It’s Morphin’ Time: Ranking the First 22 Seasons of Power Rangers

Power Rangers

Confession time: I’m a twenty-four year old man, and one of my biggest guilty pleasures is Power Rangers. Since I was a little baby child, I’ve been, for better or worse, a huge fan of these “teenagers with attitude,” and I’ve carried this love over into mu adulthood. Sure, the show isn’t quality television, and any viewers knows that there’s a lot of mediocrity that you’ll have to sit through before you can get to the good stuff, but it’s hard to deny how outrageously fun the series can be when you let yourself give in and enjoy the ride.

Power Rangers hype right now is as high as it’s been since the early 90s because of the upcoming film reboot and the acclaimed comic series by writer Kyle Higgins (Nightwing, C.O.W.L.), and the most recent season, Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge, has recently debuted on the series’ current home, Nickelodeon. Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly making my way through every incarnation of the Rangers, rewatching seasons with which I was familiar and watch a few that I missed for the first time, and now seems like the perfect time to attempt to rank the seasons from worst-to-best. I hope you’ve got some time to spare, because we’ve got twenty-two seasons to talk about.

Here we go:

(Note: There are a few things to keep in mind during this ranking. First, I’m not including Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge as we haven’t seen enough to judge it yet. Second, I’m including Mighty Morphin’ Alien Rangers in Season 3 of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers as it was really just an arc within that season that just so happened to have its own opening theme. Finally, I’m not including the “re-mastered” version of the first thirty or so episodes of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers that aired between seasons 17 and 18 as it was exactly the same as the original episodes with some new photoshopping and sound effects thrown in.

 

Power Rangers: Samurai

Power Rangers: Samurai

After Saban reacquired the series, any longtime fan knew that things weren’t going to be as they had been for the past few seasons (excluding the terrible decision of “remastering” some of the first season of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers). The growing darkness that had been present in Jungle Fury and RPM wouldn’t have any place in the series for the time being, and the result was Power Rangers: Samurai.

The story of Samurai deals with the return of the Nighlocks and their leader, Master Xandred, as they attempt to earn revenge for their defeat centuries earlier by powerful samurai warriors. To combat the Nighlocks, a new generation of Samurai Power Rangers must rise to end the threat. Led by Jayden, the Red Samurai Ranger, the new team grows and learns to work together, eventually being joined by Antonio, Jayden’s childhood friend, as the Gold Samurai Ranger.

…and that’s about it. As with all Nickelodeon Power Rangers series have been so far, Samurai is really just the first half of the story that would be continued a year later in Super Samurai. Because of this, there is simply no sense whatsoever of a conclusion, as things, more or less, just pause until the next season. But that lack of closure isn’t nearly the worst thing about Samurai, unfortunately. One of the largest issues with the season is how obvious it is that everything is almost a direct translation from the Japanese source material, and, even with small changes, it just doesn’t work for the story that’s being told (especially since Samurai is, for better or worse, a soft re-launch of the franchise). The acting, while not aided at all by the writing, is more wooden than the series has ever seen, with the only real dynamic range coming from Bulk, a returning character who appeared on the show for the first seven seasons, and Spike, the son of Bulk’s friend Skull. Even these two characters, though, are used terribly, rarely being involved even tangentially in an episode’s plot.

For me, though, the biggest flaw is how terrible the villains are. There are a lot of things that I can forgive with a season of Power Rangers, but one that I absolutely cannot is a bad villain. The Nighlocks and Xandred are given virtually zero motivation or characterization, and character development is non-existent. The only small saving grace is the side-villain Dekar, but even he is little more than a poorly done copy-and-paste of similar villains from the past.

The best part about the season? Antonio’s introduction is the most homoerotic moment in franchise history, and you really have to wonder if that was on purpose or just a side-effect of atrocious writing.

 

Power Rangers: Super Samurai

Power Rangers: Super Samurai

A direct continuation from Samurai, Power Rangers: Super Samurai picks up as Antonio is working on unlocking the Black Box that will allow the Samurai Rangers access to Super Samurai Mode. This is good for the Rangers, as Master Xandred and his Nighlocks have grown stronger than ever. Throughout the season, the six Samurai Rangers battle both Xandred and the returning Nighlock King Serrator, eventually defeating the Nighlocks once and for all with the help of Jayden’s secret sister, Lauren.

The best compliment that I can give Super Samurai is that it’s better than Samurai. How much better? Debatable. Entering the season with the cast already established (even though they never really got a strong introduction in Samurai) allows for actual character development, and it does wonders for the season’s enjoyment factor. In addition, the cast is allowed to actually act, and their characters feel more real than they ever did during their first season. The writing is slightly improved, but it’s still extremely obvious that there isn’t much of an attempt to separate the story from the Super Sentai source. Honestly, I think this particular cast and power set had a ton of untapped potential that was more or less ruined by the terrible quality of writing. The only saving grace in that particular department is Lauren’s introduction and story arc, which is arguably the best arc in either season by far. Lauren is a surprisingly interesting character with a strong story, and it’s an absolute blast to see a female Red Ranger leading a heroic team for the first time (the female A-Squad Ranger in S.P.D. doesn’t really qualify due to story reasons). On one hand, I’m glad that her appearance on the show was so brief, because it ensured she wouldn’t be ruined by terrible writing. On the other hand, I have to wonder if Samurai and Super Samurai could have been improved if she had gotten a little more focus.

As with the previous season, the use of villains is atrocious and unforgivable. Serrator is a nice (albeit temporary) change of pace from Master Xandred, but he still doesn’t even come close to the surprisingly solid villains that the franchise typically uses. As with before, Bulk and Spike are completely misused, but they do get to interact a little with the Rangers, at least (a small improvement over Samurai). The cameo by Skull in the end almost makes Bulk and Spike’s appearances worth it, though.

 

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Season 1

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season 1

I know what you’re thinking. “How in the world can anyone possibly list the first season of the show this close to the bottom?” Let me explain.

It’s impossible to argue that the first season of Power Rangers is what led to its massive popularity. It’s action-packed, the characters are shockingly likable, and it was overflowing with so much nineties pop culture that watching it now can fill anyone with a massive wave of nostalgia. The season set up the format that the rest of the series would follow (with modification and evolution, of course), and it began an undisputed era of “must-see-TV” for kids.

