Saturday night brought eternal tears to my eyes. It was the long-awaited closure to one of the greatest animated shows of all time. In the last half hour of Samurai Jack, we got to see Jack finally defeat Aku (with the help of some friends), liberate Ashi from the darkness, return to the past, and have a happy ending. Sort of.
Then they pulled a major downer by killing Ashi right when she walked down the wedding aisle. Damn, son. But it’s one to be expected: as the literal “daughter” of Aku, born of his dark essence, Ashi’s life-force was bound to him. His death effectively changed the past, erasing her from history.
I kind of saw it coming, but didn’t know they were going to hit it THAT hard. We see Jack finally home, the world back to normal, and reunited with his family. We see his mother and the bridesmaids preparing Ashi for her wedding. All Jack’s friends are there for the big day (at least his friends from the past). And then as he’s watching her walk down the aisle, she falls. Jack rushes to her aid, and in her dying breaths she whispers that, without Aku, she is slowly fading. Then she vanishes in his arms, leaving behind only a wedding dress. Think Back to the Future. Except more tragic.
The show ends on a somber but hopeful note as the samurai, now alone, rides away into the woods. The air is dark and ominous. But then a ladybug flutters by, soft and gentle, reminding both Jack and the viewer of Ashi. It’s a warm remembrance that harkens back to a turning point for her character.
And then the sun shines, revealing a beautiful red tree, that looks somewhat identical to the one he showed her earlier in the season. If you recall, the tree was symbolic as one of the one last living things that Aku hasn’t destroyed in the future. It is nature, untouched and unblemished.
And credits roll. Wow. I immediately wanted more. Sure, parts of the episode happened very fast, but it came together in one tremendous conclusion. And still left me wanting more. And maybe that’s the best way to end a show: give it a proper send off. Instead of rebooting and rehashing every five to ten years, until the proverbial milk runs dry.
I saw this season of Samurai Jack as more of a finale, rather than a reboot or sequel. The story had never ended before that. Sure, the show went off, but we never got to see the final showdown between Jack and Aku. We never saw him return to the past. This season and its finale gave us closure.
And a lot of fan service. In episodes six and ten (the finale) we saw the return of old characters, such as the Scotsman, the Talking Dogs, Olivia and the techno-ravers (at least a new generation), the Spartans, the Blind Archers, the Woolies, Da’ Samurai, the Triseraquins (I wonder if I’m spelling that right), the “Jump-Good” apes, and the robots from episode 41 commandeering a “giant stone samurai”. I almost jumped out of my seat when I saw them racing to Jack’s aid. It was a very heartfelt, nostalgic moment.
I loved how Tartakovsky unified the show by bringing some of its most classic, beloved characters together for the final showdown. Typically, Samurai Jack is a “different world, different” show, where most characters very seldom last for more than a single episode, as Jack moves on in his quest. This season gave us more consistency by referring back to those characters, first in the episode where Ashi goes seeking Jack, and then in the series finale. I just wish (teary-eyed) we could have had one last showdown with the Guardian from episode 32 (he’s the blue guy with sunglasses who talks like a black guy).
Nonetheless it warmed my heart incredibly to see the return of these characters. Tartakovsky really was thinking of the fans when he brought them back. Most importantly, though, he was thinking of the storyline. Samurai Jack has saved so many people that it only makes sense they would band together and come to his rescue.
So many emotions went rushing through me during that episode. But afterwards I kept thinking, is this really the end? To a show that I grew up loving and watching obsessively? As much as I wanted conclusion, how could things just wrap up like that? Cue confusion, and then a much more somber emotion: sadness. It’s over, I kept thinking. After starting again for eleven weeks (thanks to Rick and Morty). I read the Twitter comments, ranging from shocked to devastated. But they all shared one thing in common: praise. And thankfulness to Gendy Tartakovsky for bringing us such an incredible show. He practically raised us with Jack. I’ll always have fond memories of watching brand new episodes every Friday. When you start a show at age 8 and then finish it at 23, it’s bound to pull on some heartstrings. And every moment of this season reminded me of the show I loved, keeping its essence fresh after 16 years. (No pun intended by the word “essence”, Demongo. If you’re a true fan, you’ll get the joke).
Well, it’s over. I now have to move through life knowing our friendly, neighborhood Samurai is at the end of his quest. But, like the fans, I am grateful. The show ended on its highest note possible. I honestly couldn’t have asked for more. Well, maybe a few more episodes. But I was thoroughly impressed by the show’s conclusion. And, like many others, will now go back and relive all four previous seasons.
It’s been a great ride, from start to finish. See you later, Samurai.