‘Samurai Jack’ 5.05 ‘XCVI’ Review: Jack, Ashi, And Scotsman Fight Aku

Samurai Jack

Samurai Jack continues to maintain its good run during the revival, as the latest episode continues to show the changing dynamic between Jack and Ashi and features the long-awaited return of a fan-favorite supporting character: the Scotsman.

The episode starts off with an action sequence revolving around a now wheelchair-bound Scotsman as he leads his armies (including dozens of his own daughters) into battle against Aku, who emerges from his inner sanctum for the first time in years in an attempt to cure his ongoing depression. The battle against an invulnerable lord of pure evil without a strategy to face him goes about as well as one would expect, but the Scotsman gets a heroic – if undignified – end in the process: he manages to buy time for his daughters to escape by telling the evil overlord by insulting him and reminding him that Jack is still inspiring others to fight. Even if this does nothing to prevent his own demise, it puts Aku back into his glum state as he realizes that the Scotsman wasn’t wrong. Luckily for the Scotsman, he’s able to come back as a ghost since his sword was embedded with runes, allowing him and his daughters to come up with a better plan of attack.

At this point, we return to Jack and Ashi, who are still stranded on the island as they were at the end of the previous episode. Ashi’s lost in thought as she now has to consider the possibility that Samurai Jack isn’t her enemy, and that everything her mother told her was a lie. So Jack spends the rest of the episode begrudgingly showing the effects of Aku’s evil on the world to an unaware Ashi. The story truly culminates later on, when Ashi discovers that one of Aku’s henchmen has been forcing children into becoming brainwashed soldiers – a kind of pain that she can relate to all too well, as the slave-driver is quick to learn. While this action cements Ashi’s decision to defect from Aku, the seeming demise of the children (from Jack’s perspective) is something that finally breaks the hero and causes him to go off to parts unknown with the mysterious horseman who has been trailing him for so long. Ashi is left on her own as she realizes that she successfully rescued the children, but is horrified at the thought that the person who saved her is in serious danger.

I feel as though this episode had a key issue behind it that kept it from being better: Jack’s sudden cynicism about the future and his initial belief that Ashi is unable to change seems a bit out-of-place after the events of the previous episode. Though I get why it’s necessitated by the story (and particularly the cliffhanger ending), it seems like it would have fit in much better had this particular story followed the death of the first Daughter of Aku, since that was the point where Jack was at his most distraught. Conversely, it’s relieving to see that, even though the world is worse than it was when Samurai Jack first arrived to make a difference, there are still people who haven’t given up hope for a better future. The Scotsman embodies this even though he was in no position to fight Aku – and goes to show that in spite of the revival’s much darker approach, there’s still hope that Jack will find a way.

Visually, I don’t think the episode had as many standout moments as the previous episodes – but the sequence with the sea dragon was definitely a highlight. And while I don’t feel like this episode was particularly remarkable by the high standards it has already set, I would again like to reiterate that this series is incredibly well put-together. Knowing that the next episode is going to focus a lot on paying homage to the earlier episodes, I would say that the episode’s prologue does a commendable job in setting that up with the Scotsman – and, even though I thought it could have been executed better, it may also provide a solid contrast to Jack’s cynical outlook in this episode.

Samurai Jack airs on Saturday evenings at 10:00 PM CT on Cartoon Network.