Greetings and salutations, Rangers! If you grew up in the 90s or early 2000s, Power Rangers pretty much were apart of your childhood. A superhero media franchise encompassing multiple seasons of tv shows, movies, and merchandise based on the decades long Japanese tokusatsu series, Super Sentai. Power Rangers became an overnight sensation thanks to the efforts of Hiam Saban by incorporating stock footage from Super Sentai and combining with new material revolving “teens with attitude,” ordinary high schoolers imbued powers to fight the forces of evil. This formula would continue to this day, with a few alterations here and there as the seasons continues.
This Netflix special takes place 30-years after the events of Mighty Morphin’ series and gives fans an hour-long-episode bring back some of the original Rangers. As a long-time fan, the best way I can describe this special is pure nostalgia. While not really an issue but a major concern from fans were how the special was going to addressed the absence of key actors and how their characters will be handled. Fortunately, they manage to pull it off, albeit not so smooth- simply reusing old voice clips from the original 1993 show was clever on the production side. Though, I personally would’ve love to the return of Austin St. John again as the Red Tyrannosaurus Ranger again, but c’est la vie…
New Zealand natives’ director Charlie Haskell, a tv director who has ties to the franchise since the Ninaja Storm days is back to direct the special, with Becca Barnes and Alwyn Dale take on scriptwriting duties. The special sees the return of the evil Rita Repulsa and true to her character, she brings along a couple of monsters to wreak havoc on Angel Grove, and its up to our Rangers to stop her. Not everything is smooth sailing for our Rangers as this battle ends in tragedy, allowing Rita the opportunity to escape. Fast forward a year later, Rita reemerges with a new plan, now it’s up to remaining Rangers on active duty; Billy Cranston/Blue Ranger (David Yost) and Zack Taylor/Black Ranger and with help from other veteran Mighty Morphin’ Rangers to save the day.
Alright, I think its only fair that I address this now, this is after all Power Rangers, a kid show that was never really known for its writing or masterclass acting performances, that’s still the case with this Netflix special. Sure, as an adult, its goofy and very cheesy, but it still packs a lot of action with all the heart- and that’s the point. It never strays from the Power Rangers formula either, director David Haskell brings back many memorable and recognizable MMPR tropes that put long-time fans at ease from Angel Grove Youth Center, nods to high school bullies Bulk and Skull, to the Zord battles at the end of each episode.
As for the Rangers themselves, they’ve definitely aged since we last saw them, but their personalities and mannerisms are just as we remembered them from all those years ago. Take Zac for example, he’s definitely matured and taking on a fatherly role this time around, but he’s still doing hip-hop kido in his fights when facing off against putties, and there’s Billy, still developing Ranger tech but taking more of a leadership position this time. Its nice to see these actors taking center stage and having their characters evolved.
While this special honors the past, it also paves the way forward for future generations in the form of Minh, daughter of the original Yellow Ranger, Trini Kwan. Not much of a surprise to anyone who’s seen the trailer, Minh will take on her mother’s role as the new Yellow Ranger on the team. Vietnamese-American actress Charlie Kersh does an amazing job in her role when paired side-by-side with seasoned Rangers actors. The actress was able to convey the emotions needed from feelings of loss, to anger, and to determination. Being a former taekwondo champion also helped out in those unmorphed fight scenes. Again, this is Power Rangers here, so don’t expect an award-winning performance, so any shortcomings, cut her some slack, guys.
Speaking of Trini Kwan, this Netflix special was able to incorporate the real-life passing of Thuy Trang, who tragically passed in 2001, and give her an emotional and heroic send-off to her character in the story. Trini’s passing can really be felt throughout the episode as many of the characters and even the actors themselves are still reeling from the loss, especially so for Minh. Once and Always also pays a small tribute in the end credits for the late Jason David Frank who passed away last year. The end credits used footage from the second season MMPR, “The Song of Guitardo” with Kimberly and Zack singing a duet.
Overall, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Once and Always isn’t perfect, its campy, its cheesy, and looks and feels its from the 90’s, but that’s ok. The episode embraces the franchise’s roots proudly, knowing what it sets itself out to be- just good old-fashioned fun. Hopefully, this special will serve as backdoor pilot for future Power Ranger episodes and we see a continuation of Minh’s character.
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