Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Power Rangers Samurai Episode Commentary #2

Episode 2: Origins Part 2
Alex Heartman as Jayden/Red Samurai Ranger
Najee De-Tiege as Kevin/Blue Samurai Ranger
Erika Fong as Mia/Pink Samurai Ranger
Hector David Jr. as Mike/Green Samurai Ranger
Brittany Anne Pirtle as Emily/Yellow Samurai Ranger
Paul Schrier as Farkas "Bulk" Bulkmeier
Felix Ryan as Spike Skullovitch
Rene Naufahu as Mentor Ji
Written by Jill Donnellan and James W. Bates
Japanese episode written by Yasuko Kobayashi
Directed by Peter Salmon

So here we are then, the second episode (technically) of Power Rangers Samurai. Building on the foundations of the first part we start to get to know our new team of spandex clad Samurai warriors. The episode kicks off with our young heroes practising the use of their Samurai symbols (you know the ones that look really Japanese-y). This light hearted scene really gives you the measure of these characters. Jayden is the swot quick to impress his non-Japanese mentor with his impressive brush strokes, Mike’s the cheeky slacker that doesn’t work hard enough, and Kevin can’t act. The girls are both perfectly competent at drawing symbols and in the sexually progressive world of Power Rangers that’s probably the best they can hope for.

It’s business as usual for Master Xandred and the Nighloks. It’s all about flooding the Sanzu River. Octaroo has been doing his reading and discovered that making bad things happen up on Earth will help raise the water level. Luckily Xandred has a monster of the week to help him achieve this aim. This time it’s Scorpionic who is doomed to failure. He’s a pretty menacing looking chap but I’m relatively sure that by the end of the episode he’ll have been crushed by the Megazord so I’m trying not to get too attached.

Back with our trusty Samurais we learn that Kevin is incredibly dedicated to training but unfortunately that training doesn’t stop him getting his arse kicked by Mike. Perhaps if Mia hadn’t interrupted them Mike could have knocked some acting ability into dear old Kev but alas not. Mia’s worried about Emily, she’s gone missing and she’s new to the big city. Whilst Kevin, Mike and Mia search for Emily we are introduced to this season’s comic relief. That’s right Bulk is back! Paul Schrier is a true Power Rangers Super Legend having appeared in more installments of the Power Rangers franchise than any other actor. Bulk developed from school bully to buffoon to junior police officer to chimpanzee to scientist assistant and a few other things in between during his original run. So which Bulk is it we’re getting in Samurai? Well Bulk’s not getting any younger so surely he’s now a fully mature adult? Nope. He’s back to being a disaster area but this time round there’s no principal who has a wig that Bulk can knock off episode after episode. But fear not loyal viewer, the “writers” at Power Rangers know how to squeeze out the comedy goodness from the legendary Bulk. He’s gonna get something squirted in face each week! This is so monumentally funny I think we will have to run a regular update on just how many times this series he gets his face pasted in gunk. So what’s Bulk up to now? Well he’s been entrusted with the mentorship of his best friend’s son, Spike. This pair of characters has had Power Rangers fans scratching their heads. How did Bulk get back from space? How does Skull have a son who looks like he’s pushing twenty when last time we saw him there was no sign of a potential mother let a lot a sprog? How is Spike so old when he would have had to have been born during the classic MMPR series? Was Skull an underage father? And is he a dead beat dad happy to give up his only son to his incompetent, clumsy best friend? Paul Schrier recently answered one of these questions, suggesting that Spike is in fact 9 years old which makes things a whole lot weirder. Is the return of Bulk and the attempt to recapture the glory of Bulk and Skull a good idea? Personally I was very happy to see Bulk back, and Felix Ryan does an impressive job of channelling Jason Narvy, although I can see him starting to grate after a while.

