get to learn some more about who Rocky is!

I wouldn't fucking count on it.

Billy and Aisha sit inside the Youth Center while discussing Adam's recent family reunion. Billy mentions how exciting it must have been for Adam to rediscover his roots. You know what audiences love? When two characters explain a potential journey that another character went through off-screen. Why pay for 20 vaguely-Asian extras to stand around when we could have two assholes talk about it in passing.

Adam comes in with a big red lantern in tow. He explains that his family presented this heirloom to him at the reunion, and it has been in his family for years. Here's a note to anybody writing an episode of television out there. I know it's hard to fill 20 minutes, but don't bother having Character X discuss Character Z's recent misadventures if you're going to have Character Z come in and describe the event themselves. 

Adam says this lantern supposedly contains mystical powers. Well of course it does. This is Power Rangers we're talking about. Everything has some sort of spiritual magic inside of it. Billy spots a small tag on the lantern that's covered in some kind of Japanese writing. Or Chinese. I don't know what ethnicity this show wants us to think Adam is and I'm not going to pretend they knew either.

Adam says that his family wouldn't tell him what the inscription said, and that he would have to learn that on his own. Which isn't even kind of how this vaguely mystical shit is supposed to work. Your grandfather can tell you some mystical saying that sounds confusing, but you can eventually understand what those words are supposed to mean as you go through life. Your grandfather can't give you a piece of paper with words in another language and say "someday you'll understand this." Well not if I don't learn how to write in Kanji you old vagrant. If you want me to learn some family lesson, don't put it on a tag and ask me to Babelfish it.

Officers Bulkmeier and Skullovitch stupid their way towards Adam before promising that they can discover the meaning of those moonrunes. Adam protests, because the last thing Bulk put his godless seal-clubbing hands on ended up with her neck broken in a barn. Bulk says he's figured out the puzzle of the lantern, and its inscription reads "Do not try to read something unless it's in English." Yikes. Well I guess that explains how you two fast tracked through the police academy.

Adam's new lantern has also piqued the curiosity of Lord Zedd. A sentence which is basically now a mad lib in my writing. Replace the first and third words and presto! You've got whatever today's monster is going to be.

Zedd sends Squatt and Baboo to retrieve the lantern for him. The bumbling duo h-wait a second. Zedd is acknowledging Squatt and Baboo? They're actually going to do…literally anything? You mean Season 3 has someone writing their names in an episode's script for reasons other than giving them a one off line about being hungry? We are through the looking glass everyone. 

Billy and Adam stroll through the park to meet with an old friend of Billy's parents. A man by the name of Ko who is well-versed in many different languages. Particularly the language of "Probably Asian." While this is all well and good, I can't help but be drawn to Billy's uncomfortable looking jeans. Look at him shove his hands in those pockets. Is that what we did in the 90's? No wonder everyone hates millennials so much.

Either one of Billy's fingers is really long or he's freeballing with Adam.

Billy and Adam arrive at Ko's compound, which is apparently smack dab in the middle of the park. Some kind of gazebo covered in lanterns. Even though we're introducing this guy as a language expert, he also conveniently owns a bunch of the things Adam inherited. This is a bizarre bit of writing that perplexes me. Either make this guy a lantern aficionado, or make him a human Rosetta Stone. Doing both seems awkwardly convenient. Did they not think it'd be weird to have some Asian guy living in a lantern chateau in the middle of the woods?

Ko observes Adam's lantern while presenting a few of his own. One that has a mystical saying about the dragon you fear only being as potent as your imagination. When Adam asks what it means, Ko asks him what he thinks it means. Oh son of a bitch, I've taken these classes in college before. Just tell me what it means so I can pass the test, old man. I'm majoring in Ranger Studies, why the fuck did my advisor even make me take this Lantern History course?

Oh and just in case you were wondering, the background music in this scene is nothing but woodwind instruments. I'm only grateful they didn't add in a gong sound effect.

