WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for "Goku Enkindled! The Awakened One's New Ultra Instinct!," the 110th episode of Dragon Ball Super, which debuted Saturday on Adult Swim.
If there's one constant throughout Akira Toriyama's longrunning Dragon Ball franchise, it's to never underestimate Goku, even in the face of overwhelming odds. Despite being completely outclassed by the Universe 11 champion Jiren during the Tournament of Power to determine which reality in the Dragon Ball Multiverse continues to exist, Goku has surprised everyone, including himself, with a brand new transformation. To make things even more interesting, this form far exceeds any other he has exhibited before, putting him on par with the alternate universe Pride Trooper.
Picking up from the cliffhanger ending of the previous episode, Jiren is able to stop Goku's last ditch Spirit Bomb with a single hand, redirecting back at the Universe 7 Saiyan warrior. Caught between Goku and Jiren, the Spirit Bomb collapses into itself and forms a singularity that sucks in Goku and explodes. Though the hero is apparently completely obliterated, Grand Zeno and his alternate future counterpart deem Jiren not in violation of the martial arts competition's rules as Goku was essentially destroyed by his own attack. However, just as the contest is about to proceed without him, Goku reappears in a previously unseen form.
Now sporting a shimmering blue aura, platinum irises and flecks of silver in his hair, which is roughly back to its normal hairstyle, Goku reenters the arena more powerful than he's ever been, with incredible new levels of strength and speed. Resuming his fight against Jiren, Goku is finally able to hold his own against the Universe 11 fighter after previously being unable to match Jiren, even in his (previously) most powerful form. In awe of his star pupil's new transformation, Whis theorizes that the strain of nearly being destroyed by his own Spirit Bomb awakened latent abilities in Goku, a development that pushed him above his natural limits and unlocked this new state that he refers to as Ultra Instinct.
Over the course of the franchise's decades-long run, Goku has found previously unseen depths of power when faced with increasingly dire situations. In Dragon Ball Z, Goku constantly pushed the levels of his Kaio Ken technique to higher levels when fighting against the likes of Vegeta and Frieza. At the ends of his strength, an enraged Goku transformed into a Super Saiyan for the first time when he watched Frieza kill his best friend Krillin and mortally wound Piccolo. This tendency to achieve new levels of power would become a recurring staple in the non-canonical animated films, with Goku often transforming at the last minute to defeat the main antagonist, and a fight against a Baby-possessed Vegeta in Dragon Ball GT gave Goku the push he needed to transform into a Super Saiyan 4 for the first time.
Now on relatively even standing with Jiren, Goku is able to turn the tide of battle, to the spectators' amazement, and very nearly eliminates his opponent from the tournament by knocking him out of the ring. However, before Goku can deliver the finishing blow, he collapses from the sheer exhaustion of maintaining the Ultra Instinct form for so long. As Jiren bats away the depleted Saiyan with Universe 6's Hit, Vegeta is visibly baffled by Goku's display of newfound power.
When the Tournament of Power had first began, Jiren appeared to be far and away be the strongest fighter among all of the collected martial artists in the competition. Only able to transform as far as Super Saiyan Blue and marginally augment his power through the Kaio Ken technique, Goku was completely outmatched by the Pride Trooper, with even his most powerful attack being deflected by Jiren with minimal effort. Now able to tap into the mysterious Ultra Instinct form, Goku is displaying a whole new level of power, making him one of the strongest fighters in the Multiverse. However, as he lays exhausted and at the mercy of his sneering longtime antagonist Frieza, the Ultra Instinct form may have ultimately put Goku in an especially precarious position.
Newly translated episodes of Dragon Ball Super air on Saturdays at 11 pm ET/PT on Adult Swim.