Toward the end of the Power Rangers trailer, the evil space empress Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) intimidates the Yellow Ranger, Trini (Becky G), telling her she’s “killed Rangers before.” This one line proves that March 24’s Power Rangers movie will be a far cry from the camp classic 1993 TV series everyone remembers.
For one thing, no Power Ranger had ever “died” while saving the world, despite the obvious occupational hazard of fighting 100-foot kaiju — that is, until 1999’s sci-fi series Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. Now that we know the Rangers in the upcoming film have died, and could die, what can we expect to happen when they do?
Superhero deaths are always wonky. Any time a hero meets his or her demise, they almost inevitably return years (or even months) later, because the comic book industry simply needs to keep selling comics. After the publicized death and eye-rolling resurrection of Superman in the 1992 storyline The Death of Superman, a number of icons have been killed only to make a triumphant comeback some way or another: Batman, Green Arrow, Wolverine, Supergirl, Nightcrawler, Spider-Man (sorta), Wolverine (again, multiple times), Captain America, Jason Todd’s Robin, Barry Allen’s the Flash — the list goes on. And one Pink Ranger was no different.
In the episode “The Power of Pink” — part two of a crossover special in which the Lost Galaxy Rangers sought help from the previous Power Rangers team — two Pink Rangers, Kendrix (Valerie Vernon) and Cassie (Patricia Ja Lee) pursue the evil Psycho Pink, from the doppelgänger Psycho Rangers faction. The episode is notorious for fans because of its dramatic, shocking conclusion where Kendrix sacrificed herself to save the day. The previous episode, “To the Tenth Power,” was a sunny blockbuster that saw ten Power Rangers team up for the first time, so for the show to follow that up with KILLING OFF a main character created a memorable mood whiplash fans still talk about today.
Kendrix’s death was the first and only time a Power Ranger died. Behind the scenes, actress Valerie Vernon fell ill to leukemia and left production to undergo treatment (which thankfully proved successful). But it was totally eerie that her onscreen send-off wasn’t written as a “retirement” — such the late Paul Walker in Furious 7 — but an actual character death, complete with Kendrix disappearing as a ghostly, pink specter.
By the finale Vernon was healthy, and came back to the series in sort of bizarre fashion: As the Lost Galaxy Rangers return their Quasar Sabers (the source of their powers) to the alien planet they found them, the energy is strong enough to resurrect Kendrix entirely. Pre-social media, fans were happy to see Vernon healthy, but for story and canon, it was a massive “WTF?” shitstorm.
Because of this, Kendrix might not be the definitive blueprint for how death works when one is connected to the Morphing Grid, and there are a lot of questions. Namely, what brought Kendrix back? Was it the Morphing Grid, or the still-mysterious Quasar Sabers? Or was it the pink energy radiation from Psycho Pink’s broadsword, which had pierced Cassie’s own Pink Ranger morpher (the device that turns her into a Power Ranger), which killed her body but allowed her soul to survive? When Kendrix died, her body was gone but her spectral form flew into space. (The whole thing, while shocking, was also weird, especially because this aired on the Fox Kids after-school TV block.)
The original Super Sentai series from Japan, from which Power Rangers recycles costumes, footage, props, and even storylines, has been more straightforward with death. The series inhabits a different universe, and thus has different rules, but a number of Japan’s Power Rangers have died without resurrection: Daigoro in Hitmitsu Sentai Goranger (1975), Burai in Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger (1992), and Naoto in Mirai Sentai Timeranger (2000). Their powers remained, however, and were used by their living allies as upgrades or passed down to other people. The latter happened in Lost Galaxy when former villainess Karone (Melody Perkins), now on the side of good, became the new Pink Ranger.
The death of the Ranger but survival of their powers is probably what went down with Rita Repulsa in Lionsgate’s Power Rangers, which is also a separate continuity from the ongoing TV series. Rita’s new green armor and obvious possession of a green Power Coin indicates Rita definitely did some Ranger-killing before the events of the film and salvaged the powers for herself. But if Kendrix means anything, the good don’t say dead for long.
Power Rangers will be released March 24.