With the Power Rangers movie almost upon us, anticipation is at an all-time high here at the Joy of Geek. In turn, that means a handful of new Morphing Grid articles throughout the week, leading up to a written review of the new film on Friday. Kevin kicked things off with his look back at the original Mighty Morphin movie from the 90s yesterday, and I’m now steering us back to the small screen for a look at the highlights of the series’ run.
That’s right, it’s time to dig through over 800 episodes of Power Rangers and determine the best of the best, the episodes worth revisiting in the next few days before taking that trip to your local theater. The problem, of course, is that with so many episodes, nailing down top list would be a tricky proposition, even if I had the several weeks of time necessary to binge every episode again.
Instead, we’ve got a number of special categories tailored to looking at different aspects of the Power Rangers franchise and finding a half-hour that best exemplifies each one. From the franchises silliest moments to its most surprisingly creative endeavors, the following are all examples of truly morphenomenal outings for the multicolored super-team.
Most Ludicrous Episode: “The Sunflower Search” (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)
It would be easy to slap one of the more ridiculous monsters-of-the-week in this spot – Ninja Storm’s monster that traps some of the team in a popcorn tub, for example – but really, bizarre monsters and powers are just par for the course with Power Rangers. Instead, I’m going with an episode where a monster makes every effort to destroy sunflowers in the hunt for ultimate power.
Yes, “The Sunflower Search” is a truly nonsensical outing where the monster Fishface, in attempting to find the mystical Lights of Orion, begins to destroy sunflower statues around Terra Venture. Because sunflowers are… related to the sun? Which provides light? It’s a train of logic that never really gets off the ground, never mind the question of why this ancient power source is even on a space station from Earth to begin with. So nutty you just have to laugh, like many of the series’ best moments.
Most Delightful Episode: “Nadira’s Dream Date” (Power Rangers Time Force)
Though it’s the season that deals with some of the heaviest subject matter in the show’s history, Time Force still had plenty of room for episodes as outright fun and entertaining as “Nadira’s Dream Date.” The episode sees Nadira, Big Bad Ransik’s daughter, fall in love with Blue Ranger Lucas. What follows is a funny, oddly sweet half-hour that provides some important character development for the season’s villains.
Because instead of seeing Nadira’s love as a betrayal, Ransik just wants his daughter to be happy, fully supporting her and even forcing poor Lucas to go on a date with her. Where so many of the evil characters in Power Rangers don’t actually care about one another, Ransik and Nadira’s relationship is fascinating to see. Even better, Ransik accepting his daughter no matter what ties in perfectly with his own character arc, a direct rejection of the prejudice and hate he faced in the past-future (time travel complicates everything). That the date scenes themselves are so hilarious is just the cherry on top of an episode that makes you feel for the characters in such an effective way.
Most Surprising Episode: “Things Not Said” (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive)
Generally speaking, Power Rangers operates with a lack of subtlety that one expects from a kids show. Big reveals are telegraphed from a mile away, and true surprises are few and far between as a result. That’s what makes “Things Not Said” from the underrated Operation Overdrive such a pleasant surprise, with a reveal that was being subtly foreshadowed throughout the season.
In fact, the reveal works so well that it’d be a shame to give it away here. However, I can say that it does a great job not only of paying off hints from past episodes, but it also provides a great deal of emotional beats as well, providing a strong final arc for Red Ranger Mack that plays out well in the last episodes of the season. If nothing else, let this entry be the push you need to give Operation Overdrive a shot a lot of fans seem to think it’s undeserving of.
Most Emotional Episode: “The End of Time” (Power Rangers Time Force)
This is honestly the hardest category to pick an episode for, if only because Power Rangers has delivered a number of moving stories over the years, from the dark pasts of the Magna Defender and Doggie Cruger to the sisterly searches of Andros and RPM’s Dillon. Truthfully, though, there are few seasons that pluck at the heart strings as hard as Time Force, and so it ultimately had to be an episode from the show’s ninth season that took this spot.
And what better episode than “The End of Time,” the massive three-part season finale? The season’s many emotional threads all come to satisfying conclusions, including the burying of the hatchet between rivals Wes and Eric, the final redemption of the villainous Ransik, and the tragic end to a fourth-dimensional love story. It’s a finale that pays off all of the story threads and emotionally charged moments that came before, and it still has the ability to stir the heart after multiple viewings.
Most Unique Episode: “The Rescue Mission” (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)
Though the specifics often change, there’s an undeniable formula that the vast majority of Power Rangers episodes follow, with a focus character dealing with some sort of personal problem that ties to the monster of the week. The climax is built around that character overcoming the problem and the team coming together to defeat the monster in a giant robot fight. Though there are slight variations throughout a given season, this is the comforting rhythm fans are used to.
“The Rescue Mission” throws it all out, with this Lost Galaxy episode featuring none of the regular villains, avoiding Sentai footage altogether, and basically changing the show into a tense horror short film. Leo and Mike fill the role of space marines, exploring a derelict spaceship as an alien menace terrorizes their team of soldiers. Sure, it’s basically a low-budget remake of Alien, but as an episode of Power Rangers? It’s a refreshing change of pace that stands out from hundreds of other episodes in a great way.
Most Exciting Episode: “Forever Red” (Power Rangers Wild Force)
There’s nothing like a good team-up, and Power Rangers has time and time again showed how great it is when different generations of teams have to work together. In honor of the tenth anniversary, “Forever Red” took things to the next level, uniting almost every Red Ranger from the show’s history to take on the remnants of the Machine Empire.
Though the show would have bigger, flashier crossovers down the road – “Legendary Battle” comes to mind – this anniversary special succeeded by truly giving fans what they wanted. There wasn’t just the return of familiar faces, but great interactions between the many Rangers, as well as plenty of great nods and references to past seasons. And though it’s shorter than one might want, it manages some great fight scenes and a true sense of epic scale that makes for a pulse-pounding adventure any fan can enjoy.
Best Episode: “Countdown to Destruction” (Power Rangers in Space)
The previous episodes on this list have all exemplified one or two aspects of what makes Power Rangers great. “Countdown to Destruction,” however, has it all. Funny moments, devastating reveals, satisfying conclusions to years-long character arcs, emotional reunions: the list goes on and on, delivering not only a fantastic season finale, but the standout moment of the entire franchise.
Initially planned as the series finale, this two-part episode goes for broke, featuring a full-scale invasion of Earth, returning villains from every previous season, and the end of six years of consecutive storytelling. It’s an amazingly impressive and fulfilling episode, one that sells every element that makes Power Rangers such a fantastic show. Though it may not stand completely on its own, there’s no questioning just how monumental this finale is. A Power Rangers epic for the ages.
What do you think, Ranger fans? Agree with our list? What classic episodes did we miss? Let us know in the comments!