Saturday, May 18, 2024

Samurai Jack’s Okay Season Finale

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Here we are, folks. Samurai Jack’s long journey has finally come to an end. And that end was… alright. Okay. Not bad. Which, unfortunately, is not quite what we hoped for.

We begin with one of the Scotsman’s daughters bringing news of Jack’s capture to her father and sisters… but they already know. Aku is broadcasting his triumph to every screen in the world. In fact he’s broadcasting the original opening, in one of the season’s best throwbacks. It certainly got a huge grin out of Cameron.

And Aku too. Exactly who Cameron wants to be associated with.

They’re not the only ones who watch Jack hang off a wall in Aku’s lair, though. We see many of Jack’s friends and allies from the whole series do so. The ravers. The canine archaeologists. The Woolies. The archers. The Triseraquins. Even the tribe of monkeys who taught Jack to Jump Good. None of them are happy with it.

Aku recites his introduction to every episode of the original four seasons… only to finish it with a loud “NOT!”, since Jack won’t be undoing the future that is Aku anytime soon.

Then, in true villain fashion, he spends a while pondering how to kill Jack. It has been so long, after all. What would be the most appropriate demise? His waffling gives Jack time to plead with Ashi, and we see the poor gal struggle against Aku’s control. Eventually, the big bad guy decides to have her do it. Just as she’s about to skewer Jack… the wall explodes. The cavalry had arrived.

First, we see Sir Colin Bartholomew Montgomery Rothchild III, now an old dog, and his progeny, in flying machines, as well as the ravers on birds. They’re quickly joined by the Triseraquins, on their creatures, and the archers, mounted on the Woolies. Then, the Spartans. And even the Jump Good tribe. Jack’s work has come to zenith, as people from all over the world come to defeat and destroy Aku once and for all.

Of course… there’s not a whole lot they can do to Aku. But they do manage to distract him long enough for Jack to escape, and confront Ashi once again. He once again pleads for her to break free of Aku’s control. Her mind is being crushed by the blackness, Aku’s essence. Her pleas and fighting sabotaged by the darkness consuming her.

Just as things look bleaker than before, another wave of the cavalry arrives. The Scotsman’s daughters… riding on the sound of his bagpipes. Okay. That’s a thing. It’s stupid. Its awesome. Their deer somehow manage to harm the mini-Akus engaged with Jack’s allies, and they make it all the way to the inner sanctum. The sound of the pipes actually discomforts Aku. Guess it is that bad. (Poor bagpipes. Cameron likes you!)

The battle sequence is… not as satisfying as it should be, on the whole. It’s composed of fairly simple shots of Jack’s friends fighting Aku, which consists of shooting him repeatedly to no effect whatsoever. Dramatic reinforcements in the nick of time lose something of their dramatic value if they’re a distraction at best. It would have been far more satisfying to see them fight Aku’s minions and robots, while Jack confronts Aku himself. Instead it feel hollow and fleeting, like their fighting is a desperate and weak struggle for something. It feels more futile than triumphant.

Regardless, two old friends are reunited as the Scotsman meets Jack. He doesn’t hesitate to proudly introduce his daughters, listing all their very many names. And then he suggests Jack marry one of them. Jack refuses, and deflects his buddy’s angry rebuttal by saying he’s met someone. Which is to say, the Aku-monster currently fighting the Scottish girls. The Scotsman declares she’s not Jack’s type.

The final reinforcements are the robots, arriving in an Aku-sized samurai mecha, piloted by several robots who Jack had helped before. It actually succeeds in beating Aku up a little, but then the evil overlord decides he’s had enough. He transforms into a cloud over the sky, and rains spikes over the battlefield, to a devastating effect. Hurting several of the army, and killing the robots and their mecha. It is dramatic, intense, and saddening.

As the battle rages on, Jack keeps trying to break Ashi free. She finally reaches her inner self, trapped inside Aku’s raw evil. It seems as though she’s still powerless to resist… but when she ejects him from the cloud of darkness and grips his neck, she finally does. Aku angrily demands that she listen to his father, but she rejects him. She’s not her father. Ashi *thoroughly* rejects him.

What happens next is quick. Too quick. Aku attacks, and Ashi counters his powers with their exact copies. It appears that the entire ordeal unlocked Aku’s power in her. She and Jack soon realize that this means she can open portals in time… which she promptly does. They jump into it without further ado. The abruptness with which Jack’s friends are abandoned to a hopeless fight leaves a poor taste. Didn’t Jack reject several ways of returning to the past because it would mean turning their back on innocents in need? And won’t him killing Aku in the past kill every single people we’ve ever met in the future, including those cute fuzzy blue aliens.

Back to the Past (Hua-cha)

We then see final scene of the show’s pilot, where Aku sends Jack to the future… but Jack reappears a few seconds later. Prompting an incredulous outburst from Aku. Jack then jumps to Aku, and mercilessly slashes at him til his very essence is destroyed in a fiery explosion. It is quick, brutal, efficient, and mesmerizing. Or so Cameron thinks. Michał leans on the side of its being rather anti-climactic.

One way or the other… Aku is gone. Jack’s mission is finally over. He won. He destroyed Aku in the past and prevent the dark future from ever taking place. He saved the world.

The next scene is a marriage between Ashi and Jack (Michał was very tempted to skip this altogether). Jack is waiting for Ashi as she walks ever so slowly down the aisle. The camera is constantly shifting, making the scene slow and suspenseful, and the sense of doom impending climbs its way into viewers everywhere. And Ashi disappears since she kinda never existed. But reality was kind/cruel enough to make so she would die just as she was about to married to Jack. Cameron has mixed feelings. On one level he feels like the scene was well executed and shot, but that the reveal of Ashi’s death was very blatant and obvious. That’s not necessarily sad, but it feel so weird that it took so long for her to die.

Cameron was cruelly reminded of another shows ending with this.

What follows is Jack riding his horse into a forest. The clouds are dark, and the mood akin to the the beginning of the season. Jack rests on a tree. Yet a small, tiny ladybug lands on Jack’s hands, reminding him of Ashi. He then smiles softly. This scene was gorgeous. A beautiful and subtle callback to Ashi, and the soft smile on Jack’s face makes it beautiful.

Our General Thoughts

Our feelings on the finale are mixed. It hits a lot of the right emotional beats, but it does so in a rather perfunctory manner.

Jack’s old friend riding to his rescue are very satisfying, but the battle that follows is not. What’s more, the samurai hardly interacts with them, apart from a brief exchange with the Scotsman. One feels people who faced certain death for him deserve more. Particularly since, like we said, he jumps into the time-portal with no thought of them… and now, apparently, they never existed. Ashi’s fate implies that the timeline in which Aku ruled the world was entirely erased. So they will have become entirely different people, growing up in a land not ruled by Aku, and never knowing Jack.

Jack and Ashi’s romance continues to feel superfluous and out of place. There’s no real need for them to romantically love each other, for their character arcs to be fulfilled. Ashi breaking Aku’s hold over her through the power of love is very predictable, and one really feels it’d feel stronger if she rejected him based on all she’d learned and begun to care for. The romance feels ultimately shoehorned, and created for a hollow sense of drama at the end of the series. Sacrificing Ashi to fuel Jack’s angst doesn’t sit well, either.

In the end, the finale is just like the title says. Okay. Not bad, but not great, either. A good watch, but not the send-off for a beloved show we wanted to see. We can’t help but feel vaguely disheartened. Either way, goodbye, Samurai Jack. You finally did get back to the past.

All Images Courtesy of Adult Swim

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