The premise is simple. After an evil being, Rita Repulsa, is released from captivity, she sets out to conquer Earth. To combat Rita’s evil, the noble extra-dimensional being Zordon and his robot assistant Alpha 5 recruit five “teenagers with attitude” from the city of Angel Grove (the central setting for the first six seasons of the series) to become the Power Rangers, defenders of the planet. Jason, Trini, Billy, Kimberly, and Zack use their new abilities to continuously repel the evil Rita and her minions, eventually adding Tommy, the bad-turned-good Green Ranger that quickly became a fan-favorite, to the team. The series proved so popular that its series finale, the episode “Doomsday,” was reworked to allow for a continuation (which would extend the series for over twenty years).

Even a lesser season of Power Rangers is a lot of fun, and this one is absolutely no exception. The problem with the season isn’t so much its concept as it is its execution. Power Rangers has been an Americanized adaptation of the Japanese Super Sentai since the very beginning, and it was always going to be a learning process to figure out the best way to actually do the adapting. The first season of the show, understandably, relied heavily on the source battle footage, and the show as a whole suffers for this. The cast is fun and likable, but they’re also incredibly shallow with little character development. This changes a little with the addition of Tommy to the team (in the “Green with Evil” arc that still remains one of the best stretches of episodes the series has ever produced), but the rest of the season is obnoxiously cliché with little attempt to grow. A lot of this can be blamed on the simple fact that nobody expected the show to become as popular as it did, and it’s true that this foundation needed to be in place before the series could improve upon itself. So, like I said earlier, the first season of Power Rangers is incredibly fun, but it’s one of the shallowest rides there is.

 

Power Rangers: Megaforce

Power Rangers: Megaforce

Samurai and Super Samurai, the first seasons produced by Saban since before the Disney acquisition, left a lot to be desired (to say the least). While not a massive improvement, it’s clear that producers tried to make things better with Megaforce.

In Power Rangers: Megaforce, the evil Warstar aliens begin a massive invasion on the Earth, and in order to combat this new threat, a new team of Megaforce Rangers is united by the being Gosei, a protector of the planet whose mentor was none other than Zordon himself. Together, the Megaforce Rangers, later joined by the Robo Knight, battle robots, toxic creatures, and more before a new threat arrives to threaten the Earth.

Megaforce makes a ton of improvements over Samurai and Super Samurai, and it really isn’t bad. It’s definitely not as good as what fans have become accustomed to, but, as I mentioned when talking about season one of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, even these lesser seasons are a lot of fun. For all intents and purposes, Megaforce feels like what MMPR would have been had it been made today. The mentor, Gosei, is very Zordon-like (and Zordon was even Gosei’s mentor), and he has an Alpha-esque robot sidekick. The main team gets plenty of chance for character development, and they really do seem like modern versions of the original (sans Tommy) team. The villains of the season aren’t much better than Samurai‘s Nighlocks, but the variety and knowledge that it’s leading up to something big makes the threat much more tolerable to the audience. Megaforce even gets its own “Ernie,” who, in this season, owns the local hangout for the team.

Nostalgia is a big reason for the improvement here, and it works a lot better than in the previous two seasons because you can clearly see the effort to improve. The writing is much better than before, and the cast, though nothing spectacular, really is fun to watch and get to know. Megaforce is, honestly, pretty equal to MMPR season one, but I give it the slight edge for being much better at using and blending the source Super Sentai footage than the original was.

 

Power Rangers: Mystic Force

Power Rangers: Mystic Force

A lot of Power Rangers fans are down on Mystic Force for understandable reasons, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it gets credit for. Changing up the formula a bit, Mystic Force revolves around five teenagers recruited by the sorceress Udonna who have been foretold to combat an evil Undead army that has been released on the world.

Mystic Force does a lot to try and set itself apart from previous seasons of the show, and it’s largely successful in this endeavor. The team of Rangers is the only one in the show’s history to have capes as a part of their suits, and it’s a visual distinction that ensures you won’t forget its style. The source of the Rangers’ power is also magic, separating from the mostly technological power that the majority of Ranger incarnations have. Additionally, in one of the most interesting changes, the Rangers don’t pilot their Zords from individual cockpits. Instead, the Rangers grow to an enormous size and become their Zords. A remarkable amount of depth is also given to Nick, the Red Mystic Ranger, giving the audience a chance to really understand everything about why the character is the way that he is.

The biggest flaw with Mystic Force actually ties into the development given to Nick. If you don’t like the Red Ranger, then you’re out of luck with this season. The season is often criticized over the fact that so much of the focus is placed on the Red Ranger. From a production perspective, this makes a lot of sense. The Super Sentai series from which Mystic Force is adapted places an equal amount of focus on the comparable character, so producers of Mystic Force didn’t have much of a chance to get around this. Because of this focus, none of the other Rangers get a proper amount of exploration or development. The enemies of the season are also unremarkable, and Mystic Force just never seems to click the way a season of Power Rangers should.

 

Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive

Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive

When bickering brothers Flurious and Moltor are released from imprisonment and attempt to retrieve the legendary Corona Aurora, it’s up to a new team of Power Rangers to collect the crown’s scattered jewels in order to stop the destruction of the world. To do this, the Rangers must travel the world, going to exotic locations in search of the jewels.

On paper, Operation Overdrive is an unusually original concept for a Power Rangers season. In many ways, the season feels like a Power Rangers version of Indiana Jones; new locations are explored (such as Atlantis and Egypt), a “treasure hunting” concept is used, and much of the action feels like it could actually take place in a version of our world. The producers really tried to do something original with the season, and it definitely shows when you watch it as a whole. The villains are much improved over the ones used in the previous season, and you can tell that more effort was made at developing the entire cast of characters. One of the most thought-provoking episodes of the entire Power Rangers franchise, “Things Not Said,” is also included in Operation Overdrive, and it proves to be a very welcome turn for the season’s Red Ranger, Mack. Operation Overdrive also marks the fifteenth anniversary of the franchise, and the achievement is celebrated with the two-part episode “Once a Rangers” that unites the Operation Overdrive Rangers with five of their predecessors, including fan-favorite character Adam Park (the second Mighty Morphin’ Black Ranger, the Green Zeo Ranger, and the first Green Turbo Ranger). The episodes also featured a continuation of the story of Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd, two of the most popular villains in the franchise, through their son Thrax.

