Monthly Archives: April 2011

Episode Review: Test Of The Leader

Article By: Alex J. Rosolowsky
EDITORIAL

Test of the Leader can be summed up with one sentence: Now that is how you do a Power Rangers episode! In fact, I’m going to go as far as to say that Test of the Leader is the best episode of Power Rangers Samurai that we’ve seen so far, and one of the best that the series has to offer as a whole; I’d say that it’s just as good as, if not better then my other favorite from this season, Sticks & Stones. You might be wondering what makes Test of the Leader such an amazing episode in my eyes, and it’s actually several things, which I will touch on below.

First, let’s start with Bulk and Spike, and how they were portrayed in “Leader.” Bulk and Spike are comic relief characters, and as comic relief characters, they were absolutely hilarious this week. More importantly however, they interacted with the Rangers; we got to see Bulk and Spike in the same battle that the Rangers were in. The end result was an episode that felt like Bulk and Spike belonged, rather then one where it felt like they disrupted the action. Even more importantly, it’s finally been established that Spike has a crush on the Pink Ranger, which is supposed to be a significant part of his character, and something that he has in common with his father, Skull. While I’d have preferred to have seen the crush explained a little sooner, it was definitely worth the wait, and Schrier and Ryan pull off their characters flawlessly.

The next thing that really impressed me was the overall plot of Test of the Leader. There are actually two story arcs in this episode, one for the heroes, and one for the villains, and that really makes the scope of this episode feel larger then previous episodes. The villain arc can be summed up as follows: Deker dupes Master Xandred into letting him go after the Red Ranger, the only one who can seal him (Xandred) in the netherworld. Likewise, the hero arc can be summed up as: Jayden discovers he’s the only one who can seal Master Xandred in the netherworld, and must now convince his team that they are his equals, not his subordinates. The two plots intersect from time to time, and that’s when we see traditional conflict, and the end result is a highly enjoyable episode.

I have to be honest, prior to “Leader,” I wasn’t really sure what to make of Jayden, but after the episode, I have to say that I’m really starting to like him. This is a character that basically says “I’m not your superior, I’m not more special then you, stay the course,” and he and the show’s plot are the better for it. Alex Heartman’s performance was excellent, and the tension among the Rangers really showed through as a result of it. At the same time, Rick Medina’s performance as Deker continues to be top-notch. Mr. Medina portrays a potentially lethal Deker, but still maintains the character’s usual air of mystery. The minor clash between Deker and Jayden was a good lead into the next episode, and it makes me even more eager to see where Samurai will go from here. I think it’s safe to say that Deker isn’t a Nighlok, especially after his line, “I’m Deker, nothing more, nothing less,” which makes me hope that we find out just what, or who Deker is, besides a cursed and/or rogue warrior.

Moving onto the technical end of things, Test of the Leader delivers as usual. We have yet another amazing night scene, (even though it was lifted from Sentai,) to add to the already amazing list of night scenes, an excellent use of weather, and the usual top-tier cinematography that I’ve come to expect from Power Rangers Samurai. The stunt choreography is excellent as usual, and the visual effects are simply superb. The one scene that really stood out with the aforementioned visual FX though was the quick morphing sequence near the beginning of the episode. The perspective was perfect, and that little sequence had to take hours of work in a program like Adobe® After Effects® to perfect, making it a noteworthy scene.

All in all Test of the Leader delivers across the board. It’s a top-tier episode through and through, the technical aspect of the episode is amazing, the creative aspect of the episode is amazing, and this really feels like Samurai at its finest. If you really want to do yourself a favor, you’ll watch this episode. The “to be continued” screen at the end though means that Joe will be reviewing Test of the Leader‘s follow-up next week, which will also be Power Rangers Samurai‘s tenth episode, placing us a quarter of the way through the series.

Joe’s Rating: 5 out of 5
Alex’s Rating: 5
out of 5
Final Rating:
5 out of 5

How The Power Rangers Samurai Times rates episodes:

Episodes are rated on a scale of 1–5 with one being the lowest rating, and five being the highest rating, no decimal points, no fractions, no negative numbers. If multiple contributors review an episode, their individual ratings will be posted followed by the final rating, which will be an average of the aforementioned individual ratings. (Obviously averages may contain decimal points.)

