Hoo boy, after coming of Mystic Force, fandom thought we would never have a season as craptastic as Mystice Force. Then Operation Overdrive came along, and boy were we wrong. We were wrong. For the longest time, Overdrive was viewed as the nadir of the franchise. The lowest Power Rangers ever sunk. Then Samurai appeared, we started having second thoughts. Well, some of us.
Now, before I go on, let me say that I always thought Operation Overdrive was an okay season at best. Nothing amazing, but not the unbearable season that will burn your soul the moment you lay eyes on it as majority of the fandom makes it out to be. What inspired me to make this post was that whenever Samurai tends to get brought in discussion, a common comment is, "Samurai bad, but it's not as bad as Overdrive" and that just a real headscratcher to me. I know, I know, we all have our opinions, but it just amazes me. In what way is Overdrive worst than Samurai? The characters are actual characters with actual personalities (plus, you can Rose and Ronny apart. Something you can't do with Mia and Emily). The villains are actually proactive and do some stuff (unlike Xandred and Deker). Overdrive had something resembling a plot and didn't feel like it was just spinning its wheels the majority of the time. And it at least tried to stray from its source material.
So, I thought I do a little compare and contrast between the two seasons to see which I feel is the better of the two.
Operative Overdrive's premise is that many years ago, two brothers named Flurious and Moltor tried to steal a legendary crown known as the Corona Aurora and were imprisoned throughout the galaxy. Sentinel Knight scatters the crown and its jewels on the planet Earth in hopes of preventing it from falling into the wrong hands. In the present day, world renowned explorer Andrew Hartford uncovers the crown, which frees Flurious and Moltor from their imprisonment. Andrew recruits four elite young adults to become Power Rangers and stop the Corona Aurora from falling into the wrong hands. Although Hartford is originally opposed to it, his son Mack becomes the fifth team member - the Red Ranger. They form the Power Rangers Operation Ovderive in a race against the clock the collect the jewels to stop Flurious, Moltor, and other villains from using them for evil.
The plot is that each episode they would find an artifact that would contain a clue that would lead them to a jewel. This would go on into each episode until the sixth episode where they find the jewel.
(Super) Samurai's premise is that centuries ago, demonic creatures called Nighloks invaded ancient Japan, but a team of Samurais with a supernatural power called Symbol Power was able to hold off the invasion until the Nighloks were sealed away. In the present day, the Nighloks have rised again, and plan the flood the human world. A new team of Samurais, who are descendents of the Samurais who sealed away the Nighloks come together to form the Power Rangers Samurai to stop the Nighloks.
The plot is that each episode, a Nighlok would come out of the Sanzu River with a plan to terrorize the humans to create enough sorrow and misery to raise the Sanzu River so it will be high enough to break through the Netherworld and flood the Earth, and the Samurai Rangers would stop them.
Which plot is better? Tough to say, but I would say Overdrive. While Overdrive's plot could be monotonous: "Let's go chase this artifact for 2 episodes!" "OK, we got it! Now let's go get this one for 2 more episodes!" "Let's go here and get this one!", it generally gave a sense that things were moving forward. Whereas with Samurai, it's been 35 episode, but it still feels like nothing has really changed at all, despite the show trying to make it seem things have.
A common criticism against the Overdrive Rangers that fandom found them to be unlikable jerks. Whereas a common criticism against the Samurai Rangers is that fandom finds them bland and ill-defined. Let's compare.
Mack is an energetic and gung ho guy who spent all his time reading action-adventure books until he got to become a ranger. Mack was the heart of the Overdrive Rangers as he was the one who had the most heroic intentions of the rangers. When he almost failed to save a civilian, he took it the hardest which made him doubt his abilities as Ranger. He was also willing to sacrifice himself by blowing up the Flashpoint Megazord to destroy the Fearcats.
Jayden was a guy who, ever since he was a child, spent his life training to be the leader of the Samurai Rangers. Jayden is the guy who's always telling the team that they need to use teamwork to get the job done. Jayden is an all around personable leader with strong moral qualities.
