Samurai Jack Season 5 Review: Episode 2 (XCIII) (SPOILER ALERT)

ModernSpongeBobSucks
Welcome once again, fellow TopTenners and visitors! This is MSBS here and I'm here again to review another episode of the fifth and final season of Samurai Jack! If you recall what I wrote in my previous episode review of Samurai Jack, you would know that I gave quite a highly positive reception of the first episode of Samurai Jack. Now for this review, I'll be analyzing the events of the second episode of Samurai Jack and giving commentary on them, all leading up to my final thoughts on the episode. I'll also be connecting the events of this episode to the previous episode as well. From that, it goes without saying that this review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS just as my other reviews are going to have. That said, let's review the second episode of the fifth season of Samurai Jack, shall we?

So the second episode of the fifth season of Samurai Jack begins with Aku waking up from his sleep when his alarm clock goes off. From this point, it is clearly shown that Aku still looks the same as he was from the original series, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise given that he's a non-human demonic wizard that's supposed to be the embodiment of evil (after all, his name is literally Japanese for the word "evil"). And while sadly, Mako Iwamatsu can't reprise his role as Aku since he passed away on July 21, 2006, Greg Baldwin does a pretty good job filling in the slot for Iwamatsu by doing his best to mimic the voice of Aku that Iwamatsu had portrayed for the audience in his time. But of course, like the creators said, no one could ever replace Iwamatsu. Either way, Aku still proves to be the same likable antagonist that he was from the original, albeit with a few changes, which we'll get to later. After waking up, he then rises up to see a group of... muddy aliens who are supporters of Aku? Well, it doesn't matter since despite them offering a mud sculpture of Aku as a tribute to him, Aku rejects them due to them leaving mud all over his floor in his lair. Then a group of scientists who are also followers of Aku come and present to Aku a new giant beetle drone that looks more large and powerful than the standard beetle drone. Strangely, Aku doesn't seem to care about this new contraption and just tells the scientists that he simply doesn't care about killing Jack anymore, so he tells them that they can do whatever they want with Jack including killing him. Aku then descends back into his bedroom where he then conjures up a therapist made of his own body, demonstrating that he's still concerned with Jack and was only pretending to not care about it earlier. Basically, in this episode, we see that Aku has grown tired and depressed from it being 50 years ever since he sent Jack into the future, which is best shown through his interactions with his therapist. So Aku tells the therapist that he's destroyed every time portal in existence, which he believed would have led to Jack aging and gradually leading to dying of old age. However, Aku then points out that it is not so, because he knows Jack no longer ages as a side effect of him being flung into the future. Now one thing I would like to say about this is that during his interactions with his therapist, Aku is actually pretty humorous during them despite being depressed. To me, Baldwin really hit it out of the ballpark with this one given that it's usually hard to mix comedy with a grim tone, with his predecessor Iwamatsu being the only other person that was able to do this. Although, I have to admit that Baldwin doesn't exactly have the same energy that Iwamatsu had when it came to Aku's comedic appeal.

The episode then cuts to a scene in the peaceful woods, where we then see a white wolf maneuvering through it. Then, in the middle of its trek, the episode then transitions to Jack riding his motorcycle through a barren forest. Now what's really interesting about this is how both the wolf and Jack have their actions and decisions that they make coincide with each other, essentially making themselves a mirroring parallel of each other in the form of an analogy. For example, this can first be seen when in individual scenes separate from each other, the two both run into a fork path in which they must choose one pathway. Eventually, they happen to do so and choose the left pathways that they take, only for both of them to run into an array of enemies. For the wolf, it runs into a trio of neon green tigers that ambush it, prompting him to counter them. For Jack, he first encounters the same giant beetle drone that the scientists presented to Aku from earlier in the episode. Obviously, Jack makes short work of the new beetle drone model by activating his spiked staff and going all Cu Chulainn Lancer-class Servant on it and throwing it like a spear at the drone, which tears straight through the drone's circuitry and immediately results in a massive explosion.

