Samurai Jack‘s penultimate episode had to do a lot to set up tonight’s series finale, and let’s just say they made it count. We learn a shocking secret about Ashi as Jack and Aku begin their final battle.
I noted in my review of the previous episode that it felt a bit abrupt to see Jack and Ashi kiss immediately after killing Lazarus-92 – and that’s exactly what they both think when they awkwardly try to break off their kiss and try to dismiss it. The two go off to clean themselves off and later meet again at a campfire, where Jack opens up about his past to someone else for the first time in his life – at which point he comes to the conclusion that he may never return to the past in spite of whatever hopes he had left. Ashi wakes up the following day to find that the samurai has left, a scene that is interrupted when we see that Scaramouche has finally told Aku the (outdated) news that Jack has lost his sword.
The second half of the episode is what really makes it stand out, and justifies the much slower pace of the first half. Here, we find that Jack’s revisted the location of a warrior known as the Guardian, who he remembered guarded a portal that may have been hidden from Aku – and as such, might present Jack’s only way back to the past. Ashi reaches him in time for the samurai to realize that the Guardian’s portal was also destroyed and that he seemingly died protecting it. While the destruction of Jack’s only way home has left him depressed, Ashi notes that he isn’t alone anymore and that she’ll do whatever she can to help him on his quest.
Unfortunately, that’s when Aku arrives, and we’re hit with a significant bombshell – Ashi and the other Daughters of Aku were, in fact, Aku’s biological daughters. Aku offered a bit of his essence to the Cult of Aku in response to a tribute, which the High Priestess ingested and became pregnant with. As a result, Ashi has Aku’s essence within her, allowing him to control her like a puppet and eventually turning her into a monster with his powers. In spite of Ashi’s protests that she’s willing to die if Aku will also die, Jack cannot bring himself to harm her, allowing Aku to seize his sword, the only thing that can destroy him.
What an episode! The climactic fight in the last few minutes is incredibly clever in terms of execution as the swordplay is complimented by a dynamic camera, and that’s before Ashi’s Aku transformation introduces an interesting set of abilities. Furthermore, ending the episode on the note where the villain is triumphant and is in possession of the only thing that can defeat him definitely sets up an interesting scenario for the last segment of this show – raising the question of how the samurai is going to get out of this one. While I personally would have liked to have seen a better resolution given to the Guardian subplot that was set up in the third season, I can understand why they opted not to take that rout – the entire arc of this season involves around Jack understanding that he has other things to fight for even without hope of returning to the past, and it seems like having Jack go back in time (at least before the finale) would undermine the narrative.
As it stands, the series finale – which will is looking to release in a standard 30-minute format instead of an hour-long format as some had hoped – has a lot to resolve between the final battle between Jack and Aku, the arrival of the Scotsman’s new army, Ashi’s fate, and – most importantly – whether or not our hero will finally find a way to get back to the past. Genndy Tartakovsky has promised fans a finale worthy of their time, and the incredible quality of the past nine episodes all point toward toward a satisfying conclusion.
Samurai Jack airs on Saturday evenings at 10:00 PM CT on Cartoon Network.