Entertainment

Everything Samurai Jack's Past Reveals About His Sword & Season 5 Future

samurai jack adult swim season 5 sword
Cartoon Network
This post contains spoilers for "XCII," the latest episode of Samurai Jack. Read our full reviews for the other episodes of Samurai Jack Season 5: "XCII" "XCIII" "XCIV" "XCV" "XCVI" "XCVII" "XCVIII" "XCIX" "C" "CI"

Thirteen years ago, Samurai Jack, the action-packed, animated brainchild of Genndy Tartakovsky (Star Wars: The Clone WarsThe Powerpuff Girls), ended with little fanfare after a fourth season. The saga of a samurai from the past fighting an evil wizard in the future, Tartakovsky had planned on finishing the story in a movie. That never panned out.

Luckily, to the ecstatic applause of Jack fans everywhere, Cartoon Network's Toonami commissioned one final season for 2017. The premiere episode, now available to stream online, is a banger that rivals the epic scope of Game of Thrones, carries the emotional weight of Logan, and features more robots than Westworld could shake a pistol at. The setup of the new season is simple: Jack, who has not aged after 50 years of fighting Aku's forces in the future, has grown weary of his struggle and his guilt. And as we learn in a flashback, no longer possesses his iconic, magic sword.

Here's what we know about where the season will go so far, based on last night's premiere and information established by previous episodes of the series:

samurai jack season 5 sword
Cartoon Network

Jack will get his sword back

The Samurai Jack premiere, "XCII," drops viewers right into battle. As quickly as a giant robot beetle army circles a mother and two children, Jack makes his heroic entrance, mowing them down with a spike-wheeled motorcycle and blowing them all away with guns and explosives. Our hero now sports a beard and armor, and it's a terrific reference to the climax of the show's original pilot film, in which Jack took out an army of the mechanical bugs on his own. 

But one thing's obviously missing, and Scaramouche, the musically minded assassin Jack faces later in the episode, points it out: "Wait, back off, Beardsley. Where. Is. Your. Sword?"   

We still don't know. Jack's sword, forged by the gods Odin, Ra, and Vishnu, went missing at some point after Season 4 ended and before Jack grew his hair and beard out. A flashback tells us he dropped it down a shaft in a cave, which presents a problem for a couple reasons: 1) The sword's the only weapon that can kill Aku, as cuts from its blade make it extremely difficult for him to regenerate. 2) The sword and Jack are tied together by a blood pact, and its power comes from Jack's father, who first used it to defeat and entrap Aku. It's not quite the same as the connection between Thor and Mjolnir, but the sword is Jack's weapon, first and foremost, to the point where in the (non-canonical) Samurai Jack comic series written by Jim Zub, Jack magically pulled the sword out of his chest to block an attack from Aku. As Jack's mom says in one of the comic's flashbacks, "This blade cannot falter as long as your will is strong and your cause is just."

If his will has to be strong, Jack has another problem...

samurai jack season 5 time travel
Cartoon Network

Jack will confront his PTSD

No matter how insane and complicated the trial, Jack's early adventures never saw him face hellish nightmare visions of his dead parents telling him he had "Forgotten your purpose!" The image of his father (whose righteousness lives in the sword still), consumed in a forest fire, would be enough to rattle anyone. Jack knows rationally that Aku destroyed all the time portals to the past and that he's stuck in the future, but he still spends much of the episode literally running from his demons, one of which is a darkly silhouetted samurai perched on a horse. 

We don't know who that samurai is as much as we know who it definitely isn't. It's not Jack (though Eric Thurm at The A.V. Club posits that it might be a horrifying vision of Jack in the future). It's not Jack's father. It'd make no sense for it to be Aku in an episode that relegated the character to a teasing cameo. It might be the samurai's manifestation of death, just as the Black Racer is the Flash's avatar of death in DC Comics. He appears again during Jack's fight with Scaramouche, which triggers his survivor's guilt into a PTSD flashback where he sees visions of crying, children and the ghostly figure in the background. Rather than representing a future in which Jack becomes a murderer, it's a lot more interesting if it represents a possible (and terrifying) release from Jack's present, in which he feels like he's murdered countless lives throughout history because he didn't kill Aku.

samurai jack sword season 5
Cartoon Network

Jack will fight the Daughters of Aku

If you binged Season 4 of Samurai Jack before watching this premiere (every episode is on Hulu), you may remember that it ends with an unsatisfying finale: Jack spiriting a baby back to her parents while chopping through hordes of foes. The final frames of the episode show the baby scowling just like Jack, to which Jack comments the child had seen too much violence and she had been imbued with sakai, the spirit of the samurai, before walking away.

Jack's newest enemies, the Daughters of Aku, start as babies too, and their training is reminiscent of Jack's early days of the series. They're also just as human as he is, a marked departure from the show's common practice of using robots as a substitute for flesh-and-blood villains (and gallons of oil as a substitute for blood). A matriarch celebrates their seven births in an unsettling, ritualistic sequence. They're also fanatics who've been physically, verbally and emotionally abused, indoctrinated, and raised from birth to do one thing: "Kill the samurai!"

Jack will contend with that problem immediately if their final frames, rushing to hunt him down are any indication. One of them, Ashi, was given a name and a short childhood scene and presented as a leader, so it's a safe bet she and Jack could become into legitimate rivals. Either way, they believe eliminating Jack will bring Aku back, because...

aku samurai jack season 5
Cartoon Network

Jack and Aku's stalemate will crumble

Aku, the self-styled "shogun of sorrow" and "master of masters" retreated, into the shadows a long time ago. He's still around, of course, but if Scaramouche's bewilderment is any indication, he doesn't know Jack's sword is lost and he's mostly checked out of day-to-day samurai slaying. Nonetheless, he's destroyed all the time portals Jack could possibly use to go home, while still building and deploying legions of robot armies and assassins to draw Jack out and menace the people while he's at it.

Sword or no sword, PTSD or no PTSD, Jack and Aku will face off against each other again. It's the reason the show came back in the first place, and when they do, it's going to be awesome.

samurai jack jack and the traveling creatures time portal
Cartoon Network

Jack will return to the past

And he'll probably do it through a time portal he couldn't get through before. The Season 3 episode "Jack and the Traveling Creatures" ends with a flash-forward to a future in which Jack -- older, bearded, battle-scarred, crowned, and scowling -- looks defiantly at an enemy. The implication presented in that episode was, despite not managing to defeat the guardian of the time portal in the episode, that Jack would one day accomplish his mission and return home. I'm betting that happens in Season 5 -- and possibly show us more than even fans could imagine.

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Eric Vilas-Boas is a writer and editor at Thrillist. Follow him for Samurai Jack GIFs @e_vb_.