Power Rangers Jungle Fury Episode 31: Path of the Righteous
Why is this episode one of the best?
Jungle Fury is an interesting series. Like a few other Ranger series, it was going to be "The End of Power Rangers." (This has never stuck, save for a year post-RPM.) Jungle Fury excels because it's really a smaller character drama with the added bonus of all the expected Ranger special effects and fight sequences. Inspired by various Kung Fu flicks and fighting anime, the story builds quite familiarly till this penultimate episode. Penultimate episodes are usually strong outings for Power Rangers, by way of plot progression, and that's no different here.
Casey, our Red Ranger, is down and out having not earned his Master stripes. Following the advice of Atticus Finch (via Dom/Rhino Ranger who is reading the book at the time of episode), he decides to defy his own master and save Jared, the big bad of the season, who has been possessed by the spirit of Dai Shi all season long (ancient evil, etc. etc.)
The episode is really powerful for a couple of reasons. There's Casey's struggle with himself and figuring out his Destiny. He doesn't know if saving Jared is the right thing to do, but it's what he feels should be done. There's the new/old romance being kindled between Lily (Yellow Ranger) and Theo (Blue Ranger.) R.J. (Wolf Ranger) continues to dole out his hippy-sage advice, and even Fran gets to play a role managing the team.
In effect, it's a perfect microcosm of the series. And really, that's what each episode of a TV series should do- remind you of the overall plot, while still giving you a fun outing of the story.
Why is this episode not higher on the list?
For all this episode does right (and this season for that matter), there are a lot of issues, especially with the villains and the in-suit fight scenes. When Disney first bought the show, the slow motion effects and less martial arts-based fighting (if that makes sense) were something new and so it didn't really actively hurt the show until around Overdrive. Having the same stuff happen in Jungle Fury is kind of unacceptable, as it's a Kung Fu show!
This episode features an incredibly bad-ass scene of Casey storming the enemy temple, mowing down henchmen. It is incredibly lessened however, because they put in effects over Casey's punches, and not even spiritual-looking Kung Fu effects. He's pretty much just firing off lasers.
This sort of detraction happens throughout the show- you have great character moments, true drama, and then it gets almost completely ruined by slow motion, and laser beams.
Add to that the Phantom Beast Generals (the bigger bosses toward the end of the series' run) are some of the most bland villains we've ever gotten, and it doesn't help matters much. (To be fair, one of the generals is pretty great, but he's already been destroyed at this point in the show.)
Even a bigger let down is Dai Shi, the ancient spirit main villain of the show. Compared to Jared, the human he possesses at the beginning of the season, he is barely a character, and that sort of brings down the episode. We go from dramatic scenes to this guy being evil because....EVIL!
How does this episode possibly influence the movie?
It's by no means a spoiler that the new movie will feature a Rita Repulsa who has a deep link with the legacy of the Power Rangers. (She has the Green Power Coin, and there's no way in hell that she wasn't the original Green Ranger at this point.) The idea of an evil warrior redeeming themselves, or a good warrior falling to the side of evil, is Power Rangers' bread and butter. Tommy, Cat, Trent, Ryan, Jared...there's almost too many to mention. Let's hope that Rita's character arc, her rise and fall, will be treated with the same amount of gravitas as Jared's in this episode. Heck...let's hope it's even better:)
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