This Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel review contains spoilers.
Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Episode 20
“My cousin Zack is having a birthday party.”“Where at?”“Angel Grove.”
Don’t get excited, this exchange between Preston and Brody isn’t setting up for an EPICCCCC MMPR/Ninja Steel crossover. It’s just a throwaway line in a largely unremarkable episode. It may seem odd to center an entire review on these three lines but they sum up one of the main problems with not just Ninja Steel but Power Rangers on TV as a whole.
For some context, before Saban Brands bought back the Power Rangers brand, the show didn’t actively engage with its past regularly. With the biggest outlier being Dino Thunder, most of the time the season’s were fairly self contained. You might get a tiny reference here or there, but the Disney seasons especially were content being their own corner of the PR world.
Sometimes the references were fun, like in Ninja Storm when Marah mentioned the boys from Triforia were “three times as cute”. Sometimes they were bad; see anything to do with Mystic Mother. But at least when they were done they were actively thought out. ‘Once a Ranger’ had some great moments for long time fans. Even RPM took the time to establish things about the Morphin Grid. Power Rangers wasn’t obsessed with the past, but it at least knew that when it came up it should at least try and respect it.
Then Saban Brands bought back the franchise and things got lazy. Every season from Samurai through Super Ninja Steel has tried to recapture some of the glory of the original Power Rangers seasons with little success. They do generic remixes of old MMPR music, the episodes try to be structured like a TV episode from the 90’s, and they attempt to throw references in.
Unlike the Disney years though, they’re rarely thought out. Bulk is there in Samurai but seems like a different character. Super Megaforce tries to interact with the past but can’t even pronounce the names right. Dino Charge references Sentai without any thought.
And here we get a reference to Angel Grove and Zack, two iconic parts of Power Rangers lore. Why was this done? Was it supposed to be a cute reference for fans? A moment for us to go, “I know what those two things are!” If so, the people who crafted that exchange don’t understand fans. Instead of being a fun reference, it asks too many questions.
How are Zack and Preston cousins? You could come up with a very convoluted explanation but come on, they aren’t. It’s near impossible. Is it supposed to be a… different Zack from Angel Grove? If so that’s asinine. If you’re referencing Angel Grove and Zack in the same sentence you can’t expect the fans to assume anything but it being the original Zack from MMPR.
It’s a lazy reference. It’s done as a cheap ploy to get fans excited. For the past eight years Power Rangers on TV has been attempting to coast off of nostalgia without developing any kind of new identity. Instead it just mines the past in hopes that’ll help it reach its former glory once again.
The Zack/Angel Grove reference represents everything about the lack of care and attention with Power Rangers on TV. It’s done without thought and a “good enough” mentality. No one stops and go, “hey, we can do better.” Not all of the references in the Disney era worked, but you can at least tell someone was trying. This doesn’t feel like that at all.
The over reliance on the past without truly understanding it is what’s slowly killed Power Rangers on TV over the past eight years. Super Ninja Steel is the ultimate culmination of that. A season with no identify of its own, one that will only be remembered for the 25th anniversary episode.
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Even this episode, which contains one of the rare moments of the characters actually acting like people, is lackluster. Yes, seeing Hayley and Calvin argue with each other is nice but it’s too little too late. This is something that would have been interesting to see in episode 13 of Ninja Steel. Not as the penultimate episode of the series (discounting the Christmas episode.)
Power Rangers is soulless. A ghost of its former glory trying to remind you of when it was great without actually putting in the effort to be something more. No amount of cheap references to Angel Grove and Zack are going to change that.