It’s crazy to think that Power Rangers has been on for 30 years now. This show has been through a lot with near cancellations, switching networks, and companies buying out the franchise. Yet, they still have a passionate fan base to this day. To celebrate, Netflix is putting out a special all about the OG team, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is now streaming on Netflix.
This review will contain full spoilers for the entire special.
Story: Mourning Our Friends
Once & Always is rooted in unfortunate real life tragedies that happened off-screen. Thuy Trang who played Trini died back in 2001. It felt like this event was a way to proceed the grief that the original cast still has while honoring her legacy. On top of that, while the crew was filming the special, the news that Jason David Frank died by suicide.
In a way, the story is so cathartic and healing. It starts out with the rangers getting ambushed by a robotic version of Rita Repusla. She’s about to hit Billy with a powerful spell before Trini jumps in the way to save him even though it kills her in the process. She leaves behind her teenage daughter, Minh who becomes hurt by her mother’s passing. One year later, Robo Rita returns and it’s up to Rangers to stop her.
This story is a lot darker than most Power Ranger stories. The fact that they’re using words like “kill” and “death” is jarring because those words have barely been used in all of its 30 years. It adds more of a threat to Rita who’s gleefully that she didn’t just “destroy” a Ranger, she killed one and she’ll do it again.
Just Enough Fan Service
With anniversary specials, having too much fan service can sometimes weigh down the project. Thankfully, we get the right amount here. Since there’s a genuine story behind this, the fan service doesn’t have to carry that weight. Also with Hasbro buying Saban (the original owners of Power Rangers) and the popularity of the Power Rangers BOOM! Studios, we’ve been getting a lot more references to the Ranger lore. So having a lot of callbacks doesn’t feel too out of place here. Besides, we get the return of Hip Hop Kido which is the goofiest and somehow the best thing ever.
Characters & Performances: Return of the OGs
I can’t express how amazing it is that these familiar faces return to the franchise. It’s extra special to see Walter Jones return as Zach seeing as we haven’t seen him since all the way back in season 2. Zach still has this likable charm to him and gets more development as he becomes the guardian of Minh. He gets some heartfelt scenes that are much different from the last time we saw him.
Another original cast member returning is David Yost as Billy. It’s not talked enough on how Yost appeared in every single episode of the original run. In my opinion, he’s just as synonymous as Tommy is during that era. I was shocked at the twist that Billy accidentally created Robo Rita (from the body of Alpha 8 no less) because he wanted to bring Zordon back. It reminded me of Power Rangers: RPM when you find out that Dr. K accidentally created the main villain, Venjix. He doesn’t wallow in that grief and self retreat into that shy state we saw him in season one. Instead, Billy is a lot more confident and tries to fix his mistakes.
The New Guard Returns (Somewhat)
We also see the characters that were the replacements for most of the original members. There’s Rocky, Kat, Aisha, and Adam all returning, but it’s a little uneven. Rocky and Kat get a good amount of screen time in their supporting roles and are welcome additions. Unfortunately, Adam and Aisha feel more like an extended cameo than supporting roles. Granted, there probably wasn’t time and the fact they’re here is special enough. But it seemed from the behind the scenes photos that they were going to have a bigger role. Instead, we get some exposition and a small scene at the end.
Arguably, the most important part that they needed to get right is Minh. Charlie Kersh does a great job of playing Minh with a lot of heart and enough edge for us to buy into her vengeance motivations. It’s funny to think that Minh is actually a teenager with attitude (granted for good reasons) compared to the original cast as they never really had any attitude whatsoever. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of Minh in Cosmic Fury or other projects in the future.
Cinematography & Sound: No Stock Required
It’s funny to see some of the initial reactions saying that Once & Always looked cheap because at its core, the show has always been cheap. I mean they used stock footage from Super Sentai for most of their episodes. But here, this is all original footage which somehow probably makes it more expensive than others. You can tell that they put in the effort by lovingly either recreating or revamping the sets.
The only thing that stuck out to me in a bad way is the Megazord. Now when they formed the Megazord and showed off the zords, that right there was the chef’s kiss. You can tell it was made with CGI, but when it’s recreated so well and accurate then the inner fanboy wins out in the end. However when they actually fought, it was just really bad distracting CGI. More like a tribute to the terrible special effects featured in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.
The Wasserman Factor
You could argue that Ron Wasserman is the unsung hero of the whole franchise. His songs and score are instantly iconic, even to non-fans. So to have him return to do the music was a real treat. He just elevates the fight scenes with his rock synth that gets your heart pumping. And to have his theme song played out not once, but twice is the icing on the cake.
Editing & Pacing: Let It Play Out
There’s a lot of plot and character beats to cram in within the limit of an hour. For the most part, they do a pretty good job of mapping everything out and wrapping it up. The only issue I had was some of the shots felt too quick. I’m not talking about the fight scenes, but the character beats. If they let it linger for just a couple of more seconds, it would have been more powerful.