Tommy, Rocky, and Aisha are also taking a stroll through the park today. They briefly exposit about how Kim is living with Aisha, just in case you didn't watch last week's episode. Tommy mentions that Kimberly has been training really hard for an upcoming gymnastics competition. Oh shoot, I heard about that one! Isn't it in Switzerland, right next to the world peace conference?

Billy asks Ko what the inscription on Adam's lantern says, and to skip all that bullshit about what it means to Adam. Get to the part about what it actually means please. Ko reads the inscription to our boys, and it reads as follows.

"Ancient Chinese Secret Huh?"

Oh sorry, slip of the finger. It actually says

"The lamp may light the path, but the soul will guide the way."

Adam asks what that Dr. Seuss bullshit means, but Ko says that they are only words. The meaning can only be derived by Adam. While Adam is perplexed, Ko informs them that he must tend to the rest of his garden. Boy, it sure is nice of Angel Grove city officials to let that crazy old gardener live in the middle of their park. Though I'd be wary of looking inside any of those lanterns. I hear some kid was messing with them one night, and his head ended up inside one.

As soon as Tommy's crew catches up with Billy and Adam, they're ambushed by the Tenga squad. The Tengas aren't alone though, as Baboo, Squatt, and Rito accompany them to Earth. Why's Rito tagging along? Because Squatt and Baboo aren't allowed within 600,000 miles of the Earth without a Moon-issued guardian.

The five Ranger Teens ninja morph, and a battle with the Tengas begins. The Ninja fight doesn't do a whole lot for me this time around. Tommy jumps around a little bit, Billy and Adam do a pretty lame double team maneuver, Aisha rams one of the Tengas into a tree. It's all pretty standard stuff. Well most of it is, except for this move Adam pulls out of nowhere.

They should have taken his feet and done the human lawnmower.

While the Ranger Teens are distracted, Rito commands Squatt and Baboo to retrieve Adam's lantern. Glad we brought you along, buddy. Good thing the Bone Daddy showed up to sip a couple of ice cold silver bullets in his sleeveless "God Don't Make No Trash" t-shirt. Oh and also something about lanterns.

Squatt and Baboo realize that they came to Earth without knowing which lantern they were supposed to nab. Baboo comes up with a pretty solid solution when he suggests taking all of the lanterns; that way Zedd and Rita can't be pissed that they didn't get the right one. Squatt wipes the slobber off of his jowls as he asks when they get to make their own lampshade out of human skin. Baboo stammers nervously as he hopes their parole officer didn't hear any of that.

After the Tengas are trounced, Rito rallies the troops and teleports them back to the Moon. The Ninja Rangers celebrate, but their cheers are soon stifled when Adam realizes his lantern is missing. Adam becomes deeply morose when he remembers that he promised to keep that heirloom safe for his family. They gave him one of their most cherished possessions, and he lost it due to his rampant bird-kicking antics. Hope that was worth 1000 years bad luck, shithead.

As soon as Adam mentions that his lantern was stolen, Bulk and Skull pop onto the scene. They would have also done the same thing if you said the word "lunch." Bulk puts on his serious cop voice when he asks what was stolen, and Billy informs him that a bunch of prop lanterns were stolen. As soon as he hears this, Bulk immediately goes into aloof shithead mode and inquires about Adam, "Oh yeah? What's his problem?"

It's an amusingly quick turn that I'm certainly not selling, but it's a pretty funny delivery. Paul Schrier immediately switches gears when he realizes the items that were stolen were just a bunch of shitty old lanterns. Not only that, he offers nothing but condescension when he sees how forlorn Adam appears.

This is followed by another excellent turn when Bulk realizes what's going on with Adam. As soon as he learns what's wrong, Bulk promises to locate his missing goods. Though Bulk also offers a suggestion. Forget that lantern. Not because he can't find it, but because Adam needs to get with the 90's and buy a fleshlight.

Or flashlight, sorry.