Who's better? Tough the say. Both Red Rangers are fine in their own right, but in the end, I have to give it to Mack. Mainly because Mack is a bit more consistent with his characterization, whereas Jayden is a bit inconsistent (The show tries to protray Jayden as a loner, except he's the guy who's always saying that they need to work together). Also Mack's sercet at this point was better handled than Jayden's has. With Mack, it wasn't spelled out, but there were hints dropped here and there. A few things that would make you go "Oh" when you think about them (Spencer saying he had the machine especially recalibrated for Mack and Andrew saying how Mack was becoming "unpredictable). With Jayden, they keep telling us that he was a secret and... that's it.
Will vs. Mike
Will is an International Recovery Specialist, meaning that it's his job to recover objects that had been stolen and to test burgler alarms (which people mistake him for a thief). Will is cocky and has problems with being a teamplayer. Will also forms a season long rivalry with Kamdor after it was revealed that Will was spying on them.
Mike is a teenager boy (The Teams Unite suggest that he just graduated from high school) and the implied second youngest on the team. Mike is an energetic guy who likes to play video games and pull pranks. It's been hinted a few times that he was romantic feeling for Emily.
Who's better? Mike, hands down. Mainly because Will was, quite frankly, a douche. He nearly killed Ronny in The Underwater World and never apologized for it. He constanly runs off on his own. And he was a complete dick to Norg even when he was willing to help. Mike himself is no great shake, but at least he was only douche-y in Forest For The Trees.
Dax vs. Kevin
Dax is a stuntman. Dax is also the comic relief character of the season and was shown to be not so bright. Dax had short-lived relationship with a girl named Mira (who was later revealed to be Miratrix) who was using him to get the scrolls which would lead to one of the jewels. A running gag in the season was that Dax would call Miratrix his Ex.
Kevin is a guy wanted who wanted to be a Olympic swimmer, but gave up his dream to become a Samurai Ranger. Due to his strict upbringing, he is extremely enthusiastic and takes his ranger duties seriously. Kevin lives a very disciplined lifestyle and is never late due to his self-planned daily training schedule. Kevin is also the engineer behind many of the Samurai Megazord Combinations, such as having figured out how to combine the Samurai Battlewing with the Megazord.
Who's better? Personally I say neither. Neither characters are anything to write home about. Dax was bounderline annoying and Kevin a character the show admits is boring. So, tie.
Ronny vs. Emily
Ronny is a race car driver. She occasionally shows a tendency to get highly competitive with games to even a friendly jog. A running joke in the fandom is that she has a fetish for the zords.
Emily is the youngest member of the Samurai Rangers. She originally suppose to be the Yellow Ranger, but took over for her sister when she fell ill. Emily been shown to be a klutz and has insecurity issues. It's been hinted at a couple of times that she has romantic feelings for Mike.
Who's better. Ronny, hands down. Granted, after Ronny's competitive streak gets resolved, there wasn't much to her character, but Ronny, to me, had better moments. Like when she took charge during Man of Mercury. Plus, Emily tends to act like a child.
Rose vs. Mia
Rose is a Mensa level genius with an encyclopedic knowledge regarding almost any subject, from geography to the Overdrive equipment.Growing up, she didn't have much of a childhood due to her intelligence (even skipping most of grade school, starting college at eight years old).
Mia is a girl who loves children and worked at a orphanage prior to becoming a Samurai Ranger. She's the big sister of the team and dreams of one day finding her Prince Charming. When she was a kid, she used to sing with her brother Terry and was going to be in a band before she had to train to be a Power Ranger. A running joke in the show is that she think she's a good joke, but is in fact, a horrible cook.
Who's better? Rose, hands down. While Rose is commonly criticize for being a "stuck-up, know-it-all bitch", Rose was the most contributing to the team using her intelligence to figure out the clues, helping with Zord tech, and even (indirectly) creating the Battlizer. Mia... the show tells us she's a big sister figure and is anything but. Plus, she has no problem playing second fiddle to a man.
