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Cowboy Bebop Newbie Recap: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Screenshot 2015-10-13 11.27.18

“It’s complicated to be an outlaw these days.” True words in an episode where we learn that being an outlaw can comprise of having to read a manual first.

After the two parter of “Jupiter Jazz” it makes sense that the show would put the major action on hold and instead show our characters doing what they do best, pursuing one bounty, especially one that’s worth millions. First, the episode begins with the three main bounty hunters splitting and finding out leads for their own investigation, with all three of them hitting dead ends. The bounty is upped however by the company that’s put the hit out and the three decide that it will work best in their favor to all work together, despite Faye’s earlier assessment that competition amongst team members is a healthy thing. However, all of their pooled information still leaves them with more questions than answers, except that all of them have been left with a chess piece.

This is where Ed comes in handy as she realizes that it’s also a memory drive and she’s able to use it to begin playing a game of virtual chess with Hex the Chess Master.

It’s in scenes such as when the Bebop crew are just sitting around in their shop, mulling over their next move, that some of the more stylish shots emerge, ones that typically go unnoticed in flashier, bigger episodes. There’s an overhead shot from above the ceiling fan that’s just gorgeous. It’s the little shots such as this, or the ones that are staged at Ed’s point of view on the ground as she plays a game of chess, that set Cowboy Bebop apart from the crowd.

Hex has an interesting backstory for the most part, even if we end up realizing that his master plan to destroy his former company was so delayed, even he doesn’t remember it at 98 years old. He had initially been against the gate project and put into action a plan to destroy it upon it’s release 50 years ago.

On paper, this should be an episode vignette of the show that is enjoyable and, on paper, it is. It has a suitably intriguing villain, one we only know pieces of until the climax of the episode when everything becomes clear. It has the team all uniting to work out the puzzle of the case including hands on sleuthing by Faye and Spike. Ed is a prominent fixture, always a plus. And, most importantly, the half hour is ripe with atmosphere, even if it is one of the few episodes that almost appear listless due to it’s unexpected lack of music.

It’s everything I like about the show, I just couldn’t help but feel a little bored by it all. Typically these episodes whiz by which is always so frustrating because I make an effort to watch one per week to coincide with my recaps (I tried taking notes but could barely read what I’d written).”Bohemian Rhapsody” dragged, not something that common with such a brief episode running time.

If there is a nice piece of writing that stands out in the episode, it’s Jet telling off the company figureheads that he doesn’t appreciate bounty hunters being used as pawns to do their dirty work as he leaves bug in the room to listen to their conversation later. That plus his later request that they take the bounty away from the old man, getting rid of the money he and his crew would make, in order to insure that Ed would still have her chess partner. It’s a nice bit of characterization for Jet and it’s also understandable that after he witnessed Ed hissing at Faye after she tried to take her away from the game, that he wouldn’t be so willing to take something she enjoys away from her.

Visually, on the other hand, the best sequence of the episode comes when Faye and Spike track down where Hex has been hiding out, a nowhere land for hideaways, completely off the grid. The ship shows animals running in zero gravity, multiple people sleeping and sharing communal space, plants growing on the ceiling. It’s Hex’s haven and where they learn that he no longer remembers what he did 50 years ago, and often, not even what he ate the day before.

It’s a melancholy episode and a solid half hour of the show but it lacks the immediacy of the last two. It’s one of those episode’s that elicits the feeling of meh.

At least there’s Faye’s romantic woes to look forward to next week!

Allyson Johnson is a twenty something writer and a lover of film and all things pop culture. She’s a film and television enthusiast and critic over at who spends too much of her free time on Netflix. Her idols are Jo March, Illana Glazer, and Amy Poehler. Check her out at her twitter @AllysonAJ or at The Young Folks.

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