This POWER RANGERS BEAST MORPHERS review contains spoilers.
In the end this is how it was always going to be. For as excited as I was after last weeks triumphant Power Rangers Beast Morphers episode, there was no way this episode could live up to it. ‘Evox Unleashed’ is good but it’s not great and much of that can be put down to the mandate that has held back Beast Morphers from living up to its true potential.
As I’ve mentioned many times before but bares repeating now, when Senior Vice President of Power Rangers Franchise Development and Production Brian Casentini left the franchise he left us with this revealing quote.
“I am a big fan of serialized storytelling, but most broadcasters across the globe want more episodic storytelling for scheduling ease.”
Knowing this was a limitation helped me understand the series more and review it under the proper context. It improved many episodes knowing the plot line wouldn’t continue and I could appreciate what they did in such a short time. It hurt others when they didn’t use the standalone story to give us more insight into the characters or even tell a proper one and done lesson. Standalone doesn’t mean it has to be completely disposable.
Casentini went on to say in that same interview that, “I think we found a really great balance (between serialized and episodic) with Power Rangers Beast Morphers.” To give the show credit, many of the serialized episodes did work. The problem was that they more often felt like glimpses into a fully serialized show than proper serialized stories in of themselves. Something felt off about them even when they were good.
That’s not to say only the serialized stories had merit. Some episodic plots were fairly fun and a few were great. Most of them though weren’t used to develop the characters in a meaningful way. Without that the serialized moments the show was able to have couldn’t land. Without character arcs even the biggest of plot moves feel empty.
So it’s no wonder that when we get to the finale we get a lot of great moments that are kneecapped by a lack of development from earlier in the series. The start of the finale is great. It’s tense, we get a tearful moment between Zoey and her mom, and there’s an incredible sequence of the Rangers busting out old weapons. I still wish they had put more time into explaining how the Ranger Vault came to be but it was genuinely clever to have them use old weapons to get around Evox’s ability to absorb their own. Great way to have fan service but still impact the story.
We also get some good callbacks to last episode when Nate says, “I made you, Evox, but today we’re gonna destroy you. As a team!” Perfect way to cement the lesson he learned. Evox later saying, “it’s been a long time since I’ve taken out a civilization” was an excellent RPM callback.
Steel’s sacrifice was also powerful and devastating. More than anyone else we’ve gotten to know and love Steel over these two seasons and he’s always been a delight. Seeing him sacrifice everything was a huge shock but very effective. It gave the rest of the episode more weight. The problem is that while the solution the team comes up with is a good one (combining their human DNA with Morph-X) it’s rooted in the message that the team is strong because they’re human. That’s… true, I guess? But the finale acts like this is something that’s been building up the entire show. It hasn’t. Outside of Steel’s desires to be human this was never built up as a central theme. This wasn’t a constant problem the characters had to deal with in their episodic adventures. I guess you could stretch and say Ravi felt like a bit of a robot when he had to ignore his feelings for Roxy and his love of art but that’s being generous.
Far more effective would have been the very simply message of you don’t have to solve your problems alone. That would have tied into pretty much everyone’s stories in the series. Devon needed to take advice from his dad but refused to listen. Zoey was determined to solve big problems but often tried to do it all on her own. Ravi hid away his feelings and suffered alone. Nate felt isolated from the world and had to build a brother to find friendship. Hell, that would have been a great way to bring in Ben and Betty who while bumbling have always worked together.
And making the ultimate theme of the show, “you’re strong because you’re human” is even more head scratching when you remember the Beast Bots. Are they not strong because they’re robots? Are they only strong because they have human best friends? Is Steel only strong because he’s half human? It’s an odd message with some alarming undertones if you sit there and analyze it. Just looking at on the surface it boils down to ALL MACHINES ARE BAD… when the show did a lot of work to make the Beast Bots sympathetic.
Much of the weight of the start of the episode was able to establish is lost in this confusion and in Steel coming back to life as a human. It’s cute that he finally gets what he always wanted but it robs the show of a more powerful ending. I can understand not wanting to kill a Ranger even if he is a robot but if there were anytime they could get away with killing a Ranger, it’d be here. The human ending is also strange because they add Steel’s voice to his human version. I get why they did it and it was okay in the body swap episode but here it felt too silly. Just give him a regular voice. It would help sell the scene instead of distracting the audience with unintentional comedy.
We then cut to one year later and the montage of scenes is mixed. It’s incredible that Mason Effin’ Truman comes back for a small cameo that also ties off Scrozzle. It subtly does some world building (Corinth and Grid Battleforce are in more contact) and it allows Ben and Betty to finally get some development. Anytime Power Rangers uses James Gaylyn it gets an extra point.
Devon suddenly being a commander doesn’t really work. He moved up in the ranks that quickly? After one year? That’s a little far fetched. Was he even officially enlisted in Grid Battleforce? No one can go from being a recruit to a commander in one year. If he was a commander-in-training I could believe that. This, not so much. Did he even express a desire to be a commander? If this was rooted in an episodic outing earlier in the series it might have been a little easier to buy.
Zoey and Nate working on clean energy was nice though and a good reminder of the franchise’s progressive history. I’m glad they took the time to explain how the city moved away from Morph-X to something that’s attainable in the real world. Power Rangers loves a good message and this was a small but needed one.
General Shaw (love this promotion!) painting with Ravi was cute although it just reminded me how human Roxy was barely in this show. Same with the very bizarre bit with Steel becoming an actor and Blaze being his stunt man. Uh, that came out of nowhere? Steel being an actor, okay, he’s a wacky guy and I can buy that. But Blaze being a stunt man? Yeah he did karate a few times but nothing in the previous episodes set that up. That would have made a nice episodic story that could have reminded us Blaze existed!
The series closes out with the team throwing Steel a birthday and they sing ‘It’s Great to be Human” cementing it as the very odd theme of the show.
Parts of the finale do work, especially the first half, but without any buildup of the shows central themes or the character arcs it all feels flimsy by the end. Its competent but the episodic mandates on the show as a whole crippled its chances. This could have worked with more planning on how the episodic stories could have supported a larger theme but that wasn’t allowed or simply wasn’t done. It makes the finale feel like a slapdash ending that wants to be big and grand but can only manage the trappings of it. The human DNA mixed with Morph-X was a great solution to destroying Evox but rooting it in “it’s great to be human” just made it fall flat. It’s a decent finale but one that will sadly be more known for finally wrapping up the Venjix cliffhanger from RPM than wrapping up Beast Morphers’ story.
This leaves Beast Morphers in a middle ground in the history of Power Rangers. It was a decent series with a lot of potential but ultimately couldn’t deliver on most of it and felt aimless for much of its run. There were genuine moments of quality throughout and you could see a great show in it. Sadly the episodic stories were not up to a high enough quality to sustain the series between the serialized ones, where the show seemed to spend much of its energy. This was Beast Morphers‘ biggest mistake.
Those standalone stories could have been structured in a way to still be episodic while forming a backbone to the show that let those serialized stories thrive. Without that backbone the attempts at serialization just felt like reminders of wasted potential instead of solid stories in their own right.
I’m very interested to see where Power Rangers goes from here. Simon Bennett is one of the more experienced show runners to join the franchise so his influence on the show could be a positive one. Hasbro has also gotten out of the training wheel phase with Power Rangers and could have a better idea of what they want out of the franchise. I hope they take the lessons learned from Beast Morphers and use them to find the best way to work within their mandates to make Power Rangers the best show it can be. It has the potential, Beast Morphers showed that. Let’s hope they can live up to it.