The Face-palming Finale of ‘Samurai Jack’

The last season of ‘Samurai Jack’ rose above all expectations, only to fall embarrassingly flat in the last moments.
June 14, 2017
9 mins read

Samurai Hack

The last season of ‘Samurai Jack’ rose above all expectations, only to fall embarrassingly flat in the last moments.

By Daniel DeAngelo, University of Tampa

After sixteen years, the highly anticipated concluding season of “Samurai Jack” ended recently.

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “The Powerpuff Girls,” the show originally ran for four seasons on Cartoon Network starting in 2001. Known for its unique art style and occasionally having deliberately jarring shifts in tone, the program was popular with both children and adults and retained a cult following that persisted long after its abrupt cancellation in 2004. After years of rumors, and despite the unfortunate passing of veteran voice-actor Makoto Iwamatsu, a fifth and final season premiered on Adult Swim earlier this year, and after well over a decade, the long-awaited finale arrived.

image via CraveOnline

Things started out pretty well. The first episode of the new season featured aliens who communicate exclusively through holographic emojis and followed a now-jaded Jack as he faced off against a robotic, singing mass-murderer. Tartakovsky deserves a lot of credit just for coming up with something like that, never mind that he somehow manages to make the whole thing feel tonally appropriate.

The same episode also introduces the Daughters of Aku, an all-female band of half-demon ninja assassins sent to eliminate Jack once and for all. Unlike the first four seasons, which discarded any overarching narrative early on, Season 5 told a single continuous story. Episodes 2 and 3 are a protracted game of cat and mouse between Jack and the Daughters, and contain some of the most engaging combat sequences in the series. Jack manages to kill all of the Daughters except for one. The lone survivor, who is named Ashi, eventually becomes a secondary protagonist and Jack’s love interest. A theme of redemption is carried throughout the season, with Jack overcoming his guilt for having failed to save his homeland and Ashi coming to terms with her whole life having been based on a lie.

After recovering Jack’s magic sword, the two finally face off against the demonic overlord Aku. It is then that Ashi’s true nature becomes clear. “Daughters of Aku” isn’t just a fancy name; Aku was literally their father. Aku uses his connection to her to take over Ashi’s body, first controlling her like a marionette and then transforming the young woman into a demonic shapeshifter bound completely to his will. Although Jack succeeds in wounding her, he cannot bring himself to strike Ashi down, allowing Aku to capture him.

Aku and a possessed Ashi [image via Samurai Jack Wiki]
The finale starts on the right foot, picking up where the previous episode left off. As Aku gloats and Jack tries unsuccessfully to break Ashi from his control, all of the people Jack helped over the years band together to rescue him. These include futuristic Spartan warriors, an absurdly huge family of Amazonian Scotswomen, flying apes, fish-men, a giant robot, alien archers riding sentient mammoths and ravers with laser guns riding giant birds. Awesome and nonsensical, it is the perfect zany battle to end one of the weirdest and most original shows of all time.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the actual ending. The battle starts to turn against Jack’s allies, but he is able to break Ashi from Aku’s control by declaring that he loves her right before the final blow is struck. As hackneyed as that resolution is, it only gets worse. Ashi discovers that she still has Aku’s powers, fortunately without the antlers or flaming eyebrows. This is actually a pretty cool idea, one that the show normally would have built a whole episode around. Instead, the battle between the two supernatural beings is disappointingly short. After less than twenty seconds of exchanging blows and laser vision, Ashi realizes that she now has the power to send Jack and herself back in time. They return to Jacks’ first battle with Aku, which had been the plan since Aku sent him to the future in season one, allowing the samurai to finish what he started.

Jack slays Aku, and the demonic overlord’s lair collapses, as does his daughter. It is at this point some may wonder how Ashi can exist after killing her father more than a thousand years before she is born. It seems like the show hasn’t taken this paradox into account. The next scene shows Jack’s homeland rebuilt, with all the characters who trained him way back in Episode 1 showing up for the celebration. It’s soon revealed to the audience that Jack and Ashi are getting married, but just as the ceremony begins the bride collapses. Jack runs to her side and Ashi realizes that without Aku she never would have existed and fades way, leaving Jack holding her empty robe.

image via YouTube

The whole scene might have been very sad, if it hadn’t been both nonsensical and completely obvious. Tartakovsky clearly wanted the ending to be emotional, but that’s not possible when there are so many nagging questions going through the audience’s mind. For one, if they changed history so that Ashi never existed, would Jack even remember her? If he would, why didn’t she disappear immediately after defeating Aku, when she initially collapsed? Most importantly, why didn’t Jack or Ashi realize this would happen? The whole point of going back in time was to stop Aku before his rise to power. Exactly what was supposed to happen happened, but that apparently never occurred to any of the characters involved.

