Samurai Jack Season 5 Review: Episode 7 (XCVIII) (SPOILER ALERT)

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Jack: I do not know how long this may take.
Ashi: I'll go with you.
Jack: You cannot. It is something that I must do on my own.
Ashi: Wait, I- Oh. I guess I'll just wait here?

Welcome again, fellow TopTenners and visitors! This is MSBS here and I've got yet another review up about the seventh episode of the fifth season of Samurai Jack! I don't want to say too much when I'm just beginning this review, but I think it's safe to say that this episode truly marks a turning point in the revival! And so, it's up to me to review said turning point. I've been pretty busy with my AP exams and I constantly find myself addicted to that Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag mobile game that I recently downloaded about a month or two ago, so I apologize for not being caught up in reviews recently. Don't worry. I'm going to try to make sure I'm caught up with them right now as soon as possible, folks! That said, you should all know that it's best to be caught up with the previous six episodes and that this review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS! Alright, time to get to the juicy meat of this review.

So the seventh episode of the fifth season starts out by showing Jack 50 years ago in a flashback. Now in this flashback, it practically finally answers the begged question as to why and how Jack lost his sword. We already knew he lost his sword since the first episode of the fifth season, but our only lead at the time was a brief flashback showing him in his despair as his sword fell into a deep chasm for an unknown reason. In this flashback, we actually get an in-depth explanation as the answer to our question. Getting into the actual flashback itself, it first begins with Jack walking up a mountain trying to find a time portal so that he may get back to the past and defeat Aku. While he is traveling up to the top of the mountain, he stumbles upon one cute little ram that accompanies him along with two other identical rams. When he finally reaches the summit, the three rams gathered around him and showed him a time portal, to which Jack hurriedly runs towards it and jumps into it happily with glee and hope that he will finally complete his quest. Unfortunately... out of nowhere, Aku then reaches his hand into the time portal and pulls Jack out of it. When Jack tries to jump into the time portal again, Aku then destroys it with his eye lasers, who then proceeds to mock Jack by claiming that it was the last time portal in existence (or perhaps so he thought...). Honestly, I was feeling pretty pissed off at Aku as much as Jack was at that moment, yet at the same time, it felt refreshing for me to see Aku being a flamboyant antagonist like how he used to be in the previous four seasons in contrast to how he is now as a moping bad guy in depression. Not to mention that Greg Baldwin really proved himself with what I consider to be a significant improvement in his voice acting performance for Aku, being that he kind of felt a bit flat on comedic appeal in his first scene for Aku and did not feel quite as good as Mako Iwamatsu, the original voice actor for Aku, was back in the original series. Either way, Aku is in every aspect a likable villain with how he is able to be portrayed perfectly as a villain played for laughs and as a villain shown to be truly formidable and threatening, regardless of whether he's voiced by Iwamatsu or Baldwin. Anyways, with Aku having destroyed the "last time portal in existence", Jack becomes angry whilst Aku taunts him into having a heart attack, with the former lashing out against Aku in rage and frustration. As Aku knows not to underestimate the power of Jack's sword, Aku manages to dodge each attack by Jack and flees after turning the three rams that had accompanied Jack into giant frenzy boars, leaving them to "play with" Jack. Left with no other choice, Jack fights and kills the three boars, shedding a good deal of blood from each boar as he kills each one. However, when he kills the last one, it then reverts back to its original form as a ram, leaving Jack in guilt as he accidentally drops his sword, which then rolls near the edge of the chasm that was once the time portal, and bends to his knees as he can only look at the now-dead ram, realizing he had just killed three innocent living creatures. In the midst of his despair, one of the pillars then collapses, knocking back Jack and causing his sword to fall into the chasm, leaving him in even more despair as he has now lost his sword, which was the only thing in existence capable of defeating Aku. Jack narrates the last details of this flashback as the episode transitions back to the present, showing that Jack had told Ashi his whole story of how he had lost his sword.

