This Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel review contains spoilers.
Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Episode 22
It’s fitting that in the last episode of the Saban Brands era of Power Rangers it has to once again acknowledge its biggest narrative mistake. Dinosaurs coming back to life at the end of Dino Super Charge. A decision so baffling that it forced all of Dino Charge to be shunted off into another universe.
Every time it’s brought up I’m reminded how unnecessary it was. Why did the dinosaurs need to come back? Why couldn’t we have just had Dino Charge be in the main continuity? Oh yeah, because Power Rangers still thinks it’s the 90’s.
Let’s back up. In the recently released Power Rangers: The Ultimate Visual History, former president of Saban Brands Elie Dekel mentions that when Saban Brands relaunced Power Rangers with Samurai “we pulled out our playbook from the nineties in terms of marketing and promotion.” Doesn’t that say everything about the Saban Brands era? That the show has been stuck trying to recapture its glory days without any concept of how modern TV works?
(It should be noted that the Visual History is a completely sanitized version of the series’ history that offensively asserts things like David Yost simply“decided” to leave the show, when he actually quit because he was harassed for being gay.)
A problem like dinosaurs being alive shouldn’t have happened or need to be addressed at all. After twenty plus years Power Rangers should be beyond making stupid decisions like that. It should think about the implications of those kinds of decisions or if they’re even necessary. It should think, “is this really going to add anything to our legacy? Or are we doing it ‘just cause’?”
That’s what a lot of this episode felt like. Let’s have Preston and Koda team-up just cause they’re brothers in real life. Let’s not actually give them any sort of meaningful character moments (ala ‘Always a Chance’), let’s just shove them on screen so the audience can point to it and go, “THEY’RE BROTHERS IN REAL LIFE!”
It’s soulless. It’s cheap fan service that shows that Saban Brands never really knew what fans wanted, despite the Visual History consistently saying fans loved things like all the Rangers coming back in Super Megaforce. (Clearly they aren’t reading Rangerboard as much as they claim to.)
There’s no reason we even needed a Koda and Preston team-up. In universe they have no relation and the episode doesn’t bother to give them any kind of genuine connection (again, ala Always a Chance). A far better acknowledgement of the two actors being brothers would have been a Marah and Cassidy style moment (from the Ninja Storm/Dino Thunder team-up) where they wink and nod to the audience. We don’t need a whole episode for that. It draws attention to the fact you didn’t bother to do it in the actual anniversary episode and it, again, reminds us of the incredibly bad ending to Dino Super Charge.
But no, instead we just get a surface level interaction. They fight in a nondescript forest against a bumbling incompetent enemy. No weight is given to the two meeting or the fight itself. No special music. No big morph and mini roll call. Nothing. It’s taken care of in a few minutes and that’s it.
It’s the bare minimum. Just like much of Saban Brands’ run on the show. I’m always reminded of one of the first clips that came out from Power Rangers Samurai, which featured Jayden telling the team “we can do this together” and then proceeds to take down the monster by himself. It preaches the idea of teamwork but doesn’t back it up with actions. Saying it is seemingly enough. Doing it? Eh, whatever.
The series preached diversity but included shockingly racist episodes like ‘The Robo Knight Before Christmas’ and ‘Sheriff Skyfire’. It says women can be strong but didn’t give Gia a single focus episode. It didn’t gender swap any of the Rangers from the Sentai.
Megaforce was supposed to be a celebration of the twenty year franchise but only managed two “tribute’ episodes in the twenty first year. That and a team-up special that left out anyone who only starred in a Disney season of the show.
Dino Charge, the first season, was the single bright spot in this entire eight year run. An above average season that created a memorable cast of characters that managed to keep audiences interested even after Dino Super Charge went off the rails. We’ve already discussed that in-depth.
Ninja Steel was lifeless. A husk of a show merely existing to keep Power Rangers’ place in the toy aisles. Not trying to up its game when the movie debuted in 2017 in hopes of capturing the interests of new or lapsed fans. In years to come people will look back at this and Super Ninja Steel as “the one with the 25th anniversary episode.” No identity of its own, to the point it had to use villains from a previous season in its final episode.
(Which to give a point to this episode, Poisandra is always great and should have always been the main Dino Charge villain. Also the “it’s a bomb!” reference was legit cute.)
Eight years. If we’re generous one a half of them could be considered “good”. That’s a horrible track record. If we were grading Saban Brands for Power Rangers on TV? They failed miserably.
That isn’t to say Saban Brands was all-bad. It’s easy for fans to just look at the show itself but Power Rangers as a whole did have a lot of bright spots. No matter what else, Saban Brands ended up with mostly good licenses. The comic books from Boom are the single best thing about Power Rangers right now. The Hyperforce RPG was 100% catered to hardcore fans and treated them with respect. The 2017 movie was a triumph, an example the series should be following if it wants to stay relevant (especially when it comes to diversity. Hint hint, queer and autistic characters should be in the show to.)
But even with that, fans will look for someone to blame. Someone has to take the fall in their minds. They want easy answers. I’ve seen much of this thrown at the staff writers, which isn’t fair. It’s the equivalent of going up to the cashier at a fast food restaurant and complaining why your burger tastes bad. It’s not their fault, but they’re the face of it.
But fans want an easy fix. They want to believe you can replace a writer or even one executive producer and that will suddenly make Power Rangers an enjoyable TV series again. It won’t. Power Rangers has to undergo a seismic shift in the core principles that birthed the franchise.
The show was built on the back of non-union workers. Despite what the Visual History might have you believe, Austin St. John (Jason) Thuy Trang (Trini) and Walter Jones (Zack) didn’t leave the franchise simply because of a “contract dispute.” It’s because they were treated like dirt and wanted better treatment. They were fired for it.
Changing out executive producers doesn’t change the simple fact that Power Rangers as a whole cares far more about making a quick buck then it does investing in quality programming that will pay dividends in the long run.
I recently watched the DVD bonus features for Power Rangers SPD and was struck by how much love and care was put into that season. It’s certainly not my favorite but there’s quality there. Greg Aronowitz poured his heart and soul into it. He wanted to make something that would have a positive impact on kids, be really interesting for adults, and desperetly tried to increase the diversity of the series when it came to the women.
I can’t say I’ve seen that from much of Saban Brands’ content on TV over the past eight years. It’s just trying to recapture Power Rangers’ heyday in the 90’s without realizing that, well, it isn’t the 90’s anymore.
Power Rangers has to grow and change. It can’t just keep doing what it’s always done. It needs to radically shift the kinds of stories it tells and it needs to invest in its talent. Notice I don’t say replace. I don’t think the staff writers or the crew need to be replaced, but I do think they should be invested in so they’re more committed to making a better product. Whatever hasn’t been allowing that in past eight years? That’s what needs to go.
Hopefully Hasbro, who took over the franchise from Saban Brands, will do better. Sadly with so many of the same people in charge of the series that doesn’t seem likely. Still, at least the franchise seemingly won’t have a key executive who shields their incredible wealth by using offshore tax havens, among many other questionable activities.
And allow me to say, there are people who made the transition from Saban Brands to Hasbro that care. Many have praised the likes of Jason Bischoff and Melissa Flores for truly caring about the franchise and having an incredible knowledge of it. I hope their level of care is allowed to extend to the series itself.
It needs it. Badly.