News

10 Ways Samurai Jack Wraps Up Its Story

Creator Genndy Tartakovsky and voice actor Phil LaMarr talk about concluding the animated saga 13 years later.

by | March 10, 2017 | Comments

Samurai Jack season 5 on Adult Swim’s Toonami Block

It’s been nearly 13 years since Samurai Jack ended its fourth season on Cartoon Network in 2004. This month, Adult Swim is premiering a 10-episode fifth season. The return of Samurai Jack isn’t like Fuller House, The X-Files, or even Arrested Development where the original cast and creators returned to satisfy the fans’ nostalgia. Samurai Jack actually never ended. This is the ending for which fans have been waiting over a decade.

Jack (voice Phil Lamarr) was a samurai in ancient Japan. Just as he was about to defeat the evil Aku (voice of Mako), Aku sent Jack into the future. Jack spent four seasons trying to get back to his time and defeat Aku. Now 50 more years have passed. Jack is weary and sports long hair and beard.

Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky (seen above demonstrating art from the show) and LaMarr spoke with Rotten Tomatoes recently about the series’ return and finale. Here are the 10 ways they planned to finally conclude the Samurai Jack saga.


1. TARTAKOVSKY WAS WAITING FOR THE RIGHT TIME

When Cartoon Network canceled Samurai Jack, Tartakovsky had the option of wrapping up the fourth season. He chose to leave it open ended so that one day he could come back to it.

“I had three or four episodes left,” Tartakovsky said. “There was no mandate. I realized I really don’t want to rush a conclusion all of a sudden without thinking it through. Back then I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for the end, so I decided I’m just going to trust it. Let’s just end it. Maybe we’ll take a break and then finish it. We just sort of quietly went into the night.”


2. IT’S ONE 10-PART STORY

For the first four seasons of Samurai Jack, the format was a standalone story every week. The television landscape of 2017 allows Samurai Jack to tell a single continuing story, so the fifth season is one big final story.

“The approach is different,” LaMarr (pictured above) said. “The old episodes, each episode was exploring a different aspect of Aku’s world. These episodes are all telling one big story. We go a little deeper emotionally and into Jack as a person.”


3. 10 EPISODES GIVES SAMURAI JACK AN ENDING A MOVIE NEVER COULD

Over the years there had been several attempts to make a Samurai Jack movie. Every time, development stalled because the idea wouldn’t fit in 90 minutes. Ten episodes gives Tartakovsky enough room to do everything he wanted to do.

“Luckily it never got going, because there was never a perfect movie that I’m like Oh, I wish we would’ve made that version,” Tartakovsky said.


4. BY EPISODE FIVE, YOU’LL SEE WHERE JACK IS HEADED

The first few episodes reintroduce Jack and establish the new world in which he finds himself. Tartakovsky says the fifth episode fully reveals the direction of this finale.

“You get a little bit more in three, a lot more in four and then five it starts to kick in a little bit more,” Tartakovsky said. “It all feels like it’s one thing, but the third act of this journey is definitely the last three to four episodes.”


5. 50 YEARS LEADS JACK TO THE END OF HIS JOURNEY

Tartakovsky set the new season 50 years later so he could explore the consequences of Jack’s long journey after 52 previous episodes.

“Rather than just episode 53 and you get going, I wanted there to be more weight,” Tartakovsky said.

This worked for LaMarr, who was able to infuse Jack with the extra decade plus of maturity he’s experienced.

“We’ve all grown,” LaMarr said. “We’ve all matured. How do we do this work from where we are now? We’re all the same people but we’re different. These 10 episodes are the same way. It’s the same series but different.”

Jack never says much, but when he talks, fans might notice he sounds like he’s been through more.

“Obviously my voice has changed a little bit over time, and also my interpretation of Jack has shifted a tiny bit,” LaMarr said. “Some of it, you don’t even realize until you listen back to the old stuff. The way Genddy structured these 10 new episodes, it totally fit. I don’t have to try and go back and do it the same way I did in 2001. He’s different. I’m different.”


6. JACK GETS EMOTIONAL

For four seasons, Jack was fairly unflappable and able to overcome any weekly obstacle. Season 5 picks up when Jack is more vulnerable and hit harder by the events he encounters .