After the story is said and done, Jack and Ashi are seen riding a giant bird, which takes them to the same mountain where Jack had lost his sword. Jack and Ashi then descend into the depths of the chasm to find Jack's sword. During the search, Jack stumbles upon one of the dead rams' skeletal corpses, leaving Jack's eyes to the verge of welling as he is reminded of the deaths of the innocent rams. Eventually, Jack and Ashi are not able to find the sword, leading Jack to determine that the sword had left him rather than him having lost it. Thus, Jack decides that he will search for it spiritually by meditating. Ashi desires to go with Jack and help him find his sword together, but Jack tells Ashi that she cannot and that it is something he must do on his own. So Ashi is then left with having to wait for Jack to find his sword. However, she then spots an incoming army in the distance marching towards the mountain where she and Jack are currently at right now.

Meanwhile, Jack proceeds to enter a state of tranquility as he meditates to enter the spirit world, leaving the audience to gaze in awe as the sky vibrantly undergoes a series of artistic transitions towards his departure into the spirit world, ranging from an astonishing display of stars aligning by circling around to a spectacle of vibrant flashing beams. Eventually, he manages to reach the spirit world and wakes up in a lush meadow. Strolling through the lush meadow, Jack then finds a raft with an oar, to which he then uses it to row around the water and find his sword. After another series of artistic transitions through the water, he finally reaches a house in the middle of the vast body of water Jack was rowing on. He meets a monk, who asks Jack if he is lost. Jack replies yes, to which the monk then has Jack come back to his house to make tea for him.

Back in the real world, the army that Ashi saw earlier, who are all humanoid lizard-like creatures or orcs, have finally reached the mountain. Sensing them as a threat, Ashi then confronts them. The leader of the army then tells her that he and his army are on a mission to kill Jack. Ashi replies to this and claims that she will stop them from killing Jack. This leaves the entire army in laughter, mocking her in disbelief that a girl like her could ever topple an entire army with just her bare fists. Not in the slightest discouraged by this, Ashi then taunts the army by saying she is waiting for them to attack her. This infuriates the leader, immediately leading to him and the army to charge at her. However, we then start to get the episode's entirety of action from Ashi as she is able to begin making short work of them by easily overwhelming one of the soldiers and using him as a battering ram to topple over a majority of the army. When she reaches the bottom of the mountain, she proceeds to conquer the rest of the army, giving us even more action along with some bloody good gore as well. And what's really funny is that while Ashi is out doing all the hard work and protecting Jack from the army, a few sudden cuts to Jack making tea for the monk step by step in a calm and peaceful setting occur in the middle of Ashi being put in an intense and stake-high situation as she must risk her life to keep Jack out of harm's way. Thus, it provides some humor as to Ashi having to hold down the fort while Jack is seemingly having it easy (keyword: seemingly).

Anyways, Ashi manages to defeat every single last soldier in the army, complete with her body covered in blood and her leaf attire tattered. However, Ashi's job for the day isn't finished just yet, as she then spots an unknown assailant near the top of the mountain heading to Jack's location. Ashi then runs towards the mountain to save Jack and calls the same giant bird that had taken her and Jack to the mountain from before and uses it to fly to Jack's location before the assailant does. When she arrives above Jack's location, Ashi then sees that the assailant is about to fire an arrow at Jack. Fortunately, she dismounts from the bird and is able to catch the arrow in time and save Jack, along with subsequently blocking another massive barrage of arrows in the process with a stone slab. After the attack, Ashi then sees the assailant approaching her and tries to make out the identity of the assailant. But to her surprise (and the audience's surprise), the identity of the assailant is revealed to be something WAY unexpected...

Ashi: Mother?

