When its first season aired in America, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was an unexpected and unprecedented success. The show was only slated to run for roughly 40 episodes, but was picked up for further episodes as a result of the popularity. Said popularity was enough for the show to be renewed for a second season. But would the show remain a hit with kids and be able to recapture what made the first one so good?
To give you an idea of how popular the series was at this time, the three-part season premiere aired in prime time, something previously unheard of for a children's show.
The first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers combined newly film American footage (mostly of the characters unmorphed and interacting with classmates/teachers/each other/etc.) with battle footage from the Super Sentai series Zyuranger. When the show was renewed, Japan had to create new footage using the Zyuranger costumes and new monsters; said footage has been dubbed “Zyu2” by fans. The second season continued to utilize “Zyu2” footage in its early episodes, while Zord and later monster footage was taken from the next Super Sentai show, Dairanger. While Dairanger was the basis for the monsters and Zords, the Rangers kept the Zyuranger costumes, aside from the White Ranger, which comes from Dairanger (sorry if this is confusing anyone….) As a result, the show’s second season features far more American filmed footage of the Rangers.
This also stands as the first season in which Power Ranger actors departed the show and were replaced. Austin St. John (Jason the Red Ranger), Thuy Trang (Trini the Yellow Ranger) and Walter Jones (Zack the Black Ranger) went on strike from the show due to a pay dispute and were subsequently fired. They were replaced by Steve Cardenas (Rocky the new Red Ranger), Karan Ashley (Aisha the new Yellow Ranger), and Johnny Yong Bosch (Adam the new Black Ranger). However, David Yost (Billy the Blue Ranger), Amy Jo Johnson (Kimberly the Pink Ranger), and Jason David Frank (Tommy the Green Ranger and later White Ranger) all stayed on board, and this was the team that remains for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie and much of the show’s third season.
The storyline behind the show’s second season picks up where the first one left off. The Power Rangers have successfully defended the world against Rita Repulsa and her monsters, repelling their attacks with great success. But something unexpected has happened. Fed up with her constant failures, Rita’s evil master, Lord Zedd, has returned, banishing Rita back into the space dumpster, and launching her back out amongst the stars. Now in charge, Zedd takes over Rita’s moon base and her henchmen, and sets his sights on accomplishing the goal that she failed to.
Zedd launches his new Putty Patrollers and his first monster, Pirantishead, to attack the Power Rangers. Our heroes eventually find the weakness of the new incarnation of the Putty Patrol, saving Bulk and Skull’s lives in the process, prompting them to start a season-long quest to find the Rangers’ identities. Pirantishead ends up being too much for our heroes, with him freezing their Zords and turning the Tyrannosaurus Dinozord and Dragonzord against the Rangers. Zordon and Alpha planned for such an event by enabling the Rangers to upgrade their Zords to the more powerful Thunderzords, but doing so requires the Rangers to first regain control of the old Zords. With the team’s efforts and knowledge, they are able to recover control and upgrade to the Thunderzords. However, the Green Ranger’s powers are still declining, and he continues to control the Dragonzord, unable to upgrade to a new one due to his weakening state. With the Thunderzords uniting into the new Thunder Megazord, the team is able to defeat Pirantishead, revealing to Lord Zedd that he may have underestimated the Power Rangers.
Zedd continues to launch attacks and schemes against the Rangers, setting his sights on destroying the Green Ranger once and for all, whose powers have been on the decline since Zordon had to find a way to bring him back to the team in the first season. Wearing down the Green Ranger with additional battles and power stealing strategies, Zedd eventually achieves his goals, with the Green Ranger powers completely eradicated following these ongoing fights. Tommy leaves the team and returns to civilian life once more, with the remaining five Rangers carrying on the fight.
After a few battles, Zordon and Alpha mysteriously vanish, prompting the Power Rangers to investigate. Billy discovers something unbelievable – they are working on the construction of a new Ranger! Not long thereafter, the return to introduce the new White Ranger – none other than Tommy! He now possesses new powers that can never be taken away by the forces of evil, and commands the Saba Saber and the White Tigerzord, which is able to join with the other Thunderzords to form the Mega Tigerzord. Later on, Tor the Shuttlezord is introduced, which can combine with the other Zords to form the Thunder Ultrazord.
Not long thereafter, three new teens, Rocky, Adam and Aisha, come to Angel Grove and compete in a ninja martial arts competition. This causes Lord Zedd to set their sights on the teens, capturing them with the intent of turning them into evil Rangers to combat Zordon’s team. Following a series of battles and close calls, the Power Rangers manage to rescue the trio, but in the process, their secret identities are revealed to them. They are teleported to the Command Center to escape from the dangers at hand, and agree to keep the team’s identities a secret.
Later, it is revealed that long time Power Rangers Jason, Trini, and Zack have been chosen to represent Angel Grove at a peace conference in Switzerland, meaning they will be leaving the team. This prompts Zordon and Alpha to begin the search for new Rangers. The team is sent to a desolate, abandoned planet to retrieve an artifact that will let them transfer their power to replacements, but Lord Zedd gives chase in his powerful war Zord, Serpenterra. Despite close calls and plenty of danger along the way, the team succeeds in their quest, escaping narrowly due to Zedd’s weapon of war running out of power. Rocky, Adam and Aisha become the new Red, Black and Yellow rangers, respectively, as their predecessors head to Switzerland.
Eventually, Rita returns in her dumpster to the moon base, prompting Finster to make a love potion so that Lord Zedd will fall for her, thus enabling her to return to battle against the Power Rangers, getting her revenge against them for her troubles in the past. The potion works, thus giving the Rangers not one but two evil overlords to deal with. The battles with Zedd and Rita continue into the third season of the show.
