samurai jack

After 12 Long Years, ‘Samurai Jack’ Returns

It’s been 12 years since we’ve last heard from Samurai Jack, but tonight (March 11), the Emmy-award winning series returns to the Cartoon Network for a fifth and final season. When the story left off, Samurai Jack was busy preventing a baby from being eaten by robot ogres, but as brilliant as the show’s fourth season was, there was no proper conclusion to the show, but rather, one last serial journey for a young millennial generation to remember. One last noble cause for Jack to kickass.

“In those 12 years [since the season four finale], we’ve seen five different studios to try and develop a [Samurai Jack] movie and it never went anywhere,” director Genndy Tartakovsky recalled at a Cartoon Network press event earlier this year. After several false starts, Tartakovsky says he figured, “Maybe I’ll just put it out there and see if there’s a bite from Cartoon Network.”

And that’s exactly what he did. After scribing a fifth and final season of Samurai Jack in August of 2015, Tartakovsky pitched the idea to Adult Swim’s Mike Lazzo the following December. It was immediately picked up. As Tartakovsky put it, “I guess the universe was ready for it.”

Image courtesy of Cartoon Network

In addition to Samurai Jack, Tartakovsky is known for creating Dexter’s Laboratory, the Hotel Transylvania franchise, and Star Wars: Clone Wars. Media diets may have shifted since Samurai Jack went off air in 2004, but fans never gave up hope for the show’s return, often prodding Tartakovsky and actor Phil LaMarr (who voiced Jack) at conventions and meet and greets to bring the show back asap. If there was any doubt about whether or not the audience for the show was still there, the three million views the season five trailer received in its first three days of release immediately put those doubts aside by giving fans exactly what they’ve been hoping for all of these years, and more: a darker, brutal version of their beloved children’s show, as presented by Adult Swim.

The final season of Samurai Jack will show a tormented version of the once seemingly imperishable character. It takes place 50 years directly after the conclusion of season four, showing Jack wearing a heavy suit of armor, riding a motorcycle and sporting a sweet long beard. In its final run, Jack will prove his mortality, exposing his own shortcomings to audiences, and actually fucking bleed real blood, not robotic oil. This is no longer your average Cartoon Network weekly action show. This is Adult Swim.

“We get to dive into Jack much more,” Tartakovsky explained at that February press event. “Before, we couldn’t really go into the weight of what Jack’s mission really was. But now, it’s 50 years later. He hasn’t succeeded. His sole mission is to do this thing and he can’t do it, so figuring that out was really exciting for me.”

Phil LeMarr elaborated: “Before, I was playing the hero — the almost invulnerable hero. But the one thing we can’t fight is time. How that affected him, even with all his training and the amazing heart that he’s got — how does it change him? That’s been the fun for me.”

“With Jack, all the sudden, he’s hurt,” Tartakovsky continued. “He’s wounded. He’s fucking losing his mind. It makes it all so much more interesting and it makes him so much more interesting.”

Image courtesy of Cartoon Network

Phil LeMarr reiterated a fact Tartakovsky had touched upon. “In the old series, you had to make each episode a standalone and have it come back to zero at the end. That was the network’s mandate — we’d have to be able to put this wherever we want, however we want. Nowadays, in the age of Netflix, stories are ongoing. People look at the whole season of a series as one thing.”

The final 10 episodes of Samurai Jack begin March 11 at 11PM EST on Adult Swim. The show will push the boundaries of the Samurai Jack we once knew, showing a darker, more violent tale of the mortal warrior. To catch up on the older series, check out Adult Swim’s marathon of the original series.

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