HOLY MACKEREL! I wasn't expecting the High Priestess, aka Ashi's mother, to show up! No, seriously! We're not talking about some flashback of her or an illusion concocted by Ashi's own consciousness! That's right! We're talking the real deal in the flesh, ladies and gentlemen! Getting back on topic, the High Priestess reprimands Ashi for her failure and lack of focus. But in spite of this, she offers Ashi her dagger as one last chance to kill Jack. However, Ashi defiantly refuses to do so and tells her mother that she will not kill Jack as he has shown her the truth about Aku. Ashi then strikes back at her mother and sends her tumbling across the ground. Determined to kill Jack, the High Priestess proceeds to engage in a fight to the death with her only living daughter by removing her black robe, revealing herself to be not only just as fit enough to defeat and kill Ashi, but also...

EXTRA THICC!!!

Left with no other choice than to defeat her own mother, Ashi then tears off one of the deceased rams' horns and uses it as a makeshift dagger, and assumes her fighting stance as she must now not only defeat her mother to truly rid herself of her past, but most importantly, to protect Jack. Thus, mother and daughter then engage in combat as Ashi has to both defeat the High Priestess while also keeping her from killing Jack. The two are equally matched, with neither of the two backing down. During the middle of the fight, after Ashi counters her mother's thrown dagger aimed at Jack with her ram's horn, the High Priestess then starts scolding at Ashi for betraying her family and letting Jack live even though he killed her own sisters.

You know, I always have that feeling where I simultaneously love and hate a villain at the same time unless they're really awesome or they're really unlikable. That feeling was the exact feeling I had with the High Priestess. While not a sadist, the High Priestess's absolute brutal teachings and mysteriously malevolent obsession with worshipping Aku and killing Jack are what make her a truly daunting antagonist. However, I can't help but point out the hypocrisy in her actions when she just suddenly seemed to show care for her daughters despite the fact she never gave them the love and compassion they deserved as kids. Well, she is supposed to be a villain, so it's to be expected that she'd be as hypocritical and psychopathic as this.

Moving on, Ashi is able to similarly point out her mother's contradiction and hypocrisy by stating that her and her sisters' fates were already sealed the day they were born, made only to be raised as living weapons. However, Ashi's speech is cut short when she is hit by a pillar and the High Priestess uses this opportunity to kill Jack with her bare hands, complete with Wolverine-like claws. Fortunately, Ashi is able to recuperate in time from the debris of the collapsed pillar in order to pick up an arrow and send it flying right towards her mother, figuratively and literally stabbing her in the back as she has now been impaled and falls to her death... presumably. Now the reason I say "presumably" is because according to some leaks, Grey DeLisle, the voice actress for the High Priestess, has been confirmed to voice her once again in the final episode! This could possibly mean that the High Priestess could have survived both the arrow and the fall... or hopefully it just means she'll appear in a flashback with Ashi. Man, I don't want to have to deal with her again... That said, with the High Priestess presumably dead, Ashi's duty to protect Jack is finished for the day and Ashi then collapses from exhaustion. Now that Ashi's physical challenge is complete, the only challenge left is that of Jack's mental challenge...

Back in the spirit world, Jack finishes making the tea and then gives it to the monk. The monk drinks the tea, but then says that it is terrible. Jack is confused by this, to which the monk replies by saying that the tea has all the necessary ingredients, but lacks the most important one: balance. With this, the monk tells Jack that he sees why his path to the sword remains clouded. Jack is left in even more confusion at this revelation and begs the monk to show him the path to the sword. However, the monk then tells Jack that it is not in his power to show Jack HIS path. Suddenly, Jack's self-consciousness appears one more time in a red demonic form that looks more sinister and corrupt than his previous appearances, claiming the monk's sayings to be "fortune cookie nonsense".

