‘Samurai Jack’ 5.07 ‘XCVIII’ Review: Jack Retrieves His Sword

Samurai Jack

After overcoming his depression with the assistance of a newfound ally, Samurai Jack sets out to find his sword again. In the meantime, Ashi must face an unexpected battle that will determine her own future.

This Samurai Jack episode begins by finally explaining how our hero lost his sword by delving into the distant past. Jack finally managed to go through one of the portals, only to be yanked back into Aku’s nightmarish future at the last moment. Aku then destroyed the time portal, which he claimed was the final one. Jack, at wit’s end, gives into his anger and lunges at monsters Aku has created – and it’s only after he’s killed them all that he realizes that the monsters were ordinary lambs – and with the realization that he’s used his weapon to kill innocents, Jack loses his sword in shock. What’s interesting about this revelation is that we soon find out that the sword willingly left Jack of its own volition, which puts Jack’s depression in an entirely new light – through Aku’s deception, it was his own fault that he lost the one thing that could save the world.

So that leaves our hero, now with renewed optimism and a new companion, on a pretty obvious mission: figure out where his sword is, save the world by killing Aku, and worry about getting back to the past later. To do that, Jack has to meditate in order to get himself spiritually in-line, and so he meditates. Ashi, in the meantime, has to contend with an approaching army of orcs that are smart enough to realize that they’ve got a better chance of killing the samurai together, but foolish enough to underestimate the person guarding him. The brutality of this sequence is quite a sight to behold, especially considering that up to this episode the show hasn’t gone overboard with its violence, but it definitely isn’t wasted on this scene, which is comically juxtaposed with scenes of Jack making tea in the astral plane.

The episode has one of my favorite one-on-one confrontations in the series, not for its content (which oddly enough, happens at a slower pace than I would have liked), but for the purpose it serves relative to this point in the story. We’ve already seen Ashi visibly transform into a free spirit after she stops serving the High Priestess, which would only mean that their inevitable confrontation would be all that more important. Ashi’s character development gets a chance to solidify in this battle, as it becomes clear that she doesn’t blame Jack for the deaths of her sisters and she fully recognizes that her mother is responsible for all the misery in her life. It’s cathartic to hear Ashi reject the High Priestess’s ways after we’ve spent much of this season learning of the abusive treatment she put her own children through – and, in a sense, it’s rather satisfying knowing that she (most likely) died without ever meeting the dark lord that she worshipped.

When we cut back to Jack, we see that the tea-making exercise turns out to be part of an elaborate ritual for Jack to find his balance – because the samurai acted out on his negative instincts, he lost sight of who he was meant to be (and as one hallucination noted in the season premiere, he’d forgotten his purpose). This leads to the subtle revelation that the inner self that Jack’s been hallucinating is a new incarnation of Mad Jack, an enemy he once fought in the distant past – which he recognizes is the manifestation of all the anger and guilt that’s built up until that point. Although this particular plot thread seems like a retread of Jack having to overcome the Omen in the previous episode, it does lead to a really cool scene in which he meets with a tribunal of gods (Odin, Ra, and Rama) to reforge the sword, much like his father did in the ancient past.

Jack and Ashi both end the episode with greater confidence in themselves and each other, and Aku is their next target. With only three episodes left, the show’s headed for one heck of a climax – and should the quality of the series continue to be as great as it is, then it will be well worth the 13-year wait for one last season.

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