Advertisements

Episode Review: Forest For The Trees

Article By: Joseph Michael Sciola; Contributing Editor
EDITORIAL

I am going to break from my usual format of ending the review with the grade, and instead start with the grade, and use the review to explain why. I give this this episode a 4, and the big reason of that is with how the monster of the day is introduced. He comes in and does an area of effect attack with produces a rain that causes the people it hits to feel despair. Not once was this attack attempted on the Power Rangers. Why? It seems like such an obvious way for the plot to develop. As it is, it comes across as a Chekhov’s Gun that is never used. It bugged me in the original, and it still bugs me here.

The rest of the episode is up to par with the rest of the season, and a very good reminder of why I consider this to be the most enjoyable season of Power Rangers in some time. The first thing of note this season is a new opening credits sequence. The only real changes to it are the inclusion of the new zords and a credit for Deker, though Ricardo Medina, Jr. is now credited simply as Rick Medina. I didn’t think they would include him in the opening credits with the main cast, so that was a surprise, and quite frankly a welcomed one, as I am seemingly one of the few people that did not mind him in Wild Force.

The plot of this episode is rather straightforward in its approach, and that is of how Mike needed to grow up a little, stemming from his desire to improve himself after being the keeper of the Beetle Disk, and thus having control over the Beetle Zord is given to Mia over him. This comes to a head during a battle with a Nighlok during which he tries to use the disk, nothing happens, allowing the Nighlok to escape. Jii asks Mike to hand over his Samuraizer because of his actions during the fight, and Mike does so, but not before using his symbol power to get Jii entangled in a houseplant.

It is here that the episode goes into a few scenes that I really liked, and seem to be showing that the gears are indeed turning. The first is on the villain’s boat, where Octoroo is going through his collection of books because Deker said something in the last episode that has him wanting to investigate further. He and Dayu talk a little about Deker, and about how there may be more to him than they originally thought.

The second scene at first comes across as the standard Bulk and Spike sub-plot scene, but at its end, it may prove to be very important in the long run. Mike hangs out at the arcade, to blow off some steam, and in another part of the arcade, Bulk and Spike play totally not Dance, Dance Revolution to work on improving Spike’s agility. It is during this, as Mike is leaving, Spike overhears him muttering about his Samuraizer. Spike now knows what one of the Power Rangers sounds like. He chases after Mike, but Mike is able to get away after Jii shows up on a motorcycle, and they go for a ride so they can talk. The scene with Mike and Jii talking in the woods is one of my favorite scenes in the season thus far. If nothing else, it was nice to see Jii live up to his title and actually mentor Mike and help him to learn how to be a better samurai.

This episode is a part of the continual upswing the show has been undergoing ever since its return to Saban. Things are slowly coming together, and to say we are entering an exciting time would be quite an understatement, I think.

Joe’s Rating: 4 out of 5
Alex’s Rating: 5
out of 5
Final Rating:
4.5 out of 5

How The Power Rangers Samurai Times rates episodes:

Episodes are rated on a scale of 1–5 with one being the lowest rating, and five being the highest rating, no decimal points, no fractions, no negative numbers. If multiple contributors review an episode, their individual ratings will be posted followed by the final rating, which will be an average of the aforementioned individual ratings. (Obviously averages may contain decimal points.)

Episode Review: I’ve Got A Spell On Blue

Article By: Alex J. Rosolowsky
EDITORIAL

I’ve Got a Spell on Blue is not a terrible episode, it’s not even a bad episode, or an average episode, but it’s not an excellent episode either; it’s merely a good episode, a very good episode–barely. There Go the Brides was an excellent episode, so maybe my standards were a bit high for I’ve Got a Spell on Blue, maybe the quality of the production slipped a bit, or maybe I expected more from a plot-device that’s been around since the first season of Power Rangers. Whatever the case may be, I felt that I’ve Got a Spell on Blue fell short of its full potential.

