Samurai Jack Season 5 Review: Episode 1 (XCII) (SPOILER ALERT)ModernSpongeBobSucks "50 years have passed, but I do not age. Time has lost its effect on me. Yet the suffering continues. Aku's grasp chokes the past, present, and future. Hope is lost. Gotta get back. Back to the past. Samurai Jack."
Welcome, fellow TopTenners and visitors. As you may or may not know, the critically-acclaimed animated series Samurai Jack, created by Genndy Tartakovsky, has received a new fifth season about 13 years after its cancellation in 2004. In this new season of Samurai Jack, we witness an episodic story set by a darker and more mature tone as it leads up to the final and epic conclusion of the conflict between Jack and Aku in the former's quest to travel back to the past and prevent Aku's rise to power after having been flung into the future while trying to strike the final blow to Aku in order to save his people. A lot has changed over the past 50 years with Jack in his universe, so I'm quite interested in keeping up with the plot of the revival of Tartakovsky's magnum opus. And what better way than to review and discuss each and every episode of the fifth and final season of Samurai Jack? Sure, I may not have watched Samurai Jack as a kid, but Tartakovsky himself stated that the final episode that aired before the series's cancellation is not connected to the first episode of the fifth season, so this means that regardless if you're new to the series or not, anyone can enjoy this Emmy-winning work of art. With that said, let's review episode 1 of the fifth season of Samurai Jack! Also, as indicated by the title of this post, this review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS, so consider yourself warned.
Now the episode first starts off with some smoke emitting in a black background, only for the screen to turn completely back, reminiscing the smoke in the black background seen in the Toonami promos for the fifth season of Samurai Jack. It then cuts to a scene of a city in the distance that appears to be under attack as civilians can be heard screaming in the background. We then see some blue female aliens, one a mother holding a baby and the other being the mother's daughter, appearing to be victims of the attack as they're desperately running away from the city, only to be circled around by a massive army of beetle drones that surround them in a very well-choreographed and intricate pattern of movement. The mother and the daughter communicate to each other through emojis saying that they love each other as it seems that they're about to face their deaths together.
However, before the drones can attack them, one of them senses something approaching them in the distance. We then see a man wearing a mask in an armored suit riding a motorcycle driving up to where the aliens and the drones are as he launches the first attack on them with a missile launcher. He then circles around the drones as he proceeds to shoot them with a machine gun, with each and every one being shot getting shot to smithereens as bullets can be seen dropping from the machine gun. When the machine gun runs out of ammo, then the man tilts the front of his bike upwards as the front tire retracts spikes! Wow, in just the first few minutes of the episode, we already have an astonishing display of badass action scenes! And it only gets more badass from here too! The man then uses the spiked front tire to literally shred one of the drones approaching him to pieces! He then boosts the bike into the air, where the camera then zooms in on the back tire as it begins to retract spikes as well, allowing him to shred more drones to pieces as he rides across them as if it were a ride in the park! But suddenly, one of the drones then ambushes him directly to stop his advance, only for the man to shoot him... RIGHT IN THE DRONE'S EYE! Then he activates a spiked staff where he proceeds to slash the remaining drones, until eventually, his mask is accidentally torn in half and one of the drones knock off his helmet, revealing the man to be none other than... SAMURAI JACK! While the daughter alien is seen emphasizing this newly learned fact by questioning if it really is Jack himself, Jack then goes all-out as he screams mightily and stabs through the last of the drones, finishing off the job as the last drone spews oil. With the aliens saved, Jack then puts on his helmet and rides off into the distance with his motorcycle as the daughter alien gives him thanks for saving her and her family (with emojis, of course). Then the scene cuts to the intro as Jack gives some introspection detailing how 50 years have passed since he first got sent to the future. He says that he no longer ages, yet the suffering continues as Aku's grasp chokes the past, present, and future. He then utters the iconic lyrics to his show's theme song in the rain as the logo for the series flashes on to the screen along with the words "Created by Genndy Tartakovsky".
After the intro is said and done, we suddenly see a statue of Aku where a group of female cult followers who worship Aku are seen chanting as the high priestess of the cult is giving birth to seven daughters. Now when I say give birth, we're not talking the kind where the mother is giving birth at the hospital and having a heartwarming meeting with her newborn infant. For this birth, this one was carried out ritually while the mother was LITERALLY screaming in pain as each daughter was born and the gong rang for each time it happened. Not to mention that how the babies cried really gave me a feeling of darkness and disturbance given that this wasn't any birth scene you would see in a TV show! Man, Tartakovsky truly knows how to turn the most lighthearted of things into the most heavyhearted with this scene! Eventually, the ritual birth ceremony ends with the mother successfully giving birth to her seven daughters alive and well, who she plans to train rigorously in order to make them succeed in which others have not for Aku: killing Samurai Jack.
