Critical Depth - Power Rangers Dino Charge Part 3

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So what is it that makes Dino Charge so special?

Like I said when I started this, I really didn’t have a strong bond to Power Rangers growing up.  I did think the martial arts they showed off in the show were cool, especially the Green Ranger (Jason David Frank), but it wasn’t anything I went out of my way to watch.  If I turned on TV and it was on, then I watched it. 

Watching some of the later shows with my son, I think the biggest problem with Power Rangers in general is that it often took itself a little too seriously.   Many of the shows try to deal with big dystopian futures or the impact of war.  RPM had a main characters’ brother die in the opening minutes of the show.   These are lofty aspirations for what is basically a children’s fantasy show.  Don’t get me wrong, I do think it’s good for children’s television shows to have life lessons.  I was a huge fan of Mister Rogers Neighborhood and when I was like 4 years old, Sesame Street introduced us to death when Mister Hooper died.  But a kid’s action show doesn’t quite seem like the right place to do it.

Dino Charge seems to embrace its own ridiculousness.   There is a lot of humor built into the show without being over the top slapstick.  In the old Power Rangers, when they wanted to inject humor, they would have Skull trip and hit Bulk with an entire cake.  For Dino Charge, the humor is always more subtle and character driven.  The characters seem to be able to laugh at each other and the absurdity of the situations they find themselves in.   

One of the best examples of this is the Christmas episode.  Santa calls the Power Rangers for help saving Christmas, and once they get over their shock, everyone seems on board with it.  Even the news channels seem to think it’s no big deal that Santa is real and needs help saving Christmas.   Also later in the episode, for no discernable reason, Sledge is wearing a Santa hat and no one questions him on this.   This whole thing could have been a lame clip episode, but instead they just seemed to have a lot of fun with it.  And that is exactly what Dino Charge was to me, fun.

On top of that, I think the show’s biggest strength was that all of the Rangers were complex characters.  While they were all heroes, but they didn’t all approach being a hero the same way.  I also liked that even when the show had a moral, it wasn’t always clear cut and dry.  In an early episode, Tyler ends up splitting from the team to do his own thing.  At the end of the episode, he had made the right decision, but still felt like he had let the team down.   I actually thought it was cool that it was pretty ambiguous what the right answer was...and even if there was a right answer.  You don’t get a lot of that in Power Rangers. 

I also thought they did a great job with the story arcs in this season.  For the most part, each episode was basically stand alone, but they all tell bigger stories.  For a while, it was about finding them gold energem.  Later is was all about finding someone who would be the new Purple Ranger when the original Purple Ranger realized he wasn’t cut out for hero work.   There were quite a few reoccurring settings and themes that really helped build the whole season into one big picture.

I also liked that they show left us with some mystery.  The Rangers encountered the Aqua Anklyozord pretty early into the show and brought it under their control.  They have never met the Aqua Ranger, but it’s clear one has to be out there or else the Anklozord would never have woken up.   And there is still a tenth energem out there unaccounted for. 

One last thing I want to mention, I love that each of the Rangers has a unique fighting style, especially in the early episodes.  Kona (in and out of costume) uses a lot of strength moves.  Riley is a fencer, and his sword skills tend to get the focus when you see the Green Ranger in action.  And Chase is a hot shot, typically relying on firing blasts with his dino charger.   To me, this really helped ensure that each character stood out.  It wasn’t just 5 guys and girls in colorful costumes who all happened to know martial arts.  They really took the time to show each characters uniqueness and how they would look in battle sequences.


Powers From the Past/Past, Present and Fusion/A Fool's Hour – The first three episodes were a great way to introduce the show.  It never felt like everything was thrown at the viewer at once.   From just about the beginning, you could tell this show had something special to it and that it was worth watching.

Rise of a Ranger/ World Famous! (in New Zealand) – While these episode aren’t directly connected, they both shared an important theme about the different types of heroism.  In Rise of the Ranger, Prince Phillip finds the Grapite Energem, but no amount of charity work he does or robots he makes to fight monsters can convince the gem to bond with him.  In the end, it’s his bravery and selflishness that makes the Graphite Gem decide that he’s worthy of being a Power Ranger.

World Famous! (In New Zealand) introduces us to an eccentric adventurer named Albert.  He found the Purple energem and used his abilities as a Power Ranger to act as a local superhero.  But when Sledge and the monsters comes to town, he realizes he’s not up for fighting monsters.  He is still heroic, and uses his wits to help defeat a monster, but in the end, he decides that he’s just not quite suited to be a Power Ranger and gives the energem to the Power Rangers to find it’s true owner.