The episode begins with a training exercise/mock battle between Jayden and Kevin, which is well choreographed, and feels highly polished; that’s the high point of the scene. The low point of the scene is attempting to make the other Rangers serve as comic relief, which ultimately backfires, and just makes Mentor–Ji come off as being daft. The problems with this scene are only compounded when the other Rangers discuss how they’re glad that Jayden and Kevin would never really have to fight each other. Hello again, obvious plot-device spoiler of the week.

While the exchange between Deker and the other villains was excellent, the other scenes involving any villain other then Octoroo were easily forgettable. I absolutely hated the voice acting for the monster of the week, and while I tried to not let it get to me, every time the monster spoke, I cringed as if I was listening to nails on a chalkboard. Honestly, the voice acting really felt sub-par for Samurai, and ruined a somewhat interesting villain.

My real problem with this episode though came when the Rangers faced off against the monster of the day. Surprise, he turns Kevin evil and makes him fight Jayden. Now keep in mind, Power Rangers has done “evil spells” many times in the past, and it’s done them well on more then one occasion; this was not one of those occasions. The Rangers figured out that Kevin was under a spell way too quickly, and it felt like they knew exactly what they had to do to reverse the spell without even thinking. The lack of any tension whatsoever almost made this episode feel like a parody of all prior evil spell episodes, and that angle really doesn’t work for Power Rangers Samurai, or any other even semi-serious season.

Now having said that, the rest of the episode was pretty good. Deker is certainly shaping up to be interesting, and I particularly liked how he was able to just walk up alongside the other Rangers and tell them how he knew Jayden was going to defeat Kevin. That definitely went against the grain, was bold, different, and made up for a good portion of what I didn’t like in this episode. Jayden’s explanation of how he broke the spell on Kevin was well-executed, and I was thankful for the flashback to the explanation of a different Kanji character than we’re used to seeing Jayden use.

Of course, at the end of the day, this was yet another Zord/disc introduction episode. While the Zord introduction was decent, it just didn’t seem up to par with the introduction of the Beetle Zord or the Swordfish Zord. Both of the previous Zord introductions really seemed to show the Rangers struggling across the board, and made use of all five Rangers equally. I’ve Got a Spell on Blue, on the other hand, seems to use Kevin, Emily, and Mia as cardboard cut-outs. What’s more, when Jayden moves on to try and break the spell on the Tiger zord, he seems to do so almost effortlessly. After watching Jayden push himself to the brink with the Beetle zord, and Kevin do the same with the Swordfish Zord, it seemed like Jayden barely had to do anything to master the Tiger Zord, which is supposedly the most powerful of the three. The scene just felt rushed, and it didn’t seem like the Red Ranger had nearly as much of a struggle as he should have to control the Tiger Zord. I’m all for Zord/disc introduction episodes, as long as they’re good Zord/disc introduction episodes, and this just didn’t feel like it was one of the aforementioned episodes.

On the technical front, this episode also seemed to suffer a little as well. There was nothing special about the editing. The cinematography was pretty standard, save for one crane shot, which may have been lifted from Sentai, and at the end of the day, I’ve Got a Spell on Blue really seemed like our first filler episode on all fronts. All right, the audio was good; it was nice to hear the Zords as they moved and folded during that game that the Rangers were playing at the end of the episode, but there’s so much more that could have been done with this episode, that it just doesn’t feel nearly as strong as its predecessors.

All in all, I give I’ve Got a Spell on Blue a very, very low four out of five. It’s above average, but it’s definitely not excellent. What makes this episode worthy of a four is Rick Medina’s portrayal of Deker, the stunt choreography, and to a lesser extent, this weeks scene with Bulk and Spike. I expect better from Samurai in the future though; it’s been a good season so far and I’d hate for this to be where it stumbles into a chasm that it can’t get out of.

