Moviefan12: As I mentioned when I looked at the Hulk and Spider-Man episodes during this event, I wasn’t quite done with superheroes and werewolves. That brings us to the Disney Era of Power Rangers and notably the 16th season, Jungle Fury.
This is a fun season and one of the biggest things that make it work is the mentor, RJ. RJ is a different type of mentor compared to what we had seen for other PR teams before, he’s a bit more laid back and comes across as a slacker-type appearance but that contrast works. And RJ is the subject of today’s blog as he had to deal with his animal spirit that was a wolf almost taking over. However, I will not be looking at this episode alone as Jim Bevan has agreed to join me.
Jim: Thanks for inviting me to another collab blog, Moviefan. I have to admit up front that Jungle Fury isn’t one of my favorite seasons. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from awful, but it never really clicked with me that much. I chalk that up to it being in development during the 2007 television writer’s strike, which led to some inconsistencies in characterization and plot lines.
In spite of its flaws, though, it still had its strengths, RJ being one of them. He was one of the more unconventional mentors in the series’ history, with a laid-back attitude and Zen outlook on life. He’s practically a hippie. But there are hidden depths to the man. Not only is RJ a trained warrior, he has the technical skill necessary to access the Morphing Grid, allowing the Jungle Fury Rangers to even exist. And despite his mellow nature, we got to see a more serious side to him on several occasions, such as in this episode.
Moviefan12: Indeed RJ’s mellow nature contrasts with the serious tone of the situation and how he acts within this moment is different than how he normally acted. This is something I’ve highlighted before during this month when looking at other werewolves/werecreatures during this event. This is always interesting as I have noticed with the werewolf where the person that is turned, this can go one of two ways, it can heighten the more gray areas of the character or have them tap into a sense of tragedy and that is what we see with RJ in this episode. This is something I think is always more interesting with werewolves using the tragedy angle as while it may be cliche to say it adds depth, it brings a layer that many may not work for some but I think it shows how people can look at characters in a new light.
Much like many of my other entries in this event, this blog will be broken down into these categories as follows, How Were They Turned, How They Acted When Turned, and finally, Were They A Threat?
How Were They Turned
Moviefan12: This aspect is interesting as the series deals with Animal Spirits and RJ’s is that of a wolf after a fight with the season’s villain Dai Shi, his wolf form seems to be taking over and he doesn’t have control of it. This could be an issue as if the wolf form fully takes over, RJ will be stuck in this form forever. Quite a few of the entries I’ve looked at thus far haven’t been this serious. Sure, some more serious ones have been sprinkled in here and there but this is one of the more severe takes on what could happen. And I believe that this happening to a character that we have come to know throughout the season is what adds to that sense of tragedy I mentioned up top.
When you also take into consideration that the first time that we see RJ in his wolf form is before this episode, we see the Rangers fighting him and it makes sense as he does look like a monster that a PR team would fight. This is also seen when the Rangers see RJ transform also adds another to that aforementioned tragedy as the team tries to stop him from going full monster so to speak.
While there is a sense of tragedy in seeing RJ being turned, there is also a triumphant feeling in the end when we see him overcome it and become the Purple Wolf Ranger. This is a cool thing and considering purple is one of my favorite colors, love seeing a Purple Ranger.
In many ways, the tragedy of what happens when someone like RJ comes out on top makes the character seem all the stronger for what they have endured.
Jim: One aspect I appreciate is that they spread out RJ’s lycanthropy rather than condensing it all into one episode. In episode 15 “Bad to the Bone”, he’s dealing with frequent bouts of pain, disappearing when the team needs him, and avoiding the Rangers to deal with his stress. When Casey and Theo try to talk to him in his loft they find an excessive amount of hair that had been shaved off, but no sign of RJ. Almost immediately thereafter the two are called into action to fight what seems to be a wolf-like Rinshi, a monster that gives the pair of Rangers a significant challenge before fleeing in the midst of battle. The end of the episode shows the full moon overhead in the night sky, foreshadowing that the wolf will return.