Operation Overdrive‘s positives more than outweigh its negatives, but, as with any season of Power Rangers, the negatives are present. While the turn with Mack helps a lot, the team never feels as cohesive as a Power Rangers team should. Development is given to the characters, but there isn’t nearly enough meat to that development as there could be. In addition, many fans are very critical of the fact that the Rangers essentially quit during the “Once a Ranger” two-parter. With just a little more work behind-the-scenes, Operation Overdrive had the potential to be one of the most memorable incarnations of the show. Instead, it’s forced to be more forgettable than anyone would have liked.

 

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Season 2

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season 2

As popularity grew, Saban decided to produce a second season of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Unlike later seasons, MMPR continued into its new episodes with the same Rangers, same powers, and same cast. A new central villain, Lord Zedd, came onto the scene, banishing Rita once again, and the Rangers used new weapons and their new Thunderzords to combat Zedd’s evil.

As with the show’s first season, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers continued to be incredibly successful. Now that all of the characters had been established, character development was much more possible, and fans were able to learn much more about the Rangers that they had grown to know and love. Tommy, arguably the most popular character on the show, was also elevated to a higher position as he transitioned into the leader of the team upon losing his Green Ranger power and earning the power of the White Ranger.

The two biggest factors that made the second season such an improvement over the first are less reliance on stock footage and the cast change. As seasons of Super Sentai change their look every year, Power Rangers had less stock footage than ever before to use for the adaptation. In addition, the new White Ranger was adapted from a completely different team than that of the original Rangers, so any footage featuring all six Rangers together had to be filmed specifically for the show. While costing more than produce than the first season, this resulted in much more originality than was ever capable during the first go-around. The show also got to experience a nice change of pace as three original Rangers (Jason, Trini, and Zack) were replaced by three new characters (Rocky, Aisha, and Adam, respectively). While this was in reality done because of a dispute between the actors and producers, new characters coming onto the scene allowed a better chance at development than the other three were given in the first season, and this formula would become something much appreciated by fans. The wedding between Rita and Lord Zedd also provided a nice change of pace for the show’s villains, giving them a much greater complexity than ever before.

 

Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue

Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue

When an army of demons invades the city of Mariner Bay, five individuals are recruited by a government organization known as Lightspeed to save the world as the new Lightspeed Rescue Power Rangers. Operating out of an underwater Aquabase, the Lightspeed Rangers are eventually able to stop the demons, led by the evil Queen Bansheera, from destroying our world.

Lightspeed Rescue does a large number of things differently than any season of Power Rangers had ever done before. While the previous season had been a transitionary season, Lightspeed Rescue is the first incarnation of Power Rangers to be completely unrelated to what came before. As such, there were no appearances of the city of Angel Grove, no characters carried over (except for the annual Ranger team-up with the Lost Galaxy Rangers), and the Zordon-era was officially a thing of the past. Lightspeed Rescue was also the first time that the team of Rangers was made up of a group of adult professionals rather than students and teens (it’s arguable that Lost Galaxy also used all adults, but Lightspeed Rescue‘s distinction is in the fact that all of its members had careers). The season also debuted the very first American-exclusive Ranger, bringing in the Titanium Ranger not long after the premiere.

Lightspeed Rescue‘s biggest flaw is simply that it isn’t terribly exciting. While the changes to the formula were appreciated, nothing about the season felt very new. The one thing that could have was the addition of the Titanium Ranger, but the cost of producing so much new footage with him forced the producers to write him out and keep him on the sidelines for much of the season. The annual team-up episode has also been heavily criticized for relegating the returning Lost Galaxy characters to what was essentially a glorified cameo. Still, Lightspeed Rescue did provided some much needed change to the series, and some darker material was tackled than many fans give it credit for.

 

Power Rangers: Turbo

Power Rangers: Turbo

In a first for a Power Rangers season (and the only time it’s ever been done), Turbo began with Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, an in-continuity theatrical release that establishes the new season in a larger-than-normal way. In the film, the space pirate Divatox kidnaps the wizard Larigot and forces him to lead her to Maligore, a being of evil that she wishes to marry. To stop Divatox and save Larigot, the team of Zeo Rangers must take on new powers and embark on a new adventure. Tommy, Katharine, Tanya, and Adam are joined by their new Blue Ranger, Justin, after Rocky is injured. The Rangers are able to stop Divatox, and the season begins with her returning to Earth to take her revenge.

The biggest thing that sets Turbo apart from the seasons that came before it is its structure. Essentially, Turbo is split into two parts. For the first nineteen episodes, the team of Rangers (swapping Justin for Rocky) is the same as before, just like the show had done throughout the first four seasons. In the two-part episode “Passing the Torch,” however, the four veteran Rangers pass on their powers to a new team in order to explore their lives outside of the Power Rangers. At this point, the season becomes incredibly campy and over-the-top (which is somewhat understandable, given the source material), and the tone becomes lighter than ever before. Justin, the new Blue Ranger, is the first child to ever be given the power in the franchise, and a lot of the stories in the early episodes revolve around the elder Rangers helping him through his life. Afterward, the new Rangers are given ample focus, developing their characters adequately. Divatox, the main villain of the season, was also the most dynamic villain on the series yet, and the performances of both of her actresses were loved by fans.

The flaws of Turbo lie in the replacement of Zordon and the new team of Rangers. After the first arc of the season, Zordon and Alpha 5 leave Earth to return to their Zordon’s home planet of Eltar, and they are replaced by the being Demetria and Alpha 5’s successor, Alpha 6. Both characters quickly annoyed fans who didn’t believe them to be adequate replacements as the team’s mentor, and audiences longed for a return to the team form before. The new team of Rangers, too, proved to be a point of contention. Nothing was essentially wrong with the characters (although many still consider Justin to be one of the more annoying members of any Ranger team), but the transition from the old team to the new team was more abrupt than it could have been. The new Rangers also immediately knew everything they needed to know, and no growing pains were shown as they learned to use their new powers or work together. Because of the mid-season change, these characters wouldn’t become widely accepted by fans until their appearance in the show’s next incarnation a year later. Many also argue that Turbo campiness detracted from what the show had become during its evolution.

