Season: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, season 2
Episode: “Forever Friends” (Episode 37)
Though I watched – and loved – the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers back in the day, season 2 is where my love for the series really lies, and on a pure nostalgia level is my favorite season I’ve watched in the franchise. How fitting, then, that my favorite LadyRanger, Kimberly (QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson), is a focal point in the example episode from my favorite season!
The story this week revolves around Kimberly competing at a gymnastics competition against a former friend of new Yellow Ranger Aisha (Karan Ashley). When Aisha transferred to Angel Grove High from rival city Stone Canyon to become a Power Ranger, she left behind best friend Shawna, who is, like Kimberly, a gymnast. Unlike Kimberly, she’s basically a raging bitch.
Raging Bitch Shawna is all “you left me behind, you ho.” Aisha’s like, “This is my new best friend Kimberly.” Kimberly is like “you suck, Shawna,” because QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson speaks for us all.
Anyway, Aisha drags Raging Bitch Shawna to lunch with her and Kim, where Shawna gets super passive-aggressive, but can’t get too many bitchy quips in before they’re attacked by Goldar, a former minion of Rita’s who now serves Lord Zedd. As I mentioned in the last post, Season 2 brought a lot of changes for the Rangers, including new members of their team and, more importantly, new villains. I’ll get into this more in the analysis, but suffice it to say, Zedd was so much more menacing than Rita. I mean, look at him:
Anyway, Goldar kidnaps Kimberly and Shawna, and Aisha basically has a panic attack. She goes to find the boys, who are embracing their butchness:
As you can see, Tommy (Jason David Frank, having found his middle name) and Billy (David Yost) have new friends, too! In a previous episode, the former Red, Black and Yellow Rangers (Austin St. John as Jason, Walter Jones as Zack, Thuy Trang as Trini) went to an international peace conference and were replaced by these guys. Along with Aisha, we have Black Ranger Adam (Johnny Young Bosch) and Red Ranger Rocky (Steven Cardenas). All the characters’ colors were mixed up so things would be a little less racist than before, and Rocky was the series’ first Hispanic member of the team. The real reason for the switch is another thing I’ll get into in the analysis.
So Aisha storms into the woodshop class and has this beautiful line of dialogue:
Played totally straight, of course. Power Rangers never met an earnest line of dialogue it didn’t love. Things Power Rangers also loved: filler morphing sequences, updated for the new cast!
The Rangers split up, with Tommy going to save the girls and the rest of the team off to fight a new monster, made from the saw in the woodshop into this:
Zedd’s monster creation strategy was different from Rita’s – instead of Finster creating beasts from clay, Zedd zapped real-life objects with his staff. Much more resourceful and environmentally-friendly, Zedd!
There’s a quirkiness to this battle: the Rangers never fight the monster! Instead, they just fight Putties (the foot soldiers, redesigned for Zedd’s reign). The real-life reason for this was because at this point, Power Rangers was using stock footage from multiple different Super Sentai series, and the costumes weren’t always available to be used in American footage. More for the analysis section.
Zedd makes the monster grow (by throwing a bomb at it) and it fights the Rangers’ season 2 megazord, the Thunder Megazord. I loved the Thunder Megazord. I like a good dinosaur, no doubt, but these were based on mythical beasts like the Eastern dragon and the griffin. Much more interesting to young Kevin.
Meanwhile, Tommy saves the girls because Kim can’t morph – the Rangers all have secret identities, and cannot reveal them to non-Rangers. Note that Tommy is the White Ranger this season. He switched colors after his Green Ranger powers ran out. So he looks like this now:
Tommy is kind of the Patron Saint of Power Rangers – to date, he’s had five different sets of powers over six seasons, easily topping any other Ranger.
Raging Bitch Shawna grows some respect for Kimberly (even she knows to bow down to the QUEEN), and they get back to the gymnastics competition in time for the two girls to tie. Everyone wins!
Analysis: So much to unpack on this one! This is, like “The Yolk’s on You!” a very basic episode, though not necessarily indicative of the season on the whole. Season 2 was way more arc-based, including Tommy’s departure mid-season after his powers ran out, his return a few episodes later, the change-over from the original Red, Black and Yellow to the newbies, etc. This trend would continue into the next season, which was almost nothing but arcs, but I’ll get into that next time.
As I mentioned repeatedly, season 2 featured a ton of changes, and subsequently a lot of issues. The introduction of Rocky, Adam and Aisha was necessary when, after demanding more money, St. John, Jones and Trang walked off set. There’s a whole set of episodes in the middle of the season where the original trio are still present in stock footage and in their suits, but not unmorphed, because the actors were already gone! Super awkward.
Also awkward was keeping the original Ranger suits from the Zyuranger Sentai series, but using the Zords and monsters from the follow-up series, Gosei Sentai Dairanger! There were literally so many issues with this – too many to touch here – but suffice it to say that most of the second season was pure copy-and-paste.
Finally, while Lord Zedd was a great addition to the series (and a totally American creation!), he was deemed too scary by parents, and was toned down somewhat. Rita was also brought back later in the season, and the two were married, making Zedd much goofier (though actually much more successful against the Rangers).
Despite all those issues, season 2 of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers works. In fact, it works really well. It was the season that embraced the camp factor the most, including pretty funny wordplay by the monsters and generally a goofier vibe. “Forever Friends” isn’t the strongest episode of the season, but it’s a solid one.
It is, however, a nice showcase for Kim – appropriately enough, since this was the season that was so dominated by QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson.
Johnson was invaluable to Power Rangers. She was clearly the best actress on the show, but didn’t shy away from embracing the camp. Kimberly was likable, a strong female role model who showed boys that girls can kick ass, and along with Tommy (her romantic counterpart) and Billy (the only other original kept around), she kept the series afloat despite all the tumult.
Unfortunately, this is the last time in this project we’ll be seeing QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson. I’ll talk about her departure from the series – and her clearly inferior replacement, Katherine – next time, when we look back on the last season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.