After last week’s cruel April Fools’ Day joke, Samurai Jack returned Saturday night with an episode that ventures into both a giant beast and the minds of those trapped inside.
The episode opens with a skyward-facing shot that sets the scene at the bottom of the snowy abyss that Jack and several Daughters of Aku fell into at the end of the last episode two weeks ago. As it so often does, the show plays with the contrast of sound and silence — crows silently land amongst the soft-falling flurries, only to be roused by a deranged and panting Jack, fighting an imaginary adversary.
The Samurai, swinging wildly, soon realizes his error and slows his breathing. He flashes back to his fall, in which he hit enough tree branches to kill a normal man but managed to land safely in a snowbank.
Jack immediately sees what happened to one of the Daughters as he follows a long stream of blood to her corpse. Like the frog last episode, the crows demonstrate an ability to speak, calling Jack “murderer” and “killer” in screeching voices. “They chose the path,” Jack shouts, clearly still struggling with having literal blood on his hands.
Just then, a kusarigama whips past Jack’s head and into a tree. One of the Daughters survived. After a brief spat, Jack incapacitates her with her own weapon, leaving her coiled up in its chain and dangling from a tree.
Jack stands motionless as the Daughter aimlessly kicks at him, hurling insults as she swings in and back out and back into the shot. “Why won’t you die?” she shrieks. “Scum! Aku will be triumphant! … I will kill you as long as I have breath in my body.” It’s both heartbreaking and hilarious to see her fruitless rage, especially when Jack calmly points out how confused she is.
Before Jack can figure out what to do with his prisoner, the ground opens up, and a massive, gray worm — evocative of the space slug from The Empire Strikes Back — swallows Jack, his captive and a lot of trees.
The remainder of the episode follows Jack’s escape from the giant worm, his not-too-enthused prisoner in tow. Even though he saves her life, not once but twice, from murderous creatures while inside the worm, she still despises him.
After various chaotic endeavors and the now-standard encounter with the Ghost of Jack’s Past, Jack and the Daughter escape from the worm, flying out of it and landing in an ocean. Jack surfaces, realizes the Daughter hasn’t and swims down to save her.
Reaching an island, Jack goes to mediate. The Daughter wakes up and begins to sneak up on him, until she spots a ladybug. She has a flashback to her training as a child.
During the flashback, she spots a ladybug, only for the High Priestess in charge of the Daughters to deem it “not part of Aku’s order,” before smashing it in front of Ashi, which is apparently the Daughter’s name.
Back in the present, the ladybug flies away from Ashi and lands on the extended hand of Jack, who allows it to fly away peacefully. “Not part of Aku’s order,” she remembers, dropping her kusarigama and perhaps finally understanding Jack not to be evil.
While this episode didn’t really advance the plot much, it did allow for a deep look at Jack and at Ashi, which we now know is the name of the last surviving Daughter of Aku. Jack’s morality, bravery and ethicality are proven over and over, as he saves Ashi numerous times, even though she makes it clear all she wants is his death.
Now that she’s realized Jack is not evil, what will happen to Ashi? She has been born and bred to destroy Jack — that was her one life goal, and now she’s realized it was all a lie. Will she join Jack, who is pretty much a solitary person? Maybe she will leave, possibly finding Jack’s sword, and return to him in his moment of greatest need, the impending final fight with Aku.
Speaking of Aku, he did not appear, save for briefly as an apparition, this episode. But, based on the preview for the fifth episode, he will be back with a vengeance next episode. His scarcity will make his rare appearances even more awesome when he is fully unleashed as we near the climax.
Season 5 has been dark — far darker than any prior seasons. Even without the comedy gold mine that is the dark, dry wit of Aku, this episode is full of small tidbits of humor that keep the show bright and fresh. Without it, this episode would have been dull and too dark, but Jack’s light humor, even in the face of death, boosts the episode massively. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but it doesn’t need to be.
Samurai Jack airs every Saturday at 11 p.m. on Cartoon Network.