“Jack is in a different place,” LaMarr said. “The original series was about his ability to withstand so much and accomplish so much. He was always so zen. He’s not in the same headspace anymore. Things affect him in a different way than they did before.”


7. TARTAKOVSKY HAS BEEN PLANNING THIS FOR EIGHT YEARS

This wasn’t just something Tartakovsky threw together. He began thinking of the conclusion five years after the fourth season. When the network and the viewers were ready for it, he fleshed out the story.

“It was always this lost-soul idea,” Tartakovsky said.

LaMarr was on board: “Genndy and I had talked about it beforehand, so I knew where he was placing it and doing with it, although he did not tell me the ending. I didn’t get the ending until I got the last script. We were pretty on the same page about the fact that Jack is Jack, but he’s Jack with some miles on him now.”


8. YOU DON’T HAVE TO WATCH THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS, BUT IT HELPS

If you’ve never seen Samurai Jack, you can just jump in. Each episode opens with a recap of Jack’s story and how the story has jumped 50 years. Still, Tartakovsky recommends watching a few old episodes.

“I think it’s always good to know what he’s from,” Tartakovsky said. “It’d be great if you watched a few episodes to get the feel of it but you could jump in and pick up the details.”


9. THE WORLD HAS CAUGHT UP TO SPLIT SCREENS

When Jack springs into action, the screen often splits to show different actions at at the same time. Some of the images are vertical, some horizontal. Samurai Jack did this long before cell phones included video. Now that viewers are used to vertical video, Samurai Jack could be more accessible.

“Split-screen stuff has been around since the ’70s, so it’s not like I invented anything,” Tartakovsky said. “It is definitely easier. In a weird funny way, I’m doing it a lot less in these 10 than I did in the past. Sometimes it became, not a cliche, but it almost becomes a caricature of yourself. Here’s an action scene, here comes the split screen. So we tried to do it a little bit more meaningful and definitely less than I think we’ve done before.”


10. THE NEW VILLAINS TELL THE FINAL STORY

Aku is still the main threat, but Jack encounters some new ones along the way, including some of Aku’s new forces. Every new villain Jack faces was created to illustrate his final journey.

“They were all story driven,” Tartakovsky said. “We needed things to get to Jack. Usually I’ll just do a doodle. Scaramouche just came out from a drawing and then we started to develop what he is as a bad guy.”

One enemy through the final season is The Daughters of Aku, an army of human female warriors.

“They’re a big part of the story,” Tartakovsky said. “They’re not going to go away, not to give anything away. I wanted to show the human side that’s been treated like a machine. Aku builds robots and all these robots are singularly programmed to kill Jack. What if it’s humans? What if the one purpose in your whole life is to kill this one person and you’re raised from birth that way?”

