For four seasons, Samurai Jack has pitted its titular character against a variety of enemies, including hordes of robots the hero has killed without question. The newest episode, however, finds Jack committing a horrendous act that has fans debating what it could all mean.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the second episode of Samurai Jack’s fifth season.]
In the second episode, Jack is cornered during a battle with the Daughters of Aku — seven women who were raised by their mother, the High Priestess, with the sole purpose of killing Jack. There’s a moment in the episode when Jack is hiding in a coffin, gripping the handle of his sword and looking around, fear plastered on his face. When he’s faced with the reality of kill or be killed, he attacks one of the women and kills her.
Up until this moment, Jack has only killed robots. He’s wounded other mortals, but he’s never taken a life. The aftereffect is immediate, and he’s led to believe he’s become some kind of monster for killing a human being. Jack, in a black hole of depression, listens to the voices in his head tell him he’s worthless and guilty of betraying his code.
It’s one of Samurai Jack’s darkest episodes yet, and fans of the show are trying to figure out if it’s a positive or negative for the series. As many pointed out, the closest Jack comes to killing other humans is in the fourth season. He takes on a group of bounty hunters in that season’s fifth episode, and although there is an intense battle, it’s never made clear if he actually kills them.
In this episode, the act and the immediate aftermath are the focus. Jack reacts to the death as if it is the first time he’s killed a human, so the audience is led to believe that is the case. For the most part, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with many fans pointing out that it feels like Jack has matured with age.
“This episode proves that [series creator Genndy Tartakovsky] knows how to do action unlike so many modern Hollywood directors,” one fan wrote on Reddit. “It’s not action and explosions all the time. In order for the action to remain intense there has to be ebbs in the tension. I loved how this episode flowed.
“The episode kept speeding up and slowing down at just the right times building up to the moment when he kills her. Masterful storyboarding throughout this episode and looks like we have more to come next week.”
Tartakovsky told Polygon that he always planned for this season of Samurai Jack to be the darkest yet. This marks the end of Jack’s journey, and Tartakovsky wanted to explore themes and acts that he couldn’t before.
“In my perception of the show the darkness was surface,” Tartakovsky said. “It was dark because the show was sad, but it didn’t go down into the soul. Here, we get to go all the way to the bottom. The haunting of the past and the self, is a pressure that you either need to forget or grieve. He’s traumatized and he cannot let go."
Samurai Jack’s new episodes are available to stream on Adult Swim.