Samurai Jack, Season 5 – Episode 3 – “XCIV”

Following his escape from the Daughters of Aku, Jack floats down the river until he manages to find refuge in an abandoned cave as he spends the night trying to tend to his wounds. In the meantime, he’s still dogged by manifestations of his consciousness questioning his recent killing, but he also flashes back to memories of his childhood when his father slayed an army of attackers and passed down some advice regarding what reflects the true essence of a person. Thankfully, Jack lucks into some assistance from, surprisingly, the wolf from the last episode who somehow survived as well. Obvious metaphor for Jack’s survival against warriors seemingly greater than him? You make the call!

Meanwhile, the remaining Daughters are still hot on Jack’s trail, pursuing his blood trail into a dense forest full of snow. Jack makes his presence known and gives the Daughters an ultimatum, so when they refuse to back down, he unleashes hell, killing off three of the daughters until he gets backed into a corner (well, a log overlooking a long fall, to be precise). Jack, carefully calculating every move, manages to send the last three Daughters flying off the log into the unknown depths below, but he’s caught off guard when the log snaps in half and sends him coming down into… whatever is down there. It’s worth noting that in an episode that’s been full of grisly harshness, this climax is bizarrely hilarious. When Jack drops Ashi (the only named Daughter) into the abyss, he does so with the most perfect “You’re boring me to tears” expression possible, and the timing of the log collapse feels very reminiscent of a Wile. E. Coyote gag.

Visually, this episode is the most spectacular and distinct of the season so far. Expanding on the usage of silhouettes and solid color backgrounds from last week, this episode narrows its focus to a small but distinct set of primary colors for most of the visuals. The main ones that come to mind are blue, with the river’s pristine waters, the misty haze of the forest before the snow hits, and of course the icy shades of blue on the Daughters’ masks, and white with the reappearance of the wolf and the massive snowy landscapes. The expert use of snow makes for some particularly striking imagery, such as the panning shot of the Daughters before Jack’s ambush and the image of Jack standing against a pure snow background before it backs off to unveil what he’s proudly standing on.

There’s also the recovery scene with the wolf which not only shows off the bold shades of white mixed with accents of the blue moonlit night, but there’s also some great uses of black and red. When Jack and the wolf first meet, the scene is chiefly clouded in dark black, with the only light being faint shades of moonlight from outside. Jack and the wolf only appear as black silhouettes drenched in lines of bright red blood, and the excellent visual/animation direction draws a great deal of expressiveness out of these two using only black and red to draw attention to their eyes. It’s a visual motif that, much like the hallway fights from last week, evoke influences of Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino. The battle against the Daughters also showcases buckets of the red stuff as Jack savagely tears through the daughters without mercy, also showcasing some excellent fight choreography, especially on the log overlooking the abyss as Jack fights in an almost capoeira-influenced fashion.

The rematch with the Daughters shows yet another shift in character for Jack, as when he’s forced to confront the nature of what he actually did last week, he suddenly comes to terms with what he’s truly capable of. Trying to find some kind of comfort and solace, Jack finds himself embracing his inner killer, as the childhood memories of his father are the only guidance he has that doesn’t feel tainted by the events of the present day. There’s even a great visual parallel with the panicked image of childhood Jack with blood sprayed across his eyes and present-day Jack drenched in blood with a much more intense aggravated appearance. The dichotomy of Jack’s current struggle continues as the demented visions of inner self push him to find a sense of peace in childhood memories that, in this case, push his killer instinct to the forefront. It’s almost like his philosophy is running around in circles, but only when he accepts the true nature of what he’s really done does he seem to find the will necessary to carry on and survive. The season continues to get better and better with every episode, and I can’t wait to see where things go next week, especially with the weird trippy ocean-like landscape that Jack seems to have found himself stuck in.

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 premiere.

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