Meanwhile, the episode goes back to Jack as he witnesses smoke from an explosion in the distance in a forest and proceeds to drive forward to it until he decides to stop by a river for a quick sip of water. All seems well until Jack starts to hear his father's voice saying why has his own son forsaken and forgotten him and his people. At this point, the audience can clearly see that Jack is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as it seems he's losing faith in himself as it has been 50 years and he still hasn't been able to get back to the past to stop Aku. Things only get more traumatic for Jack as he starts to hallucinate and sees the leaves dropping into the river turn into his father, mother, and eventually all of his people, who are depicted as zombies in despair as they chant in distorted voices that Jack has left them all to die while dramatic music plays in the background. Honestly, this scene really scared the hell out of me when I first saw it! Just goes to show you how much more dark and mature this series has gotten! Jack then sees a shadowy warrior mounted on a horse as an eerie sound is played when the entity comes on sight in Jack's hallucination, prompting him to ride away on his motorcycle away from the river. Hmm, I wonder what that shadowy warrior is supposed to represent...
Anyways, it then cuts to nighttime as Jack is seen cooking a dead rat near a fire in the woods for dinner, until his hallucinations begin to haunt him again, starting with a vision of his father in the fire Jack built, where he is depicted as supposedly being hung by his arms to represent the pain Aku has put him and his people through. Jack's father bemoans over Jack not having come back to the past to save him and his people, leading to the latter to reply that Aku has destroyed the way home, implying that possibly every time portal in existence was destroyed, therefore leaving Jack in the future forever. Despite the reply, Jack's father grows angrier as the fire around him intensifies and he claims that Aku has burned and destroyed everything, culminating in him shouting that Jack has forgotten his purpose and forsaken his people as his voice begins to distort again and Jack's people accompany Jack's father in this hellish hallucination. Only by seeing the shadowy warrior mounted on a horse from before did Jack scream and fled on his motorcycle again, escaping a potential death in a forest fire.
While things are looking intense for Jack, things are looking even more intense as we are thrown back to the seven daughters (known as the Daughters of Aku) back at the cult, where they have grown into toddlers and are being trained rigorously. In one of their exercises, one of the Daughters of Aku makes a mistake during them, prompting their mother to reprimand her and introduce the rest of the daughters to a large giant woman that they must take down. During this exercise, the same daughter from before is then flung back and spots some sunlight, which she then traces to a crack in the cave, allowing her to see the beauty of the outside world. Unfortunately, her mother spots her and lectures her on how she must stay focused on her training and never relent but always attack. It is at this point that we learn that this daughter's name is Ashi. Now considering that she's the member of the Daughters of Aku that gets the most screen time out of all of them, Ashi may play a major role in the story later on. That said, after being punished by the same large giant woman from earlier by being beaten mercilessly, Ashi and the other Daughters of Aku are seen jumping from rock to rock as they have now grown into teenagers, with the former slipping and one of the others about to come help her when the mother then suddenly tells the latter to stop and keep on going. The mother then goes to Ashi and pushes her staff directly onto Ashi's hand holding the ridge she's hanging from where she's on the verge of falling into a pit of spikes! Dang, talk about brutal, if you ask me! Throw in the fact that she's voiced by Grey DeLisle, the same voice actress for Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Vicky from The Fairly OddParents, and you can already tell that this mother isn't one to baby her daughters around! Anyways, it seems Ashi is about to give in to the pain from her mother's staff when she then screams and is able to get back up and continue her exercise. The mother relishes in her daughters' growth as she now puts them into a dark area where they must dodge fire arrows and she prays to the Aku statue that once they succeed, Aku will honor them again with his presence.
Phew, talk about a lot of intensity in that last paragraph. Thankfully, things take on a much lighter tone as we cut back to Jack approaching a decimated village where he tracked the smoke he saw earlier in the forest, where he then meets an android named Scaramouche. Or as he likes to go by:
"Scaramouche the Merciless, the Pied Piper of Ruination, the Crooner of Carnage, the Ambassador of Annihilation, the Eradicator of All, baby. Also known as Aku's most favorite assassin, babe."