If the ending absolutely could not be happy, there are ways it could have been done without Jack and Ashi looking like idiots. One option is to have had Jack, as he’s about to finish Aku off, suddenly realize that doing so would prevent Ashi from being born. It doesn’t actually matter whether it’s Jack or Ashi who thinks of it first, as long as one of them does. Since Jack had refused to kill Ashi while she was under Aku’s control, he would presumably do so again. Seeing Jack hesitate and knowing there is no other way, Ashi could’ve taken the sword and slain Aku, sacrificing herself in order to save the world.

That would have been an end worthy of the last Daughter of Aku, and worthy of the show. Instead, Ashi dies because both she and Jack failed to notice something that should have been blatantly obvious.

Daniel DeAngelo, University of Tampa

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Daniel DeAngelo

University of Tampa


  1. Sorry kid, you are clearly not old enough or smart enough to understand, your review was terrible. Firstly you didn’t need to explain the entire plot in that depth, that’s how a secondary school student writes a review. Secondly, you obviously don’t understand time travel, or Jack himself, he missed multiple opportunities to travel to the past because he himself doesn’t seem to fully understand time travel. On countless occasions he chose to stay and help people over traveling back, but if he’d have gone back he’d have saved them from that ever happening. Jack never understood time travel because he comes from a time period where that wasn’t even a concept yet. The end of the series was beautiful, artistic, poignant, accurate to Jack’s character, and a pleasure to watch. In conclusion, you Sir are fucking retarded.

  2. I for my personaly belived that the final season was a masterpecie all together and i thank genndy for it butstill personally for my opinon i agree with you daniel the ending of samuria jack could have waaay better then the one we got the part that did nag me alot was.With ashi and jack not realizing at all that if they went back to the past jack would wipe everything he has worked so hard for and went through and the people hes built relationships with would just be gone and its pretty navie for him not to realize that.I mean imagine how more tensonalized it could have been had jack realized he would lose everyone he gotten to know in the future just after realizing that he has made a good change in their lifes and they love him for the past 50s years hes been moping about the past.That way jack could have a tensional scene where hes torn betweeen two chocies where he has to choose to either killing aku in the past or future but the consequence being that he will have to sacrifice when of those times and the people within it instead of ashi mr.fanasticly getting jacks sword then send them back to the past whithout jack even getting the chance to realize or react in that matter and have a dissapointingly 30 sec final battle of jack vs aku. And time skip to the wedding where we the show does a predictable damn gurren laggan scene leaving jack lonely forever but happy that the worlds at peace.But persoanlly before the final was struck my bittersweet ending would be for the last episode is that in the intro i would cut out the new seasons intro replace with the orginals for nastalga.go to part where every one is whatching tv where aku is annoucing to excute jack and have ashi beat up jack on screen while showing another shot of everyone preparing to raid akus lair to save jack instead of aku taking forever to excute jack then instead of ashi being freed by the power of love while trying to strangle jack to death have her at least show some resistance to fight back against evil then instead having hee take sword and back to the past so fast have jack work his way to get the sword while ashi holds off aku then when aku is about to kill her. jack has a final showdown with aku have it end with trapping him i. His sword the same way then destroy him while in the future then with the threat gone ashi loses her powers but is still alive simce they killed aku in the future but sadly jack has no absolute way to go back and he falls to his nees crying but then the skies open with then the spurit of his father appears before him and tells him that he is so proud of him and that he only had to destroy aku not to go back to past and he can live his own life so with at jack stays in the future celbrates with his friends and 1 year later marries ashi but then the scotsman dissapears to due to him fufilling his purpose to help jack and then for a eplioque abkut 5 years later theirs a little bky running and playing by a tree and a bridge and behined him are a older jack and ashi and they lay down undera cherry blossem tree with their son and jack lolks off to the sunset happy and at peace but with the bitter is that he didnt come back to me that would have been the aboslute perfect ending to samurja jack had it been a hour like it should have been

  3. Thank you, exactly what I thought. The ending could have been better but because it was rushed due to the 22 min. The idea of the ending was great.

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