Cowboy Bebop Newbie Recap: “The Real Folk Blues Parts 1 & 2”
I can't believe it's over!
There is a lot to talk about here, isn’t there? While I know that I should be discussing both of the final two episodes, most of my focus is going to be on the very ending, which left me shocked and surprised but didn’t disappoint. It’s so weird to me that the show is already done, but isn’t that the case with so many shows we love? They’re almost always the short-lived ones that worm their ways into our hearts—for me, it was Pushing Daisies, a show whose last episode I have put off watching for years because I’m adamant not to let it end.
But isn’t it also the case that if said shows had kept going, even it was past a shelf life that was far too short, that they’d never be able to bottle lightning twice (ahem Arrested Development). I am, without question, bummed out that Cowboy Bebop is over because of how attached I’d grown to the characters, but I also think the show went off in such fitting, grandiose style that if it prolonged its series, that would have been to its detriment.
That being said.
I’m going to be frank for a second here: I’m kind of feeling betrayed by all of you for not giving me adequate warning for the ending of the series. Yes you told me it was great and the perfect ending and yes there were certainly hints that it was a sad episode, but nowhere did anyone hint to me that Spike DIES!
Let me go shuffle to the side to cry for a moment.
I mean, is there any ambiguity at all in that final scene? Maybe I’m totally misreading it and he lives and goes on to have lighthearted, bounty hunting fun with Jet and Faye, but maybe, he freaking dies. If I weren’t convinced just by him falling down the steps after the two most prominent people in his past have died, the visuals pieced it all together even further with the panning to the bright blue skies, the shots of the birds taking flight, and the music coming in strong.
Spike got his heroic goodbye.
• At the end of the series, it was brought further into focus that this was a show about people on the constant run from their past, with varying degrees of success. Jet seemed more settled in it than Faye and Spike, with Faye being the most notably bothered by it and Spike being somewhere in-between, as we were so rarely privy to any of his actual thoughts. This all makes his confession to Faye in the ending episode all the more poignant. He’s kept secrets for so long and now, finally, he doesn’t have to. Not because he’s finally opening up to his crew mate, but because he knows he owes her that much, that measly piece of information about who he is.
There’s so much nuance even in the framing of the scene, most pointedly being how Faye and Spike are positioned so that they’re never looking at one another while they tell one another truths they’d been keeping hidden. Spike looks Faye directly in the eye for a moment as he tells her one of them is fake, but the rest of the conversation is said to the walls and to their shoes, rather than at one another.
• Faye and Spike aren’t the only relationship that gets a highlight this episode, as Spike is brought back together with both Julia and Vicious, the two people who caused him the most emotional angst. The ending credits finally make sense, as we see that in Spike’s past life, he too worked for the syndicate, and when he planned to leave, Vicious set up Julia to kill him. While not explicitly stated, it looks like she and Spike end up staging it so that he can get away, and now they finally reunite after all this time. I do enjoy that it’s Faye who finds her initially and relays the message to Spike, and I could have done for a few episodes of just the two of them being ass-kicking lady bounty hunters.
Vicious, as the other side of Spike’s coin, is trying to make his party the main one of the underground syndicates and, in doing so, needs to kill his competition. The Julia and Spike scenes are good, if only because they further explore ideas of who Spike once was, although the show is smart to leave a little bit of it up to mystery. Spike is such a cool action figure because we get the chance to know his character, all the while feeling like we’re always a step behind his process. We don’t want to know what he’s thinking all the time, because that would make watching what he chooses to do next so dull. I didn’t like that Julia died so early into the second episode, but it proved to be a great usage of some of the best, muted scenery the show has ever done, as the two sit on a rooftop, Julia dying, as the rain pours around them. It’s picturesque and helps deliver on the mood of the scene.
• Vicious, on the other hand, I’m not as surprised to see die, and the fight scene between him and Spike was just as fantastic and fast paced as we would expect it to be. Vicious has been a consistently wonderful foil for Spike’s character, both a reminder of his past as well as being the perfect villain for the now and a threat to his future. With vague resemblance to the way Spike is drawn but with drastic differences, they serve each other as reminders of what could be. The show was smart to end on Spike delving into his past and finding both Julia and Vicious there, his light and dark, and ending it all.
• That being said I will stand by my belief that the show would have benefited from stretching out their main character development and plot instead of dumping it all in the last few episodes (aside from one or two here and there). The show didn’t need to be serialized from start to end but it could have tossed in a few more over arching narratives.
• No Ed! I guess she got the perfect send-off, but it still made me sad.
• I’ve been saving the Jet and Spike scenes for towards the end, because they hold the most weighty and emotional significance in them. In the penultimate episode, Jet warns Spike of going after shadows, saying Julia and Vicious are names that just bring on ominous concerns. However, shot and sitting in the nose of the plane as they fly over Mar’s barren and flushed land, he turns contemplative and tells Spike a folktale before telling him to leave. He believes he needs this to be happy and sends his friend on his way. Then, in the last episode, Spike returns and all seems peaceful before you realize that this all equates to being Spike’s last meal of sorts, his send-off to his friend who’s been there, like it or not, ever since he left his past behind him. The scene is shot in a way that implies that Jet knows this is a goodbye, with the melancholy mood and almost giddy laughter over a silly joke. It’s Spike’s farewell.
• The ending fight scenes of the episodes were both gorgeously shot (as all of Bebop‘s fights are), but the penultimate episode truly edges it out with the music coming on as the ship begins to crash, and Spike is told by Jet to fly away and leave him and Faye behind. It was intense and thrilling.
• The ending fight scene of the series is no slouch either, especially with the idea that this is a suicide mission. Sure, Spike tells Faye that it’s not him going off to die but to prove he’s alive, but that to Spike is the same thing. Before he dies he needs to make sure he’s alive and has fight in him—that even with parts of his past dead, he has something to live for. That, in this case, is killing Vicious, which he makes quite the show of before ultimately taking him down in a scene that echoes Vicious’s very first appearance.
Well then crew, that’s it! What a show. I still stand by that if I had marathoned the series, I would have gotten something different out of it, but I can’t deny the ride it was, and Faye is one of my favorite animated characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. I’m broken up about Spike’s fate but not upset at the fact that the show refused to spin a happy ending where there really was none, with our characters (remaining ones anyway) still in an emotional limbo.
See you space cowboys and cowgirls, and thanks for tuning in each week for my recaps! It’s been an absolute blast.
(image via Sunrise)
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 TheYoungFolks.com 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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