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.


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.”


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.”


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.


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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

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