I’m getting tingles down my spine as the March 11th premiere of Samurai Jack nears, and today we were given a glimpse of the show.
From the trailer, we learn that fifty years has passed since the end of the fourth season and even more startling than that is that Jack doesn’t appear to age. “Time has lost its effect on me,” Jack says in the trailer. This revelation is a burden on him as the overwhelming evil that is Aku exists in the past, present, and future and he remains powerless to stop him. Jack’s quest to return to the past has seemingly failed, but there’s still hope because Jack now has all of the time in the universe to find a solution.
There is some precedence for agelessness in the Samurai Jack universe as seen in the episode “Jack, the Monks, and the Ancient Master’s Son” where a disciple of Master Chu, who trained Jack in his youth, is revealed to be alive despite the great passage of time. He tells Jack that his power far exceeded his own as he seems to have not aged a day.
Jack responds by telling him the tale of Aku’s deception and that he has been cast into the distant future, which seemed like the end of the explanation. Now we learn that the Ancient Master’s observation was in fact recognizing that Jack will never age, and perhaps never die. The crux of this season could very well be Jack’s descent into hopelessness, which is shown symbolically through the disappearance of his legendary weapon.
In the trailer, Jack uses a gun, a trident, explosives, a knife with a knuckle guard, and several other weapons… but not his sword. There’s a chance that in the fifty years he has either lost the sword, had the sword taken from him, hidden the sword away, or is no longer fit to wield it. There’s also a chance that it’s just not present in these select scenes we’re being shown, but his sword is as much part of his character as his white robe, ponytail, and sandals, which are all gone as well.
Samurai Jack’s sword is an object forged from the purity of the human heart. It’s main caveat is it can only be used for good and not for evil as seen in the episode “Jack and the Zombies“. Aku manages to get his hands on the sword, but when he tries to stab Jack with it the blade bounces off his skin (probably one of the funniest moments in the entire show).
After fifty years of living in this desperate future, Jack’s heart has been tainted. We see tests of Jack’s resolve throughout the trailer from his father telling him he has lost his purpose to a spectral version of Jack yelling at him to give up. Jack has faced similar trails like this as seen “The Aku Infection” where a part of Aku begins to take over Jack’s body. Through the power of friendship (kinda cheesy), Jack is able to overcome the evil force within him, but now, fifty years on, what are the chances of his friends still being around?
Without friend, who is he fighting for? Without the hope to return to the past, why does he keep struggling?
A reason why I think hopelessness is going to be a strong theme in this season can be seen in “Jack versus Mad Jack“. In the episode, Jack finds himself being constantly attacked by bounty hunters. Out of frustration, he throws one of his sandals at a wanted poster of himself. His frustration manifests itself as Mad Jack, an evil version of himself created by Aku. Mad Jack is expelled at the end of the episode purifying Jack’s heart and returning him to his original path as a good guy who won’t be tempted by evil. Jack can rid himself of bad emotions and evil thoughts; however, he can rid himself of hopelessness. This feeling is arguably as destructive as anger and hate as it leads Jack to simply give up on helping others. Defeating evil is the sword’s main purpose, so if he’s not then he may not longer be worthy of the sword’s power.
The big thing to remember is that Jack will eventually make his way to the past in order to save the future as seen in the episode “Jack and the Travelling Creatures“. It’s predestined to happen, but is it? I guess we’ll find out.
The trailer also introduces us to a new villain and a group of seven assassins who are working for her. These assassins appear to have gone through rigorous training in order to kill Jack, which seems to be their main purpose in life. They’re driven, dangerous, and powerful; however, from what I’ve seen of the show in the past I suspect that they’ll only be in one episode.
We see a lot of this kind of gimmicky villains throughout Samurai Jack. Most of the episodes either end with Jack overcoming them through sheer willpower or through teaching them some kind of lesson. “The Princess and the Bounty Hunters” is a great example of this. Jack teaches Princess Mira that seeking vengeance at the command of Aku (or evil) will never allow you to triumph over good.
Something will likely happen to these assassins who are evil by design, but after being defeated perhaps they’ll realize their powers can be used for good instead. And yet there’s a chance that might not happen.
This new season of Samurai Jack introduces us to a more mature look at the universe in which he lives. Characters bleed and perhaps even die when shot, sliced, or tossed off a bridge. These assassins here might discover that after years of being chased, Jack has lost his merciful spirit and isn’t going to give them any quarter. There’s a chance he could kill them all, which is something that would never happen in the original show.
We’re left wondering, just how much has the future changed Jack? Could he be so far gone that he resorts to killing?
Another question left lingering is about the return of Aku and the focus on the past. We see flashes showing Aku mounted on a horse while staring down at a group of villagers from Jack’s home. Could there be an episode that shows the direct aftermath of Jack’s disappearance? Or is this a sign that Jack will in fact be returning to the past this season to finish the job he started so long ago?
I’m pretty excited for the new season of the show and the mature direction it’s taking. There’s a lot more to uncover about it as we get closer to the new season like if Aku will be making an appearance, if Jack will find his sword, or if he’ll finally make it back to the past.
One of the things I’m pretty sad about with the time jump is that many characters from the other seasons aren’t likely to make an appearance. The Scotsman is probably dead from eating way too much haggis, but in someways having these old faces appear might take away from the new season. I do worry slightly that this season may lose a bit of the exploration and discovery that made Samurai Jack such a wonderful show. It feels like times are more desperate than ever before, but here’s hoping there’s one or two fun episodes.
They were part of a much different show that struck a similar, but different tone. This new season, I suspect, is going to be all about Jack and him taking a journey to restore the confidence he has in his quest. He’s going to fight hordes of villains and experience more of the terrible future Aku has created, but in the end I think he’ll find the hope he’s lost.