**WARNING: Some spoilers to follow! Catch the season five recap marathon this Saturday, May 27th, at 11/10c, on Cartoon Network.**
Series reboots—like movie sequels—are hard, especially for beloved series or ones that’ve been absent for a period of years. Sometimes, they hits their mark; other times, they’re just trying to capitalize on a once-successful property, and actually hurt the franchise, rather than helping to reinvigorate it.
I’m happy to report that Samurai Jack’s limited “fifth season” return is the former.
Full of nods to the original, tongue-in-cheek references and quips, and an equal dose of action and gravitas, these ten episodes are short, sweet, and to the point. While, as I said in my initial premiere review, I would have enjoyed hour-long episodes—as opposed to the half-hour ones (more like 15 or 20 minutes, when fast-forwarding through commercials on my DVR) that we got—I feel like it’s enough, in retrospect. Not only does it limit the amount of stuff that can happen in each segment, it forces the creators to really get their point across. Therefore, there’s no “fluff” or unnecessary scenes; everything we see is contributing to the growth of Jack, culminating in the very final episode…and scene. While still open-ended, we know—based on the evolution of our tortured hero throughout the episodes—that Jack will be okay, going forward. It’s the right ending for a compelling and complicated character.
Old faces return, and exciting new ones make appearances, throughout. All suit the plot, all aid in the steps Jack makes towards a resolution, and make for some excellent and memorable scenes—both action-packed and emotional.
It’s clear that series creator Genndy Tartakovsky had a definite direction he wanted to take Jack in. All these years away from the property were spent planning and coming up with a poignant, self-contained, but still very much the same, Jack that fans have come to know and love. While darker and dealing with more adult topics of loss of direction, solitude, and letting go of anger, the color palette of the show and it’s comic book-style presentation give it a very unique feel, and resurrect fond memories of the original run. It brings a tear to my eye, really; such an iconic character from my childhood—one that had a definite impact on molding my bourgeoning creative mind—given the attention and final evolution he deserves. Jack has been restless, all these years spent in isolation, and this final arc is wrapping up unfinished, personal business, for him and for the fans. We see how time in solitude has affected Jack, and we follow right beside him as he grows and fixes what has been wrong—both within and without him—for so long. This final run makes him relatable, makes him human.
Ultimately, Jack’s love for enemy-turned-romance, Ashi, is what helps set him free. He realizes that, if she can change, so, too, can he. With her help, Jack is able to free himself of the anger and darkness that has been like a parasite to him for so long, and finally vanquish his arch-nemesis, Aku. With that newfound peace, he is able to return to his time, and (although alone once more) his future is brighter because of what has happened. It’s a good way to put a character to rest.
Final ‘Risk Assessment: ****/*