Samurai Jack returns March 11 at 11 p.m. on Adult Swim


Tag Cloud

space casting MSNBC medical drama Tubi Box Office Marvel Television crime thriller venice Spring TV Animation Marvel Studios festivals TV mockumentary 2015 strong female leads romantic comedy Showtime unscripted Tarantino rotten The CW dark PBS Baby Yoda diversity Walt Disney Pictures indie tv talk Calendar Academy Awards Ovation WGN PlayStation deadpool Binge Guide all-time zero dark thirty Infographic MTV Nat Geo Drama The Witch boxoffice Schedule Disney+ Disney Plus Teen sports Mary poppins Superheroes DC Universe DC Comics reviews movie Sundance Mary Poppins Returns Sony Pictures screenings Photos PaleyFest Rom-Com Elton John Countdown A&E Discovery Channel canceled TV shows Peacock halloween Premiere Dates Netflix Summer blaxploitation TBS Hear Us Out spanish language Amazon TruTV spanish toy story spinoff black Kids & Family WarnerMedia supernatural dceu Stephen King Anna Paquin werewolf DGA disaster Black Mirror australia stoner singing competition slashers asian-american Esquire Grammys Disney E3 latino doctor who satire Family Mindy Kaling Disney Channel SundanceTV BBC One Masterpiece See It Skip It travel sequels golden globes police drama video on demand comics YouTube Bravo documentary cartoon biography Winners Amazon Prime Set visit Emmys 99% A24 cats Lifetime Christmas movies 2016 die hard MCU Netflix Christmas movies NYCC robots rotten movies we love Endgame Interview justice league elevated horror serial killer fast and furious ID documentaries Arrowverse Heroines worst anime GLAAD mutant war Paramount Network Rock Vudu GIFs festival 4/20 Disney streaming service Martial Arts comic theme song Cartoon Network Trophy Talk Epix Columbia Pictures SXSW dramedy Reality classics nature Apple TV Plus New York Comic Con Cosplay HBO Logo cancelled television canceled Quiz TIFF Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Dark Horse Comics Pet Sematary Hallmark animated History Musical crime drama nbcuniversal streaming jamie lee curtis critics 007 zombie hispanic cancelled TV shows zombies Election Podcast SDCC fresh Hallmark Christmas movies Pop TV rt archives halloween tv Fox Searchlight Fall TV hollywood Hulu Mystery twilight binge technology italian Spike Sci-Fi Lionsgate historical drama HBO Go based on movie criterion NBC CBS All Access Chernobyl Pirates Sundance Now natural history richard e. Grant The Arrangement TCA Awards breaking bad E! Character Guide Britbox 2018 superhero cancelled TV series anthology cinemax Nickelodeon Freeform Acorn TV CW Seed IFC Films LGBTQ spain American Society of Cinematographers sitcom Shudder BET Awards political drama Country BBC America Fox News Awards Tour Adult Swim Horror miniseries Comics on TV Star Trek stand-up comedy VICE boxing Television Critics Association news Super Bowl Marathons Starz AMC game show Valentine's Day green book science fiction Biopics dc directors best Lifetime Oscars First Reviews Writers Guild of America OWN sag awards ABC Family Brie Larson USA Network FX cars talk show BAFTA sequel comic books concert french crossover Sundance TV ABC psycho San Diego Comic-Con APB versus foreign LGBT 24 frames Turner Certified Fresh comedies Year in Review Rocketman scary movies 20th Century Fox The Academy Disney Plus series Black History Month First Look aliens TCA Winter 2020 television Amazon Prime Video politics emmy awards TCA 2017 Music RT History VH1 Awards Amazon Studios Marvel Trivia 72 Emmy Awards Television Academy renewed TV shows Universal El Rey YA spider-man TV renewals hist VOD adaptation composers Comedy docudrama dogs RT21 transformers Polls and Games TLC discovery X-Men Pop finale YouTube Premium Christmas Tomatazos cooking Best and Worst Winter TV Lucasfilm National Geographic Action Sneak Peek Thanksgiving japanese Song of Ice and Fire harry potter Avengers comiccon Women's History Month 71st Emmy Awards Comedy Central Fantasy stop motion psychological thriller indiana jones quibi Musicals ratings true crime DC streaming service Rocky movies Paramount Nominations IFC universal monsters Apple Alien facebook ghosts archives chucky Opinion witnail TNT Trailer Western thriller Star Wars Emmy Nominations free movies what to watch 2017 Film CNN worst movies scorecard President HBO Max independent Creative Arts Emmys cops ITV USA Toys Shondaland The Walking Dead Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt teaser Captain marvel OneApp romance south america christmas movies TV Land The Purge revenge football Pixar book YouTube Red Spectrum Originals films period drama DirecTV game of thrones franchise a nightmare on elm street CBS parents Ghostbusters Cannes Extras Red Carpet crime BET Food Network Travel Channel mission: impossible Holiday children's TV 2019 cancelled Comic Book award winner laika screen actors guild adventure Crunchyroll CMT reboot cults Reality Competition Turner Classic Movies Film Festival FOX Ellie Kemper video ESPN 21st Century Fox Mudbound obituary FXX toronto spy thriller name the review Funimation Watching Series Mary Tyler Moore 45 james bond child's play Warner Bros. batman FX on Hulu Holidays 2020 Syfy vampires Tumblr BBC dragons social media Crackle Apple TV+ Pride Month blockbuster Classic Film TCM Superheroe kids TCA GoT joker nfl Video Games remakes