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Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always Pays Tribute to the Fallen

This Netflix special celebrates 30 years of love and acceptance.
  • David Yost, Walter Jones, and Charlie Kersh in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always (Photo: Netflix)
    David Yost, Walter Jones, and Charlie Kersh in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always (Photo: Netflix)

    “It’s Morphin time!” — three iconic words to describe over 30 years of kick-ass fun. Netflix surprised us all earlier this year when the trailer for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always dropped on its socials. The new film, directed by Charlie Haskell, builds on the beloved franchise's long history and its famous phrases, reminding fans why they love the show and many of the stars that helped make it what it is today.

    Once & Always features a few members of the original cast, who team up with several familiar faces to fight a more powerful (and robotic) Rita Repulsa. It’s exciting to watch both original MMPR stars David Yost and Walter Jones reprise their roles as Billy and Zach and take on leading roles after years of being supporting players on the team — they're now the masterminds behind how to stop Rita and her foot soldiers. Other returning actors include Rocky DeSantos, Catherine Sutherland, and Karen Ashley.

    But the heart of the new film isn’t just in the reunion or its tribute to the long-running history of the show — the special centers the idea of grief and how you never get over losing the one you love. Here, Primetimer breaks down the 52-minute film and its poignant ending. [Note: Spoilers ahead!]

    Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always' Ending, Explained

    While most of the special is centered on keeping Rita (voiced once more by Barbara Goodson) from becoming more powerful than she already is, it is really about seeing these characters evolve. Billy is smarter. Zach is more sure of himself (and his moves) while the brand itself is more inclusive overall — there's even a scene in which the Rangers save a queer couple who are being attacked by Putties.

    The film contains an extended homage to the Yellow Ranger, who is killed by Rita after trying to protect Billy in the opening. This is the first time that the franchise’s canon fully acknowledges the death of late actress Thuy Trang, who played Trini, and it opens up the film to explore pain and grief, and how much joy can be found on the other side of them. Once & Always also pays respect to Trang and former Green and White Ranger Jason David Frank, who passed away in November 2022, while underscoring the pain Minh Kwan (Charlie Kersh), Trini's teen daughter, currently feels.

    Minh wants to get even with Rita for her mother’s death, and she acts out because of it — eventually stealing her mother’s morpher and Billy’s car. Minh experiences all the emotions you’d expect a grieving teen to go through in dealing with the death of a parent. But Billy and Zach teach Minh a tough lesson, one that so many of the Power Rangers had to learn the hard way throughout the years: Revenge isn’t as sweet as it seems.

    But there are many times when Minh demonstrates that she doesn’t fully understand the power of the morpher, which leaves her to be saved by various Rangers. In one moment of overzealousness, she thinks that she can take on a large group of Putties down in Angel Grove, only to realize that she doesn’t have what it takes to beat Rita’s minions. Things only get more challenging for Minh when she ends up being captured by Rita and her minions, and the team has to go outer space to save her.

    In the end, Minh learns a greater lesson in her quest to become the Yellow Ranger: that power isn’t something you can just take, it has to be earned. Also, being a Power Ranger means that you are a part of a family, both on screen and off — a family that will grow even bigger this fall with Netflix's Power Rangers Cosmic Fury.

    So much of Once and Always acts as a commentary on love and acceptance — specifically, the things you can’t change. Seeing both Billy and Zach step up to watch over Minh reminds us of why we love the franchise: its ongoing message that we all will face hard things in life, but we must learn to keep a clear head when dealing with them.

    But with all of the show's campy antics and silly storylines, one word sums up the love and fire that people continue to have for this show, even 30 years later: justice. Yes, even with all of the spinoffs, cast changes, and dimension shifting, the show will always be about advocating for the underdog. It’s an ode to the idea that justice will always prevail over evil, a message that is still so timely.

    Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is now streaming on Netflix.

    Jonathan P. Higgins is a freelance writer who has been published at sites including Essence, Ebony, and Out Magazine, in addition to winning season 5 of Nailed It. You can follow them online by using the handle @DoctorJonPaul. 

    TOPICS: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Netflix, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always, Charlie Kersh, David Yost, Jason David Frank, Thuy Trang, Walter Jones