Episode 16 finds RJ waking up in a pile of trash, his clothes ripped up and him clearly disoriented, unsure of how he got there. Fran, one of the employees at Jungle Karma pizza, informs him that this is the third day he’s shown up late, but he doesn’t acknowledge her concerns. After cleaning up he turns on the TV in his loft and sees news footage about a monster with sharp claws that attacked several civilians the previous night, and realizes he was responsible.
It’s revealed that when Dai Shi (the main villain of the season) attempted to extract RJ’s wolf spirit, he’s been unable to keep it under control. Unless he can restore his spiritual balance, he’s a danger to everyone around him. And this almost comes to a dark conclusion when he transforms and tries to attack Fran. Thankfully, she’s able to get through to him by reminding RJ of his humanity, allowing him to regain control over the wolf spirit and properly channel the energy as the Wolf Ranger. It’s admittedly a bit of a rushed resolution and falls on the old trope of “beauty taming the beast”, but it works for the show, and it’s still satisfying to see him come out victorious in the end.
Moviefan12: This brings us to our next category.
How They Acted When Turned
Moviefan12: Jim already touched on this in the previous category with how RJ has been unable to keep his spiritual form in check. This is an interesting take and does something I prefer where the victim is aware of their time as the wolf. RJ knew he couldn’t control his monstrous form at this moment and in his eyes, that made him a hazard and distraction to the team. That is something I’ll touch upon in the next segment but one moment from this episode that stands out is RJ with a bag across his shoulder ready to leave the city telling Fran what I just said. This moment invokes feelings of the old Hulk TV show in how David Banner would always leave in this way.
The Hulk comparison doesn’t just end with this scene in my mind. Both Banner and RJ believe themselves to be dangerous to be around people they care about as they don’t know when their monstrous side will come out. I do appreciate Fran pointing out that the team could help RJ if he opened up to them about what is going on though. This is a huge thing to consider and ties back into the episode’s title, yes RJ may be having trouble controlling his animal spirit at this moment and it may appear a bit monstrous but the Rangers aren’t going to give up on him in his time of need.
Jim: I completely forgot that they changed Banner’s first name in the TV series (gotta love that unsubtle 70s homophobia). I also enjoyed how RJ was aware of his monstrous state and the damage he’s done, as well as the efforts he needs to take in order to stop himself from hurting others. That he rejects help from Fran and the Rangers shows more facets to his character: he’s a responsible person and he cares about the well-being of others, which are aspects that make him a strong mentor, but he’s also stubborn. In a way that helps to press a moral for the episode about how you don’t need to carry a large burden on your own; you should never be afraid to confide in your friends or admit when you need help. Man, remember when Power Rangers could be subtle and didn’t bash you over the head with “lesson of the day” plots? I miss those days.
Were They A Threat?
Moviefan12: Jim already hit on this a bit but RJ knew that he was something of a threat and that is why he felt the need to leave. As I have brought up before this brings a sense of tragedy to what RJ is going through. There is that aforementioned sense of him being a threat and he knows that. The idea of him being a threat is something that hurts RJ and we see that play out throughout this episode.
Jim: The fact that RJ is ready to fight Casey and Theo unprovoked after his first transformation is proof enough he isn’t in control of his animal side. I greatly appreciate that they had him aware of what he did instead of having him lose his memory when he became a werewolf because it helps add to his sense of personal responsibility. The writers do try to create some ambiguity over whether or not RJ was responsible for the attacks on civilians by giving the monster of the episode devastating claws, but considering he’d gone after his friends once transformed, it’s safe to say that he was culpable in at least some of those injuries. Left unchecked, he could have been as deadly as any Rinshi beast.
Moviefan12: I’d like to thank Jim for joining me for looking at this episode of Jungle Fury. It is always a pleasure talking Power Rangers with him. Looking at how werewolves combine with superheroes over these past three blogs and is something I may return to next year now that the Werewolf by Night Disney has now released.
However, when I return to this event, we will be heading to the world of fairy tales as I look the Once Upon a Time season one episode…