The entirety of the Samurai Jack revival has been a labor of love for fans of the original four seasons, and here we many of these previous events pay off in a big way. Ashi, having been separated from Jack due to the events in the previous episode, now seeks to find the samurai after he’s fallen into despair. Along the way, she discovers just how many lives he’s changed over the course of over fifty years.
When we last saw Jack, the samurai was seen skulking toward the mysterious, otherworldly presence known as the Omen after believing he was responsible for the deaths of dozens of children. Ashi, now fully understanding that Aku is the evil bringing ruin to the world, is now looking everywhere for the man who saved her life. Ashi spent the previous episode learning why Aku is evil, so it’s only fitting that she spends this episode learning why Jack is good, as she hears of tales of his heroic feats from the many people the hero helped over the years. Meanwhile, it turns out that Scaramouche, the singing robot assassin that Jack defeated in the revival’s premiere, is still alive as a disembodied head. Scaramouche intends to tell Aku that Jack has lost his sword (one of the only things that can kill Aku), but he’s met with obstacle after obstacle preventing him from accomplishing this goal – something that serves as a nice bit of comic relief to some of the darker places this episode visits. Hopefully, we’ll get to see a little more of him in the last few episodes, as he’s proven to be one of the more interesting villain-of-the-week types that Jack has had to face. Ashi, in the meantime, undergoes a physical transformation that signifies her character development and further establishes her separation from her abusive mother – in a sense, it’s almost as if we’re watching the birth of a soul.
Throughout the episode, viewers are treated to an abundance of references to the original series. We see the Woolies that Jack helped approach Ashi when they fear she’s a bounty hunter for Aku; the three archers fend off Aku’s beetle drones from a hidden location; Scaramouche visiting the seaport where the Scotsman took Jack to help restore his memory; the girl Jack rescued at a rave lead a rave of her own; the descendants of the Archaeologist Dogs throw Scaramouche off the boat; Da Samurai working as a bartender where a Spartan and Demongo visit; and finally, a small woman who appears to be Kuni from the haunted house, who then guides Ashi to a graveyard where Jack previously fought off an army of dust zombies. Aside from the return of Demongo – which was more or less treated as a throwaway gag – all of it feels organic with the story that’s being told. Every one of these scenes help reestablish the scope and scale of the world Genndy Tartakovsky created years ago and puts it under a fresh new light, showing that in spite of the standstill between Jack and Aku, the samurai has changed the world for the better.
Which brings us back to our hero. Here, we see that the presence following him – the Omen – has convinced him that he’s failed in his duty as a warrior and that the only thing he can do is commit an honorable suicide. Before Jack can commit seppuku, Ashi tells our hero how much he’s meant to this world and to her – and considering that three episodes ago, she was cursing his name, that’s quite a transformation that still feels like a natural progression of her character arc – and that’s what ultimately breaks him out of his malaise and allows him to return as the hero we know him to be. While I was surprised at how short the actual fight between Jack and the Omen was, I felt as though it made sense – this season has established that one of Jack’s greatest enemies is himself, and doing away with what appears to be a manifestation of his own lingering guilt in such a swift fashion effectively illustrate’s Jack’s renewed willpower. We end the episode with Jack’s hope and optimism renewed and the dawn of a new quest.
While I personally felt that the last two episodes – while great in their own right – didn’t quite live up to the promise shown in the first three episodes in the revival, this episode did more than to make up for it. It’s an incredible homage to everything that’s come before, builds upon what makes this series such a joy to watch, and sets up a strong foundation for the path of the next few episodes in order to lead into the long-awaited conclusion. I’m almost tempted to call this one the best in the entire series – whether I count the revival or not – but I get the feeling that the show can only reach new heights from here.
Oh, and before I forget – this episode has my favorite line in any Samurai Jack episode based on the sheer audacity of it. You know the one.
Samurai Jack airs on Saturday evenings at 10:00 PM CT on Cartoon Network.