Return of the Caveman –Return of the Caveman starts back in prehistoric times.  We find out that Kona found the energem while protecting his younger brother from a Sabretooth Tiger…and that results in him being frozen for 40,000 years.  He has a tricky time fitting in the modern world, including trying to ride the new Dino Cycles, since he can’t even handle a regular bike.  In the park, he encounters a young boy named Peter.  Peter, Chase, and Kona end up being jailed by a monster, with Peter getting injured.  Kona becomes determined to protect this kid, just like his younger brother.  There is a terrific shot of Kona running out of the cave carrying Peter which is just an iconic moment.  And I love the end where Peter is telling the story of his adventure to his friends.  

When Logic Fails – This is the episode we’ve watched the most in my house. That might be just because it was the first episode back after a long break, but it’s also a very cool story.  The team gets tricked into a warehouse that the villain had turned into a massive puzzle.  Riley manages to use logic to help the others not only escape, but also to defeat the villain.  Not only does this episode give Riley the chance to shine, but it also had some of my favorite humor moments in the episode, typically revolving around Kona and food.  He mourns the loss of a pizza, and later on gets in a fight with a vending machine…only to realize that he had been surrounded by boxes of cookies the entire time.

Knight After Knights – Soon after Sir Ivan is released from Fury, the Power Rangers try to convince them that he should join them.  But as a knight, he isn’t sure they are brave enough for him.  This is compounded by a villain that steals the Rangers’ courage.   Ivan ends up trying to recruit “new knights” to serve with him, which fails almost immediately.  What I loved most about this episode was that it showed Shelby kicking ass all by herself. 

Wishing For a Hero/One More Energem – The last two episodes of the season!  I like that in Wishing for a Hero we see Kendell’s desperation to find someone to wield the Purple Energem that she makes a terrible mistake which allows Sledge to take it.  What makes it so important is that Kendell does everything possible to rectify that mistake, showing that she’s just as heroic as the others.  I will admit that the ending did feel a little bit rushed, especially since it seems like all the villains may have died in the end, but I know I was mostly just bummed out that the season was over.   Two great episodes to end a great season.

Race to Rescue Christmas – One of my only real complains about Dino Charge was that the Halloween and Christmas episodes were both kind of shoved in out of place.  I actually enjoyed both episodes, but it did kind of annoy me that we had to wait an extra week between Wishing for a Hero and One More Energem.   BUT, the Christmas episode did make up for it by being a fun episode.  This was the perfect example of Dino Charge never taking itself seriously, as the Power Rangers are tasked by Santa with helping save Christmas.  There was one odd flaw in this episode though…in the end, Chase is bummed out about not being able to get home to New Zealand (until Santa shows up to save the day).  Uhm…the Power Rangers have at least three zords that we’ve seen which are fully capable of going into space.  It seems they could have easily flown him home…

Honorable mention:  The Royal Rangers – This was one of the odder episodes of the season. In an attempt to track down the Gold Energem, Tyler and Shelby pretend to be royalty from the country of Zandar.  This episode is just a lot of fun, especially with Shelby hating royalty until she realizes how much good she could do as a princess.  Any scene with Tyler and Shelby is typically good, but they went over the top in this one just to have a lot of fun. 



Next season, Dino Charge will return as Dino Super Charge (a bit of a silly tradition they started a few years ago.  We got Samurai/Super Samurai and Megaforce/Super Megaforce).   I am glad that means we will get another season with this cast, but it’s still just a lame marketing ploy.   The season ended with Sledge being defeated, and the heroes basically all going their own way, many of them leaving their energems with Kendell and Keeper.   Kona and Ivan stayed with Keeper and Kendell to try and find the last two energems.   Prince Phillip returned to Zandar.  Tyler went off to find his missing father (though in the end, it’s suggested that Shelby and Riley probably went with him…and Riley had a theory on where the missing energems could have ended up).   When Sledge’s ship crashed, the Heckyl seems to have survived, so it looks like the Power Rangers will have plenty of new problems next season.  Though I kind of hope they stay separate for an episode or two.  I loved the slow build up they did for the first season.

By the way, if you want to check out Power Rangers, Netflix is the way to go.  They have all the seasons going back to the beginning.  They even have the first 8 episodes of Dino Charge up there already, so I am assuming they will have the full season up soon.   And the Nickelodeon App has most of the rest of the season up to watch, though you have to have a cable subscription to do so.