While the last two episodes of Samurai Jack hinged more on visual and audio acumen, “Jack Under the Sea” returns the series to more standard fare.
That’s not to say that the episode isn’t entertaining though, or that it doesn’t have well-crafted visual sequences or audio communication either. All those things are present throughout, but the episode is a lot more normal in narrative or structure than the previous outings. Jack here is searching for a time machine that the Triseraquins are said to have, yet it’s ultimately all a ruse to capture Jack for Aku in exchange for Aku unsinking their home, Oceanus. Of course being that Aku is Aku, he never intended to fulfill his promise to them, leading to them attempting to revolt against him. When this proves impossible, it’s time for them to retreat, but not before saving Jack, who after prompting them to let him, manages to deliver one solid blow to Aku, forcing the master of darkness to retreat.
There are two elements that make this story really land, the emotional struggle of the Triseraquins and just the well-written happy conclusion. On the latter, it’s just a simple matter of really appreciating the fact that the Triseraquins did eventually get their wish, albeit through the destruction of the city’s stems, resulting in the bubbles floating to the surface. And considering the storm Jack encountered, there is a part of me that thinks their city is just going to end up completely disconnected from itself, but regardless, it’s a nice conclusion. The former is what really matters here, throughout the entire episode how guilty the Triseraquins feel about their decision is noticeable solely based on their facial expressions. It’s not really prevalent prior to the act of course but you can at least gather that Guiness is lying about Oceanus being stuck on the bottom of the sea is just ancient history by the expression on his face as he regale the tale to Jack. I really love these expressions, it makes the Triseraquins feel more tangible than some of the previous characters Jack encountered. My two favorite moments in the episode are the exclamation points replacing the iris after Jack delivers his most savage line in the series, a fantastic way to illustrate how much the line referring to their betrayal impacted him, and the ending sequence, as Guiness’s glee of Oceanus being above the surface slowly transforms into the sorrow of what it took to get there. Thankfully for them, Jack is more than capable of recognizing good individuals tainted through Aku’s tyranny, and as an apology, Jack gets more than a fair share of seafood to eat along his journey.
Like I mentioned earlier, this episode isn’t lacking in the visual story-telling or great audio either. In terms of visual story-telling, most of the episodes strength in more quick simple pieces. The longest decision is the one that opens the episodes which constantly cuts between Jack learning the details about time machine and his journey to make it. It’s just a much more interesting way to show the journey rather than seeing the events in sequential order, providing us all the necessary information we need while having something more visual interesting to look at. The next moment I really enjoyed was rather than having Jack simply recap his backstory again, we just get a brief visual recap to substitute his tale. Considering it’s something we’re reminded of at the start of every episode, I’m really glad that they condensed the story here. And the last visual nugget I want to talk about is the sparse use of split frames. As per usual, these define Samurai Jack’s visual nature, but that doesn’t mean they need to be prominently featured to be effective. There were only three moments that they occurred in this episode (unless I’m forgetting one, doubtful since I just re-watched it), though I really don’t fully understand the purpose of the third time, unless it’s just meant to communicate the incoming danger. The first happens when the fisherman drops the phrase “a time machine”, a way to highlight the words importance to Jack. Secondly happens at the very end when Jack delivers an attack to Aku. It’s notable that they never use this technique when the Triseraquins fought Aku, making this moment only further punctuate the power Jack holds against Aku. However, outside of simple story-telling moments and facial expressions, this episode is a joy to look at just for the amount creativity featured in Oceanus. By far one of my favorite moments is their version of an elevator, replacing the elevator cab with a cylinder of water is a really nice touch that helps accentuates the environment.
In terms of sound design, there’s less notable moments but one of the moments I really appreciated was actually the lack of a certain sound. Early on Jack’s boat gets cap-sized by the storm, and you can tell he’s clearly suppose to be making an audible sound by his facial reactions, yet no sound is heard over the roar of the storm. Just a nice way of showcasing the severity of it. Outside of that, the original score is fantastic, those light percussion’s mixed in with calm ambient music at its best reminded me of Aquatic Ambiance from the original Donkey Kong County, and trust me, that is high praise. Also worthy of note, are the voice actors of the Triseraquins. Not necessarily the actors portraying them, though Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker and more importantly the Joker), Jess Harnell (Crash Bandicoot), and Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo) are certainly notable name, but rather for the accents they’re portraying. Each one of the Triseraquins accent is parody of one of three famous UK performers, Ringo Starr, Alec Guinness, and Sean Connery. I’m a bit ashamed to admit Ringo was the only one I recognized and only discovered the other two after checking the Samurai Jack’s wiki page for this episode to find out how to spell Triseraquins. Anyway, not only is that entertaining to listen to, but upon re-watch it makes the fisherman reveal all the more apparent, and I like that you’d be able to get that twist solely based on the shared vocal performance.
Despite being a more formulaic experience than the previous two episodes, “Jack Under the Sea” is still a clear example of how well-crafted the series is, still containing the key points that make the series enjoyable. Whether it be anything I mentioned above, or points I haven’t made like Aku’s shape-shifting prowess giving his fights more flavor, especially since he’s invulnerable to everyone except Jack. This is overall another entertaining episode of Samurai Jack.