Having successfully taken down another one of Aku's minions, Jack takes back his spiked staff and rides off again. Suddenly, the Daughters of Aku, who were introduced in the first episode that were last seen running to their target, assault him without warning, easily stripping him of his armor, weapons, and even his motorcycle, with one of them taking the sonic dagger (sorry, I initially called it a magnetic sword in my review of the first episode, but it turns out it's called a sonic dagger. I apologize for any inconvenience with this mistake) that Jack had gained from his fight with Scaramouche in the first episode. Jack's struggle with these new female assassins goes on as he screams at the top of his lungs trying to shoot them with a machine gun while the white wolf simultaneously goes toe to toe with all of the three neon tigers in a gory survival of the fittest, with the former shedding red blood and the latter bleeding green blood as they all try to bite each other to death. Eventually, the machine gun gets scrapped as well, leaving Jack with having to detonate an explosive ring in order to create an explosion. This creates a massive cloud of smoke, only for it to be shortly doused out when it starts raining. Thankfully, Jack had enough time to seek refuge and hide within one of the beetle drone's remains.

Then things take on a more psychological approach when Jack's consciousness starts speaking to him in the form of a ghastly image of his younger self. Jack's consciousness sternly asks him when will this struggle end. Jack replies that he will find a way like he always had, only for his consciousness to reply back that that was only back when he had his sword, but now that he has lost it, he'll be in great danger if Aku finds out about it. Jack then tells his consciousness that Aku has not shown himself in years, thinking that the latter keeps thinking that his machines will eventually defeat him and that his enemies are just nuts and bolts. Despite that, his consciousness still believes that there is no point in continuing to stay alive and that there is no honor without his sword. The consciousness is even about to suggest committing suicide and joining his dead ancestors, where we then see the same shadowy warrior mounted on a horse from the first episode with a temple in the distance right behind him. Now it's clearly established at this point that the shadowy warrior could be a possible representation of Death himself, which clears up any theories suggesting that this may be the entity that caused Jack to lose his sword or that it's a possible future version of Jack joining the dark side.

Regardless, Jack decides to make a run for it against his consciousness's pleas, where he then dashes into the rain and plans to head to the temple. Throughout this scene, you can tell that the creators and the animators really put a lot of effort into the sound, visuals, and lighting effects of this episode as Jack makes each single step in an intense and slow-motion animation sequence. As Jack continues to run while remaining heavily focused on his surroundings, a bolt of lightning strikes to reveal that the Daughters of Aku have appeared again in hot pursuit of him from behind. Eventually, Jack finally reaches the temple, where he quickly goes into hiding in hopes of the Daughters of Aku losing track of him. However, the Daughters of Aku manage to reach the temple as well and split into 7 as they each individually try to track down Jack in paths very different from each other, such as the hallway with the firefly, the hallway with the vines, the underwater hallway, etc. With neither of them able to find Jack, they decide to hide in the shadows with the anticipation that Jack will come out of hiding, giving them an opportunity to gang up on him. Eventually, Jack does come out of hiding and attempts to flee the temple, but then goes into the same hallway with the firefly in it, where he then clashes with the same exact assassin that was in that hallway in the dark, which gives some good old black-and-white lighting effects reminiscent of the episode "Samurai versus Ninja". Then the rest of the Daughters of Aku join in as they attempt to kill Jack for good. Jack then gives chase as he desperately tries to dodge their every move at every turn in almost all of the pathways they took earlier.

