1.23 Brain Scratch
Cowboy Bebop has always been loosely structured, but this episode is a doozie in that regard. At first, it seems like it might be trying a unique storytelling technique, but instead it uses the unusual opening to delve into some interesting ideas about transhumanism and media. This is the best bit of science fiction from the whole series. The show has typically avoided taking on ideas, but when it does, the result is always interesting. I really dug this episode. It comes together nicely and concludes with some interesting ideas.
1.24 Hard Luck Woman
So beautiful. The montages, the flashes of images, sensations results in some of the best stuff in the show so far. I think it was this moment that finally made me realize one of the recurring themes of the show: memory and the past. It’s common in good writing to have characters defined by their past, but Cowboy Bebop does even more than that by having how character’s relate to their past define them as characters. Jet reminisces over it, Spike is haunted by it, Faye can’t remember it, Ed is oblivious to it.
This episode brings closure to the pasts of Ed and Faye. After spending so much time running from it, Faye finally turns to face her past and the results are heartbreaking. Ed, on the other hand, stumbles onto her past and seems to find an opportunity for a new path in life. I think it’s smart of the show to resolve these character arcs before heading into the finale, otherwise it would have been far too much.
1.25 & 1.26 The Real Folk Blues
We come to it at last. As soon as Vicious was introduced, I knew it would come to this. He was too well-conceived of as a villain to not be the final foe of Spike. Getting to that point is the interesting part. The syndicate stuff has run in the background for a while and I like that it doesn’t take over the show. It could have become an elaborate part of exploring Spike’s past, but instead it only gets directly dealt with at the end, which I think is fitting.
We also finally meet Julia. I was dreading this moment because I liked the idea of her being loosely defined, however, finally meeting her leads to some great stuff. First, the scene where Julia and Faye meet is a great little bit. Second, we see a glimmer of what would have made Spike so enthralled with Julia. She’s in the same tempo with him and the way she deals with Faye is very similar to how Spike has dealt with her in the past.
The dialogue in this episode is astounding. The episode is able to pull off two extremes with the dialogue. One is very minimalist, but impactful dialogue, exchanges that are maybe 10-15 words total. The other extreme is when Jet and Spike tell each other lengthy stories. In both cases, the dialogue hints at other things beyond what is being said and the results are always beautiful.
Both the first and second part of this two-part episode end with great sequences. The intercutting of the dogfight with the syndicate fight once again demonstrates the masterful editing at work. It also is a great way to demonstrate how different Spike and Vicious are in the moment. With Vicious, everything is coolly calculated, but in the heat of the moment, Spike is given to a controlled rage built out of strong emotions that are brought to the forefront.
The final sequence of the show is a great finale. First of all, the music does a great job at setting the tone. We’re familiar with it by this point, but the slight changes let us know that this time it’s different. The pacing and tempo of the sequence is just frantic enough to suggest unease. We know what the sequence is building towards and when we get there, it’s built more around the characters than the action. The show could have blown it out of proportion with a bit set piece, but instead, it reigns things back a bit and lets the character conflict take center stage. Then it ends with a bang.
© 2013 James Blake Ewing