‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always’ Celebrates A Well-Earned Legacy – Review
Rarely will I share my love of the Power Rangers franchise with others without contention. People quickly dismiss the show’s production quality– what’s there to love in obvious suit performers and bad ADR? Some get caught up in its expansive lore– why are there four new dino teams, and what happened to the original characters? But there’s a lot more to this series than some give it credit for. It’s a show that presented a diverse cast of heroes from DAY ONE, showing this little Korean kid in America that they, too, could be a hero. It’s a show about the importance of found family, showing this foster kid that they’re not defined by the family they were born with. It’s a show that has defined the majority of my childhood, and now, I get to celebrate its 30th birthday.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once and Always is the 30th anniversary special of the long-running Power Rangers series. The Mighty Morphin team faces unprecedented circumstances after the return of Rita Repulsa leads to the death of the yellow ranger, Trini. As Rita’s power grows, Billy (David Yost) and Zack (Walter Jones) must call on fellow rangers, Rocky (Steve Cardenas) and Kat (Catherine Sutherland), to stop the evil witch before it’s too late while mending the emotional damage leading Trini’s daughter, Minh (Charlie Kersch), down a dark path.
This special does a really interesting job of building on the nostalgic elements of the show, using them as a foundation to explore new tones and ideas. Yes, there is all the cheesy charm of spandex-clad teenagers fighting suit performers as monsters with one-liners and sound cues. But when it’s time to get serious, this special understands how to explore the topics surrounding the death of Trini.
There’s an ongoing theme about mistakes and the obsessive (and often destructive) lengths we go to correct these mistakes. There were moments of true vulnerability from Zack and Billy, these legendary rangers I once thought invincible. Watching them struggle to find solutions to problems that couldn’t be solved by calling the Megazord was really interesting and tonally well-balanced with the overall series.
While David Yost gets a lot of good character moments as Billy, it’s awesome to see Walter Jones be the anchor of this story. Amidst all of the Power Ranger goodness, Zack being the overprotective guardian of Minh leads to fascinating discussions about revenge and what it means to be a power ranger. Kersch plays her frustration with doing things the “morally correct” way understandably, leading to a great arc for her character opposite Zack. Alongside her, Jones gets to flex his dramatic chops with parental lectures and exciting insights into the unspoken fears and dangers of being a hero. Together the two bring this story to another level and make the stakes feel fresh for a franchise that’s now three decades old.
All that said, when this special returns to the familiarity of the 90s show, it’s hard not to feel like a kid again. Getting fully engrossed in the background rock music and colorful fight scenes was the highlight of my week. Despite that, there is something admittedly missing from the action sequences that made them a little less charming than they usually are. I think there’s something lost without the Japanese footage that the series had repurposed up until its latest season of Power Rangers: Dino Fury (2022). Well, all except a great action set piece at Ernie’s Juice bar where Walter Jones (again) gets the chance to shine.
This franchise means a lot to me. Its characters, worlds, stories, and lessons have shaped me into the person I am today. Perhaps that sounds melodramatic for a series like Power Rangers, but there’s no denying this series’s impact on diversifying children’s tv shows TO THIS DAY! This special validated those feelings for me, and I can’t wait to watch the franchise evolve for a new generation of future Power Rangers.
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