Eventually, while Jack is running, part of the floor crumbles beneath him and leads him to the basement of the temple, where he takes cover in a huge tomb filled with multiple coffins and a throne with a skeleton resting upon it. However, the Daughters of Aku shortly find the hole that was made by the floor that crumbled from underneath Jack earlier, prompting them to investigate underground as a remix of The Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly plays during their search for Jack as he hides himself in one of the coffins. I gotta say, playing that soundtrack during this moment of high tension in this episode was quite a splendid combination, if I do say so myself! Not to mention that how Jack's eyes well up before the Daughters of Aku home in on him really added to the suspense! That said, when the Daughters of Aku finally ambush Jack, he comes out wielding a sword that he had found from the coffin he was hiding in in order to defend himself against the Daughters of Aku, only for it to be shattered to pieces. Jack then tries to avoid the rest of their attacks as he reaches the skeleton on the throne and takes its battle ax, which he uses to defend himself against the Daughters of Aku again, only for it to be shortly demolished like the last weapon he used.

With no weapons to use again and having all of his remaining armor stripped off, Jack then flees through an exit, where dramatic music plays as he maneuvers some 3D computer-animated turnarounds until a Daughter of Aku catches up to him and tries to attack him with his sword. Luckily, Jack is able to steal the sword from her and bashes his head against her face, leaving her stunned and her mask cracked as he proceeds to slit her across the throat, effectively killing her as red human blood oozes out of her neck. The mask then cracks as she falls to the floor and Jack is visibly horrified that he has just taken a human life, being that in general, this is the first time he has ever claimed one since all his life in the future, he has just killed robots and non-human creatures and nothing more. Thankfully, it wasn't Ashi who got killed, so she still has potential to play a bigger role in the series as it progresses. Anyways, things aren't much better afterwards given that the Daughter of Aku was able to stab Jack with a dagger before dying, leaving him bleeding. Despite that, he is not fatally wounded. Detecting the sounds of footsteps from the other Daughters of Aku and spotting an opening out of the temple, he spots Scaramouche's sonic dagger that one of the Daughters of Aku had stolen earlier from him, which he then takes back and clangs against the walls of the hallway he's in in order to self-destruct the temple so that the Daughters of Aku can't follow him. He then reaches the opening and dives into a river as the temple explodes from the sonic vibrations of the rocks caused by the sonic dagger, temporarily hindering the Daughters of Aku for now. However, as Jack flows down the river, it is seen that he has lost a lot of blood. Then the episode ends by cutting back to the woods, where it is shown that all three tigers have been killed by the wolf, only for it to be shown that the wolf seems to have died as well as a result of its fatal wounds, effectively symbolizing what Jack went through in this episode as the episode ending theme song plays and closes the episode.

Man, what an episode. Only two episodes in as I write this post, and I'm still left wanting more as the revival has eight more episodes to go. Aside from a few nitpicks that I had for this episode such as Aku's new voice actor not having the same energy of comedy that his predecessor had in the original series or how it's confusing that this is supposedly supposed to mark the first time Jack has killed a human even though he probably killed some in one episode of the original (although, it's implied that they were just wounded and not really killed), all of that doesn't do much to undermine the superb quality of this episode. With the animation, music, voice acting, action, and internal and external conflict as good as ever, XCIII continues to shine in the diamond in the rough that is Samurai Jack. We haven't even been through the first half of the revival, and the psychological depth of Jack having to fight against his inner self in a struggle to keep on living in hopes of finally accomplishing his goal of getting back to the past and defeating Aku and having to deal with the first actual major death of a human that he himself had caused towards the end of the episode is already kicking in. Add in the remaining abundant potential that this revival has in store for us for its cohesive story and so many unanswered questions waiting to be answered once and for all, and you know you're hooked to this masterpiece until the series's conclusion. So now I close off once again and give my final score for this episode:

9.0 out of 10.0 stars

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out episode 3 of the fifth season of Samurai Jack after doing so. Until then, peace!

Comments

SPOILERS AND EDIT: I just learned that in a live Q&A involving Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of the show, he actually retconned the part about Jack killing a bunch of human bounty hunters in one episode, confirming that they were wounded but not fatally. In other words, Jack did not kill humans before prior to this episode. - ModernSpongeBobSucks

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