Tyzonn vs. Antonio
Tyzonn is a Mercurian from Mercuria. He was previously a member of the Intergalactic Emergency Responder Squad, a search and rescue team, alongside his fiancée Vella. During an unfortunate accident when his team was killed by the Fearcats after he sent them back into a collapsing cave, Tyzonn dedicated himself to tracking down the criminal group and bringing them to justice for their crimes.
Antonio is Jayden's childhood friend. He's the Ranger who is not of Samurai descent, but he is self-trained. Antonio is a tech wiz (a scene in Room For One More implied he created his morpher from a broken cell phone he found in a forest). He used his tech skills he to repair the Claw Zord and unlock both the Black Box and The Light Zord. He has a habit of talking in gratuitous spanish.
Who's better? Antonio. Mainly because Antonio was pretty consistent with his characterization, whereas Tyzonn was a schizo (Went from a serious warrior to a happy-go-lucky guy to a copycat to a stalker to etc. etc.).
Flurious vs. Master Xandred: Tough to say. Both main villains spent the season just sitting on their butts not doing much. Both didn't sent or create a monster to do stuff (Either Octoroo sent the Nighloks or they volunteer for the job). Both are shown to be really powerful fighters (Flurious was able to go toe-to-toe with a god and Xandred completely demolish the Samurai Rangers the first time he left the Sanzu River). So... tie.
Moltor vs. Octoroo: Tie. Moltor was pretty generic as far as villains go, but he seemed to pose some kind of challenge to the rangers. Octoroo is, hands down, the second best villain in this season (who's the best will come later). Seriously, Octoroo devises the plans, does all the research, and bosses the Nighloks around. He's more of a lead villain than Xandred.
Miratrix vs. Dayu: Miratrix. Miratrix isn't really anything to right home about, but she, along with Kamdor, was a villain who really proved to be a threat to the Rangers by always being a step ahead of the Rangers (getting the school, getting one of the jewels). Dayu had potential, in a sense that she seemed to be one of those "I'm surrounded by idiots" character and her sarcasm, but unfortunately now all she does is stand around going, "Oh Deker."
Kamdor vs. Deker: Kamdor, hands done. Kamdor, along with Miratrix, pose a real threat to the Rangers by getting ahead of the clues, getting one of the jewels, and defeating the Rangers every time they fought. He's a real badass; Deker only wishes he was badass. The guy always talking about how he wants to fight Jayden badly, yet always comes up with an excuse to push it back. And when we finally see their destined duel, it lasted three minutes. THREE MINUTES!
Fearcats vs. Serrator: Serrator. He actually has a goal and is setting out and making sure it's done. Fearcats... they never really had any real motivation. When they first appeared, they wanted a jewel to free their army from a mirror. After that was foiled and they destroyed and then revived, they just... they just did stuff.
Andrew Hartford vs. Mentor Ji: Andrew. Sexual predator jokes aside, Andrew at least contributed to the team by locating the jewels, prepping the Zords, etc. Ji's pretty useless. Seriously, he thought he could play Mr. Happy and try to hide the fact that one of their own is gone! And while he's supposed to be training the Rangers, it's Jayden who was helping him be a better mentor back in Forest For The Trees. Ji gotten better in recent episodes, but not by much.
Spencer vs. Bulk and Spike: Spencer. Spencer was genuinely funny and help the rangers out in whatever problem of the week they were having. Plus, he had interaction with the Rangers. Bulk and Spike have their moments and even started interacting with the Rangers a little, but the fact that you could remove a lot of their scenes and have nothing change says a lot about their contributions to the show.
Things like theme songs, suit designs, zords, and fight scenes are pretty superficial things that don't make or break a show so those won't be covered.
In conclusion, I say Operation Overdrive is the better of the two. But, of course, that's just my opinion.