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Review - Samurai Jack: XCIV

The new season of Samurai Jack continues to impress. The narrative of tonight’s episode was particularly well structured, dividing the action into three distinct acts: Jack’s escape and recovery, the sisters’ pursuit, and the inevitable climactic showdown.

In Act I, our protagonist’s recent brushes with mortality—his own near-demise in the previous chapter, his recurring suicidal urges, and the graphic death of his first flesh-and-blood foe—take their toll on his already fractured psyche, but as he licks his wounds and reflects on his past, his resolve to survive and fight another day is gradually restored. Act II reinforces the underlying tragedy of the conflict between Jack and the primary antagonists, The Daughters of Aku. We saw the cruel upbringing that this all-female kill squad endured way back in the premiere: conditioned from birth to believe that The Samurai is a threat to their father’s “utopia,“ physically and emotionally abused, trained in the art of combat and little else, these single-minded assassins express genuine confusion and disgust upon witnessing a buck affectionately nuzzling a doe—to them, the very idea of love is foreign and alien.

Which makes the battle in Act III all the more painful, despite its stunning aesthetic beauty and fluid choreography. Contrary to what Jack believes, the Daughters’ corrupted perception prevents them from choosing any path that deviates from their mission. In this light, their shouted threats begin to resemble childish temper tantrums as their target’s unbending will shatters their rigid worldview. The original series occasionally explored the gray areas of morality (especially in “Tale of X-9” and “The Princess and the Bounty Hunters”), but this is a whole new shade of ambiguity. And I am absolutely loving it. I look forward to seeing where this dark journey takes us after this week’s (literal) cliffhanger.

[Originally written March 26, 2017.]

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