Not every episode of a TV show can be exemplary; some have to merely be good. So far, in Samurai Jack‘s inaugural season’s first eight episodes, I’d say we’ve seen at least six of not seven truly wonderful examples of the form, with one or two that were fine but nothing to write home about (if, indeed, you decided to write home about cartoons from the early-2000s). That’s quite a high batting average, especially considering each season is only 13 episodes. Well, Episode IX, “Jack Under the Sea,” falls into the category of just fine but that’s it. In a show that’s as generally glorious as this, to have an episode that’s merely good does feel like a bit of a disappointment on some levels—though design is never one of them.
Our boy Jack has gone all over the place in the horrible future world where Aku’s evil is law so far—from the forest full of monsters, to cities full of bounty hunters, to outer space full of mechanical bugs—but our hero had yet to make his way into the vast ocean up until this point. Jack goes under the ocean and finds a bubble city that looks a bit like where Jar Jar’s people live (if I’m being honest). True to the show, the alien beings that live down there are weird and slightly silly looking, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good guys.
Like a lot of episodes, this one begins with Jack in a bar somewhere listening to a story. A salty sea dog is telling a group of aliens about encountering the undersea race known as the Triceraquin. He caught one once, but let it go and in return, it told him about a time machine they had in their undersea city. Naturally, this intrigues Jack and he goes off in search of it, braving some particularly treacherous waters in the process. His boat is capsized and it looks as though our hero is doomed (though by this point we ought to know that he’s far from doomed).
Jack is pulled underwater and then picked up by a strange fish-shuttle. It looks like a jellyfish but it has a dome-like head full of air that Jack can breathe. He eventually makes it to the city of the Triceraquins where they (who look like tall frogs with crowns on their heads [some literature on the show calls them Tritonians, even though they’re clearly called Triceraquins in the dialogue]) greet him in a manner much friendlier than Jack expects. Never a good sign, really.
They all have various types of British accents (one sounds like John Lennon) and they ask Jack to join them for a meal, which thankfully happens to be sushi. They mention that they once lived on the surface of the ocean and traded with the mainlanders but Aku banished them to the very depths of the ocean many centuries ago. They ask where Jack comes from and how he came to be there and he tells them a quick-cut flashback of the story of the show and they seem like they don’t really want to hear it, especially when Jack says he’d heard of the time machine.
They tell him of course they’ll take Jack to the time machine as soon as he’s eaten and rested. Great news, right? Well, no, because they end up strapping Jack inside a bubble and the salty dog from the beginning of the episode shows up and turns out to be the leader of the Triceraquin in disguise. But why would he do this? It turns out the Triceraquins were approached by Aku to trap Jack in exchange for being free yet again. Aku arrives to kill Jack (he does so by piercing the bubble so he will slowly drown) and tells the Triceraquin that he lied to them and never meant to restore them to the surface.
The fish folk get their armies together and attack Aku in waves, but the shapeshifting master of darkness changes into various undersea creatures and defeats them. Several of the lead Triceraquin attempt to run away, but they decide to free Jack first—who attempts to convince them to turn back—as his sword is the only thing that can stop Aku. He tells them to trust him, the way he once trusted them. Oooooh, buuuuuuurn.
They do trust him, though, and he gets shot out of the jellyfish speeder and swords his way through Aku, who dissolves into nothing, though he says he’ll be back. The Triceraquin are free and they raise their cities back to the surface. They again apologize to Jack for their treachery and ask if there’s anything they can do. Jack says there is one thing, which ends up being give him a whole bunch of sushi.
There’s not a whole lot else with this episode to discuss. It’s a nice and enjoyable 20-some minutes and as ever the design elements for the new world is very nice to look at. Beyond that, we’ve certainly seen something like this before, at least once if not more. But, as I said before, if they were all exemplary then we wouldn’t appreciate any of them the way we do.
Next week, Jack gets to fight a beast made out of molten magma. So that’s a lot of fun. Episode X: “Jack and the Lava Monster” is next time, so as always, watch out.
Images: Cartoon Network
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!