Just where is Emily? Well quite frankly I don’t care. Her selfish absence has given Kevin yet another line to murder in the way that only he and his dad can. The heartfelt conversation between Mia and Kevin about their Samurai training is vomit inducing. She bleats on about finding her “Prince Charming” because that’s all a girl needs to be happy right? Kevin is about as convincing as Hitler wishing the Jews a happy Hanukkah with his rousing speech about giving up his swimming dream. Once more these scenes are only watchable because of Mike who is by far the most enjoyable of the current crop of Rangers. Luckily the gang track down Emily but this, unfortunately, leads to Kevin speaking again but we do get to learn a bit more about Emily. Apparently she had to take on the mantle of a Samurai Ranger due to her sister being too ill to take do it to herself, oh and she’s very good at playing the flute (which I admit made me snigger like a naughty school boy). Back to Bulk and Spike and we learn that Bulk is going to train Spike to be a Samurai. Makes perfect sense. Bulk has history with the Power Rangers. Never figured out who they were despite them always wearing the same colour as their Ranger suits all the time but whatever. This episode Bulk gets squirted in the face with tomato sauce (ketchup). It will be interesting to see how they develop this hilarious concept in future episodes.

Number of times Bulk has been squirted in the face this season: 1

The alarm has gone off, Nighloks are on the rampage and it’s down to the Rangers to take them down. There is a worrying moment where the camera zooms into Jayden and I worry he’s broken but fear not they’ve changed the batteries and he’s back in action as they transform into Ranger form. We get to watch them transform individually today which I imagine is to burn down some run time. The fight is entertaining enough and we get to see some cool colour coordinated weapons and hear yet more cheesy dialogue. Emily balls up things right up by hitting Jayden with her yellow whatsit thingy which sees the Rangers defeated by the monster of the week, for the time being at least. There’s a girl that needs saving and Jayden is the man to do it and luckily he gives us a running commentary on the situation in case we can’t follow the complex plot. Everyone is impressed by Jayden and his refusal to give up. At least I assume everyone’s impressed; Kevin pulls a face I can’t quite comprehend, he’s either impressed or passing a difficult stool. Anyway the team manage to pull together and take down Syphilis or whatever he’s called. And we all know what that means…

Out come the zords and those dreadful shoulder pads. This time we’re gonna need a zord combination to take down this dude. Queue a joke about Kevin being shit at putting a Megazord together which is no surprise at all. I do like the Samurai Megazord- I have one sitting on my shelf- and it’s pretty cool to see the “real” thing in action. I do feel the team forgive Kevin far too easily for his immense stupidity and the line “no worries Kev” made me vomit a little. The Megazord gets to hit the monster of the week with its big sword for a few minutes before he starts cheating and calls out some giant Moogers. The bastard. Luckily Moogers are just as useless when they’ve been supersized and the Megazord makes light work of them. Then it’s a bit of sword play to take down the monster of the week and the Rangers reign supreme once again. But before the end of the episode there’s still time for Kevin to make Daniel Radcliffe look like he’s Oscar winning material. Ji teases me by arriving with a big stick I hope he’s going to use to beat Kevin with, but no such luck. But we do get to see Mike doing pulling some radical dance moves (do kids still say radical did they ever?).

Two episodes in and I’m starting to warm to the team. Except Kevin. I’ve decided to bring in a new scale to help rate my reviews. I’m going to rate the acting level by using the Kevin’s Dad scale. One Kevin’s Dad is a good standard of acting and ten Kevin’s Dad is an appalling level of acting. So without further delay here’s today’s episodes score:

It’s good to see Bulk back and he’s as good an actor as ever he was, and Spike does a pretty good job of imitating Jason Narvy’s laugh from the original series. Mike is pretty convincing as a slacker and Mentor Ji is a good enough actor for me, but the rest of the team really drag down the acting standards. Especially bad was the cringe-worthy exchange between Mia and Kevin as they searched for Emily. Emily herself just seems so happily dim it’s hard not to like her. Hopefully the acting standards will improve but after nearly twenty years it seems highly unlikely.

Overall I enjoyed the two part origin story of this latest batch of Rangers. Although they lack the depth and characterisation of their Japanese counterparts, Power Rangers Samurai is entertaining enough. I don’t have it in me to hate it, not even Kevin or his dad (who I’m hoping will return to wow us with his acting chops or perhaps get a spin off series where he shouts at the camera for 25 minutes).

Next time: The Team Unites

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