The One That Finally Gets its S*** Together
Alright! Here we go! The for real actual start of Power Rangers as a series! Just as it’s all leaving Netflix and no one in their right mind is going to seek it out! Fortunately for all of you, I am not one of those people, and I’m committed to bringing you 100% objective rankings of every Power Rangers series. This is where it all starts actually getting interesting. I would say that this is where it gets good, but I can see the future and that would be a lie. But I’m still excited to take you on this journey through the 90s all the way up to today. I’m stronger than before. I’m powered up for more. Go, Zeo!
Let’s Talk About Change
As I’ve mentioned before, the source material for the Power Rangers series comes from the long-running Japanese franchise, Super Sentai. For them, each season of the show is an entirely new team and story, with new suits, mecha, villains, etc. American TV in the 90s was not into that. Power Rangers had to be something that you could just put any random episode on and jump in, 5 days a week, forever. If they went around changing things all the time, the children of America would get confused and scared! And so, three seasons in, here we are, with Zordon, Alpha, and some number of supposed “teens” with, presumably, attitude. The cast has shifted and only one of the original five Rangers is left, though there is still Tommy who comes in partway through Season 1. The Zords have been destroyed and replaced several times over. The villains have changed a bit, but Rita and her crew is still pretty much the core. But it’s still the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers! Surely, this could go on forever!
It could not go on forever. There was only so far that they could stretch the Zyuranger suits. There was only so much time that the villains could fail before looking buffoonish and nonthreatening. That line had been crossed at least half-a-season ago. The original shoddily-constructed Command Center set was literally falling apart. Change needed to happen, and in Power Rangers Zeo, it did.
Finally. Finally. FINALLY we are out of the Zyuranger (and the one Dairanger) suits. Double-finally, we are back to just one source series: Chouriki Sentai Ohranger. It’s 1996 and everything you thought you knew about Power Rangers is wrong. But only really really slightly. This is still Power Rangers. Please keep buying toys. After the SHOCKING EVENTS of the Alien Rangers miniseries, Aisha had passed the Yellow Ranger powers on to Tanya and switched places in time with her. Oh, also everything exploded. What Happens Now???
Leading up to the initial US airing, there were a series of 32 mini-shorts that ran alongside reruns in order to build up hype and mystery. Feel free to look them up1 but I can give you a short synopsis:
They are also directly contradicted by the very first episode of Zeo. But if you really want to know: Some scientists see something from an observatory that makes them worried. Rita and Zedd see something out of their moon telescope that makes them worried. Bulk and Skull see news reporter Wolfgang Blizzard, the best named character, on TV talking about rumors about something mysterious in the sky, which makes them worried. King Mondo shows up and scares Bulk and Skull. Everybody panics, the end.
Strange lead-up aside, Zeo is a landmark season in the development of the franchise. The main paradigm shift is that from here on, each season is clearly delineated by changes in costume, cast, villain, or otherwise, and as much as possible, will be a clean break from the previous one. For the next couple seasons, there will still be a connected overarching plot and cast, but each season is now absolutely its own thing, with its own unique tone, for better or worse.
The other shift, less visibly noticeable, is the shift towards long-form storytelling in general. In the Mighty Morphin’ seasons, there would be shake-ups or changes occasionally, usually in the form of a multi-parter, but otherwise, episodes were relatively self-contained. Beginning with Zeo, rather than focusing on single self-contained episodes, episodes would be more serialized, with various plots coming into and out of focus through the season. This is:
Things were becoming untenable. For one, toy sales were dropping, which is obviously the most important thing, but also it was becoming clearer and clearer that they couldn’t just continue making Power Rangers the same way that they had been – splicing different teams and Zords and monsters together and shooting original American footage with whatever monster costumes hadn’t fallen apart yet. The way forward was clear:
make an entirely new toy line stop trying to stay in the same familiar costumes and spaces and change everything. New sets, new suits, new villains, and most importantly, so many new, exciting, different-looking toys. This was the big leap of faith for the series that would lead to 25 more years of spandex and rubber suits.
So despite Rito and Goldar clearly getting away with the Zeo crystal in the cliffhanger, it turns out that the Zeo crystal is in the Command Center’s rubble and Rito and Goldar are nowhere to be found.2 Then everyone falls down a hole and
dies is destroyed find an underground entrance to the Power Chamber, which is like the Command Center, but it’s underground and spacious and well-lit. Also the consoles aren’t constantly sparking or exploding. And they have actual video screens instead of a viewing globe. And the floor didn’t shake when you walked on it. Also Zordon and Alpha are there and also alive.3
Meanwhile, Rita and Zedd are evacuating the moon palace in Serpentera, making plans to crash at Rita’s dad’s place because everyone is afraid of the new threat: The Machine Empire.
Led by King Mondo and his royal family, the Machine Empire really really really really likes gears. Also apparently they are More Evil than any of the villains seen so far, including Master Vile. They quickly set up their space base and proceed to terrorize Angel Grove in basically all of the same ways as Rita and Zedd did previously. But More Evil. Their evil deeds escalate over the course of the season as Tommy discovers his long-lost brother (who they kidnap), Billy graduates early and travels to Aquitar for a time (which they try to sabotage), a new Gold Ranger appears (who they try to capture and/or destroy), and Jason returns to take up the Gold Ranger’s mantle in a time of need (which, again, the destroying thing).
