Being Samurai Jack is a lonely existence. Pretty much since he got sent to the future (where Aku’s evil is law), he’s been wandering by his lonesome, through parts of the world where it seems hardly any civilization was, fighting foes or freeing enslaved, downtrodden people. Like the Hero in any Campbellian myth, he can’t continue his quest and have a whole lot of friends, and the one he did make turned out to be Aku in a girl disguise. This is to say, kindred spirits aren’t easy to come by, but he finally meets one, of sorts, in Episode XI: ‘Jack and the Scotsman.’
This episode is one of the handful that everybody cites as a great or essential episode of Samurai Jack. I don’t necessarily think that’s true, but it is more fun and sillier than a lot of them, and that’s a good time. It’s certainly aided by the insane character of the Scotsman, a massive, red-haired behemoth with a kilt, bagpipes, an enchanted broadsword, and a machine gun for a left leg. Really cool design, to be sure, and the fact that he’s voiced by John DiMaggio who shouts weird Scottish (or possibly just made-up Gallic-sounding) insults certainly will have endeared him to a great many people.
The episode began with Jack walking in the middle of a misty nowhere with another straw hat (not sure where he gets them, but this is at least his third one). He eventually came upon a rope bridge that is held up by the biggest stake in the ground I’ve ever seen. For whatever reason, Jack climbed up and began to walk across it. Now, this is a long bridge we’re talking about. Like, stupid ridiculous long. Because it’s so long and so rickety, Jack had to walk on it very slowly and evenly, lest a plank break and he fall through. He even sat and tried to sleep but a the plank he was sitting on broke and he had to quickly catch himself with his sword. This is a dangerous-ass bridge. Why was he crossing it?
At a certain point, Jack heard a noise in the distance. The noise grew louder and louder and Jack’s irritation at this grew higher and higher. Finally, the Scotsman came out of the mist, playing a set of bagpipes. The production team went out of their way to make this “song” the most irritating and cacophonous racket you’ve heard in probably ever. I generally enjoy the bagpipes and even I was like “All right, pal, calm down.” After playing his sonic stab at the scalp, the Scotsman and Jack spoke briefly, each saying they needed to get by the other, though neither was willing to move to one side, lest they fall off, and neither was willing to walk all the way back the way they came to let the other make it across. So what are two such warriors to do?
Of course! How about they fight? Each drew their sword and began to wail away on the other, each impressed, and pretty annoyed, that their opponent was so adept at swordplay. They each had a magic sword, so what else can they do? After hours and hours and over night and into the next morning, Jack and the Scotsman fought until they needed a breather. Before they could really, two bounty hunters (one a pig or something with a hunter hat, the other a yokel-looking hill person) came screaming toward the fighters in some strange contraptions. Both Jack and the Scotsman proclaimed that they assumed the bounty hunters were for them because they’re wanted by Aku. One of the hunters shot a pair of manacles at them and it bound their arms together, just like in the movie The Defiant Ones.
Left without much to do, the handcuffed guys jumped down into the unseen waters below, both surviving because they’re good guys. They hid and watched the bounty hunters, who don’t speak English but some kind of southern-fried gibberish, gather their troops and begin the search. Jack and the Scotsman were easily found but they couldn’t fight due to being shackled (Jack used a metaphor about the bow and the arrow working together but being inherently independent) and they jumped toward a passing giant bullet (yeah, that’s the show, get used to it) which freed them and allowed them each to fight in their own inimitable style. It looked awesome. Eventually, they won and laughed and became friends, but argued over who would by whom a beverage.
This episode is fun and, of course, the animation is amazing. That’s sort of getting old, me saying that, I think. A lot of the beginning of the episode features some very low angles as Jack walks up to the bridge, and there are lots of great shots on the bridge. Naturally, the Scotsman is a great character who only appeared once more after this, just enough to acknowledge his fan-favorite status without having his yelly brogue be too annoying. But for the first time in the show’s now-eleven-week history, Jack had a buddy. He does tend to work better on his own. Usually they like for heroes to be able to talk to someone (hence the Doctor having a Companion) but I think Samurai Jack works as well as it does because it doesn’t feel the need to be too wordy, which is no disrespect to Phil LaMarr’s excellent voice acting. Anyway, “Jack and the Scotsman” is a good time all around.
Next week, we’re at the penultimate episode of season one, and it’s apparently a pastiche of both Goodfellas and Dick Tracy. It’s “Jack and the Gangsters,” everybody!
Images: Cartoon Network
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!