With all of that said, Turbo features an episode in which the Rangers get baked into a giant pizza. That alone makes the entire season worth it to me.

 

Power Rangers: S.P.D.

Power Rangers: S.P.D.

After the acquisition of the series by Disney, the Power Rangers franchise enjoyed a new string of popularity brought on by the creative changes and originality allowed without the cookie-cutter formula that previous seasons had more or less adhered to. The third Disney series proved to be the franchise’s most original yet as it fully took place in the future.

In a period of generally good relations between humans and non-humans, the galaxy is served by Space Patrol Delta, an intergalactic police force that serves as peacekeepers. An evil being, Grumm, returns to the galaxy, seemingly set on conquering the Earth, and the S.P.D. Rangers are dispatched to stop him. The team’s A-Squad is lost, however, and it’s up to the B-Squad Rangers to defend the planet in their place, working as hard as possible to stop the evil Emperor Grumm. Along the way, they’re joined in battle by their mentor and commander, Doggie Cruger; their lead scientist, Kat Manx; and the time-travelling entity known as Sam. Even without the A-Squad, this team of Rangers ends up being the largest in a single season, allowing for more excitement than ever before.

Power Rangers: S.P.D. started out in a big way with an incredibly likable cast that all received ample depth and exploration through a string of individually focused episodes, and fans almost immediately began calling it one of the best seasons to date. It’s true that the talent of each cast member was strong, and the writing, though still adapted from the source, remained as consistent as ever.

Near the middle of the season, however, things began falling apart as many episodes were noticeably used as filler, and overall plot progression slowed to a crawl. The episodes were still fun and the acting still strong, but most of the middle of the season could be removed without considerable change. The series was also criticized for its decision to have Sam, the Omega Ranger, be simply a ball of light rather than have a body, a decision that was often deemed lazy. The season more than redeemed itself in the end with the return of the A-Squad Rangers, though, and S.P.D remains one of the most successful experiments in Power Rangers history throughout its 20+ year run.

 

Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy

Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy

With the previous season intending to serve as a series finale, Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy had the unenviable task of continuing a franchise after its expiration. Because of this, it often gets more flack than it deserves, and I do feel it’s one of the more underrated seasons of the show.

Essentially a transitionary season, Lost Galaxy breaks away from Angel Grove as a massive population leaves the Earth to colonize a new world. Aboard the space station Terra Venture, our new team of Rangers battle the evil Trakeena and her father, Scorpious, as they travel into (and eventually out of) the titular Lost Galaxy. The main reason that Lost Galaxy is considered a season of transition is that while it begins the annual tradition of a new cast and setting away from Angel Grove, elements from the Zordon-era, such as the Delta Megaship and the return of Alpha 6, remain huge parts of the season. Lost Galaxy also includes a few appearances by Bulk, a fan-favorite character since the beginning of the franchise, and features Karone, the good personality of In Space‘s Astronema, taking up the mantle of Power Ranger after the death of a Lost Galaxy team member

That death, based around a sacrifice to save another, is one of the many reasons that I believe Lost Galaxy deserves a higher place in the minds of many fans that it often earns. I mentioned that the season had the unenviable task of continuing a franchise, but it also had the task of, for the first time, introducing the audience to a completely new team of Rangers from the outset (rather than midway through a season as all previous power transfers had been done). Another break from the norm was the use of sentient creatures as the team’s Zords, something that worked surprisingly well and would be repeated a few seasons later. Lost Galaxy also established (excluding the Alien Rangers/Zeo “crossover”) the tradition of having the previous season’s team join forces with the current team to fight a figure from the past (in Lost Galaxy, the Space Rangers teamed up with the Galaxy Rangers to defeat the Psycho Rangers once and for all). That team-up also led to the Pink Ranger’s sacrifice, one of the most powerful moments in franchise history. Sacrifice and death is a big theme to the season, tying into the story of the Magna Defender, the “sixth Ranger” of Lost Galaxy, as well.

 

Power Rangers: Super Megaforce

Power Rangers: Super Megaforce

Continuing the tradition set with Samurai, Power Rangers: Super Megaforce is the direct sequel to the previous season. Unlike the previous installments, though, Super Megaforce begins immediately after the conclusion of Megaforce, already creating a stronger narrative thread than Samurai had.

After the end of the previous season, the Megaforce Rangers are forced to deal with an invasion of the Armada, an incredibly powerful intergalactic army that comes to Earth under the command of Prince Vikar, the brother of Megaforce‘s primary antagonist, Vrak. While the Armada invades, Vrak (in his new cyborg body) goes into hiding while the Power Rangers attempt to repel the attackers. To stop them, the Rangers must access new forms that give them access to the powers of all of the Ranger teams that came before them. Armed with these “new” powers (and with the help of Orion, their new Sixth Ranger), the Megaforce Power Rangers are eventually able to destroy Vrak, Vikar, and the Armada in order to save their planet. The final battle with the Armada brings together all of the Ranger teams that came before, “led” by the original Green Ranger himself, Tommy Oliver.

I can’t believe I’m saying it, but Super Megaforce is pretty darn fun. If nothing else, the season is much better than it has any right to be. A massive improvement over the three Nickelodeon seasons that came before it, everything that makes Power Rangers what it is finally clicks in Super Megaforce. The acting, while nothing special, is finally up-to-par with what the series typically has, and the characters are finally given the chance to grow and develop. Troy’s character expresses true guilt over what happened to Robo Knight at the conclusion of the previous season, and the romantic connection explored between the Yellow and Black/Green Rangers harkens back to that between Tommy and Kimberly in the early days of the series. The villains of the Armada are nothing special, but Vrak becomes the first real threat in the renewed series upon his return in “Vrak is Back.” That storyline itself is one of the best featured in Super Megaforce, and it’s great getting to see real payoff for something built up over a season and a half. As expected, the final battle in “The Legendary Battle” is spectacular, and the extended edition of the episode stands among the best season finales in Power Rangers history.

Super Megaforce isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s so great to see things finally begin to turn around after the disappointment in the initial Nickelodeon seasons of the show.

