To answer this question, let us begin with a more basic question: what is Samurai Jack? Hm. Good question. Here’s the backstory. Jack is a young prince and Samurai from Feudal Japan. Jack’s father’s empire is destroyed by a demon named Aku. Jack takes his father’s magical sword and defeats Aku. However, before Jack can kill Aku, Aku sends them both through a time portal to a dystopian future ruled by Aku. Jack must now battle his way until he can find and kill Aku and find a time portal home. Aku, meanwhile, is hoping to see Jack killed before they fight again.
This is both a problem and a moment of genius. The problem is this: when you start watching the show, little of it makes sense. There does not appear to be a purpose, i.e. no overriding story. The episodes don’t seem to contribute to “the story” either. Things happen too that don’t seem to relate to anything or that aren’t explained. And they are rarely addressed in the following episode. So unless you have an extremely high tolerance for ambiguity, you are going to hate this show and will probably quit after a couple of episodes.
And that brings us to the second issue. Like the first, this issue is a major strike against for most viewers, but a huge selling point for the others. This issue is that most of the episodes are essentially knock-offs of something else. For example, you may have an episode that mirrors A Fistful of Dollars one week, and then you get Pulp Fiction the next. It’s never that blatant that you feel like they are copying those films, but what you get is a visual style, pacing and “mood” that mirrors those films. In effect, Tartakovsky has stylized these films, distilled the style into its most potent form and then written that as an episode of Samurai Jack. The result is absolutely brilliant for film buffs. Indeed, it’s totally fantastic to tune in to each episode and see something completely unlike anything else you’ve seen in the series and then spend your time trying to figure out what Tartakovsky has done this time. Hurray!