Samurai Jack has been hinting at a burgeoning romance between its titular character and Ashi, an enemy turned ally, for quite some time now.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Samurai Jack’s eighth episode from its fifth season.]
In the newest episode, Jack and Ashi finally stopped playing their game of “will they, won’t they” and made their feelings for the other perfectly clear. With the new creative freedom showrunner Genndy Tartakovsky has at Adult Swim, it wasn’t a subtle acknowledgment, either.
While standing on a crowded subway car of sorts, Jack’s sword accidentally pokes Ashi. The joke is obvious and the intention is clear. From that moment forward, it’s only a matter of time before we’re left wondering when the two will consummate their newfound relationship. The entire episode is full of lewd, off-brand jokes for the series, but there’s an honest sense of shyness and innocence to Jack’s careful approach with Ashi that it feels charming above anything else.
There’s one particular scene where Jack and Ashi’s hands meet on a pole and a bead of sweat forms on Jack’s forehead. Even after 50 years, Jack’s nervousness about being with a woman is palpable. It’s only because of the genuine sincerity of his sweetness and insecurities that the episode is able to get away with the intermittent graphic jokes.
Samurai Jack isn’t an adult show. It’s always been a children’s show — but without the restrictions placed upon Tartakovsky by Cartoon Network, the creator is able to take the show into areas he couldn’t before. That comes to a head in this episode as Jack’s relationship with Ashi is confirmed and explored at length.
In one of the final scenes, Jack is fighting alongside a naked Ashi, unsure of what to do but excited by the possibility of a new relationship. Despite the obvious joke the show had devolved into by that point, Tartakovksy and his team remained committed to making Jack vulnerable in the middle of the farce. By making him feel at his most uncomfortable, Tartakovsky ensured the audience could laugh and feel at ease with what was transpiring before them.
Still, a number of people took issue with what the team was trying to do.
Samurai Jack S5. Um...still visually great, but... sex jokes? Saying someone's head looks like a penis? Having Jack's sword "poke" Ashi? Meh— OJ (@OsakaJack) May 8, 2017
samurai jack's latest ep ruined. the. entire. show's. mood. what. are. they. planning.— tired ate (@yungbeyance) May 8, 2017
The new episode of samurai jack was such a joke I was so disappointed :( never expected this season to get that cringy— ☁️_(」∠ ､ﾝ､)_☁️ (@scottishf0ld) May 8, 2017
hey remember when i said i was into samurai jack i lied i no longer have eyes for it— chris (@luvandia) May 8, 2017
Various communities on Tumblr and Reddit criticized the episode for sexualizing one of the show’s only strong female characters. Despite the criticism, many viewers said they were happy that Jack, a lone wolf archetype, finally found someone to love. The relationship between the two characters has been hinted at for quite some time.
The latest episode of Samurai Jack builds upon the romantic comedy themes that Tartakovksy has incorporated in previous episodes. In many ways, Samurai Jack has been building up to this moment for years, and it’s through the freedom awarded to Tartakovksy through Adult Swim that Jack is able to pursue an interest we previously thought may never occur.
Whether or not Jack’s relationship with Ashi will continue remains to be seen, but it’s sure to be explored a little more in-depth in coming episodes.
Samurai Jack airs Saturday nights at 11 p.m. ET on Adult Swim.