This Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel review contains spoilers.
Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Episode 21
For much of Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel I’ve discussed the series in the macro sense. Discussing how individual episodes represent larger problems plaguing the franchise is far more engaging than listing out every issue I have with a given story. It would get repetitive after awhile and Ninja Steel has far too many problems per episode that every review would have been at least two thousand words long. Unless the episode was truly horrendous (Game Plan) it wasn’t worth it.
This finale isn’t worth it. It feels closer to a regular episode than a story that’s wrapping up two years worth of material. It has all the problems I’ve already pointed out in Ninja Steel and Super Ninja Steel.
Last week I pretty much covered the macro for the whole series and don’t need to rehash it here. It’s soulless and never developed its own identity. Both seasons were comfortable with, at best, bland mediocrity and at worst were just awful television. These were some of the worst Power Rangers seasons without question.
But that’s all just looking at it as a longtime fan and TV critic. It’s not the end of the world if Power Rangers on TV isn’t very good. I’m not going to stay angry at the series for being boring, not having continuity, failing to live up to its potential, or having fart jokes. If these things make you bone shockingly angry, just stop watching the show. It’s not worth the aggravation.
What is worthy of genuine anger however are the micro elements that directly impact the viewers watching. I’ve touched on these before, like the racist and tone-deaf ‘Sheriff Skyfire‘ episode, and I’m going to focus on it again.
Something I glossed over last week was the Calvin and Hayley plot. While I praised the series actually allowing the two to have real conflict I didn’t focus on what was troubling about the two’s interaction. This directly ties into ‘Reaching the Nexus’ thankfully so let’s recap.
Calvin had promised Hayley he’d held her prep her audition monologue and that he’d bring props. He showed up late (not the first time) and didn’t bring her props. She did fairly bad on her audition and asked Calvin for his honest opinion on how she did. He told her it was bad and she got mad at him. He tried to brush it aside but Hayley wasn’t having it and they pretty much broke up.
This isn’t surprising when you consider everything else that’s happened throughout the two seasons. Calvin has time and again been shown as fairly dim witted and forgetful. Hayley is the more competent one in the relationship. Her frustrations with him have all been justified and it’s perplexing they hadn’t broken up till now. But this did have set up (and arguably one of, if perhaps unintentionally, Ninja Steel’s only successful running plotlines.)
Let’s be clear, Calvin was more in the wrong here. He was the one who was late. He’s the one who forgot her props. He’s the one who tried to brush her feelings off. This isn’t an isolated incident. Was Hayley a little wrong for asking for his opinion and then being mad he was honest? Sure, but nowhere near as bad as Calvin.
So does he get the big heart to heart scene last episode where he’s made to confront his own failings? No. Sarah goes to Hayley and tries to reason with her why she should take Calvin back. While the points Sarah makes aren’t wrong about what Hayley did, it minimizes Calvin’s actions with “he’s so much better than he used to be!”
No. That’s not a reason to get back together with someone. In fact it sounds pretty close to abuse enabling language. I’m not saying Calvin is an abuser but teaching kids that “he’s not as much of a horrible boyfriend as he used to be” is a reason to get back together with someone is troubling.
Now you might be thinking, “Well teens might talk like that! They aren’t all wise sages with years of relationship experience.” If this were a teen drama show, I’d agree. Characters don’t need to be perfect and seeing them mess up can create great drama. Power Rangers on TV however has continually used the “for children” excuse so it can’t do this. It can’t portray “go back to your boyfriend because he’s not as bad as he used to be” as a good thing. It sounds like he wasn’t that good of a boyfriend to begin with! That would be something interesting to explore.
Plus you can’t say Super Ninja Steel was striving for realism when it has scenes like Victor and Monty, dressed as clowns, carrying explosive balls in their pants. You can’t juxtapose antics like that with ‘realistic’ conversations about relationships. It’s tonal whiplash. Both of these aren’t good but silly Victor and Monty antics are forgettable while everything to do with Hayley and Calvin is inexcusable.
