Netflix's Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Reunion Features A Touching Tribute To Fallen Rangers

This post contains spoilers for "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always."

It should come as no surprise that "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always" is completely filled with nostalgia. Unlike most other anniversary specials for the beloved tokusatsu franchise, "Once & Always" does not feature several iterations of Power Rangers meeting, like "Forever Red" or "Once a Ranger." Instead, this is entirely focused on the first series in the franchise, the multi-season "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" and its two generations of Rangers.

The special focuses on the return of Rita Repulsa, who has got herself a new robot body and brings tragedy to the Rangers. When Repulsa's armies start attacking Rangers around the world, new heroes will rise and the Power Rangers will see their legacy and their abilities tested. "Once & Always" sees the return of Zack Taylor (Walter Jones) and Billy Cranston (David Yost) from the first team, as well as Rocky DeSantos (Steve Cardenas), Katherine Hillard (Catherine Sutherland), Adam Park (Johnny Yong Bosch), and Aisha Campbell (Karan Ashley) from the second team of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Though the special is full of the kind of cheesy humor and cool stunts you'd expect from "Power Rangers," as well as plenty of exciting easter eggs, the best part about "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always" is how it serves as a touching and tear-inducing tribute to fallen Rangers Jason David Frank and Thuy Trang.

Once a Ranger...

At the very start of the special, Yellow Ranger Trini Kwan sacrifices herself to save Billy from Rita Repulsa, leaving Zack to raise Trini's daughter, Minh (Charlie Kersh). She is an eager, precocious teenager with attitude, pretty much like her mother; she's someone who just wants to go get revenge and fight the bad guys.

The idea of having Trini's daughter be a part of the special is a fantastic way to carry on the legacy of the first Yellow Ranger, since the original actor, Thuy Trang, died tragically in a car crash at age 27. Though the Yellow Ranger is only seen fully costumed with a stunt actor playing the character in this special, viewers who know the real story still may find that moment rather emotional.

Likewise, there was a lot of speculation about whether the special would somehow include the late Jason David Frank, who played the Green (and then the White) Ranger, Tommy. Frank died at age 49 late last year, having been an instrumental part of the franchise for over a decade. Though he is not physically in the special, his character Tommy Oliver actually is, though he is only shown in costume and with his helmet on.

Even if the two late actors are not on the screen, their presence is definitely felt. The character of Trini and her legacy is all over the plot of Minh becoming the new Yellow Ranger, but the two of them are very much a part of the emotional coda at the end of the special.

...always a Ranger

After defeating Rita Repulsa once and for all, "Once & Always" ends with Zack, Billy, and Trini's daughter at the Youth Center in Angel Grove, a very common sight in the original show where the characters would hang out every episode. The two veterans share stories of Trini and their old adventures, having fully accepted Minh as one of their own.

Then we get a flashback to the episode "The Song of Guitardo" from season 2 of the original "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers." This is the penultimate episode of the Green No More arc, in which Tommy loses his powers as the Green Ranger and says goodbye to the team — though he would return just a few episodes later as the White Ranger. The flashback shows Kimberly and Zack performing a song they wrote in order to say goodbye to Tommy. This would be emotional enough already, but then the camera lingers on Trang and then Frank.

It is a touching reminder of the time that has passed, and a simple yet effective way of having even the characters themselves say goodbye to this team. That the flashback happens just as Minh gets her communicator, embracing her role as the new Yellow Ranger, means that "Power Rangers" never ends, for better and worse. Some have fallen, and many have simply left the franchise, but once a Ranger, always a Ranger.