Cowboy Bebop E19-22

1.19 Wild Horses

What a cool episode. Spike is a super laid-back character, but this one takes that to a whole other level. It’s an episode more about tone and mood, at least the Spike part of it. He’s along for the ride, and just kicks back his legs. The blend of sci-fi and western is one of the staples of the show, but here it more direct than the rest of the show.

It has both the thematic textures and aesthetic trappings of a Western. I like the idea of our most advanced space equipment (at the time) being archaic in this episode and yet somehow it’s this outdated tech that ends up saving the day, much like the seemingly archaic code of the Western hero that often makes him the one to resolve conflict in the midst of a world where civilization has not been established. But here, these themes are mixed with some chill fatalism. I love Spike’s response when it all goes bad: “whatever happens happens.”

1.20 Pierrot Le Fou

On paper, this is an episode that should be terrible, but, in execution, it’s superb. Unlike Sympathy for the Devil, this episode doesn’t fall into cliche storytelling techniques, in fact, it subverts a couple of them. The actual story is silly and there’s a lot of stuff that shouldn’t exist in this episode, but it’s an episode that revels in the audio/visual experience.

The animation here is astounding, some of the best of the show. Magnificent use of lighting, great execution of animating movement and form. Mad Pierrot animates in a way that makes what should be a silly looking guy become quite unnerving. There’s also a lot of great editing. The opening scene and the scene where Pierrot hunts down the man in the subway are two brilliantly paced sequences.

In that opening scene Spike happens to stumble across the path of Pierrot, which puts everything into motion. The conflict between the two of them is simply that they cross paths. There’s nothing more to it than that. I also love the bit at the end where Jet is gonna tell Spike how to defeat Pierrot, but Pierrot has already been defeated. The show is indifferent to typical TV structure, it’s more about images, mood, and sound and this episode is a great example of how astounding the show can be when it throws structure out the window and goes for an audio/visual experience.

1.21 Boogie-Woogie Feng-Shui

One of the weakest episodes in the series. The story tries to further the Jet character, but the dimension it tries to explore with him doesn’t work at all. Unlike a lot of episodes in the show, this episode tries to hijack someone else’s story to be tone of the main character’s story and it comes off as forced. Also, the story itself is filled with a lot of backstory and mythos that gets rushed and leads to a final act which doesn’t make complete sense. It even has voiceover narration, which is hamfisted. However, there is one notable scene of animation where silhouettes are used to achieve a striking effect.

1.22 Cowboy Funk

Mushroom Mamba was a ton of fun, but this is easily the funniest episode of the show. For one, it’s funny to see someone get underneath Spike’s skin. There are certainly things that annoy him, but watching him get this irritated is hilarious. Also, the character of Andy is visually absurd in how literal he is as a space cowboy. He’s also such a bad bounty hunter that he keeps mistaking other people for the Mad Bomber. This recurring mishap leads to what is probably the funniest scene in the show where Andy and Spike argue while the Mad Bomber stands stunned that his threat of killing both of them is being ignored.

It culminates in one of best showdowns in the series. It’s played a bit broader than most fights, but the choreography, animation, and set design are all top-notch. It’s a legitimately good fight in spite of the physical comedy pratfalls. The episode is a smart jab at Spike in good fun. Yes, he’s cool but no one is THAT cool. He needs to be taken down just a bit and this episode does just that.

© 2013 James Blake Ewing