Eventually, they manage to kidnap Tommy and brainwash him into believing that he is the Machine King. Jason is forced to face down his friend4 in some kind of death-match arena. I cannot stress enough that all of this is done really really well in writing and performance. When I say that they finally get their s*** together this season, this is what I’m talking about first and foremost. With Zeo, Power Rangers begins to take story seriously and make the show so much more substantial in ways that you never could have foreseen in Season 1.
Oh, also Rita and Zedd come back in a camper van on the moon and replace King Mondo with a chauvinist animated rocket for a while, but then Princess Archerina5 shoots him with a love arrow and leads him to his demise, so instead Rita and Zedd just give the royal family an exploding present that reduces the machines to scrap. You know, the usual.
The season ends on this really touching note of Jason giving up the Gold Ranger powers in a grand noble sacrifice and coming to terms with living a normal life alongside his friend who has surpassed him in every way. It’s mature and beautiful and maybe we should just pretend the entire next series doesn’t happen.
Get out of here, weird old fight songs. Shut up about Tenga. Here come new weird fight songs. A particular standout for me is the fight song, Big Bang, which doesn’t mention how Cogs smell even once. It’s just straight up high-energy fun. The sound editing is also a lot better this season. There are also instrumental versions of some of the songs, which are less intrusive. Generally the songs in this season fade into the background a lot more than the other ones, and there are enough different ones that they don’t get too repetitive.
As for the main theme… It is more than a little obvious that they really really really want you to know that things are different. But better! It’s better than before, we promise! And also still a little bit the same, don’t worry! It has this insecure self-awareness to it, almost begging you to stick with them even though change is scary. It’s a very conservative move, to the point that it keeps major portions of the original song so that you know that the Power Rangers are still going to Go Go.
There are also a couple of episodes centered on music – for one, there is an entire episode about a Mystery Pianist at Angel Grove High who just goes around in a hooded cloak or something why not. Tanya is also a singer, which a bunch of episodes use – Tanya makes a music video, Tanya gets approached by a possibly fake producer, Tanya has to teach Tommy to sing but they both end up affected by a spell that makes them only speak through song. You know, normal stuff.
This season is pretty back-to-basics after the editing nightmare that was the late Mighty Morphin’ era. Things are much more coherent and contiguous, so you actually get to appreciate the fight choreography and the flow of battle. The overall structure of the fighting is fairly formulaic – everyone has a personal weapon and there are fancy attacks with lightning backgrounds and whatnot, they can all combine to do a big team attack, and an associated… uh… mythical… structure… or constellation… or bird… You know, stuff! The Zeo theme is pretty generic overall, but after all of the dancing around footage in Mighty Morphin’ Season Three, it’s actually really refreshing. There aren’t any gimmicky ninja tricks or glitter suits, just straightforward, well-choreographed fighting. It turns out that Power Rangers and Super Sentai have really good fight scenes when you actually let them just be what they are.
Zeo is a very plot-based season, but even more than that, it just has a lot of stuff going on. In addition to the main plot stuff with the Machine Empire and later Rita and Zedd, there are side plots of varying length and depth for a lot of the recurring cast from previous seasons, relationship plots for Kat/Tommy, Jason/Emily, and Tanya/Shawn, plus a Time Loop episode, two Computer/Internet episodes, a Christmas special, and a Halloween special. Going from MMPR to Zeo feels like both a massive jump forward in long-term plotting, but also a return to form in the many guest-character-of-the-week episodes. Plus this season has the revelation that Angel Grove has an entire Abandoned Warehouse District that keeps getting blown up with no human casualties. It’s an actually well-constructed season of television. They really really are figuring their s*** out, I told you!
Speaking of figuring their shit out, Tommy’s love life features prominently in this season. First, Kimberly sends a letter from Florida breaking up with Tommy. Tommy goes around all mopey and reminisces at the lake while archival footage of Kimberly floats around his head. Kat tries to get his mind off things by taking him skiing and setting him up with ski champion Heather Thompson. Tommy immediately makes Heather hate him by always having to stand her up for Ranger business.
Tommy is all sad and mopey, but Kat swoops in and shares the fancy dinner that Kat had made for Heather and Tommy, and they dance and it’s adorable and WELP I GUESS THEY ARE A THING NOW because the Christmas episode is set in the future with Tommy married to Katherine and telling their grandson about this time that magic turned them super racist for a while and also it was Christmas. So if the future says it, it must be unalterable fact.
Cumulative Score: 602 pts!
The Good Guys
In addition to the Aisha/Tanya/Billy shuffle, the team’s colors get shuffled around this season, in part because Zeo doesn’t have a Black ranger and mostly because Tommy is the leader and needs to be Red because that’s how it works. Some people say that if Billy had stayed on the team, he would have gotten Aisha’s Yellow powers and then Tanya would just…. be there? Don’t listen to those people. No Morph, No Ranger.
Katherine Hillard (Catherine Sutherland)
Has actual compassion and empathy
- Color: Pink
- Zord: Zeo Zord 1 & Super Zeo Zord 1
- Signature Weapon: Zeo 1 Power Disc
- Strength: 20
- Smarts: 100
- Coolness factor:110
She’s still the community-minded helpful one, and this one time she gets to train a doggo for the Fire Department. There probably was more that I was going to say about her, but now I’m not capable of thinking about anything other than dogs.