We cut to another location in the park, where Rito is forcing Squatt and Baboo to sort through the lanterns. Why in the cold depths of hell did he not take them back to the Moon for this? Why are these horrifying moon monsters twiddling their thumbs out in the middle of Angel Grove? Isn't that going to draw a lot of unwanted attention? Imagine going on a walk to the park, only to see these middle-aged mutants hanging around.

Just because Ko lives in it doesn't make your garden Japanese.

At first I thought it was simply some dumb blocking, but as the scene concluded I came to realize why the moon crew was still on Earth.

Because we need an incredibly cheap, simple, and lazy way to resolve this week's problem.

Rito pisses and moans about Squatt and Baboo's pile of lanterns, so he inexplicably takes one of the lanterns and hurls it into the distance. It lands right in front of Bulk and Skull and…seriously? Are you fucking kidding me? This episode's main tension was just established no more than 40 seconds ago. Now that Bulk and Skull have the lantern, who could possibly care what happens now? Assuming that you cared before, which is also a pretty tall order.

Bulk and Skull catch sight of Rito barking orders at Squatt and Baboo, and they rightfully lose their shit. There's a cute touch with Skull trying to consult his Junior Police Handbook for advice on hostile aliens, but this scene is such a limp noodle. It doesn't end with Rito noticing that the idiots have the lantern he carelessly tossed aside, it doesn't have Bulk and Skull getting comedically chased around. The aliens teleport away with all the lanterns, except the one that's obviously Adam's that Rito threw. For absolutely no raisin.

What kind of first draft bullshit is this?

Bulk and Skull start screaming, and Bulk abruptly stops and asks why they're screaming. Skull stops as well to very calmly break down the situation. "Because evil space aliens are using their magical powers right in front of us." Then the boys continue bellowing.

This is a perfectly fine meta moment, and I almost like it. I'm just still so annoyed at all the garbage that had to preface this joke. Usually a good Bulk and Skull joke can take me out of any nonsense this show spits at me. Unless it's bad writing. I can't tolerate bad writing whatsoever! Not unless I'm the one doing it.

When Squatt and Baboo bring back their lantern heap, Lord Zedd becomes predictably outraged. Zedd asks how he's supposed to sort out which lantern has the magical powers if he doesn't know which one belongs to Adam. Baboo mentions that weird old Japanese drifter who said all of his lanterns were special, but for some reason this doesn't make Zedd feel any better.

Rita plucks a lantern out of the pile and says this one feels the most magical of all. Probably. Who gives a shit? Zedd, true to his henpecked nature, agrees with his wife and demands that Baboo get rid of the rest of the lanterns cluttering up his throne room. After Zedd says this, Rita laughs and tells her husband "Oh Zeddy, you're so politically in-correct!"

What? WHAT?! Jesus Christ, what are you idiots yammering about? Zedd wasn't talking about his views on race relations. He was bitching about lanterns dirtying up his throne room. What the fuck is politically correct about that? Am I missing something here? Was it considered offensive to besmirch lanterns in the 90's? Politically incorrect. Shove it up your ass.

Back on Earth, Bulk and Skull stumble through the forest. They're in a panic after seeing Rito earlier, so they're trying to pay close attention to all their surroundings. This doesn't work out well for them though, as Rita's new Lanterra monster is following the boys around. This results in a Mel Brooks-ian gag where Bulk and Skull announce which direction they're going to look, and the Lanterra monster moves to the opposite direction so they don't see him. Unlike a lot of this episode, it actually sort of works. Probably only due to the visual though. I'm a sucker for a giant lantern-man hiding from the fuzz.

Why's Lanterra been chewing on gravel?

Bulk and Skull run screaming from the monster before running into Adam and Aisha. As soon as they use the word "monster," the Ranger Teens realize what's going on. Adam contacts the other Ranger Teens at the Command Center and asks them if they see anything weird going on. As soon as they turn on the Viewing Globe, they see an image of a cackling lantern monster running around the park. So no, I'd say things are looking pretty standard for Angel Grove.

