I haven’t been posting many updates lately, mostly because I’ve been concentrating on writing Cowboy Bebop fan fiction, but also because while I still think a lot about Cowboy Bebop, I may be running out of new things to say. I do it all the time, but I hate repeating myself.
Anyway, I think like almost everyone else, I’m fascinated with how they ended the series. For me, the final scene was a ‘what the hell was THAT?’ moment. I’ve been pretty vocal saying that I did not see Spike die at the end. I didn’t. I’m finding that maybe half the people who watched Cowboy Bebop feel the same way I do about it – they saw the same thing. “He ain’t dead!” is what I’m hearing (mostly offline).
I and others like me have been accused of “having to have a happy ending” by thinking Spike lived. I’ve been thinking about those accusations and whether Spike’s survival qualifies as a happy ending for Cowboy Bebop.
The more I think about the question of whether Spike surviving made it a ‘happy ending’, the more I think the answer is “no.”
I think Cowboy Bebop’s ending was sad, kind of depressing, even WITH Spike’s surviving his fight with Vicious.
Let’s think about the last images we saw of the characters we came to know and love (or not, depending)…
Ed with Ein. Ed left the Bebop in search of the father she was looking for. They found each other, only to have her lose him again, when distracted by a falling asteroid, he took off, forgetting about her YET AGAIN to chase after it. Ein went with her, which was only fitting, because those two understood each other as no other characters on that show could have. Ed struck out after the man who fathered her, who not only barely remembered he had a kid, but he couldn’t remember if his kid was a boy or a girl. Would she find him? Would she be able to make him remember she was there, and could she keep up with him? Based on what they showed us, I couldn’t come up with any reason to hope for her – not without using my imagination to continue her part of the story.
Faye. She found out who she was and where she came from, but there was nothing there. Her family was gone. Her home was gone. All she had left in this world was herself and the Bebop, Jet and Spike. Spike took off. We last saw her weeping in the corridor.
Jet. He was wounded, just standing there, wiping the frame of the window on the bridge of the Bebop, staring depressed out the window. His ship was shot down and badly damaged, he was wounded, his best friend had taken off, no telling when or if he’d be back.
Spike. The love of his life was dead. With the exception of Jet, everyone he had ever trusted and loved had been killed. We last saw him collapsed face down on the stairs (unless you want to count that peaceful expression on his face in the final frames – he was still face down on those stairs).
And let’s not forget about the Bebop herself! The Bebop was a boat, designed to land in water. She had crashed once before in the series in Mushroom Samba. But in Mushroom Samba, she crashed on Io, which had been fully terraformed, the atmospheric pressure able to sustain life. Jet and Spike were able to fix the broken hull and get her back into space somehow.
In Real Folk Blues, the Bebop had holes blown in her hull then crashed in the Martian desert. Spike wasn’t there and Jet was wounded. The Martian atmosphere will not sustain human life outside of the cities (you’ll notice that the cities are surrounded by walls with steam flowing around them, most likely devices to make them livable).
And how long would the internal bulkheads that were still intact be able to maintain atmosphere and pressure for people to survive? Would Jet be able to fix it? He’d probably have to wait until his leg healed. If we assume Spike made it back to the ship, he would need time to heal from his wounds too. Then they’d have to suit up and get to work fixing the hull. I’m sure they would need to patch the thing, how much would that cost? Would the ship need a safety inspection afterward? How much would THAT cost? Would they be able to pay for it?
We’re left hanging. We can always fantasize about or speculate on what happens after the final frame has unspooled in front of our eyes, but just going by what they left us with, it’s not a happy ending, whether you believe Spike survived or not.
For me, the ending of Cowboy Bebop is like that feeling you get at the moment the chair you’re sitting in tips back far enough that it’s JUST about to fall over, but it never falls. Suspended in time on the brink or in the midst of disaster.
Want to make it REALLY depressing? Jet and Faye are on the Bebop, the internal bulkheads give way, venting the atmosphere, killing them both, Spike actually died on those stairs and Ed wanders the Earth for the rest of her life alone with Ein (for the rest of HIS life) looking for a father who doesn’t even remember her.
That’s not how I see it though. They ended the story they wanted to tell in Real Folk Blues. THEY’RE done with it, but nothing says WE have to be done with it too, right? Someone on the Adult Swim message board had an ending I really liked. Spike and Jet abandon the Bebop as totaled, then maybe move to Ganymede and open a bar that is a hangout for cowboys. She called it the House of Bebop and Blues. Another poster there has Jet and Spike and Faye going back and retrieving Ed, Jet getting custody. I kind of like that too.
When I think of what comes next, it doesn’t involve any of them hunting bounties (except maybe Faye). It wouldn’t be Cowboy Bebop any more, but for me, that’s ok. 😀