Pour one out for our homie, Scaramouche.
The episode picks up from the passionate make-out session that closed out last week’s affairs, with Jack and Ashi trying to brush it off like it was just another awkward pseudo-romantic moment. Ashi ventures around the prison remains to find her own set of clothes as Jack wanders the outside of the facility for a bit, even stopping to take a shower… which Ashi notices… and approves. Night falls, and our heroes set up a campfire to rest and eat, sharing a legitimately tender moment with each other as they enjoy their company and joke about the quality of their food. Jack reminisces on the peaceful days of his childhood before Aku decided to make his presence known: happy memories of a simpler time. I know several have said that the relationship between the two comes across as forced, but I feel like this scene really works in giving you the sense that a legitimate bond has grown between the two, and it’s really heartwarming.
Meanwhile, Scaramouche finally manages to make his way back to Aku’s fortress, but there’s an auto-message player set up outside. Seems like after the battle with the Scotsman’s army, he’s just not in the mood for any more shenanigans. However, Scaramouche forces his way in and gets an audience with the master of darkness, finally revealing to him that Jack has (supposedly) lost his sword. This news pleases Aku so much that he grants Scaramouche his body back, and the two do a good ol’ fashioned celebratory jig.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a gif of this scene on hand at the moment. Sorry.
As the morning arrives, Jack ventures off into the desert, leaving Ashi behind as he tries to find Aku on his own. Eventually his travels bring him to a very familiar site: the ruins of where he once fought the seemingly invincible Guardian and lost. Time has left the area in a great deal of disarray, with robotic ruins and empty shells everywhere, and Jack arrives at the remains of the portal, witnessing the Guardian’s glasses lying broken on the ground. Whatever happened here was clearly not a peaceful resolution. Jack is eventually approached by Ashi, understandably upset that Jack left her alone. In one of the more emotional moments of the series, Jack confesses that he’s upset by the prospect of losing Ashi if she continues along with him, worried that much like his friends and family, she’ll just become another faded memory of what once was something that he loved. Ashi manages to calm his nerves for a brief moment, but the moment is ruined by the arrival of none other than Aku himself: our hero and villain are finally back in one place.
Aku yuks it up as he basks in the moment, with Scaramouche gloating alongside his master about the loss of Jack’s sword, but Jack pulls out his sword and takes aim at his enemy. Aku decides that this is the time to back away from the fight (but not before blowing his lying minion to bits), but as Jack chases after him, the dark one catches the scent of himself from elsewhere in the area. He eventually zeroes in on Ashi and remembers when he once visited the Daughters of Aku, leaving behind a goblet of his evil essence which helped the High Priestess give birth to the seven assassins, thus revealing that Ashi is quite literally a Daughter of Aku. Jack has had enough of this and once again goes in to attack Aku…
…but Ashi gets in the way and begins fighting Jack, unfortunately now under the influence of her father. During the fight, the dark essence begins to envelope her, eventually transforming Ashi into a silent dark creature with no will of her own, forcing Jack into a battle he clearly did not want and confirming his worst fears from earlier. He realizes that the only way to win is to kill Ashi, but he’s in such a state of emotional conflict that he chooses to surrender and drop his sword, leaving us on a cliffhanger for the final episode.
This is an episode that is somewhat hard to talk about on its own because it’s the penultimate episode, with one more to go until the true end. It mainly exists to put all the pieces in place for that ending, being a bunch of set up before the payoff, so we won’t really know how this all adds together until then. For the time being, I will say I do like how things are set up in this episode for the battle with Aku. The choice of final location feels appropriate, bringing things back to the one moment where Jack came closest to getting back to the past, and the absence of the Guardian leaves a lot of impressions when viewing, as we know that things clearly did not go well, but the specifics are kept vague. The continued development of Jack and Ashi’s relationship is honestly pretty solid and charming in this episode, helping to force Jack into the most emotionally vulnerable position possible, even more than earlier in the season.
The episode also manages to reconfirm Aku’s sense of pure menace, despite the more comedic aspects of his persona. His reconnection with Jack fantastically presents him with this massive sense of scale, starting from a low angle as the shot slowly pans up to the silhouetted physical form of his being. No flames, no mouth, and only his piercing white circular eyes breaking through the darkness. Using his powers to force Ashi to do his bidding is a move that, much like his destruction of the time portals, exists solely to not just interfere with Jack’s mission, but further psychologically torment his opponent for simple troll-esque reasons. It’s a great set-up for a fight, but as I said, there’s no real way to accurately assess this set up until the payoff actually occurs.
One more episode. After 12 years, the end is almost here.
Samurai Jack airs every Saturday at 11 Pm only on Adult Swim. Episodes can also be streamed on Adult Swim’s website the day after they air.