The six Ranger Teens morph and confront Lanterra. The monster taunts our heroes, and Rocky starts talking a whole bunch of shit he can't possibly back up. Adam holds his friend back and asks that they don't destroy the monster, or else he could lose his families' keepsake. Now marks the moment that this episode falls on its face.

There are two things that take any and all possible drama out of this situation. First off, do you remember when Zedd made monsters out of inanimate objects back in Season 2? Don't bother going back and looking for examples, because he did it every fucking week. Well 9 times out of 10, those items would show up completely unharmed after the Rangers destroyed whatever monster it was turned into. Pursehead, Fourhead, Pachinkohead, TUBE MONSTER. All of them were hunky dory after they got blown to bits.

Point number two is a lot more clear. We in the audience already know this lantern isn't Adam's. There's not even a gray area where Bulk and Skull could have the wrong one. It's obviously Adam's lantern. Why should the audience give even the slightest bit of a shit about this situation when Adam is clearly not in any real danger of destroying his lantern? How is this show managing to lower the stakes further and further every single week? Rito blew up the goddamned Thunderzords in the series premiere. Now Adam is scared that he might break a lantern, but don't worry kids at home! It's just some homeless old Japanese man's lantern. Glad you could tune in this week for an episode as poorly thought out as this.

So whatever, who cares. Doesn't matter. Fuck everything. Lanterra spits some fireballs at the Rangers and sends them spiraling to the ground. Rocky suggests that the Rangers should fall back and regroup, but Billy objects and says "That won't work, this thing will just come after us." …What? Jesus Christ almighty that line hasn't made sense for 20 years and it doesn't make sense now. If the Rangers teleport, how in the name of piss is Lanterra going to follow after them? He's some shitty paper lantern who can spit fire. He can't get inside the Command Center you morons. I'm stunned at how dumb this episode is. Every idea that someone has either has no narrative weight, or it's slapped down in favor of nonsensical reasoning to continue the scene.

Adam recalls the inscription on his lantern that mentioned his soul lighting the way. Adam interprets this to mean that the power is inside of him, and not that lantern. I mean it could mean something else, who honestly cares? It's not like that lantern is his anyway. Whatever, Adam's realization gives him newfound courage to battle the monster and somehow do this.

Save the boxing for next season.

This attack leaves Lanterra defeated, and Rita and Zedd are not having it. They make the monster grow giant, and the Rangers call in the Ninja Megazord. Inexplicably, Ninjor flies in and says he figures they could use some assistance. But you know something? I don't care. Of all the things in this episode, this bothers me the least. I could go for some Ninjor right about now. Maybe he can class up this mess.

Lanterra bashes Ninjor a bit before slashing him with some katana he found in the dumpster outside Pier One. Lanterra has the upper hand, and the lamp starts throwing some shade. He calls Ninjor a "dim bulb." Oh SHIT. Ninjor retaliates by bellowing, "No one calls Ninjor dim and survives to converse about it!"

Goddamn I love Ninjor.

Ninjor's rage fuels his transformation into Battle Mode. The transformed Ninjor launches his fireball at Lanterra, which sends the monster flying. With its foe on the ropes, the Ninja Megafalconzord uses its double punch to finish Lanterra off. You can now thank me for not reiterating all of the godforsaken puns this episode had about lanterns, lamps, light, and every possible permutation of any of those topics. Holy shit.

The Ranger Teens celebrate their victory with some frosty chocolate milkshakes at the Youth Center. Kim congratulates Adam on destroying his families' cherished antique. Adam says it wasn't a big deal, and the lantern's power is inside him. Yeah, I know. We established that 5 minutes ago. It was sort of the whole turning point in the fight with Lanterra. Not that it would matter anyway, because we know Adam's lantern wasn't turned into the monster. What are we even doing here?

