Excellent news: Samurai Jack is back next month! Even excellenter news: To celebrate, Adult Swim is streaming all 52 episodes of the show on loop, available for free online with no ads, right goddamn now. You should watch all of it, of course, but here are 10 episodes you just can’t miss before the new season returns on March 11.
A perennial favorite, this episode sees Jack attempt to get access to a well guarded by three Jackal Archers, who’ve trained themselves to overcome their blindness in order to unleash volleys of arrows at anyone who comes close to it. It’s a tale of Jack’s ingenuity as he tries to overcome the Jackals’ defense, but as with a lot of Jack episodes, it’s also told in an incredibly stylish manner, with virtually no dialogue—instead, using the series’ stellar music and sound design to tell its tale. (Season One, Episode 7)
That amazing fight in the new season five trailer between Jack and the female assassins, lighting up the dark with the clash of their weapons? It’s an homage to one of the most stylish episodes of the series, in which Jack faces a robot ninja sent by Aku to kill him, and the two warriors use light and shadow to conceal themselves from each other during a truly spectacular duel. (S4, E1)
Aside from Jack and Aku, Samurai Jack doesn’t really do recurring characters. One of the few exceptions to this rule is the Scotsman, Jack’s rowdy, hilarious, machine-gun-for-a-leg-having foil across several episodes. He’s always a hoot when he shows up, but season four’s two-parter “The Scotsman Saves Jack” in particular is great.
Jack is barely in this episode, but it’s an awesome, tragic insight into the world of Aku’s domain and his minions, framed through a noir lens. X9, a robotic detective type given a personality by Aku, is the star as he hunts for the one thing he’s bonded with: a small dog named Lulu. (S4, E11)
Jack is often seen as being great at everything, especially in a fight. But this fun, slightly goofy episode focuses on a rare area of weakness for our hero. It’s sort of an extended take on the classic training sequence montage, but with a village of incredibly affable monkey-like creatures. (S2, E1)
The closest thing Samurai Jack has to a Halloween special also features one of the most gorgeous fight scenes of the entire series. Jack battles an evil spirit in a style that looks like a moving ink painting mixed with a sentient Rorschach image. (S3, E9)
Another episode where Jack is barely in it, “Princess and the Bounty Hunters” is told from the perspective of a group of bounty hunters who are explaining their plans to take down Jack (and then being told how poorly it will go by the titular Princess). Although it’s a lot of fun, when Jack finally appears at the end the episode pivots into a brilliantly anxious scene that is one of the most gut-wrenchingly tense moments of the show. (S4, E5)
One thing season five will be sorely missing is the absence of Mako Iwamatsu, the evil Aku’s original voice actor, who sadly passed away in 2006. “Aku’s Fairy Tales” is told from the villain’s perspective, as he attempts to make the children of the world fear him once again by telling a trio of fairy tales and replacing the heroes and villains with himself and Jack, respectively. It’s an example of the remarkable range and depth Iwamatsu provided to his performance. (S1, E13)
One of the best things about Samurai Jack is its brilliantly choreographed action, and this episode is pretty much all action. Trapped in an homage to the Mad Max’s Thunderdome, Jack is forced into combat against a series of vivid, weird, and fearsome foes, one after the other. They’re all different battles that Jack overcomes in different ways, but the episode essentially one long master class in the show’s violent, kinetic approach to action. (S2, E3)
As the title implies, Jack gets a huge goddamn robot (well, it’s actually a big golem) to pilot in this episode, as he goes up against the gigantic robotic guardian of the city of Andromeda after it inadvertently goes rogue and turns on its creators. Consider it the spiritual ancestor of Tartakovsky’s short-lived but excellent Sym-Bionic Titan, which further explored his love of the mecha genre. (S4, E2)
What episodes of Samurai Jack are you looking forward to rewatching before Jack’s return? Like we said going in, the answer should be all of them, but there are many great episodes not on this list (“Jack vs. Aku,” “Jack Remembers the Past,” “Jack vs. Mad Jack,” “Jack vs Demongo the Soul Collector,” “Jack Tales”—we could go on). Let us know your favorites in the comments below.