Like her predecessor, she is too good for Tommy.
Tanya Sloan (Nakia Burrise )
Has a fancy music video
- Color: Yellow
- Zord: Zeo Zord 2 & Super Zeo Zord 2
- Signature Weapon: Zeo 2 Power Clubs
- Strength: 10
- Smarts: 95
- Coolness factor: 150
Tanya acclimates to the future real fast. The whole time-travel swap thing is never mentioned again, probably because everyone involved knew how bad it was and tried to sweep it under the rug as much as possible. So now Tanya is a cool, modern high school girl with high school problems and let us never speak of age-regression again.
Oh also her original name was… definitely a choice that someone made
Rocky DeSantos (Steve Cardenas)
Has a bit of an inferiority complex
- Color: Blue
- Zord: Zeo Zord 3 & Super Zeo Zord 3
- Signature Weapon: Zeo 3 Power Tonfas
- Strength: 25
- Smarts: 0
- Coolness factor: 2
Rocky switches from Red to Blue in the Zeo transition, which in the show’s metanarrative is a huge downgrade, because Red is always always always the coolest. In theory. Look, they get the coolest toys, at least. In any case, there are 2 (two) whole entire episodes about him blowing it with girls because they’re smarter and better than he is. And one (1) episode where he gets turned into a plant because he doesn’t understand proper lab-safety protocols.
Adam Park (Johnny Yong Bosch)
Has really good friendship advice
- Color: Green
- Zord: Zeo Zord 4 & Super Zeo Zord 4
- Signature Weapon: Zeo 4 Power Axes
- Strength: 30
- Smarts: 100
- Coolness factor:
Adam switches from Black to Green in the Zeo transition. The only thing that you need to know about Adam this season is that he gets his own special Halloween episode where everybody else is Halloween monsters and also the world is doomed but then it’s all a dream. It’s great. He also learns about computer viruses and saves the day with a 3.5″ diskette this one time, which is so endearingly 90’s.
Tommy Oliver (Jason David Frank)
Has a thing for Pink Rangers, apparently
- Color: Red
- Zord: Zeo Zord 5 & Super Zeo Zord 5
- Signature Weapon: Zeo 5 Power Sword
- Strength: 35
- Smarts: 5
- Coolness factor: 150
For better or worse, this is Tommy’s season. Tommy finds his long-lost brother, Tommy gets his heart broken, Tommy has a rebound relationship with a different Pink Ranger, Tommy gets kidnapped and brainwashed, Tommy gets stuck in a Groundhog Day time loop, and so on. Even Jason’s return centers a lot around Tommy reuniting with his old friend.
Trey of Triforia (Tom DeFillippo, Tim DeFillippo, Ted DeFillippo)
Has a unification problem, whatever that is
- Color: Gold
- Zord: Pyramidas
- Signature Weapon: Gold Power Staff (Big Gold Stick Thing)
- Strength: 3
- Smarts: 333
- Coolness factor: 33
Triforians are made up of three separate personalities, which is hinted at very subtly by his name, his planet’s name, and the fact that his unity has been disrupted and he splits into Trey of Wisdom, Trey of Courage, and Trey of
Power Heart. He’s noble and selfless and perfect because he’s Good and doesn’t need a personality past that.
Jason Scott (Austin St. John)
Has gotten super chill
- Color: Gold
- Zord: Pyramidas
- Signature Weapon: Gold Power Staff
- Strength: 50
- Smarts: 35
- Coolness factor: 70
I know how much crap I gave Jason in Season 1 and half-ish of 2, but oh my god Jason is actually pretty good this time. What is even going on here? There is this rekindled friendship, but there is also a real feeling of growth for Jason here, as he navigates Tommy replacing him as Team Leader and Rocky’s worries about becoming unnecessary. He even starts a relationship with Emily, the new girl in town running with the wrong crowd, and manages not to make every scene relating to his relationship stuff a horrendous momentum-stopper like SOME OTHER RANGERS WHO ARE DATING EACH OTHER. He even loses his powers and moves on maturely instead of becoming a mopey sad sack.6
Where the Mighty Morphin’ team was powered by dinosaurs7 and other animals, the Zeo team wields the power of SHAPES and NUMBERS. The helmet designs do this nice numeric progression: there’s one (1) circle, two (2) bars of an equals sign, a tri(3)angle, a four(4)-sided rectangle, and a five (5) pointed star. Oh and also the Gold Ranger helmet is the kanji for King, so we’re just gonna ignore that for the American version and it’s just gonna be a thing that’s there now. As for the suits themself, I’m not a huge fan. The collar/mantle element just doesn’t work for me, particularly the gold border, which just makes the whole thing look really, really busy.