Bulk and Skull drop by the Youth Center and present Adam with his missing lantern. Wow. Didn't expect that to happen. I actually love this idea in concept, but this episode did a total botch-job on the execution. How nice would it be to see Bulk and Skull doing something kind to the Ranger Teens? Helps cement them as sort of begrudging friends? I like that relationship quite a bit. We get to see those two imbeciles slowly become more amicable with our heroes. But instead of making this conclusion a surprise, they make it so obvious you could see it from orbit.

Speaking of telegraphing things, Bulk and Skull start horsing around as they describe how they found Adam's lantern. You can tell exactly what's going to happen, but Ernie has to pipe up twice to inform the duo that he just mopped his floor. Then, as Bulk and Skull continue their harrowing tale…

Fuck this. We both know what's going to happen. I'm turning this goddamned DVD off and saving us both some time. Make sure to turn out the lights. GET IT. BECAUSE HE WAS A GIANT LANTERN. Shoot me.

Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Fleshlights

Personal Thoughts

Hachi machi, what a stinker. I hope I'm not dragging anybodies' favorite episode through the mud, but this one brought me right down. I only remembered the end of this episode, and I liked the conceit of Bulk and Skull being the heroes who deliver Adam's lantern to him. But in my mind, Lanterra was Adam's lantern, and there was some actual drama involved in the fight. Instead, this episode sidestepped any interesting direction it could have gone. You could make a better episode on accident.

I know I harped on Lanterra not really being Adam's lantern a lot, but it really was a consistent problem for me. While I was watching this episode, I came up with 3 distinct ways you could make this dumbass plot have even the slightest bit of an impact on your audience. Let me know what you think.

1) Have Lanterra actually made out of Adam's lantern. Once he's destroyed, the lantern is restored at the end and you can handwave that by saying its magical powers shielded it from Zedd's evil magic. It may be a bit of a cop-out, but it's not much worse than Rito inexplicably chucking Adam's lantern.

2) Make it unclear which lantern is turned into Lanterra. If we in the audience aren't sure, then it makes Adam's situation much more tense. Maybe Adam really is in danger of losing his prized lantern. Then you can keep the exact same ending with Bulk and Skull bringing the lantern back, since Zedd demanded the lanterns he didn't use should be sent back to Earth. You can still avoid turning Adam's lantern into the monster, but the audience doesn't have to know that right up front.

3) Actually turn Adam's lantern into Lanterra, and have the lantern be destroyed with the monster. You can end the episode with a moral about family heirlooms not defining the bonds that your family shares or something like that. It almost felt like that's what the last scene was trying to set up, but instead we got a total limp dick conclusion. What a clunker.

The joke with Bulk and Skull screaming, and then asking why they're screaming, isn't actually in the script for this episode. I'm not sure if this was an ad-lib, or something they came up with on the fly, but it's probably one of the few things in this episode that works. I'm only mentioning this because it always deserves to be said whenever Schrier and Narvy make a scene far better than it was written. 

There's a weird bit of Sentai footage that's left in right after Lanterra dies. Once the monster blows up, you see a glowing fireball float up into the sky and explode again. In Kakuranger, this fireball was the monster's spirit. The spirit would usually make one final quip bemoaning its own death before exploding again. Since none of that was done in Power Rangers, there's just an awkward scene of a fireball re-exploding after the monster is destroyed. It'll happen a few more times later on in the season, and it'll never be given any context. Why didn't they just cut this out? Was it really necessary to pad out another ten seconds of runtime? I seriously don't get it.


  1. The weird line Billy makes about the monster following them COULD also have worked if the writers actually remembered that the lantern was supposed to have special powers. It would have made perfect sense for the Rangers to fear it if they thought the monster was made from some superpowered artifact. But they never talked about this either.

  2. I've been reading for months and still have no clue when, exactly, this blog updates.

    1. Usually I update on Sundays, but some days I run a bit behind and post on Monday. I'm focusing on making it more consistent though! Sorry about the headache.