Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always, out tomorrow on Netflix, is a fitting tribute to the storied 30-year old action franchise. Original cast members Walter Emanuel Jones and David Yost return in a new adventure that sees the team reunite to face a foe long thought defeated. As Rangers across the world are captured in order for their powers to be used as an energy source for the villain’s plan, the original Power Rangers team must once again save the world.
The 55-minute special was written by current Power Rangers TV head writers Becca Barnes and Alwyn Dale, who bring a modern sensibility to the classic franchise. While it may have originally been a kids show, this anniversary special knows exactly who its audience is. That’s not to say that kids won’t enjoy it, but this was clearly made with the long-time fan in mind. This is Power Rangers taken to the next level. No longer having to contend with Fox Kids/Disney/Nickelodeon standards & practices, this is a Power Rangers that freely eschews language like “destroy” and goes straight to “kill” instead. While the actors and their characters may have gotten older, the story sets out to prove that Power Rangers is a constant. Once you’re a Ranger, you’re always a Ranger, and the requirements and responsibilities of such a calling never change.
Throughout the special, we’re given hints as to what the OG Rangers have been up to since we last saw them, and those morsels will definitely leave you wanting more. While we’re introduced to the newest member of the PR family — Minh, daughter of original MMPR Yellow, Trini — this is more of a homecoming for characters both good and bad. We revisit old locations, like the Angel Grove Gym & Juice Bar, while also getting to check out new spins on old concepts, such as the new Command Center and RadBug 2.
Minh is a refreshing character in that she rights a wrong that was committed in the original series: Zordon, the Power Rangers’ mentor, is remembered as having recruited “teenagers with attitude;” however, he went on to choose the five most goody goody teens in the vicinity. Minh, however, is a teenager with attitude, which is actually redundant (the parents out there understand). She’s written like a real teenager, dealing with her situation the way that a teenager would.
While the 2017 Power Rangers theatrical release touched on this aspect of the franchise, it went too far into the teen stuff, and not enough into the hero angle. Based on how Minh comes across, it feels that they’ve struck a good balance between the two aspects, and it would be interesting to see how this plays out beyond this special. There a several nods to what has come before, while also positioning characters for future encounters, if needed. I suppose the future will depend on how well this one is received.
Once & Always feels like reconnecting with old friends, picking up where you left off. With Netflix and Hasbro working on a supposed reboot of the franchise, the future of this iteration of Power Rangers is unknown. However, what was once considered to be something of a “swan song” to the universe built by Mighty Morphin Power Rangers actually feels like a new beginning. Yes, it’s a reunion, but there’s definitely more of a “passing the torch” vibe than a finality to it. As a fan from day one, I couldn’t be more satisfied with what they’ve done, nor more excited for what’s to come.
May the Power protect you all, and be sure to check out Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always, streaming exclusively on Netflix!