TV Club: Samurai Jack takes a backseat to Ashi in a contemplative, thrilling episode

“XCVII” is a pretty unusual episode of Samurai Jack, in that the samurai himself is barely featured. The only real precedents for this are “Aku’s Fairy Tales” (which still sort of includes Jack), “The Birth Of Evil,” and this episode’s closest spiritual predecessor, “Tale Of X-9,” which also follows a confused henchman of Aku’s searching for Jack. But where X-9’s story is tragic, Ashi spends this episode learning about all of the people Jack has helped, and discovering for herself why his life is worth saving.

The bulk of this episode could have felt dangerously close to a clip show, with several different flashbacks illustrating the heroic deeds that Ashi is only just learning about from the original run of the show. Over the course of the episode, we see, among others, the seemingly-thriving, badass Woolies, an entire village that has sprung up in the wake …

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