Samurai Jack 5.2 Review – ‘Episode XCIII’
In the latest episode for Samurai Jack‘s final, epic season, the lone, wandering samurai known as Jack is pushed to his very limit in a desperate fight for survival. However, the episode begins with this season’s first proper appearance of Jack’s archenemy, Aku (Greg Baldwin), who only made a short verbal cameo last week.
The return of Aku is a welcome sight after all these years, and it’s nice to see that Genndy Tartakovsky and his staff didn’t try to hold back showing Aku for that long. Aku’s appearance is decidedly hilarious, reinforcing that the series hasn’t lost its own unique sense of humor. The episode actually opens with the deadly, imposing shapeshifting Aku doing rather mundane, ordinary things; at least for Aku. He wakes up, he applies his flaming eyebrows, he does some morning stretches; it’s the routine life of the world’s evil overlord. Some of Aku’s mad scientists report that they’ve created a new beetle drone to deal with Jack, but Aku couldn’t be less interested…or is he? It turns out, despite his protests, Aku is still no less concerned about Jack than he was at the start of the series. Aku’s “therapy session” with himself is fun because it does give a peak into the psyche of Aku, along with his personal anxieties. Jack is still very much a thorn in his side, and in his own way, Aku is also mentally exhausted with figuring out how to get rid of the samurai. This scene quickly explains Jack’s lack of aging over the last 50 years, and Aku also confirms that he’s apparently destroyed all the time portals for which Jack could use to travel back to the past. What’s interesting about this scene is that Jack is not the only one mentally exhausted by all these years of fighting. In his own eccentric way, Aku is tired of the conflict as well. However, considering Jack’s current circumstances, Aku is still the one sitting in the cat bird’s seat.
The rest of the episode focuses on Jack who encounters first the aforementioned new beetle drone, which makes quick work of. However, that soon gives way to Jack having his first encounter with the fully trained, cunning and deadly Seven Daughters of Aku. As cool as last week’s fight between Jack and Scaramouch was, this fight even surpasses it. It goes through most of the episode, and Jack is pushed to his most physical and mental limits in a way the series has never depicted before. The Seven Daughters have been bred and trained their whole lives specifically to kill Jack, and Jack is weighed down and nearly defeated by his failures to stop Aku and return home in the last 50 years.
Writer Darrick Bachman and executive producer Genndy Tartakovsky stage the narrative for the episode in a very interesting way. Scenes of Jack’s fight and encounter with the Daughters of Aku are juxtaposed with a fight between a white wolf that’s been cornered and forced to fight for its life against some vicious alien hybrid tiger animals. Obviously, the poor, beleaguered wolf is a metaphor for Jack and his ongoing plight with the Daughters of Aku, but the situation for both the wolf and Jack grows progressively worse over the course of the episode. These fights and sequences just really demonstrate the cinematic and exceptional qualities of visual and narrative storytelling Tartakovsky and his staff are capable of for this series. Undoubtedly, the animators continued to bring their A-game here.
Much like the audience gets a peak into Aku’s fears and anxieties earlier, there’s a nice focus on that for Jack’s part as well. Jack gets backed into a corner here, and there’s a very profound scene that shows just how fragile his mental state has become. The psychological scars of the last 50 years definitely weigh heavy on Jack, and this is probably the closest he’s ever been to a true defeat. Even when Aku has foiled Jack in the past, he’s been steadfast in continuing to move forward and fight against Aku. However, Jack clearly close to his breaking point. Putting the stoic and noble hero that is Jack through this humbling scenario has definitely been tough to watch, but also beautifully dramatic. The genuine hope is that even if Jack does very well hit rock bottom, he can still find that that thread to continue moving and rebuild himself.
So far, this season is moving along nicely. The animation team and Tartakovsky have not lost a beat at all with this show, and everything is on point for the final season thus far.