Episode Title: Plague of the Mantis
Original Airdate: February 17, 1994
Our adventures with evil members of the animal kingdom continues with this week’s episode of Power Rangers. This time we have a monster insect, and if you’re going to have a monster insect…this is the one to pick. Let’s face it, Mantis’ are scary. The female eats the male after bumpin’ uglies. I doubt we’ll see any of that in this week’s episode, Plague of the Mantis.
We begin with Trini practicing her Mantis style kung fu with her teacher. This even inspires Bulk and Skull to try and launch their own style of insect-inspired martial arts…cockroach kung fu. This also inspires Rita to unleash a new monster, a mantis, of course. Trini’s first encounters the monster later while she’s out practicing in the park. She quickly morphs to battle the creature, which has razor sharp arms that can cut down a tree with one swipe. The other rangers eventually show up, but the mantis teleports away because it’s not a fair fight. This gets to Trini who has been learning about the honor of a fair fight from her master.
Trini starts training more and eventually has to face the mantis again. It’s a fair fight until the bug summons some putties, proving honor is not so important to this mantis after all. Luckily the other rangers show up just in time to help out. Rita then makes the mantis grow and it’s time for some zord action. After the standard battle, the mantis is eliminated with a swipe from the power sword.
Okay, so I”m a bit confused by this episode. First, Trini suddenly has a kung fu master she’s working with. I have questions! Does he know that she’s one of the power rangers? Whether he does or doesn’t, why isn’t he also training the other rangers? It would seem that this would be a good idea so that, at the very least, the team is all on the same page skill wise. Also, I’m struck by Trini’s sudden obsession with the concept of a fair fight. I mean, how many times in previous episodes have we seen five against one, in the rangers favor, when they battle a monster? It’s never bothered them until now? I doubt very much that this concern for fairness is going to continue as the series moves forward.
I did like the mantis, though I do feel there was some missed potential. When we are introduced to the bug, it is swiping at trees, causing them to topple around it. Yet, when it battles the Mega Zord, its blows don’t cause any substantial damage. I would’ve liked to see it lob off one of the arms or legs of the Mega Zord, causing our heroes to have to tackle this monster in a different way than normal.
On the positive side, this is a nice opportunity for Thuy Trang, who plays Trini, to have a chance to shine. Her character hasn’t taken center stage as much as say Kimberly or Jason as has. Here the character definitely shows a level of strength and maturity that is not necessarily common place in a kiddie show. Trang has been a solid presence in this series so far. It’s sad that we never had the opportunity to see her career go much beyond this series. She died in a tragic car accident in 2001.
Well, next time we have an episode with an intriguing title. Next time it’s the first of a two-parter, Return of an Old Friend, Part 1. Who on earth could they be talking about!?! Find out next time!