This episode doesn’t make it any better. Hayley manages to save Calvin from mind control and Sarah is the first one to apologize. Specifically she’s sorry for asking for his opinion and then getting mad about it. Calvin kind of apologizes as well for the whole telling the truth incident. No mention is made of him trying to be on time more or be more considerate.
So all of their relationship issues are boiled down to one argument. There isn’t a “we have a lot to work through” or Hayley saying “I’m sorry for what I did but you still messed up big time.” Nope, she’s the one who has to apologize first and it’s all centered around what she did wrong. Not Calvin.
It strikes me as being representative of how abusers work. The moment you decide to finally speak up for yourself they get you on the smallest things you also “did wrong.” You’re made to feel horrible for having a genuine reaction to their awful actions. Again, I’m not saying Calvin is an abuser but the way Super Ninja Steel treats this is just setting precedent in kinds minds that behavior like that is okay. It’s not.
Kids pick up things. Most can distinguish between the fantasy of say, the Ranger fight scenes, but it’s much more blurred when it comes to the characters when they aren’t morphed. This kind of stuff imprints on them. It becomes internalized. It can be damaging. It can become normalized.
I focus on all of this because moral failing like this is Ninja Steel and Super Ninja Steel’s biggest fault. Yeah it wasn’t a very good season overall but when it actively portrayals behavior like this or flat out racism as reasonable? That’s where I put Power Rangers on blast. It should be better then this. It should take the time to think about the messages it’s putting out to children. It should be trying to live up to its halfhearted promotional byline that it celebrates diversity. It should be striving to tell stories that aren’t blatantly offensive. It should strive to instill good morals in its audience.
Some fans have complained Ninja Steel has had too many morals. It hasn’t, it’s just had too many bad morals. Morals are fine! Good TV shows are filled with them. The critically acclaimed Steven Universe frequently has moral lessons that are celebrated by fans, such as “love is the answer”, the importance of mindfulness, and learning to deal with the after effects of abuse.
I would love if Power Rangers were filled with good morals for kids. Then it would actively be trying to make a difference and not just soullessly exist to make money for a handful of executives while underpaying its many non-union workers who often get the blame for the series’ lack of quality.
Recently I got into a discussion with a reader of my reviews who said I should “keep bashing this terrible show”. I don’t want to bash. I’m not here to make cheap potshots. I’m simply looking at the content as presented and what I’m seeing is horrifying. If someone who works on the series wants to clarify any of this, please, I’d love to hear from you.
When fans discuss the upcoming Power Rangers Beast Morphers they’re wondering if the changeover from Saban Brands to Hasbro will improve the quality of the show. They hope there will be better writing, stronger characters, less farts, and even continuity with previous seasons. Those are all great and things I care about to, but I have three questions for Hasbro.
How are you going to change the approval processes so episodes like this and the racist ‘Sheriff Skyfire’ episode don’t make it to air? What are you going to do to improve the diversity behind the scenes of the series so stories like this aren’t instantly rubber stamped without questioning their moral integrity? Why is a show that tries to celebrate diversity also engaged in shockingly political and moral conservatism?
If nothing is done, Power Rangers won’t just be a bad TV show with lackluster finales like this one. It’ll be morally bankrupt. The only reason the series has gotten away with this in the past eight years (I haven’t forgotten the strikingly racist ‘The Robo Knight Before Christmas’ and you shouldn’t either) is because it’s a barely watched show on Nickelodeon that receives next to no critical attention.
You should do better, not just for fear of critics and backlash, but because it’s the right thing to do. This show impacts people. It molds children’s minds. Don’t you want to use that platform to make a change for the better instead of actively harming them? Again, I’d love to hear from you.
I will give the episode one tiny point, though. Victor getting his 50th trophy was without question the only thing I was looking forward to in all of Ninja Steel. At least we got that. The only Ninja Steel arc to having a satisfactory conclusion.
This isn’t the end of my thoughts nor Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel. In a few weeks we’ll be back with the Christmas episode. I can’t wait for that SLEDGEhammer of an episode to drop.