 

Power Rangers: Jungle Fury

Power Rangers: Jungle Fury

Power Rangers: Jungle Fury is a season that shouldn’t have worked at all. In the middle of the season, the 2007-2008 Writers’ Strike took place, and a string of episodes had to be written by strikebreaking or non-union writers out of nowhere. When the strike finally ended, the season’s original writers were forced to figure out how to close out the season and properly wrap up the story while picking up where the interim writers left off. It shouldn’t have worked out.

Surprisingly, though, Jungle Fury is a blast.

Power Rangers: Jungle Fury tells the story of an ancient evil, guarded for thousands of years by the secretive Kung Fu clan “Order of the Claw,” accidentally being released. Three top members of the Order, Jarrod, Lily, and Theo, are chosen to defeat the evil, Dai Shi, but Jarrod is replace at the last minute by the cub member Casey after turning out to be a bad choice. Jarrod tries to take Dai Shi’s container on his own, but it accidentally opens up, allowing Dai Shi to take control of Jarrod’s body and killing the Order’s pseudo-leader, Master Mao. Mao’s spirit guides the three members to their new master, R.J., and he gives them access to the Jungle Fury Ranger powers. Casey, Lily, and Theo battle Dai Shi’s forces, along with his loyal minion Camille, and they are eventually joined in battle by R.J., stepping into the role of Wolf Ranger, and Dominic, R.J.’s old friend that takes on the Rhino Ranger powers. In the end, the Jungle Fury Rangers are able to save Jarrod and Camille, bringing them to the side of good before destroying Dai Shi once and for all.

Jungle Fury does a lot of interesting things, and one of these is being able to boast the most original Ranger suits on the series to-date. The most distinguishing factor on these suits is their lack of belt, but they also employ unique boots, gloves, and highly intricate helmets. Morphing for the Rangers is also unique (save for the Wolf Ranger’s wrist morpher), as the core three Jungle Fury Rangers use specialized sunglasses (something never before seen on the series). The Rhino Ranger, too, gets a very original morpher, using a sort of blade-like apparatus that doubles as his personal weapon. In addition to uniqueness in attire, Jungle Fury also features a hodgepodge team of Rangers. Similarly to Dino Thunder, the main Ranger team only numbers five at its peak. Supplementing the team, though, are three “Spirit Rangers” that can be called into battle when needed.

As is mostly typical with the Disney seasons of Power Rangers, the acting by the cast is admirable. Of particular note, Casey and R.J. get wonderful development (largely dealing with the concept of leadership), and the “comic relief” character of the season, Fran, is also used in a perfect way that keeps her part of the show without ever becoming annoying (as unfortunately happens a lot of the time). The villains of the season are largely unremarkable, but the story behind Jarrod’s character and his progression is interesting enough to keep you somewhat invested.

Jungle Fury‘s biggest flaw is simply the fact that it never really makes the effort to stand out. Sixteen seasons into Power Rangers, it’s pretty hard to create something wholly original (a fact that works in the favor of the season that would follow Jungle Fury). While the acting, as I already mentioned, is great for the material, none of the characters are really anything that we haven’t seen before. R.J. is one of my favorite things about the season, but a lot of his story is very analogous to that of Merrick from Wild Force (even going so far as to having R.J. go into a werewolf-like state before becoming a Ranger). Dominic, too, is given surprisingly little to do beyond his first arc, and it’s only in the end that he finally has a real purpose again. A lot of this is quite possibly due to, as I discussed in the beginning, the fact that the writing team was all over the place because of the strike, so it’s interesting to imagine if the plot progression and development could have been improved had that not happened.

 

Power Rangers: Wild Force

Power Rangers: Wild Force

Power Rangers: Wild Force was an odd time for the franchise. Not only had the series reached its tenth anniversary, but distribution for the series was switching from Fox to ABC. Also during this time, it was expected that Wild Force (as with in Space a few years earlier) would mark the end of the Power Rangers franchise, something noticeable by the title of the season finale. Fortunately, the series would continue and prosper under its new ownership.

The reason for mentioning all of that is because, for a wide variety of reasons, Wild Force could have very easily been a forgettable failure in the franchise, but, instead, it stands as one of the most fun. Power Rangers: Wild Force follows a team of Wild Force Rangers as they team with their Wild Zord partners from the floating Animarium paradise to fight the revitalized presence of the evil Orgs on Earth. Marked by the “return” of the Master Org, the Rangers and their mentor, the Princess Shayla, unite as the newest guardians of the Earth. Following the precedent set in previous seasons, Wild Force features a team-up with the widely loved Time Force Rangers in what are often considered the best team-up episodes in franchise history that serves as a proper epilogue to the very popular Power Rangers: Time Force. Additionally, in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Power Rangers, almost all of the Red Rangers in the history of the series unite in the “Forever Red” episode to destroy the remnants of the evil Machine Empire (from Power Rangers Zeo) once and for all. Both team-ups during Wild Force (aside from some questionable series continuity present in “Forever Red”) have become some of the favorite episodes in the series for many fans.

Wild Force has plenty of good things going for it, but one of the most interesting is the deal with its use of Zords and Megazords. As with Lost Galaxy, Wild Force uses sentient Zords that live on the Animarium and represent many different species from the animal kingdom. Each of the Wild Force Rangers eventually partners with two or three of these Wild Zords, and the large number of Wild Zords featured in the season allows for a larger variety of Megazords than ever before, resulting in a fun and constantly changing experience. Another great aspect of Wild Force is its sixth Ranger, the Lunar Wolf Ranger. As with many other “sixth Rangers,” the Lunar Wolf Ranger starts out as a mysterious villain with much more than meets the eye. The story of this Ranger and his connection to the ancient Duke Org Zen-Aku remains consistently engaging and a recurring storyline throughout the season. Power Rangers is usually successful when it allows itself to dive into its characters, and its use of Merrick, the Lunar Wolf Ranger, feeds well into the season’s success. The season also tackles some pretty dark and heavy subject matter concerning the nature of humanity through its exploration of the Master Org and his backstory and misguided motivation, and the final payoff (which was only allowed after the acquisition of the series by Disney) is among the best throughout the first ten seasons of the show.