Tom Kenny sure knows how to make something as robotic as this guy as hilarious as possible. Moving on, as Jack maintains a scowling face, Scaramouche then awaits Jack to pull out his magic sword until he notices that Jack doesn't have his sword with him, leading to him to imply that Jack has lost his sword. Unfortunately, for Jack, this is proven to be true, as we are then taken to a brief flashback where he is seen in despair in some unknown location as he loses his sword as it drops into an endless chasm. Dang... Sounds like Tartakovsky's got a lot in store for us when the series finally comes to explain how the flashback came to be. That said, when the flashback ends, Scaramouche chortles and proceeds to boast about this discovery to Aku by calling him via cell phone, which prompts Jack to move out of his scowling stance by throwing a star at the cell phone and punching the android in rapid succession in order to keep Aku from finding out about it. It is then that the two's fight truly begins as Scaramouche demonstrates his musical powers by playing a flute, which causes some debris to build up and form a golem. Jack puts up a good fight with the golem for a while as he first shoots his head and then has to subdue it again after its head gets replaced by another piece of debris. However, after defeating the golem, he then suffers from hallucinations again as the debris turn into children from his era and they beg Jack to help them, making Jack, as quoted by Scaramouche, "beaucoup cuckoo". Eventually, Scaramouche takes advantage of Jack's hallucination and uses the time given by his distraction to smack him on the cheek with a huge piece of debris. Scaramouche then directs a circle of debris at Jack, where Jack then uses armor plates on his arms to defend against the incoming debris, until he throws one of them directly at Scaramouche's flute, effectively destroying one of Scaramouche's best weapons and rendering his debris-controlling abilites useless. However, this proves to still be futile, as Scaramouche is able to scat and use it to control the movements of a blade. Jack is able to fend off against the blade and Scaramouche using two knives until the latter introduces a new magnetic sword that causes one of Jack's knives to explode after being hit by it. Fortunately, the explosion isn't fatal enough to kill Jack and he is able to hit his other knife against Scaramouche's magnetic sword, where he then takes advantage of Scaramouche's boasting to throw the knife right at Scaramouche's neck, causing an explosion and leaving Scaramouche defenseless. Jack then pulls the blade that Scaramouche had controlled with his scatting from earlier to slash him in half and defeat him once and for all, claiming the magnetic sword as his prize as he walks into the distance.
The episode then finally cuts back to the Daughters of Aku, who are on their last training exercise as they must run up a wall while simultaneously taking out any cult followers in their way. Ashi is shown to have improved greatly as an assassin as she runs up to a cult follower wielding a bow and arrow and kills her, taking the weapon for herself, which she uses to defeat some other cult followers hindering two of her sisters' progress. Eventually, all seven make it to the top where their mother confirms their training is complete. The mother then bestows to each of them masks of the same design as she tells them that their objective is to kill the Samurai (namely Samurai Jack). The Daughters of Aku are then last seen running in front of the audience's eyes as the episode closes out with the traditional Samurai Jack episode ending theme song.
So now that I've detailed everything that's happened in this episode, what are my thoughts on it? Well, to cut to the chase, all I can say is that this episode is PERFECT. With little to no flaws at all, Tartakovsky brings back his most beloved animated series in the most epic and awe-inspiring way possible. In an era of animation where storytelling has become a central part of animated works and define them as the way they are today, the fifth season of Samurai Jack captures both what made fans attracted to the original series and what made new ones attracted to the revival of said original series. Thanks to Tartakovsky and Adult Swim, the revival of Samurai Jack didn't become your average Teen Titans Go! or The Powerpuff Girls 2016 reboot. This revival in particular stayed true to what made the series so great in the first place while making it better at the same time. With an action-packed opening scene chock-full of robot bashing, a newer way of telling the story of Samurai Jack through the introspective viewpoint given by Jack himself in a more dark and mature tone with an episodic and cohesive plot, voice acting and animation faithful to that of the original series, and the transition from Jack being a blank slate character who was of stoic heroism and justice to a lost warrior trying to find who he is again after losing his sword and faith in himself, along with the introduction of new and awesome characters and villains, XCII is by far, a phenomenal premiere episode for the fifth and final season of Samurai Jack. So with that, here's my final score for episode 1 of the fifth season of Samurai Jack:
10.0 out of 10.0 stars
Thanks for reading and be sure to check out episode 2 of the fifth season of Samurai Jack after doing so. Until then, peace!
Nice review, man. Well said and great points. - phillysports
Thanks, I appreciate it. By the way, I'm actually going to be reviewing all 10 episodes of the Samurai Jack revival as each new episode comes out, so when a new review of an episode comes out by me, I'll be sure to tell you. - ModernSpongeBobSucks
Great post. I'm gonna watch Samurai jack s5 soon - Cartoonfan202
The second episode comes out tonight, so you might want to get to it as soon as possible. Also, there are some videos of the first episode of the Samurai Jack revival on YouTube split into 7 parts. - ModernSpongeBobSucks
They should revive Megas XLR next. - visitor
Well, if Toonami can keep following the pattern of bringing back classic animated shows like Samurai Jack and FLCL, why not revive Megas XLR? Let's just hope Jason DeMarco is willing to be all open ears on that idea. - ModernSpongeBobSucks
It was great back in the day, the season 5 ReBoot also showing great potential of that continuation of awesomeness. - htoutlaws2012
Yep. - ModernSpongeBobSucks