- Adam – Halloween. Monster. Episode. +2267 pts
- Kat – Good. Doggo. Episode. +2089 pts
- Tanya – Tanya is great, but a little underused, if anything. She has the best faces. +1877 pts
- Jason – Jason is actually pretty good this season?? Somehow??? +1521 pts
- Tommy – Tommy. Tommy. Tommy. How do you keep ending up on weird magic spirit quests? What if you… didn’t do that? +1206 pts
- Trey – I was going to put him at #3 because jokes, but he really is kind of boring and one-note. Wait no, Three-Note. Got there. +333 pts
- Rocky – I just. I just can’t with you, Rocky. Do not just go around picking up random seeds from a science lab. Do you want an Audrey 3? That’s how you get an Audrey 3. +5 pts
At this point, you can really see everyone getting comfortable with their roles. Tanya is the only one on the team this season who is new to being a Ranger, and she does a pretty great job, even if I really wanted to see more about the whole time travel thing. The chemistry of the team is well-defined enough at this point that Tanya is free to do whatever she wants with the hole left by Aisha and things will be fine, and she brings an amazing energy and fun to the role.
Overall Team Score: +2750 pts
Instead of Morphers that only seem to appear out of nowhere, the Zeonizers actually do appear out of nowhere when the Rangers flick their wrists in a particular way. Then the Zeonizer on each wrist does some kind of flippy thing and they hold them together to morph. Or Zeonize or something. The original Morphers pretty much just had a standard pose, but now there’s a whole hand routine to go along with it. This is the first of many, many weird hand dances, and I am so excited to get to them all.
The only ones that get much use are the Zeo 1 Power Disc and the Zeo 5 Power Sword. Which is good because the other ones are… kinda crappy looking. Plus they’re all pairs of things, which just seems like they’re trying too hard. They also turn into the Zeo Blaster, but it doesn’t get a cool assembly sequence, so who even cares.
Having Billy just hanging around the Power Chamber is handy for the
writers Rangers because he can just invent powerful space weaponry. Before this, Zordon would have to just pull something out of storage and pretend that he was saving it for just this occasion. And since everyone needs a big ol’ cannon sometimes, Billy invents the Zeo Cannon, which the Rangers can just summon and hold it on all of their shoulders. You know, like you do with cannons. It’s got slots for power canisters in the various shapes of each Zeo Ranger’s face-thing, so as long as you can work the shape-holes-desk learning toy for babies, you should be good. Good news, Rocky!
The Power Chamber is all new and fancy, so it needs a fancy Star Trek-style bed with a science arch and flashy buttons and everything. Because it turns out that the Rangers end up dealing with some real weird injuries, poisons, spells, and various other conditions. Like all the time.
The Defender Wheel is a big wheel that gets dropped in from the sky by Zeo Zord 5 and then one of the Rangers gets in it for some reason and it revs up like one of those 90s car toys and then rolls out and hits the monster in the shins or something.
At first glance, the Zeo Zords seem like a disconnected mishmash. And they kind of are, honestly, but the whole thing almost works. The connection never comes up textually, but it is implied in some of the random flashing splash screens that come up when cool stuff is about to happen.
Each Zeo Zord is connected, with varying levels of literalism, to a building/artifact associated with various mythologies. Zeo Zord 1 is thus kind of vaguely visually similar to the Easter Island Moai, Zeo 2 represents ancient Japanese dogū figurines, Zeo 3 is (obviously, I guess) The Sphinx, Zeo 4 is Taurus the Bull, which I think is supposed to represent the Parthenon or some other Greek temple? And Zeo 5 is a Phoenix that represents Egyptian pyramids.
All together, these Zords are… fine. They’re fine. The number-based naming scheme of the series doesn’t do it any favors, nor the fairly indecipherable theme. Even knowing the scheme, it’s not really applied consistently. Zeo 1 (Moai) and Zeo 2 (Dogū) look generally like the objects that they are, and Zeo 3 (Sphinx) is conveniently based on already Zord-friendly Sphinx, but Zeo 4 (Taurus) and Zeo 5 (Phoenix) are just “things from mythology” and doesn’t connect all that well to the “real object” thing that the first three folow.
Coolness of Myth? Building? Whatever?
- Sphinx – It’s a cool building and a cool animal! It’s got it all! Plus sphinges just are inherently cool. P.S. the answer is “man” but don’t tell them you got it from me. +681 pts
- Dogū– Ok but like when you actually look at the reference image, the big round eyes are super adorable. +511 pts
- Moai – They’re mysterious! As in, it’s a mystery why this Zord and the dogū have to be dragged along on chains by the Sphinx and Taurus. +459 pts
- Taurus – This barely counts as a building! It should just be a giant temple! +172 pts
- Phoenix – Come on we literally just had a firebird like two seasons ago +96 pts
The Zeo Megazord is interesting, as the first Megazord with clearly distinguished humanoid “modes”8 Each Zeo Zord had an associated helmet that could swap out:
You can kind of see how the number/shape designations are incorporated – the Zeo 1 Cannon Mode can shoot a cannon blast, the Zeo 2 Rocket Mode can shoot two guns and also maneuver in space, the Zeo 3 Pyramid Mode has telekinesis for some reason? and the Zeo 4 Gravity Mode controls gravity, but also it’s bull horns, so it can also just ram things. The standard mode is Zeo 5 Battle Mode, where it… has a sword? Is that a power?
I like the overall design of this Megazord – the sword is a classic weapon, and the helmet thing is fun. The Sphinx shoulder/chest is probably the best part, but the feet are just the normal Zords, but the tops fly off to… somewhere? to be the helmets later. I don’t know how to feel about the bull pelvis.
Main Weapon: Zeo Megazord Sword
Finishing Move: Big glowy sword slash! A classic finisher for a classic weapon.
