Warning: The following post contains spoilers for Samurai Jack season 5, episode 2.
“[Aku] keeps thinking that one of his machines can defeat me. They are just machines,” Jack says. But what happens when his enemies are no longer “just nuts and bolts”?
This week’s episode of Samurai Jack‘s stalled fifth season sees our hero facing perhaps his greatest enemies yet: the assassins known as the daughters of Aku. Their encounter, an adrenaline-fueled chase through wintry woods and an abandoned temple, leaves Jack wounded and his fate shrouded.
In a surprising moment, one that demonstrates the more “mature” style of storytelling creator Genndy Tartakovsky brought to the cartoon, Jack slays his first human ± the image of the assassin’s cooling corpse haunts him as he makes his escape down a river stained with his own blood.
“I think [Jack] has to reflect on choices and fate and destiny and sometimes maybe you’re forced to do things you don’t want to do,” Tartakovsky explained to EW. “But then it’s not just your choice, it’s the choice of that other person too, where a machine has no choice, right? Because they’re just programmed. But perhaps a human does and that theme not only affects Jack, but affects something else [in the coming episodes], also.”
Since the season 5 premiere, Samurai Jack continues to pursue a more psychological story. While hiding from his assailants, a spectral form appears in the guise of his former self. “It’s time to end it, don’t you think?” the mirage taunts, pushing Jack to the brink of suicide. “There’s no way home, there’s nothing to fight for, there’s no more honor. Come to think of it, the only honorable thing to do is…” Jack may have kept hope alive, but the horror on his face over killing a living thing hints at more mental ramifications.
One of the big set pieces leading up to the episode’s climax came deep in the pitch black catacombs, where Jack is forced to spar with one of the daughters amid the flickering glow of a firefly. “Initially the fireflies came up because we were stuck for lighting. We’re like, ‘How is this gonna be lit? We could just fake light it, but then assassins are wearing black suits. What are we gonna do?'” Tartakovsky said. “And then we came upon this, maybe there’s bugs and they’re illuminating that scene.”
He envisioned the sequence as an homage to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, “where they’re in the graveyard and there’s this music piece called ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ and it’s this super long sequence that’s music.”
Tartakovsky noted, “We did a similar feel and what’s great about that scene is the music. The music is this piece about the oncoming doom and death, and it contradicts everything of the music that’s leading up to it that it kind of just hits you.”
Samurai Jack season 5 continues next Saturday on Adult Swim at 11 p.m. ET.