 

Power Rangers: Zeo

Power Rangers: Zeo

After three seasons of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, the producers were forced to deal with a few distressing things. For one, while still strong, ratings for the series had begun to slide far from where they had been at the peak. For another, production cost on the series had grown exponentially due to less and less ability to use stock footage from the Super Sentai series, so cost-cutting had to be done somehow. Finally, toy sales had begun to fall drastically (there are only so many ways you can release the same action figure and still expect it to sell well). Because of all these factors, Saban finally decided to begin embracing the formula of its parent series and change up Ranger powers. First up? Power Rangers: Zeo.

Following directly from the “Zeo Quest” arc at the end of the previous season, our five Power Rangers (with Aisha passing her powers on to Tanya and Billy shifting into a mentor-type role) receive a new power set in order to combat the evil Machine Empire, a dastardly race of machines that have even scared Rita and Lord Zedd into hiding. With the new powers come new weapons, new abilities, and a brand new Command Chamber (replacing the destroyed Command Center that had served as the central Ranger hub for three seasons). Later on, the series would see the return of Jason, the original Red Ranger, as he took on the Gold Ranger powers for a time while their true owner, Trey of Triforia, regained his full strength. The season would also mark the eventual departure of Billy, the longest tenured character remaining, as he left Earth to be with his new love on Aquitar, home of the Alien Rangers.

Zeo‘s greatest accomplishment was its fantastic world-building, establishing more species, dimensions, organizations, planets, and mythology than ever before. The emergence of the Machine Empire onto the scene subtly introduced the idea that there’s an entire organization of evil somewhere in the universe, and this idea would carry the series through to the end of the Zordon-era a few years later. The Zeo Rangers would also prove to be one of the most respected teams throughout the different incarnations, with its members (save Rocky) carrying over into the next season and the eventual returns of both Tommy and Adam to Ranger duties (in various forms). The season never got very dark, but it balanced the line between serious and campy in an entirely respectable way.

 

Power Rangers: Dino Charge

Power Rangers: Dino Charge

Power Rangers: Super Megaforce had a huge ending, and the change in seasons saw the return of fan-favorite producer Judd Lynn back to the series to reinvigorate it even further. The result was the best Nickelodeon season of Power Rangers so far.

65 million years ago, the intergalactic bounty hunter Sledge traveled to Earth in pursuit of the Energems, immensely powerful and highly-sought after items protected by a being known as Keeper. To keep the stones from Sledge, Keeper, the guardian of the Energems, entrusted them to ten dinosaurs for safe-keeping as Sledge was blasted off into space. In the present day, Sledge returns once again to try and take the Energems for himself, but the Earth is now protected by the Dino Charge Power Rangers that have bonded with the stones. Throughout the season, the team of Rangers (growing from five to six to seven to even eight) battle Sledge and his hoard of intergalactic criminals as they attempt to reunite all of the Energems before he gets a chance. In the end, the Rangers are able to defeat Sledge once and for all, but a new threat looms to fill Sledge’s place as the season ends with two Energems remaining unaccounted for.

There’s no primary reason that Dino Charge is so high up on this ranking, but it’s impossible to have it any lower. For some reason, everything just seems to work. Dino Charge is what Power Rangers is supposed to be. It’s fun, but it takes itself seriously when it needs to. There’s an overarching story that allows itself to be frequently paused for character exploration and development. There are stakes that start out relatively small before growing as the season’s main threat rises. Everything that makes Power Rangers what it is is present in Dino Charge.

The strongest selling point for Dino Charge (as with many of the show’s better seasons) is the cast. The entire cast is strong, and the additions throughout the season are entirely able to hold their own. The writers (probably because of Lynn’s return) also aren’t at all afraid of exploring what makes each of these characters tick, and we’re given much more development in a single season here than in either of the “combo-seasons” that Nickelodeon aired before. In addition, Dino Charge shows that it’s willing to be different when necessary. The first episode of the season, for example, only features two morphed Rangers, saving the other three for later on. The show wants us to get to know a couple of characters at a time and start forming attachments before throwing the rest of the cast on us. Because of this, it allows us to really connect with these Rangers moreso than Samurai or Megaforce ever did. The primary antagonist of the season is nothing special, but Sledge does hold his own throughout. It may have taken a while, but Nickelodeon seems to really be starting to understand what it takes to make a great Power Rangers season.

 

Power Rangers in Space

Power Rangers in Space

While elements of serialization existed in the series before (particularly with the long-running arcs during the third season of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers), the first time that Power Rangers fully embraced serialization (something that, for the most part, would continue throughout the rest of its run) was with Power Rangers in Space. Structured as the final end to the Power Rangers series, Power Rangers in Space had our Turbo Rangers (minus Justin, although he would return for an epilogue during the season), their powers freshly destroyed by Divatox, blasting off into space in order to save Zordon from total destruction. They manage to meet up with Andros, the extraterrestrial human Red Space Ranger, and the new team of Space Rangers travel across the universe to find the former mentor, fighting against the evil Astronema and Dark Specter the entire time.

If Power Rangers: Zeo did a lot of world-building, Power Rangers in Space did a lot of universe-building. Throughout the season, the Rangers traveled through space to many different worlds in order to accomplish their goal, but they still managed to find time to return to Angel Grove when needed. Serialization was the biggest accomplishment of the season, running a single, central plotline throughout the entire run. Power Rangers in Space is also acclaimed for its use of a multi-faceted villain whose own personal story would prove integral to the season as a whole. Themes of loss, family, and reunion were central to Power Rangers in Space, and all were tied together with the story of the season’s sixth Ranger, Zhane. As mentioned earlier, Power Rangers in Space provided a proper ending to Justin’s story after his abrupt departure at the end of Turbo, and we even got to see the return of fan-favorite Adam as he retook the mantle of Black Mighty Morphin’ Ranger to help his successor, Carlos, regain his own confidence after a botched mission.

Power Rangers in Space tied up most loose ends that had been left open throughout the series, including the fates of Rita, Lord Zedd, and all of the other primary villains that the Power Rangers had battled throughout the show’s then-six seasons. The season finale, “Countdown to Destruction,” was very much intended to serve as a series finale for the franchise, but Power Rangers in Space proved to be so popular and so well-received by fans that there was really no choice but to continue the series in a brand new way.

