The End: kind of depressing, don’t you think?

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. 😀

2 comments to The End: kind of depressing, don’t you think?

  • Corny

    I agree – especially after some episodes in the middle where you could think “this can go on like forever”, I didn’t really expect such an ending. But they did resolve the story arcs and backgrounds instead of stretching the series or making it until it gets cancelled without making a proper ending. Do you know Firefly, for example? It doesn’t have an ending – the series got cancelled and they made a movie afterwards which tells more of the story and resolves stuff, but it doesn’t end anything. And although it doesn’t make you think “okay it’s done, they’re all dead now”, it’s still not really satisfying to know that there probably won’t come more and you didn’t get an ending or epilogue. Cowboy Bebop avoided this (and still got a movie).
    Sure it’s not an overall happy ending (how would a good happy ending look like, anyway? They all get rich, marry and have kids? :D), but I still liked it. It’s an ending, but it still leaves things a liiittle open to your imagination. It reminded me of the style of the ending of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – and I like this movie a lot as well.

    • Hi Corny! Glad to meet you!

      Yeah, I agree with you totally. I wanted the show to run longer, but when I think more about it, I have to admit that it ran as long as it needed to run to tell the story they wanted to tell. And would the ending have had the same impact it did if it ran longer? We may have our opinions on that, but in truth we’ll never know. For myself, that’s a question I really can’t answer.

      Yes, Firefly!!! That’s one a friend got me watching after it was off the air by lending me one of the DVDs. I remember him telling me that “Henry” (Richard Brooks) from GvsE was on and I ALMOST watched that episode, but something else was on and I missed it. GvsE is a show I got my friend into, that’s why he brought it up to me.

      That was a show that didn’t go on nearly long enough too. Fox has difficulties with unique shows like that. I’m reminded of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, ever see that one? Bruce Campbell, what can I say? 😀 That was a western, but there was quite a bit of science fiction in there too (time travelers and some Orb they were all hunting for). The network didn’t really know how to market that, so they made them cut out the scifi aspects, but it was still funny as hell. the only reason I started watching it was because it was on before the X Files on Friday nights. That was too bad, it was a great show.

      But Firefly – I was hanging out in a forum devoted to the series when Serenity came out. I didn’t get to see it the first weekend it hit the theaters and I got spoiled about Wash. I didn’t see the movie and I haven’t watched the series since. Every time I see Wash I get depressed, it’s a huge distraction from enjoying the show. I shouldn’t be that way, but it’s how I’ve always been I guess. I HAVE been getting a hankering to watch it again and I think I will give it another try. I’m feeling like now it won’t bother me so much and I can enjoy the series again.

      Yeah, what kind of ending would make it a happy one? I can’t think of anything. LOL. The ending for me is by definition sad. However one thinks it ended, Spike alive or dead, nothing in any of their lives is going to be the same, so they are not going to be carrying on hunting bounties together after RFB. I can’t picture it at least. I have thoughts on what they all do afterwards, but it doesn’t involve hunting bounties on the Bebop. Oh well. 😀 We’re free to come up with our own continuations in our own skulls if that pleases us, right?

      Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!!! OMG, we saw that in the theaters multiple times when it first came out (yeah, I’ve lived a few years). I adore that movie. “The fall will probably kill ya.” That was very close to being a perfect movie, I forgot about that. I cried really hard at the end, then I think decades later I found out that the real Butch and Sundance didn’t die in that shootout in RL. Oh well, it was still a great ending to a great movie. They had to end it somewhere, right?