So, how does the second season of the show actually hold up? It is nowhere near as groundbreaking as the first season; it is hard to top what started this phenomenon in the first place. That said, it is still good overall, even if it does not reach the same heights of the previous season. But much like its predecessor, there are good and bad points to be experienced here. Let us take a look at some of them.
-The show is updated, but still stays true to what it established in the first season.
When you are creating a new season/series of a show, especially one like this, you have to find a way to keep it updated and fresh for the audience, yet not make so many wild changes that you are going to alienate the audience. Overall, the cast and crew succeeded here. Within the multi-parter that started the season, everything is drastically changed, yet at its core, this is still Power Rangers, the way we knew and loved it in the first season.
-Lord Zedd, upon his arrival.
Right from the beginning of his arrival in the first part of the multi-part episode that kicks off the second season, we are introduced to something completely and totally menacing. Lord Zedd was just plain fearsome and far less “funny” than Rita, giving the audience a much more serious villain. He unleashes a new form of Putty Patrollers, a new means of making monsters, and plenty of unexpected surprises for the team. Rita’s constant bitching at her henchmen and “I’ve got a headache!” remarks got old fast. When Zedd came, he was just the villain this show needed. (Interesting trivia: Lord Zedd is uniquely an American creation, and was NOT adapted from an existing Super Sentai villain. His white-suited Putty Patrollers are also an American creation.)
-Tommy’s exit and return.
The plot about the Green Ranger losing his powers makes for some of the best dramatic content on the show, and his triumphant return as the White Ranger helps him to reestablish his presence as the quintessential bad-ass the series has to offer. Not surprisingly, much like the first season, many of the best plots and storylines involve this guy.
-Some very creative and inventive story ideas.
The writers obviously had to come up with some new content to keep the story fresh instead of everything being the same old “villain creates a monster, team destroys it” dynamic. And we certainly got plenty of that in the second season. Here we see the Power Rangers travel to a distant planet to turn over powers to new Rangers, get trapped in the pages of a children’s storybook, travel back to colonial times, and even find Kimberly sent back in time to the Old West! We even get to see White Ranger Tommy battle an evil clone Green Ranger, which is pure fan service for the die-hards. Granted, not everything here works super well, but you could tell the writers were doing their best and finding interesting ways to keep things fresh. For the most part, it is still good.
-Bulk and Skull.
Yet again, these guys make the list of best elements on the show. Rather than being the straight-up school bullies of season one, here they set out on a quest to find the Power Rangers’ secret identities, and despite their stupidity, they come very close on more than a few occasions! One of the best moments of the season was them finding the Rangers in trouble, only to step in and do their part to help the team out. It was totally unexpected, but equally memorable. These guys never cease to make the viewer laugh; it is as true in the second season as it was in the first.
-Lord Zedd, after the wedding to Rita.
Lord Zedd was a great villain when he was first introduced to the show, fearsome and relentless. In fact, he was so fearsome the writers had to “tone him down” due to parental complaints! By the end of this season, he had become a joke of his former self, dealing with a nagging wife. While this does result in some funny moments, this dynamic wears out its welcome quickly.
-What is up with all the old monsters coming back?
One thing about this season that gets annoying very quickly is that there are numerous plots that involve Lord Zedd resurrecting old monsters. Presumably this was a budget related move to save money; in some cases there was unused Zyuranger and “Zyu2” Zord battle footage that could be utilized for these purposes. But after a few episodes of old monsters coming back (often the same ones multiple times) you will grow tired of it.
-The replacement Rangers just aren’t as interesting as the people they replaced.
This one speaks for itself. These are talented young actors that were brought on board out of necessity, but the lack the distinct personalities and unique plot elements that their predecessors did. Over time they become more unique, but never quite recapture the old team dynamic.
-The writing off of Jason, Trini, and Zack is handled very lazily.
The official explanation is that they left on the show to join a peace conference, but it is clear they were gone long before that episode comes along. They tried to pass this off by not showing their faces and using body doubles, as well as voice actors that sounded nothing like them. In some case, stock footage from the first season is used, and Zack even has the wrong hairstyle!
-The constraints of using Japanese stock footage from two series and American footage become painfully obvious.
This is the problem with having monsters from “Zyu2” footage battling Dairanger monsters. At times, the monster will never be in the same frame as the Rangers/Zords/etc. and things become even more obvious here than in the first season, in many cases. In fact, there are even a few cases where you can see the wrong Zords in the footage!
-Show still suffers from some bad and inconsistent writing.
Zord names are inconsistent for the first few episodes of the season. The Power Cannon weapon is introduced, used a handful of times, and never appears again. Tor the Shuttlezord is “introduced” in more than one episode. Lord Zedd’s Putty Patrollers’ weak spot is the “Z” on their chest, yet there are many times where it is struck without consequence. Rocky, Adam and Aisha are new to Angel Grove, yet are treated as and act as if they have been residents their whole life (it is possible the scripts were written with the original Rangers in mind and haphazardly adapted to the new team as such). Time travel mechanics are inconsistent. New secondary characters are introduced and then disappear without an explanation.
If you revisited the first season, why not keep going and enjoy the second? It is not quite as fresh or as good as the team’s first season, but some of the more inventive plots and unexpected twists keep it interesting enough. But much like the first season, if you were not a fan as a youth, it is difficult to say if watching it for the first time in adulthood is going to change your mind. That said, I am still recommending it.