Total (group) score: +510 pts
The Red Battlezord is a whole separate person-shaped Zord that can box. This one time they have to do a giant boxing match, you see. Oh, I guess it also has gun arms for all the times that they don’t fight a boxing monster for some reason.
Also, Tommy is really really bad at driving Zords this season. First he flies the Phoenix directly into some power lines, then he takes the Red Battlezord and smashes up the garage and dumps it off a cliff. Come on Tommy, get your shit together. Didn’t you read the season tagline?
Coolness of, um, Person?
It’s a person? Like with people? That’s fine, I guess? It moves pretty well, and I like the piston/gun arms.
Zeo Mega Battlezord
To form the Zeo Mega Battlezord, the Battlezord and the Megazord high five, then go back-to-back and the Red Battlezord basically becomes a gun backpack where its gun arms rotate up to be shoulder cannons and the rest of it sort of… there? I guess? There aren’t many shots of it from behind.
Score: +984 pts
Super Zeo Zords
When the Zeo Zords turn out not to be strong enough to keep up with the Machine Empire’s escalation, The three Treys entrust the Rangers with the Super Zeo Gems, which Jason can use the Gold Ranger Powers on to turn them into the Super Zeo Zords. These designs are kind of hilariously straightforward. Let’s just take all the shapes and just make big shapes and those are the Zords! Everyone likes shapes, right?
I do really like the designs though. They just look so friendly. Also one of the fun things this season is that the Power Chamber just has this giant cannon to launch Zords out of.
Coolness of Shape I Guess
- Star – It’s a star! The main thing I doodled on my notes before I discovered spirals! +605 pts
- Equals Sign? – I kind of like that there’s no good shape for 2. So just have two “1” shapes! It’s fun! +592 +pts
- Circle – So round and friendly! +551 +pts
- Triangle – Triangles are good. They do engineering and math and they tesselate. Good triangles. +543 +pts
- Square – There is a reason that it is slang for booooooooring. +404 +pts
Super Zeo Megazord
I legit love this one. It’s nice and symmetrical, all the Zords fit nicely together, and it’s got a pretty great transformation sequence with each Zord individually transforming and then all stacking together as it lands on the ground. The simplicity of the Super Zeo Zords is a major positive, making the combined Megazord nice and clearly defined, with good solid coloring.
Main Weapon: Twin Zeo Sabers
Finishing Move: The sabers join together into one big shiny saber that can extend to become a super long stabby sword.
Total (group) score: +1530 pts
Trey sends the Warrior Wheel for Jason to use while Pyramidas is being repaired, where “send” means “fire at the Earth like a wheel-shaped meteor.” It has a humanoid battle form smaller than the Megazords and is unmanned. As a finishing move, the Super Zeo Zord just hurls it at the enemy like a bowling ball and then it pops out into its battle mode and I guess body slams the monster?
The Warrior Wheel is just so super cute. It just looks so happy all the time, especially when it pops out of wheel mode for the finisher.
See because it’s a Pyramid but also gold because the Gold Ranger is Midas or something probably!
It’s a pretty huge pyramid. It can stand up by popping legs out of its lower section and arms from its sides, and the capstone folds down and becomes its codpiece as it stands itself up.
Coolness of Pyramid
I guess it’s a pretty cool pyramid. It shoots lightning from the capstone, which I assume is historically accurate. Honestly though, Pyramids are the worst solid in geometry. It’s like, come on, just pick a standard number of faces and base shape already. You can’t just have people assume that pyramids are always four-sided because of History Stuff.
The Zeo Zords all fly into little garages on Pyramidas’s back, then a little shelf comes out of its butt for the Red Battlezord to stand on and become a gun backpack again, but this time it gets to face forwards.
Score: +509 pts
Super Zeo Ultrazord
It’s literally the same because everything just sits inside of Pyramidas anyway. This time the whole assembled Megazord just slides into a Megazord-shaped hole that was made for it.
Score: +509 pts
What is it with this guy and secrets? He just happens to have this whole futuristic-looking other room and he’s not like “Get to the fancy new room that’s basically a bunker!” and instead he just has the kids run out the door and hope they’re smart enough to not get
exploded imploded. He even is able to arrive in the new room by just floating down the tube like an elevator, which I assume is like a fire pole for giant heads.
During his time with the Alien Rangers, Billy has come to an important discovery. Even if their bodies are aged up, the other Rangers are all children who need his help and supervision at all times. He might have put it more tactfully than that. He chooses to pass on the Zeo Powers9 and to remain on the team in a supporting role, assisting Alpha and Zordon in the Power Chamber to develop new weapons, tools, and Zords for the Rangers. Just as he is getting comfortable, Principal Caplan pretty much springs a surprise graduation on him, leaving him wondering what he’s going to do now.10. Conveniently, Cestro returns seeking Billy’s help on Aquitar, so he flies off and does that for a while, then returns to Earth so that he can get disappointed to not be able to hold the Gold Ranger powers because of some science nonsense from the end of last season.
He stays around for most of the remainder of the season, but it turns out that because of different science nonsense from the beginning of last season, Billy is rapidly aging, putting his life in danger. It’s fine though, because it turns out that the Aquitians just happen to have a fountain of youth or whatever on their planet, so Billy shoots on back to Aquitar, then is regenerated, falls in love, and decides to stay on Aquitar all offscreen so that David Yost doesn’t have to show up for the last Billy episodes.