Oh, and fun fact: As of this episode, it has been confirmed that Jack's self-consciousness is none other than Mad Jack, a previous enemy that Jack had first encountered in Episode VIII: Jack versus Mad Jack, who was the embodiment of Jack's inner darkness, temporarily given form by Aku in an attempt to defeat Jack by turning his skills against him. Towards the end of that episode, he lost his physical form after Jack found peace within himself and caused him to disperse. However, when Aku destroyed the last remaining time portal, Jack's inner anger and frustration caused Mad Jack to resurface as Inner Jack, where he continued to antagonize Jack in his mind during most of the fifth season.

Back to the episode at hand, Jack's se- eh, let's just call him Mad Jack from this point on. It's much easier and less time-consuming. Anyways, Mad Jack then angrily starts berating the monk by claiming that the latter knows where the sword is and is keeping its path hidden from him and Jack. Mad Jack then proceeds to slap the monk, but Jack stops the former from doing so, telling Mad Jack that he has lost the sword because of him. Mad Jack replies back by saying that he was the one keeping him alive. However, Jack is quick to make the realization that he has let Mad Jack (essentially his own anger and frustration) consume him for far too long. Having had enough of Jack, Mad Jack then slaps Jack and sends him hurtling towards some wooden panes. Not deterred, Jack rises up and is able to stand against Mad Jack, finally vanquishing him once and for all by being able to open his eyes through all the anger and frustration that had consumed him for 50 years and see the light that he had long been blinded from. Having finally completed his mental challenge, the monk then says Jack is now balanced, to which Jack is then suddenly transported to the depths of space, encountering the gods Odin, Ra, and Vishnu. Like they did with his father in The Birth of Evil, the three gods state that like Jack's father, Jack has been chosen to destroy the ultimate force of evil and that he is worthy of the sword. Thus, the three gods shoot eye lasers at Jack, which restores him to his original appearance and finally gives him back his sword. Though, I have to admit I kind of miss the beard already. Then again, Jack getting back his original appearance is understandably supposed to represent him finding who he was again, since he finally became balanced by dispelling his anger and frustration from within him and got back his sword, making him who he truly was again.

With Jack's sword having been reclaimed, Jack finally wakes up in the real world. Jack then spots Ashi still lying on the ground due to her exhaustion from earlier, to which he runs to her location. Ashi wakes up and is happy that Jack got back his sword and even compliments on him getting "a shave and a haircut". Hold up! In the previous episode, Jack complimented Ashi's hair and dress. And now in this episode, Ashi is complimenting Jack's new appearance. If you haven't seen XCIX yet, you better know what's coming, because we got ourselves a hint, fellas! That said, Jack compliments Ashi back by praising her recent battle. And with Jack's confidence and sword having been regained, Ashi asks Jack again what's next. The episode then ends with Jack answering that confronting and defeating Aku will be their next goal.

And so, yet another masterpiece of an episode comes to a close! Honestly, to me, it truly feels like we've reached the climax of the story of Samurai Jack! Why I say that is because I personally believe that this is the best episode ever in the entire season so far, with only the ninth and tenth episodes having the potential to surpass it! Then again, every episode has been good in their own ways. And XCVIII is no exception! This episode was the epitome of everything the fifth season of Samurai Jack needed to not only craft a perfect episode, but also to set the stage for the series finale to end all series finales as Jack's journey gets one step closer to its conclusion! The action! The storytelling! The voice acting! The animation! The characters! The tension! Everything! Just about everything is flawless! Call me a fanboy or whatever, but I can watch this episode over and over again and still tell you that it's a phenomenal masterpiece! And Jack getting back his sword the same way his father got the same sword from The Birth of Evil truly gave a sense of pure nostalgia to fans of the original! I apologize for the overuse of exclamation points in this final paragraph, but I just really loved this episode! Man, I can't wait until Jack finally confronts Aku and finishes his journey once and for all. I'm all hyped up for the last episode, so don't let me down, Tartakovsky! That said, here is my final score for the seventh episode of the fifth season of Samurai Jack:

10.0 out of 10.0 stars

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out episode 8 of the fifth season of Samurai Jack after doing so. Until then, peace!

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