Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Let's Talk About Samurai Jack Before The Big Finale

I suppose it would make more sense to wait for this weekend's episode of Samurai Jack to write something up about this recent run, since it's the last one, but what the hell. I wasn't able to prep anything for this week ahead of time, so it's all just scrambling at the moment, and I've been meaning to type something on this for awhile. I guess there will be SPOILERS if you've been waiting to binge watch them.

I thought originally it was only going to be 5 episodes, but it seems to have expanded a bit. I can't tell if I'm just remembering wrong or what, though the pacing has seemed uneven. That might just be my expectations. I went in expecting Jack's struggles with the Daughters of Aku to last the entire 5 episodes, and he'd killed all of them but one by the end of the third episode.

During the first episode, I was toying with the idea Jack had killed Aku some years ago, but lost his sword in the process. And there was no way to get home, so he's stuck there, going through the motions, continuing to have to save people from Aku's minions, and fend off Aku's assassins, because none of them realized (or maybe couldn't accept) that Aku was dead. Aku has spent centuries, millennia, as the unstoppable god of this world. Even if people never saw or heard him, they might believe he was still there. The Daughters would have been an ultimate expression, people who destroy the lives of children trying to turn them into weapons to earn favor with a god who is dead by killing a guy who can barely be bothered to care any longer.

And, of course, there would be people who benefited from his reign, who would have a vested interest in keeping the existing structure in place. All of which could be damn demoralizing for Jack. Defeated his enemy, but can't get home to keep all this from ever happening, and the same crap persists under its own inertia.

Obviously that whole theory got blown to hell before the episode ended, when Scaramouche tried to call Aku to tell him Jack was sans sword. I found Scaramouche annoying initially, but he's grown on me as a comic relief character as he's persisted minus a body. He may be gone now, though. And I've also enjoyed Aku's struggle with depression. Jack has struggled with feeling that continued existence is futile. That he cannot win, cannot get home, is stuck watching people suffer and die (because like most people, Jack focuses on his failures and not his numerous successes).

Meanwhile, you have Aku, god-ruler of this world, but he can't enjoy it, because he's positive that at some point, Jack is going to show up with that sword and fucking end him. He's abandoned any hope his assassins are going to win, and he's sure as hell not going near the one thing that can kill him. So it's a stalemate, and he can't even count on time to do the job for him, 'cause Jack isn't aging. Makes it hard to enjoy what he's got.

I'm not really a fan of the romance plot thread between Jack and Ashi. Part of that is the fact she's probably in her late teens and Jack is probably closer to 70 or 80 in terms of the number of years he's been alive. If she were closer to 30, a little more mature or worldly, it probably wouldn't bother me so much. But with her relative inexperience with the world, with anything that doesn't involve killing, it feels off. Plus I figured it was another thing to give Jack angst, and that seems to be the case. Which, these episodes have already established Jack has struggled with guilt, was nearly destroyed by it, over the people he's failed to save. Not just loved ones, but random people he's been too late to help. He and Ashi don't need to be in love for him to not want to kill her to save himself.

I appreciated that it wasn't so much Jack repeatedly saving her life that seemed to turn Ashi, but the way that Jack seems to sit comfortably in the parts of the world Ashi had always been attracted to. They had established her attraction to the natural beauty of the world, even as her mother was telling her Aku created all that and Jack is trying to destroy it. But once they escape from the leviathan, Jack sits down and is at home among that same beauty. How would that work, if he's such a cancer on Aku's glorious creation? That felt like a good way to bring about an epiphany.

I would like to have seen a little more exploration of how she's adjusting to this world and the new path she's taken. She's still doing a lot of fighting and killing - she laid waste to an entire army protecting Jack - how does that feel? Does the violence feel more natural, does she feel more at ease with it, or is there no difference than when her sole purpose was to kill one guy? Maybe it even feels worse, that she's still fighting and killing, even as she's trying to figure out where she fits. She reminds me of Cassandra Cain in that way.

I don't know how things will wrap up this weekend, or even if they will. It might be an ambiguous ending, or no real ending at all. I don't know if a happy ending would feel earned, whatever that means. I do really want to see Jack get one over on Aku though, finally. Even if he can't get home, at least let him destroy this guy once and for all.


Kelvin Green said...

I hope it won't be an ambiguous or non-ending; we've waited long enough for the story to be wrapped up and the whole point of this new series was to deliver an ending. If we don't get an ending this time, I shall be miffed.

I've been enjoying the new series but I'm a bit torn about the bloodshed. On one hand, it says that this is serious, this is the end game, but on the other hand, one of the best things about the original was how creative the animators where in telling adult stories within the constraints of children's TV. Now it's on Adult Swim and they can do what they like, it doesn't feel quite as inventive and clever.

That said it's still brilliant and I'm glad it's back.

CalvinPitt said...

How did you feel about the idea of Jack having never killed a person (or anything he considers a person)? It fits with the earlier episodes, since he was always up against robots, but I kind of figured after 50 years of seeing robots, monsters, aliens, talking dogs and so on, Jack would have expanded his definition of what's "alive".

But I did love that episode where he grappled with it, especially the fight at the end once he'd set his mind to surviving. So I guess it worked for me ultimately.

Kelvin Green said...

It was always one of those strange conceits because he destroyed things that were alive by any meaningful definition, they just didn't spray blood; I suppose you were supposed to accept it, like when the Avengers don't have to "hold back" because the full-functioning, sentient-seeming, things they are fighting are only robots.

I am a bit torn on that line being crossed in the new series, but I do think it's been handled well. The scene where he drew blood while fighting the Daughters was very effective.