March 11th, 2017
Who loves ya, babe?
Aaaaah, pure directoral wank. But the good kind of wank that's in service to visual storytelling and not just drawing some things weirdly/badly as is the more Japanese bend when it comes to directors getting their own passion project. After the bazillion years it's been off the air, I don't begrudge the episode for being more or less a setup and reframing episode. It reintroduces us to Jack's character and how it's changed for the bleak and despairing; not through him explaining his angst and failures, but by him being haunted by his parents and his failure in his quest so far, including the loss of the magic sword. It's certainly amped up the angst quite a bit, but Jack is more of the losing his mind than wallowing type, and the main antagonist of the episode is certainly a colorful fun character, if a bit needlessly expository in his motormouthedness.
That's kind of possibly where I think it might've misstepped a little though, as it feels more like four different 5 minute bits that all exist separately but were stuck together with only a loose connection between them. Things begin with a fight against robo spiders to save a couple emoji-aliens. Pretty standard Jack faire, but if they really wanted to drive home that he's gone a bit deranged, it would've worked a lot better had that ended with him freaking them out in some way, be it almost attacking them or just being bathed in the
blood oil of his slaughter. Later, he fights a jazz robot magical assassin. Also par for the course, and absolutely no complaints with the fight there or all the musically themed things done (and not explained at length!), and the existence of scorched corpses is certainly a step upward in the ol' serious-o-meter, but I still feel that it didn't really make enough of Jack riding away from the burning village before turning around to face the slaughter done to draw him out. Interspersed through the whole thing was a montage of the training of the female assassins that have been all over every promo run for this for the last few months who will apparently be serving as at least some form of major antagonists for the season.
It's only a minor misstep at worst though, and a thoroughly enjoyable episode. Well, and maybe the occasionally goofy-looking CGI bike. It was a very welcome back on the visual front, both for its ability to weave a story and for its solid action. While it may not have quite the budget of some Eastern things, it more than makes up for it by not stopping every thirty seconds (or less!) to have the peanut gallery, or the participants themselves, comment on or explain proceedings. It should be a fun few months.