Jack's partner had to feel real and sincere
Compared to the early seasons, the narrative turn that carries the most weight in Season 5 is the addition of Ashi, one of Aku's assassin daughters. Ashi, born and raised with the sole purpose of killing Jack, eventually becomes his ally and -- though it takes some time -- his lover. Before this season, she was a non-entity. By the end, Ashi and Jack's relationship form the emotional backbone for the whole season.
"In actuality, this whole thing was centered around my desire to see if I could have two characters fall in love in a sincere way, not in a cheesy filmmaking way where you know you look her, he looks at you, and then they’re in love, you know?" Tartakovsky says. "The big thing about it was Jack falling in love."
He also didn't want to rush it -- even if he just had 10 episodes to do it. "We created this character that was filled with pure hate, and then slowly show that there’s a little chink in the armor and then go from there," he says. Without relying too heavily on dialogue or long episodes of exposition, the show frames Ashi as much as the victim of Aku's totalitarian rule as anyone. She's physically and verbally abused growing up and turned into a child soldier. She's cut off from the outside world her whole life, meaning that in adulthood, she has to assimilate much in the same way Jack had to adjust to life in a distant, technologically advanced future.
In a way, they were perfect for each other, and when they get past several episodes of sexual tension, they finally consummate their relationship. It happens at the end of a horror episode influenced by Alien, with a full-blown makeout cued up to Dean Martin's "Everybody Loves Somebody." It's spectacular and feels earned.
"There’s really no realism really about it," he admits. "But can we get real feelings and emotions and get the sense of how awkward it is to stand next to a girl if you’re not comfortable, if you’ve never really experienced it a lot? And then turn that awkwardness into this horror episode where they’re being hunted."
Not everyone on the internet agreed with it, but Tartakovsky laughs that off. "Definitely I heard a little bit about the uproar over the kiss," he says. "That’s something that I was really proud of. The way people reacted to it, negatively and positively. But you know, I always say, I’d rather have somebody hate something or love it than to be just like, 'Eh, that was OK.'"