In Power Rangers there are often civilian side characters. This goes all the way back to Bulk and Skull in the original MMPR. They aren’t Rangers but they give our team someone to interact with. They can be comedic, more mentor like, or even a love interest. In Power Rangers Ninja Steel and Super Ninja Steel our civilian side characters are Victor and Monty. Both high schoolers, in nearly every episode Monty will help Victor in his many schemes to become more popular and win his 50th trophy.
To many fans they’re a nuisance. A distraction from the Rangers. A waste of space.
They’re anything but. In fact, Victor and Monty are the only parts of Power Rangers Ninja Steel that actually work.
I can hear the fan cries now. “But Shamus, they’re so DUMB. They make fart jokes! They add nothing to the plot! They’re just the La Croix version of Bulk and Skull!” Well first off, La Croix is delicious. Second, you may not like Victor and Monty as characters or what they contribute to the story but you can’t deny they’re the only characters who actually have a motivation in Ninja Steel/Super Ninja Steel.
Motivation is key in fiction, it helps drive nearly every plot. Sometimes the motivation can be high stakes. Think Liam Neeson in Taken. He’ll do anything to get his daughter back. Other times the motivation can be surprisingly simple. All Steve Rogers in the Captain America films needed was “I don’t like bullies.”
Think about all your favorite pieces of fiction. More often than not the character needs that motivation to help drive the action. Some of the best seasons of Power Rangers have that.
In RPM it was surviving the apocalypse and stopping Venjix from destroying the least remnants of humanity. You also had Dillon trying to figure out his past. In Time Force they have to stop Ransik from altering the future and in Jen’s case get revenge for killing her fiance. SPD, for all its flaws, had individual motivations and goals for most of its main characters. Z wanted to be a part of something bigger. Sky wanted to be a Red Ranger like his father. Even a side character like Boom wanted to be a Ranger but learned to be satisfied helping the Rangers in the small ways he could.
In some of the weaker seasons of the show that motivation is less clear and usually falls under the generic “we have to save the earth.” Wild Force tried to tie Cole’s love of nature into it but it never quite clicked. Megaforce was the barest bones “save the earth” plot around.
Ninja Steel and Super Ninja Steel have all the potential for some really strong motivations for Brody, the Red Ranger, in particular. He didn’t have his family at the start of the show. He was basically a stranger to Earth. While those elements did come up occasionally, particularly in the “Aiden” arc, they were often forgotten about or poorly executed. Brody’s goals never seemed to really drive his actions. He was reactive.
Now that he’s found his father and brother the one big motivation for Brody and the team has completely disappeared. Everyone is now running on the generic “we have to save the world.” Besides Preston wanting to be a magician (which is barely mentioned anymore) none of the characters have consistent goals. Maybe Sarah wants to get into college. Maybe she wants to break the hoverboard record. Levi wants to be a successful musician but the show will go dozens of episodes forgetting he’s a singer. Hayley… wanted to play tennis for a minute?
Series don’t need to constantly remind the audience of its characters goals, especially in an ensemble show, but it should drive the characters actions even in subtle ways. Without that audiences will struggle to connect to the character because they can’t find a reason to root for them. Often times, particularly with Power Rangers lately, fans will be rooting for a character more because they like the actor and less they like their underdeveloped personalities, backstories, or motivations.
Victor and Monty though have goals. They have motivations. Victor wants to win his 50th trophy. Monty will support Victor to any length it takes (this is setting aside the very obvious reading that he’s doing all of this because of a gigantic crush.) Both of these motivations drive the two in nearly every episode.
Victor wants to be popular and sees that 50th trophy as a way to cement his status. It sets up his conflict with either the Rangers or just the world around him. In “Ace and the Race” Victor runs the “fun-athon” alone so he doesn’t have to share the glory. “The Need For Speed” has Monty build a hoverboard so Victor can break that record. “Caught Red-Handed” features Victor on a quest to capture the Summercove Rhino, breaking out of detention and arming himself with a net cannon to do it.
With every action you can see what drives Victor. Every single moment on screen you understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. His motivation might be simple but it’s effective, same with Monty. He’s in awe of Victor, “every side is your good side”, and wants to ride on his coattails.
There’s also a lot you can extrapolate based on what’s shown on screen. Victor may say he’s the most popular kid in school but with how everyone laughs at him we can guess that’s all in his head. Monty’s a technical genius, what what with all the gadgets he builds to help Victor’s schemes.
While the parts of Victor and Monty aren’t written exceptionaly well, Chris Reid and Caleb Bendit respectively have made them their own. Bendit especially does a lot of subtle acting to really give Monty some nuance. If you watch him carefully he does small things with his hands or even mouth to give Monty just a little extra screen presence. Reid plays Victor with all the ham necessary for that part and chews through every part of the scenery in the most glorious fashion possible.
They’re portraying Victor and Monty as the heroes of the story, two determined teens that won’t let anything get in their way to achieving fame and glory. The wild thing? Victor and Monty are actually succeeding! They’ve accomplished more than any of the Rangers have. They secured internships with Preston’s dad. They kept Madame Odius at bay. They even started a whole product line! These two are geniuses!
We also can’t help but root for Victor and Monty because the Rangers are complete dicks to them at nearly every turn. Look back at “Drive to Survive” when Victor and Monty are flying off in the web balloon and the Rangers do nothing but point and laugh. What about “The Adventures of Redbot” where they’re left frozen by the Rangers? Or how about “The Royal Rumble” when the two are gravely injured and the Rangers do nothing to help?
Sure they’re jerks… But they aren’t on the same level of spite as our supposed main characters.
Now of course Victor and Monty are not perfect. The fart jokes aren’t funny. The cartoon logic they operate under completely breaks any sense of reality the show is trying to establish. Let’s be real, Monty’s spine should be shattered after being shot into a target in “Hack Attack.”
The series also refuses to let their actions have any lasting repercussions. At the end of “The Need For Speed” the two are shipped to Africa and are chased by a lion. By the next episode it’s treated as if it never happened. Same thing with Monty being turned into a box person in “Presto Change-O.”
Unlike the Rangers though they at least have a consistent through line from episode to episode. A motivation that drives them and one we keep getting to see a little bit more of week in and week out.
Is it terribly complex? No. Is it particularly entertaining? It varies but without question I can say Victor’s quest for that 50th trophy and Monty helping him all along the way never ceases to put a smile on my face.
They make exist in some strange live action cartoon version of reality but at least their characters work, unlike the Rangers.
Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Victor/Monty is the truest ship in Power Rangers. Follow him on Twitter!