 

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Season 3

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Season 3 (Including Mighty Morphin’ Alien Rangers)

While without a doubt a full season of the series, the final incarnation of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers largely served as a transitionary season of its own. The season saw the Rangers carry over their fight with the recently wedded Rita and Lord Zedd (and, later, Rita’s father, Master Vile), and the danger is greater than ever before and the couple are much more of a threat than they had each been individually.

To begin the season, the Rangers are forced to seek out new powers as their old ones are rendered useless by their current threat. They eventually gain the new Ninja Powers, allowing them to use a new style of combat never seen before. While their classic suits would still be used whenever the Rangers completely morphed, the Ninja Powers were used in a way that began to get the audience used to the changes that would be coming up very soon in Power Rangers: Zeo. The season also featured the first instance of heavy serialization with long-running arcs that would see the departure of original Pink Ranger Kimberly and the emergence of her successor, Katharine. This serialization proved to be very popular with fans, and it would become one of the distinguishing aspects of later seasons.

For better or worse, the third season of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers relied the least on stock footage than either of the seasons before, and the result was a drastic increase in quality. When you think back to your childhood and remember how much you loved Power Rangers, chances are really good that the episodes you’re thinking of are from this season.

The final part of the season showed the destruction of the Rangers’ Power Coins and their reversion to children. In order to regain their powers and return to their normal ages, the five Rangers (save Billy, who had managed to revert himself back already) head out on the Zeo Quest, a journey into their pasts that would help them find the legendary Zeo Crystals. During this time, the Alien Rangers of Aquitar were brought to Earth as its primary source of defense, and these two storylines coexisted during the Mighty Morphin’ Alien Rangers “mini-season” that took place during the final ten episodes of the season.

Mighty Morphin' Alien Rangers

 

Power Rangers: RPM

Power Rangers: RPM

After the ending of Power Rangers: Jungle Fury, the franchise looked to be at its end after one final entry (which seems to be a pretty common occurrence for this show). That entry would come in the form of Power Rangers: RPM, the season that would break from the norm more than ever before.

Set in the “not-too-distant future,” Power Rangers: RPM presents a post-apocalyptic Earth that has been almost entirely conquered by the Venjix Computer Network, a sinister virus that has attempted to lay ruin to the planet. Humanity has retreated to the domed city of Corinth, their last refuge from the virus. Here in Corith, the RPM Rangers battle against Venjix and its army of evil robotic soldiers. Unlike every season before and after RPM, this particular season is set in an alternate universe outside of the continuity of Power Rangers (a distinction furthered through subtle changes to canon, such as the Morphing Grid being known as the “Bio-Field”), a fact that would be confirmed as canon during the “crossover” episode of Power Rangers: Samurai a few years later. As if an alternate universe weren’t enough to set RPM apart from all other Power Rangers entries, the tone of the season is completely different.

RPM is pretty dark, guys.

The post-apocalyptic world feels oddly similar to that of Mad Max: Fury Road, and the season’s executive producer has said on record that The Road Warrior was a big inspiration for the evolution of the world. The “main” character who receives much of the season’s focus is Dillon, the Black RPM Ranger, whose backstory and heartbreak is revealed slowly. Dillon is very much an homage to the titular character from the Mad Max franchise, and parallels to the films can be drawn at almost every turn. The season also tackles some incredibly heavy subject matter, and it’s aided by the phenomenal character development present throughout. Every RPM Ranger has his or her own tale to tell that’s full of sadness and obstacles that they must overcome, and the dynamic between the characters is among the best that the series has ever offered. All of this darkness and depth is a huge contrast to the fact that the source material for RPM is among the lightest and campiest that Super Sentai has ever had, so the clever adaptation and use of that material is extremely commendable. RPM takes a lot of risks (which makes sense since this was nearly the show’s final season), and it’s incredibly how well they all pay off.

Plus, Rose McIver of iZombie fame plays RPM‘s Yellow Ranger, Summer. That alone should be enough to give the season a shot.

 

Power Rangers: Dino Thunder

Power Rangers: Dino Thunder

In more ways than one, Power Rangers: Dino Thunder was a return to the franchise’s roots. After the evil Mesogog, along with his assistants Zeltrax and Elsa, begins his plans to revert the world to the time of the dinosaurs, three teenagers from a local high school are “chosen” to take on dino-powers as the Dino Thunder Power Rangers. Connor, the athlete, is filled with super speed as the leader of the team; Kira, the artist, gains the powers of a supersonic shriek; Ethan, the computer geek, gains powerful armor resembling the scales of a dinosaur. The Rangers are aided (and soon joined) by their teacher, Dr. Tommy Oliver (arguably the most popular Power Ranger in series history that appeared as a regular for the first six seasons of the show). With Tommy’s help, the Dino Thunder Power Rangers are able to defeat Mesogog once and for all, but only after gaining the help of the evil-turned-good White Ranger, Trent.

Other than adding Tommy back to the cast, Dino Thunder isn’t very special on paper. The success of Dino Thunder doesn’t come from its formula as much as it comes from the way it implements the formula. For lack of a better word, Dino Thunder is just a ton of fun. The writing for the season is among the best it’s ever been, the action is as strong as it was during the show’s peak seasons of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and the actors on the cast imbue their characters with real personalities that allow emotion and true character development to shine through. Dino Thunder‘s team of Rangers is also smaller than usual, allowing for more time to be spent getting to know the individuals. Tommy has already been established perfectly, since he appeared on the show for so long earlier, so Connor, Ethan, and Kira are able to be fully fleshed out before any story time is taken away for the plot surrounding the White Ranger. Even the villains are given adequate depth, and Mesogog’s true identity and connection to the Rangers is a great storyline that continues adding on layers to the characters.

Dino Thunder also brings back the annual team-up episodes (absent in the previous season because of the acquisition by Disney), and the two-parter uniting the Dino Thunder Rangers with the Ninja Storm Rangers rank among the best episodes of the already strong season. The pacing and plotting of the thirty-eight episodes that make up Dino Thunder is perfectly deliberate, and the end of the season makes you feel that true development happened during the characters’ time as Power Rangers.

And, honestly, having Tommy work with a team of dinosaur-related Power Rangers has to kick anyone’s nostalgia factor into high-gear.

