Even though I said I wasn’t going to binge watch TV anymore, I was of course going to make an exception for Samurai Jack. Although I watched it on a week by week basis, I found myself overall a little bit disappointed by the back half of the revival series. This is why I decided to write a Samurai Jack final episode review, to give the show my final opinion, which the world surely needed.
The first half of the new season of Samurai Jack flirted with being a different type of show. It forced Jack, and by extension the viewer, to deal with real, ethical questions. We also got to confront Jack’s extreme mental health issues and see the extent to where he had to go to survive for the past 50 years. Still, it was disappointing to see Jack not even make any pretenses at sacrificing his chance at victory for Ashi. Instead, Jack ends up going back to the past and undoing the future that is Aku.
For me at least, it felt like the season was going in a different direction. Depending on how you feel about the relationship between Ashi and Jack is how you will feel about the final battle. Of course, Ashi is able to break free of Aku’s control with “the power of love,” but its what happens after that that struck me as tonally off.
If any of you remember the excellent Prince of Persia reboot from 2008, that game ends with the titular Prince damning the world to save Elika. In the final moment (as seen in the video below) the Prince decides that the journey and bond that he made with Elika was more important than saving the world.
Of course, Jack’s quest is a lot more personal than the Prince’s, and it would have been unreasonable for Jack to damn the world for Ashi’s sake. But it does seem unusual and a bit rushed that in their final confrontation, the possibility is not even raised. Jack, and by extension the viewer, assumes that Jack can have his cake and eat it too by defeating Aku head-on.
In my Samurai Jack final episode review, the problem I want to confront is that by Jack choosing to seal away Aku (like his father before him), he could have prevented erasing millions of people from existence. This includes everyone he has ever met over the course of five seasons. Instead, Jack decides that he is the arbiter of their fates. That strikes me as an ethical dilemma that the show decided not to confront directly; would Jack willingly decide to return to the past knowing what would happen to Ashi and all of his friends and allies?
The first half of this season of Samurai Jack hinted at a show willing to ask these questions, which would actually force Jack to make a choice instead of just allowing him to be unwittingly affected by the consequences of his actions. But the follow through suggested to me that Samurai Jack’s tonal and thematic maturity was just a veneer. At the end of the day, this ending was a fitting conclusion for the show that came before it, but not necessarily for the show we’ve had the last 10 episodes. And to me, that seems like a let-down for all of the fans that were expecting a little more.