This Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel review contains spoilers.
Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Episode 11
“Love Stings” is the best episode Ninja Steel or Super Ninja Steel has produced. This may come off as being laced with irony, considering how I’ve been extremely critical of the series up to this point. Let me assure you, it’s not. I had a blast watching this episode. I was smiling the whole time. I genuinely laughed at the jokes. Everything about it works.
Let’s explore why.
The most important element that makes this episode so engaging is that it’s grounded in a genuine and simple emotion. Preston has a crush. It’s not overblown or so dumbed down it doesn’t resemble how an actual teenager would act. He simply wants to ask a girl out but is shy.
He can barely bring himself to do it but when he does? That’s when the monster shows up. Classic Power Rangers stuff, adding a fantastical element to a mundane situation. Sandy is seemingly shot with one of Venoma’s love arrows and wants to go out with Preston.
What separates this from every other Ninja Steel episode is the emotional gold it mines out of it. Preston is genuinely torn up by the possibility of getting what he wants but wanting to do what he knows is right. This is the true moment of glory for Ninja Steel because Preston is allowed to be flawed and has a genuine conflict. He doesn’t instantly go, “oh no, I can’t date you!” He hesitates.
Even when he’s telling her he can’t date her, it’s strained. He doesn’t want to be saying this but he knows he has to. For Preston, the right decision doesn’t feel like the easiest decision.
So often in Power Rangers (not just Ninja Steel) the characters do the right thing without thinking because they’re role models. This is a notion that’s been with the series since the final twenty episodes of MMPR season one, when the producers realized how popular the show was and how much kids looked up to the Rangers.
Instead of letting them be characters that could sometimes have flaws, they were instead elevated to saints who nearly always did the right thing. This is important to remember because Ninja Steel has been so clearly trying to bring back the style of the original MMPR.
Before now it felt empty. A parade of writing and plotting that felt painfully out of date. Here though? We get nuance. We get a glimpse into a Power Rangers that has evolved with the times but never lost what made it unique. One that takes a look around at its competition and goes, “hey, we can do that but with our own flavor!”
And this episode is so delightfully Power Rangers. I mean come on; they fight a bee monster who shoots love arrows. Where else will you find that?
The zany comedy with the guys getting stuck by the arrows is the perfect use of the “under a spell” PR trope. Instead of being used to create false conflict it’s played for laughs. Brody, Levi, and Calvin are genuinely hilarious as they try to make gifts for Venoma.
William Shewfelt, Nico Greetham, and Jordi Webber all get fun little moments to really show off their comedic chops. They don’t go totally over the top, they just infuse the comedy with a ton of energy and glee. They’re having fun and that translates to what we see on screen. We’re having fun right along with them.
Brody about to toss the heart star into the prism also comes off as a cheeky acknowledgment that, yes, the Prism can do pretty much anything. His later joke that “monsters always hang out at the quarry” is the kind of self aware joke the series needs more of. It winks to the older fans and says, “yeah, we’re really silly but don’t you love us because of it?”
The Calvin and Hayley relationship also gets a wonderful amount of time to shine. These two have been a constant source of delight in the series. Even in the little moments where they hold hands, the warmth between these two is clear. Zoe Robins especially as Hayley brings a lot of subtly to the relationship.
She clearly loves Calvin (did you see those photos in her locker?) but she’s very aware he’s kinda dumb. That’s not a knock to the character of Calvin, he’s also very sweet and it’s that mix she’s attracted to. She likes being the one in charge, the dominant one in the relationship. As much as Calvin grimaces at the bag of dog poop she gives him, deep down he adores helping her.
We must also return to Preston. When he discovered Sandy wasn’t hit with the arrow, at first I was disappointed. Oh no, all that conflict was for nothing! Misunderstandings, really? But then I thought about it and no, it actually works super well. It’s not only a genuine twist; it makes it all the more real.
Sure, in the real world we don’t have to worry about a monster screwing up our chances of asking someone out but we do make mistakes. We misread the situation. We say the wrong thing. It’s the kind of story telling series’ like Buffy were so good at, using mystical problems as metaphors for something that could happen in everyday life.
While the script is top notch, the true hero of this episode is without a doubt Peter Sudarso. He sells every moment he’s given. The fear of rejection by Sandy. The elation at her asking him out. The pain when he thinks it isn’t real. His performance elevates Ninja Steelas a whole to new heights. He’s the one who brings that inner conflict to the emotionally climactic scene of Preston and Sandy.
It could have easily been played as “no I must do the right thing” but Peter plays it real. He plays it like a teenager who doesn’t always think or do the right thing. Of course he does eventually but that strained look on his face when he turns her down? Gold.
Big shout out to the episode for having the moral of you shouldn’t take advantage of someone who’s under the influence. Sure, in this case the influence is a love arrow shot by a bee monster, but it still works! It’s not in your face but Preston grappling with his decision speaks to the possible influence of toxic masculinity in his life. Thankfully, Preston rejects that and shows that being a true hero is not taking advantage of others. Perfect message not just to kids but EVERYONE watching.
The episode also has a ton of great little touches. Mick showing off the love arrow armor and Sarah straight up punching it before acknowledging it’s ready? Brilliant (Chrysti Ane shines)! The way Victor tries to buy his way into the other girls heart, contrasting with how Preston handled the situation? Amazing! The music during Preston’s solo morph? Some of the best out of the series in eight years.
Everything about this episode was a triumph for the series. The moral worked because it was tied to a genuine emotional conflict, the humor was on point, and we just got a lot of time with the characters where they acted like genuine people.
Before now Ninja Steel has struggled with conflict, especially between the characters. However, if it can give us this kind of rich inner conflict? That might be a way to make the series really sing as it starts to head towards its conclusion.
Ninja Steel has a lot of genuine potential. This episode proved it. Many of the jokes and plots wouldn’t have worked without what was established previously. There’s a great show in Ninja Steel and I’m glad we finally got to see what it looks like.