With Billy around, Alpha doesn’t have as much to do, since Billy can handle all the tech and inventing, and he also has real non-gloved fingers that can pick things up and everything. He still hangs around though, because when Billy leaves, they’ll still have Alpha. They’ll all still have Alpha!
Auric the Conqueror
Auric is a mythical hero who fights evil and defends the innocent and whatnot, which is pretty tame conquering, if you ask me. But he totally fights monsters and grows to Zord size and everything, like Ninjor except he’s also a giant face. He’s not that bright, so pretty much anyone who has the key to his magic tiki can just tell him what to do and he’ll do it, but the incredible story of the Tiki of Auric will have to wait for another time.
Random Citizens Lightning Round!
It turns out that Tanya does have real parents even after weird time stuff, and they are archaeologists! But the fun kind like Indiana Jones, not the boring kind with books and cleanrooms and whatever. They send her a letter11 that leads her to an ancient artifact, the Tiki of Auric. There is a mysterious key to go along with the tiki, because it’s all legend-y and stuff, and when the key is put in the tiki’s facehole, it turns into Auric the Conqueror!
Oh right, that was the whole tiki thing right there. There you go.
Emily moves into town and immediately falls into a Beach Bike Gang. Do bike gangs like beaches? It seems like there would be sand problems. Said bike gang hassles Ernie’s new beachfront cafe, which is apparently a thing that he can do without signing any papers or checking with the city or anything, but then Jason tells her that she can make friends outside of the bike gang and also Ernie is a poor sweet cinnamon roll who needs this beach cafe more than life itself. And then her necklace turns into a monster and the monster gets blown up or whatever and Emily convinces the bike gang to not be dicks12 so Ernie gives her a job as possibly the only waitress of this supposed restaurant, where she and Jason can make eyes at each other every episode. At the end of the season, Jason is looking forward to getting time to know her better now that he’s not a Ranger and disappearing in the middle of monster attacks. Which sounds like a nice hook for the next season to *checks notes* oh, um. Well, Jason comes back at least! Sort of…
Surprise! Tommy has a long-lost brother who was adopted by Sam Trueheart, who might magically be the same person as True of Heart, who child-Tommy met during that whole time-hole thing. In the course of some vague magic/destiny crap involving a falcon spirit or something coming out of Tommy’s heart, Tommy encounters David near some familiar rocks. It turns out that they have one of those half-and-half friendship necklaces, but it’s an arrowhead because reasons. Oh, also when the two halves come together, they have some kind of magical superpower or something. So that’s cool I guess. Anyway, Tommy immediately gives up on the Power Rangers Secret Identity thing or whatever, which is fine I guess because David is too boring to do anything useful with that information. He was supposed to be a red herring for the identity of the Gold Ranger, but it turns out that the answer to that mystery was “Some Random New Character Who Never Appeared before”, so maybe “not being in a place” when the Gold Ranger shows up isn’t very good evidence.
Shawn is the worst every time we see him, and he keeps getting slightly better by the end of the episode and then he’s the worst again next time we see him. But for some reason Tanya keeps giving him chances after the one time when he wanted her to ignore his cheating on a test, and that other time when he got all angry about her being better than him at baseball, and also this third time where he steals an invisibility medallion to win a karate tournament… somehow… Look, I’m just saying, either the judge and entire crowd will notice you suddenly disappear and realize something’s up or you just won’t be seen and forfeit the match for not showing up. Anyway, he and Tanya dated up until the baseball incident, which I don’t understand at all.
Raymond (Computer Guy)
Raymond is a computer whiz who knows everything about the internet and internet viruses and he saves the computer lab from a virus this one time, so Adam decides to go to him when the entire city has a Machine Empire virus because no one else could fix the problem. So anyway, a dramatic amount of furious typing and numbers flying across the screen later, he puts it onto a 3.5″ diskette, a technology that is older than some of you here. He puts it onto that icon on the save button that you’ve never seen in real life and is otherwise meaningless to you. And then Adam and Alpha jam it into the Power Chamber computer system somewhere and everything is solved forever.
The evil Machine Empire might be the only force able to rival Master Vile in evilness until whatever the next villain to come along is. We follow its royal family, the Royal House of Gadgetry, with all of its fun family friction, only they are evil, so they do actually enjoy it.
The Big Bad: King Mondo – Machine King of the Royal House of Gadgetry
King Mondo: Loving father, devoted husband, forceful leader, kind of dumb. Mondo is pretty full of himself, entirely convinced of the superiority of machines that look like humans over actual humans. He’s capricious and unstable and has little care for his subjects. You know, like a normal king.13 At one point, he decides that it sounds like a good idea to dig up the Damocles Sword14 and use its power to become huge and destroy the Power Rangers.
He accomplishes half of this plan before getting stabbed in the junk and destroyed. But he’s a robot, so he comes back eventually. In the mean time…
Score: +4096 pts
That Other Guy: Louie Kaboom – Machine Usurper
Rita and Zedd return to the moon to try to take back their palace and also the entire Earth. Their plan to accomplish this is to send in a robot of their own, Louie Kaboom, who they can control with a remote device that Rito and Goldar immediately lose. Louie immediately goes rogue and takes over the Machine Empire by… not being destroyed at the time, I guess?
