‘Samurai Jack’ 5.03 ‘XCIV’ Review: Jack Turns The Tables

Samurai Jack

The third episode of Samurai Jack‘s revival continues to uphold the excellence that was established by the previous two episodes. When last we saw Samurai Jack, he was left in a pretty terrible place – flowing lifelessly downstream as he bleeds out from a serious stomach wound. Even after he lost his entire arsenal of weapons and his armor, he was only able to kill a single Daughter of Aku; the rest are still on his trail, and the distance between them is closing as he has only a short amount of time to recover. But as he said in a recent episode, “It always seems bad at first, but then I find a way.” And boy, does Jack turn a seemingly-hopeless situation around in a way that only he can.

We start off with Jack skulking off into a cave while still bleeding profusely – it’s a wonder he can even walk. Haunted by hallucinations, and the continued vision of the mysterious rider tied to his past, Jack takes refuge within a cave to finally start treating his injuries, but he passes out from blood loss. When he comes to, he’s faced with his mental projection – this time much more distorted and freakish in appearance – who taunts him for taking a life and getting so concerned over taking life when he’s already slaughtered thousands of robots, with Jack having nothing to say in his defense except for a weak “no” before he loses consciousness again.

And that’s when Jack remembers something from his past – the first time he saw his father, the Emperor of Japan, shed the blood of his enemies. It was the only way that the Emperor could protect his family from a group of assassins, but naturally, exposure to this kind of violence left Jack traumatized. After the carnage, the Emperor explains to a young Jack that actions prove who people really are – that the assassins were cowards and that he did the right thing. When Jack comes to, he realizes that his wounds have been tended to by an unlikely ally – the wolf that were led to believe had died at the end of the previous episode. Jack and the wolf subsequently look after one another as they heal, with Jack having renewed resolve following his disastrous first battle with the Daughters.

When we return to the Daughters of Aku, we get more insight into the way they think – the follower who died at the end of the previous episode is dragged out of the ruined temple and isn’t even given the decency of a burial, as the others simply note that her demise made her weak and leave her to rot. At one point, their leader – the woman named Ashi, who we met in the first episode – agrees to take watch, but she instead finds herself stargazing due to her curious nature. And right before they confront the samurai, they spot a pair of deer in the forest, unsure what to make of them because they were never told about the outside world. Throughout the second half of the episode, we get a sense that the Daughters are victims of Aku’s evil much in the same way that any of the show’s other characters are.

When they finally reach Jack, he repeats his father’s advice and gives them an offer to let them go – only for the Daughters to immediately reject it, at which point Jack comes to terms with the fact that he’ll have to kill them all. Jack has an upper hand in the second battle in that he’s able to plan the fight out this time, putting his enemies on the defensive. He’s able to utilize a sudden blizzard as effective cover to quickly reduce their numbers by a third, and then turn their weapons against them to kill another Daughter. In a way, it’s almost tragic to see the demise of the Daughters – Jack has no idea that the Daughters, being raised from birth to follow orders, and they were never given the freedom to choose for themselves. Come the end of the episode, Ashi is the final survivor, and she’s left cursing his name as she falls off a cliff to her seeming doom. Shortly afterward, Jack falls off the same cliff as the log he stands upon fractures – leading to a fairly predictable, though still intriguing cliffhanger that hints that Ashi survived along with Jack.

It’s very interesting to see the first half of the episode rely almost entirely on visual storytelling alone, with little action and minimal dialogue – the only dialogue comes from either hallucinations or the flashback, whereas the rest of the sequence is a silent explanation of how Jack took shelter and healed his wounds. From an aesthetic standpoint, more of the show’s signature art design has a chance to shine here – when Jack is in the cave, his bleeding wounds light up his silhouette, and the blizzard sequence where everything is obscured (including some of the characters, at times). The big action sequence at the end is very fluidly animated, and it’s very clever to see the last three Daughters take up a Kali-esque battle stance to fight Jack with several weapons at once, even if that only lasts for a minute.

So far, the Samurai Jack revival is three for three. The next episode seems to tease a story that has little to do with advancing the plot in favor of just having an old-fashioned adventure – so it should be interesting to see how the show’s creative team handles a filler episode in what has thus far been a pretty story-driven season.

Samurai Jack airs on Saturday evenings at 10:00 PM CT on Cartoon Network. Stay tuned for the latest news regarding the Samurai Jack revival!