 

Power Rangers: Time Force

Power Rangers: Time Force

I’ll be honest, it was incredibly difficult for me to pick between these final two seasons. For completely different reasons, both have ample reason to be considered the “best” season of Power Rangers, but I finally broke down and made a decision. Even though I don’t have them listed as a tie, though, both Time Force and the top choice are pretty interchangeable for that final pick.

Beginning in the year 3000, Power Rangers: Time Force shows a team of terrestrial police, known as Time Force (similar in many ways to Space Patrol Delta in Power Rangers S.P.D.), that patrol the timeline in order to stop crime in a mostly-peaceful world. I say “mostly” because that peace is disrupted by Ransik, a mutated human bent on exacting revenge on a society that he feels has turned from him. After a trial by jury, Ransik is freed from captivity by his daughter, Nadira, and they steal a time ship full of cryogenically frozen prisoners that they take to the year 2001, attempting to conquer the planet years before Time Force even exists. During his escape, Ransik nearly kills Alex, the Red Time Force Ranger from the year 3000, and a small team of officers, including Alex’s fiancé Jen, follow the mutant into the past in order to bring him to justice. In the past, the team encounter Alex’s distant relative, Wesley Collins, who is able to unlock their morphers that allow the team to become the Time Force Power Rangers. Through the course of the season, the Time Force Rangers, occasionally aided by the Quantum Ranger, defeat and capture every prisoner that Ransik managed to bring with him to the past, eventually bringing the criminal to justice and returning to their own time (but not before Wes and Jen are able to confess their love for each other).

Plenty of “big” themes are present in Time Force, with the most important being the concept of destiny. Throughout the season, ever character (but Wes in particular) has to face their own destiny and make choices, essentially taking their destinies into their own hands. This concept of destiny with Wes is played out extremely well both through the relationship that he has with his father and the conflict between he and Alex after the former (or future?) Red Ranger attempts to return to his position on the team. Even the ending of the season is dependent on destiny as it is up to Ransik to make the choice to take responsibility for the atrocities that he has caused.

In addition to destiny, Time Force tackles more mature concepts than the show typically employs, including death (as mentioned above), racism (between humans and mutants), and characters that are neither good nor bad (such as, for most of the season, Eric, the Quantum Ranger). The series tackles these serious concepts with an appropriate level of maturity, but it still manages to embrace the camp and fun for which Power Rangers is known. The season, story, and cast proved to be so popular with fans that Saban heavily considered bringing them back for a second run (something that hadn’t been done since the ending of the Zordon-era). While that continuation ultimately didn’t happen, the characters (particular Wes and Jen) were given proper closure in a team-up episode with their successors that served as an epilogue to the story of Time Force.

 

Power Rangers: Ninja Storm

Power Rangers: Ninja Storm

Having Power Rangers: Ninja Storm at the top of the list is probably a controversial choice, but I promise that there is a method to my madness.

After the acquisition of the franchise by Disney, production on Power Rangers shifted completely. The filming location was moved to New Zealand, the “quality” of the material was improved, and changes to teams for sake of visual continuity were no longer required. Because of this, plenty of things are different in Ninja Storm than they were in the ten seasons that came before, and the changes would structure the series until the franchise was eventually sold again.

Set in the city of Blue Bay Harbor, Power Rangers: Ninja Storm begins with the evil Lothor returning to Earth and kidnapping all of the students from the secret ninja academies around the world. All of the students, that is, except for Shane, Tori, and Dustin, members of the Wind Ninja Academy that were perpetually late to class. When the three Wind Ninjas make it to school, they find that the only people remaining are their Sensei, who has been turned into a guinea pig, and his son, Cam. Destiny has foretold that these three students will become the Wind Power Rangers, and Sensei grants them their new powers by giving them their Wind Morphers. With Cam serving as their technical genius, the Wind Rangers begin a yearlong battle with Lothor and his army of evil space ninjas. Eventually, the Wind Rangers are joined by the Thunder Rangers, Blake and Hunter, after revealing to them the truth of Lothor’s actions, and Cam takes on the powers of the Green Samurai Ranger after a trip into his past. In the end, the six Ninja Power Rangers are able to seal Lothor in the Abyss of Evil (analogous to Hell) and return the ninjas of the world back to their homes.

Power Rangers: Ninja Storm

I mentioned that changes were allowed to the formula beginning in Ninja Storm, and the most obvious of these is the fact that the season begins with only three Power Rangers instead of the typical five (this would be repeated the following season and again a few years later for Jungle Fury). In addition to the more limited number, though the full force of six Rangers would be in place by the end of the season, Ninja Storm also introduced the first male Yellow Ranger and the first female Blue Ranger, colors that had previously been exclusive to the opposite genders. This team of Power Rangers is also unique in the fact that there are three distinct sources for each of their powers (Wind, Thunder, and Samurai). The season is also the first to give each of its core Rangers a special power (in Ninja Storm, these powers are related to the different areas of Wind Ninja specialization), a trend that would continue off-and-on in future seasons. All of these changes to the stale formula that Power Rangers had used for ten years allowed for a renewed interest in the series for older fans and a new type of introduction for newer ones.

There are many reasons that I could give for why I believe Power Rangers: Ninja Storm is the “best” season of the show, but the only one that truly matters is its perfect adherence to the true nature of Power Rangers. When you watch this show, you want to have fun. I appreciate the maturity of something like Time Force just as much as the next person, but the real purpose of Power Rangers is to have fun. Moreso than any other season, Power Rangers: Ninja Storm accomplishes this task in a wonderfully admirable way. Its embracement of Super Sentai‘s camp is much more refined than the attempt years earlier by Power Rangers: Turbo, and proper weight is given to developing the characters with rich depth even with this lighthearted story. The season also boasts the most fun and fun to watch villain in the franchise’s history in Lothor, and his entire crew of evil space ninjas never feel out of place in the world that’s built with the season. It’s entirely possible to argue that the subjective “quality” of one season or another is better or worse than that of Ninja Storm, but at no point before or after this season have I ever had nearly as much fun with this series that I’ve loved throughout my entire life.

So, there’s my ranking of the first 22 seasons of Power Rangers. What do you think? What would you have different? Let us know all of your Ranger-related thoughts in the comments down below!

 


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