He is Rita and Zedd through and through – authoritatively loud and campy, while at the same time being essentially incompetent. He gets shot with a Love Arrow and is tricked into fighting the Rangers, who destroy him.
His destruction leaves the monarchy open to:
Prince Gasket and Princess Archerina – Estranged Royals
Gasket is Mondo’s eldest son, who only shows up once he’s heard that Mondo was destroyed. He is every bit as cruel as Mondo, but he’s also vaguely posh and using confidence to mask insecurity. His armor is pretty rad though, with that hat and the wingy pauldrons. He ends up running off as soon as Mondo puts himself back together.
Archerina is Gasket’s wife and Mondo’s daughter-in-law. She’s vain and she laughs like an anime lady. Oh, and she is an archer. It’s subtle, you might have missed that.
Henches Royal Subjects
I’m not totally sure about how much range of motion Machina actually has. Not much, it seems like. Enough to almost wave a fan around, at least. Anyway, when Mondo dies, Louie and Gasket essentially walk all over her and ignore her, because Robot Royalty is Misogynistic.15 I’m told that she awakened feelings in certain young viewers, but for once, it’s not me, so I can’t really speak to that.
Sprocket is Mondo and Machina’s youngest son, and he’s desperate to prove himself worthy of the crown. But also he’s a real spoiled brat. He pretty much has all the same insecurity that Gasket does, but none of the facade to hide behind. Mondo and Machina still dote on him incessantly, giving him everything that he wants, which is mainly various toys that are also monsters.
Klank & Orbus
Klank and Orbus are Mondo’s footmen, who might be from that Black and White Star Trek planet. Orbus is the one that’s orb-shaped, by the way. Klank is sycophantic to the extreme and will do anything for the royal family, unless a big rocket monster shows up, in which case he will immediately become loyal to that guy until the royals take the throne back. These two are responsible for enlarging the monsters, which they do by swinging Orbus around like a hammer and just straight up winging them at the destroyed monster, who is somehow revived and enlarged by Orbus’s weird glowy internal fluid.
Like the Putties before them, Cogs are numerous and indistinguishable, existing only to destroy or be destroyed. Unlike the Putties, they can actually talk, usually to say something droll or ironic before being destroyed. They have a distinctive “robotic” way of motion, which gives them a slightly inhuman vibe, but they also are great infiltrators, which mainly means that they put on obvious costumes and clang their way past oblivious bystanders. Their shiny suits and faces still just make them so much more friendly and significantly less gross compared to the Putties, which I am ok with. I’m also more amenable to them doing weird thematic “bits” when they show up, like dancing or miming sports or whatever. When the Putties did it, it was off-putting, but everybody loves robots being bad at things.
As this is the Machine Empire, almost all of the monsters this season are machines, created in whatever factories there are in those big floaty gear-shaped ships. Some of the machines seem to have no discernable purpose, but who am I to judge a weirdly dysfunctional AI empire.
Monsters that are Good (according to me):
I have a weakness for good pun names, what can I say? He is created from the Angel Grove High School’s piano to capture The Mystery Pianist, and he’s got a conductor’s baton and a keyboard for a chin. The other thing that I have a weakness for is when music notes are weaponized like laser blasts.
This totally trustworthy-sounding fellow claims to be defecting from the Machine Empire and doesn’t want to be evil any more. He even saves a puppy! I’m a little concerned about his design, which seems to have a Cog just… integrated into its shoulder or something?
Aww, look at his cute, dopey eyes and stupid little face. Definitely the most adorable monster, if not the most reliable.
Created from Det. Stone’s fishing lure, the Mechaterpillar is just such a unique monster design for the show. It’s got a bunch of sections that each have their own pair of legs, and it just prances around like one of those horse costumes. It can also split up into individual segments to mob the Megazords. Also it has a laser that makes them dance:
What About Bulk and Skull and Stone?
Everybody else gets their own story and development, so obviously so do Bulk and Skull. And Lt. Stone, who is stuck with them now. Bulk and Skull work closely with Lt. Stone throughout this season, generally much to his dismay. By Zeo, they are essentially fully sympathetic supporting characters, often taking their own separate B-Plot or even being part of the main plot. For example, remember that Mystery Pianist with the cloak and everything? It’s Skull! He’s been taking piano lessons since he was little and is an amazing classical pianist. He’s afraid of Bulk making fun of him if he were to find out, but Adam helps him to be proud of himself and his unique skills and to trust his best friend, because Adam is the best always forever. Skull’s fears are shown to be unfounded when he performs in a music recital that brings Bulk to tears. To Tears. Bulk and Skull are a precious, beautiful gift.
The two of them continue to work with Lt. Stone in the Junior Police Patrol, and they are really giving it their best. It turns out that their best is terrible. After a catastrophic/romantic encounter with the Police Chief and his daughter,16 Bulk and Skull manage to get Lt. Stone fired from the police force entirely. Bulk and Skull resign in solidarity, but I don’t think anyone actually noticed.