Joe’s Rating: 4 out of 5
Alex’s Rating: 4
out of 5
Final Rating:
4 out of 5

How The Power Rangers Samurai Times rates episodes:

Episodes are rated on a scale of 1–5 with one being the lowest rating, and five being the highest rating, no decimal points, no fractions, no negative numbers. If multiple contributors review an episode, their individual ratings will be posted followed by the final rating, which will be an average of the aforementioned individual ratings. (Obviously averages may contain decimal points.)

Episode Review: There Go The Brides

Article By: Joseph Michael Sciola; Contributing Editor
EDITORIAL

With every show, there is that one episode early on that changes how things are done. That one episode that has one of the villains goes one on one with the heroes, and for the first time, really give the heroes a hard time. There Go The Brides was that episode.

There Go The Brides is an episode that had a little bit of everything: a nice mystery, great action, nice pieces of humor that break up the tension, decoys, fake weddings, an exploding warehouse, and the introduction of a new villain. All that within the half hour time frame, and amazingly, none of it feels rushed at all. The episode is a dual focus episode for Mia and Jayden. The focus is primarily on Mia, but Jayden gets his moments in as well, particularly towards the end of the episode.

The plot of the episode is rather straightforward. Nighloks have been attacking weddings and kidnapping the brides. The Power Rangers conduct a fake wedding between Mia and Jayden to lure out the Nighlok, but they attack a different wedding in the area and make off with the bride, and the Power Rangers need to come up with an alternative plan to beat them. Now, what is really interesting about this is the episode opened with Mia and Jayden’s fake wedding in progress with no explanation as to why it seemed they were getting married. What is also interesting is that in nineteen seasons, this episode marked the only time to my knowledge that Power Rangers has had a scene inside a Church or other religious building, but also featured a religious official, in this case, the priest that was conducting the wedding.

On the villain side of the plot, Dayu really took point on this, and had more screen time than any of the other villains. Dayu’s plan was two-fold. Not only does the anguish of the kidnapped brides raise the Sanzu River, but she also has them held inside a large cocoon that looked a wedding cake, which also uses their anguish as thread to make a wedding dress for Dayu. This episode was the first time we got to see Dayu outside of the Shinkenger footage, and I really like the look of the costume. It also gives hint that Dayu may have been scorned in the past, and is how she came to be with Xandred.

And speaking of Xandred, there was a nice but rather short scene between him and Octoroo in which Octoroo mentions he looked through the gaps into the human world and saw “him”. Xandred knows that Octoroo is talking about the new villain that briefly showed up at the end of the last episode, mentions his name is Deker, and calls him a “cursed warrior”.

Deker is a topic that even before his official debut has been the focus of a lot of talk and a lot of controversy within the Power Rangers fandom. The biggest cause of this is his actor, Ricardo Medina, Jr. Ricardo last appeared on Power Rangers in 2002 as Cole Evans, the Red Ranger on Power Rangers Wild Force. The controversy surrounding him is based on his performance back on Wild Force he is not the world’s greatest actor, because if there’s one thing Power Rangers is known for, it’s stellar acting! Never mind the fact that Wild Force was almost a decade ago, and people’s acting skills can change for the better. See my David Boreanaz comparison in the Sticks & Stones review.

Another note about Deker is with his brief appearance at the end of the previous episode, there was the sound of a lion’s roar. This was absent from Shinkenger, and could make one wonder. Could the inclusion of the sound of Cole’s Wild Zord from Wild Force and Xandred calling Deker a “cursed warrior” mean that Deker and Cole Evans are indeed the same character? This is just one of the things that is making Power Rangers Samurai so great. Not only are the stories engaging, the characters likeable, and the villains threatening, but they have this small element in the background that can’t help but make one wonder “What If”?

Joe’s Rating: 5 out of 5
Alex’s Rating: 5
out of 5
Final Rating:
5 out of 5

How The Power Rangers Samurai Times rates episodes:

Episodes are rated on a scale of 1–5 with one being the lowest rating, and five being the highest rating, no decimal points, no fractions, no negative numbers. If multiple contributors review an episode, their individual ratings will be posted followed by the final rating, which will be an average of the aforementioned individual ratings. (Obviously averages may contain decimal points.)