When I first heard that one of my favorite childhood series, was getting a revival, I was so overjoyed, I had to rewatch the whole series leading up to this. So I began Samurai Jack and now as an adult, was able to fully comprehend the beauty and craft that went into this gem of an animated series. When it came time for the new and final season to begin, I was ready or at least I thought I was. What I wasn’t ready for was one of the most beautiful and most successful finale seasons to any show I’ve ever seen. The fifth season of Samurai Jack was truly a piece of art and I’m glad that Genndy Tartakovsky was able to get this made. Thank you sir for giving us fans the true send off we have been waiting for 11 years for.
50 years have passed since Jack (voiced again by the legendary Phil LaMarr) was cast into the future by the evil demon Aku (Greg Baldwin, taking over for Mako who passed away in 2006 and is greatly missed). Jack hasn’t aged due to side effects of the time travel process. This has taken it’s toll as Jack’s mental and emotion state as from the start of the season, you see Jack is clearly a broken man. He has hallucinations of his family, believing he has failed them, along with hallucinations of his former, samurai self and victims of the villainous Aku that Jack has failed to save. Aku has also destroyed the final time portal, seemingly destroying his hopes of getting home and further adding to his broken psyche. When young girls that are bred from Aku and raised as assassins with the sole purpose of hunting and ending Jack once and for all, Jack must learn to become the man he once was and finally look for a way home, even if that seems impossible.
If you noticed in my synopsis of this season’s plot, you can already see the show is different. Jack being broken down is a mature character arc and that’s something that this season does amazingly. Fans of the series have grown up and the show has followed. Human casualties with blood, sexual content and very dark and adult themes are all present and add so much to the show. That’s not to say the shows trademark humor isn’t present as there is still a ton of it with possibly my favorite addition to the show in the character of Scaramouche, a robot assassin tasked with hunting Jack and killing him early on and then becomes a character that adds a lot of levity to the series, even having one of the shows most adult jokes that I’m surprised they went for. The mix of adult content and themes and the show’s original humor were perfectly balanced.
The animation this season was stunning. Each different scene was a beautiful piece of art. A few times, I had to pause an episode and just marvel at how much detail went into each scene. It is truly one of the most beautiful works of animation I’ve ever seen. Whenever there’s an action scene, it looks seemless and moves fluently but more often than not, the quieter moments are equally as stunning.
My only gripe with the show is a minor one and that’s with the finale itself. I wish it was double the length and made into an hour long episode rather than the usual 30 minutes. Some of it does feel rather rushed and that could also be said for the season length. With only 10 episodes, maybe another 3 and hitting the original 4 seasons episodes count would of been able to flesh out some of the surprise return of series characters and made the finale a little more impactful. That being said, I still think the shows ending matched the themes of the season and was a beautiful and satisfying ending to the series, especially in the final shot.
Samurai Jack’s fifth season marks the end of an era and does so beautifully. With better and more advanced animation, a darker and more mature story and some fantastic characters old and new alike, this season was a triumph and Genndy Tartakovsky deserves praise for getting this thing made and especially for getting it on Adult Swim. This show has something that not too many series are able to pull off, a clear and final ending. No loose ends, no set-up for another potential return, just clear and satisfying end. This is and should be the final go around with this character because it is a picture perfect send off.