Since the very third episode of Cowboy Bebop, we’ve had a wildcard in the cast named Faye Valentine who seemingly came from nowhere with a chip on her shoulder and a pistol in her hand, only taking and rarely letting Spike or Jet know what she was really about. But, now we’re on the second half of the series, so things need to start coming into more focus, which is where we find today’s Session, “My Funny Valentine,” which details, as much as we or anyone knows, the origins of Faye’s life and troubles. It seems, much in keeping with her angry femme fatale attitude, “The Man” has always been getting her down.
Faye has always been the character you just can’t get a firm grasp on. She joined the Bebop crew really just as a means of getting money but slowly over time, very slowly, she’s grown to be part of the family, with a rivalry and grudging respect with Spike, a good working relationship with Jet, a begrudging caregiver role with Ein, and a strained big sisterly figure to Ed. It’s weird, but it kind of works. But other than that, we know nothing about her; she had yet to have a centric episode. While we don’t know all that much about anybody on the show, we at least have a firm grasp of who Spike used to be, and a pretty good idea about Jet. Faye was a completely blank slate, save her myriad character traits. And for most of the series, that’s enough. We don’t need much more than that, but finding out more gives us understanding, and can maybe lead to resolution. I mean, this is assuming you haven’t watched to the end of the series, of course.
Faye wakes up after having a weird dream due to Ein’s whining. Turns out he…MADE…and needs her to clean it up. She looks at him and, weirdly, says the dog reminds her of someone she used to know, named Whitney Hagis Matsumoto. She asks if Ein wants to hear a story about her past, and the dog yawns which either means he’s very interested or he doesn’t care at all. Or, he has no idea what you’re talking about because he’s a dog. Anyway, she tells the story of how she was thawed out of cryogenesis three years earlier, completely free of any memory. The doctor and nurse don’t have very good bedside manner and just tell her about all the hundreds of millions of woolongs she now owes from being woken up, debt out the yin yang. So, she’s basically screwed, until a handsome lawyer by the name of Whitney Hagis Matsumoto comes to help her, telling her that she’s been frozen for 54 years when she turned 20 (which means she was born in 1994 and was frozen only last year; I bet we could go find her).
Whitney shows her around, helps her out a bit, and then, the two begin to fall in love, only for him to suddenly die after they’re being chased by debt collectors. He’s left everything to Faye, which unfortunately means all the debt he’s accrued. Faye is not pleased, let’s say, and that begins her grifter lifestyle. Spike has heard all of this story in secret and says it was long and boring. Jet has retrieved a small-time bounty, a swindler of women, and it turns out to be that selfsame Whitney Hagis Matsumoto, a whole lot fatter. He lied and faked his death to get out of his debt, and put it all on Faye who already had way too much debt. The doctor and nurse, who were helping him the whole time, arrive in a stolen cop ship to collect the “bounty,” but Faye shoves him into her ship and tries to get away, forcing Spike to give chase. Ultimately, the doctor tells Faye that there was no info on her besides that which she knows, so Whitney wasn’t hiding anything else. She decides to turn him in and the Bebop crew split the impossibly small sum.
While there’s not a lot of action, this episode is all backstory and character arc, which is something this show does so well. Faye is still a mystery, but now we know she isn’t a mystery of her own choosing; she literally has no clue who she is or where she came from. She’s 77 years old in the present, technically, though she’s only 23 physically. She’s a woman out of time, out of luck, and out of options, which is why her joining up with the Bebop was so integral to her life. It’s a positive change. She almost shirks her responsibility to Jet and Spike in favor of a man (which Jet tells Spike is what women always do… that’s HIS bias coming out) but she changes her mind. Spike, in his fighter, prepared to incapacitate Faye’s, sighs and says “That’s better” when she finally comes back around. He doesn’t want the family to break up. At the end, he tells her she may not have a past, but she has something better: a future.
Next week, it’s a Jet-centric episode, and one that he in the post-credit teaser warns is a very sad episode, all about old men, women, children, and young men better sit this one out. But we won’t! I love Jet episodes. “Black Dog Serenade.”