Finding himself suddenly free of obligations and responsibility, Ex-Lt. Stone decides to take up his lifelong dream: To be a Private Investigator! A job which involves a surprising amount of noir and/or Sherlock Holmes cosplay. Stone starts the *sigh* The Private Eyes Have It Detective Agency. To aid him in his endeavor, he hires Bulk and Skull, because despite them ruining his life, hopes, and dreams for the entire first half of the season, he suddenly thinks that they are somehow competent. They actually do fine at their jobs, or at least they never fail at them catastrophically. They seem to really enjoy the work, too! Eventually Bulk and Skull both take and pass their detective’s license exams, succeeding mainly because they continued taking the test when a real monster attack broke out and they assumed that the attack was part of the test. Apparently they give you extra credit for that.
After becoming licensed, the duo begins to feel neglected by Stone, who still won’t actually give them real, important cases, but a mysterious note leads them to a clandestine meeting with the mysterious Inspector Kousteau, who has somehow been impressed by their work and wants them to join him on a special mission in France. They accept, but Stone feels so hurt and betrayed, suddenly realizing how important Bulk and Skull actually are to him. They end the season on the bittersweet note of Bulk and Skull leaving, with Stone yelling after them to never come back, but Stone clearly feels left behind and abandoned.
Boy that sounds like a rich, exciting plot hook for next season! I can’t wait to see what happens with Bulk and Skull and their relationship with Stone next season! *checks notes* THEY WHAT?
…and Goldar and Rito?
Oh boy. So yeah, the OTHER thing going on with Bulk and Skull is… less good. We last saw Goldar and Rito escaping the Command Center with the Zeo Crystal, but somehow the Zeo Crystal ended up in the ruins, and the two monsters were nowhere to be found. Rito and Goldar wake to find themselves on a street in Angel Grove, with no memory of who they were. An amnesia plot! Amnesia plots are never indicative of wheel-spinning, no-sirree. They soon encounter Bulk and Skull, and after some Scooby Doo-esque pratfalls, agree to be their personal servants in exchange for room and board.
Oh yeah, in addition to losing their memory, they also have become meek, timid, and easily-fooled. Ok, well, the “easily fooled” part was there already. Anyway, this leads to Goldar and Rito doing menial tasks in maid outfits, which is not as sexy as it sounds.17
Eventually though, Rita and Zedd decide to start looking for them, sending a package to them via Bulk and Skull at the detective agency. The package contains a message from Rita and Zedd, which triggers strange dreams for the two of them, and when they wake from the dreams, they have their swords, Goldar’s wings, and their memories. They still share about half of a brain though. They stop off to menace Bulk and Skull a bit for fun, then it’s off the Moon Camper Van to join the actual plot.
THE FINAL SCORE
We now begin the completely transparent scoring system, where I give a value (in Pts) to each of the major elements, and I also get to decide what those are. And also how much they have accrued in Bonus Points(pts) up to now.
- The Team: 500 Pts
- Individual: 250 tPts – Everyone this season gives really strong performances, and the characters are becoming significantly more defined
- Together: 475 tPts The team is becoming a well-oiled machine now, but a good one, not an evil space machine or whatever
- Leader: +4 tPts Oh good, more Tommy. So. Much. Tommy. I was starving for Tommy Content up until now.
- The Zords: 145 Pts
- Individual: 150 zPts The Zeo Zords are kind of a mess, but the Super Zeo Zords are fantastic.
- Megazords: 125 zPts Again, the Super Zeo Megazord carries the un-super one
- The Villains: 4096 Pts
- Leader(s): 4096 vPts They are all pretty fun and bombastic, even if I hate Louie Kaboom’s…. everything…
- Henchmen: 16 vPts The royal family is pretty average, but Klank’s accent… oh, Klank’s accent.
- Fodder: 1024 vPts They’re just shiny and stupid and they make robot moves and it’s great.
- The Monsters: 200 Pts A pretty strong batch of monsters this season, with most of them having a machine-inspired design without just being monster-versions of various appliances.
- Story: 500 Pts Oh geez there actually is a story and it’s good what the heck what the heck
Sudden Dramatic Points Right At The End
+2000 Pts – This season is such an unbelievably massive jump in quality from Mighty Morphin’. It finally shows that Power Rangers has the staying power that keeps it going for all these years.
After converting the base score(Pts) and bonuses(pts) into Power Points (PPs), totalling all the scores for each section and normalizing the results according to the secret formulae that definitely exist and are not a screen to get me out of having to think about scores ever at all:
TITLE: 19096 Power Points (PPs)
Let’s see the rankings!
Power Rangers Seasons, Ranked
- Power Rangers Zeo – 19096 PPs!
- Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season 318
- Mighty Morphin’ Alien Rangers19
- Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season 220
- Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season 121
I’m honestly shocked at how big of a jump in quality Zeo is from Mighty Morphin’. It’s a legitimately great season of Power Rangers, and it does so much for the franchise as a whole. It can only get better from here, right? *checks notes* Oh, no. Oh, no no no no no. Well it’s not good. but it is at least interesting.
With Power Rangers falling off of Netflix and having powered through Alien Rangers and Zeo this month, I’m taking a bit of a break for a while. But I have really been enjoying doing these and I want to keep making them once I figure out how I want to watch the series.
So come back next time for Scorpion Rain, a Power Rangers Movie and The One with the Giant Pizza!
By the way, while doing research for this, I came across Ranger Playback on YouTube, a series where Catherine Sutherland and Nakia Burrise (who portrayed Kat and Tanya) watch and react to episodes of Power Rangers, starting with A Zeo Beginning, and it’s a lot of fun and you should check it out if you like this series.