Slowly picking up crew members is what the first several episodes of Cowboy Bebop are all about, and while last week’s addition of Ein the Data Dog is a welcome one, in Session #3 we get the second most memorable and indelible character in the whole series after Spike: the intergalactic con woman, perpetual troublemaker, and perhaps the loudest mouth in the cosmos, Faye Valentine. What makes Faye such an important character is not how they draw her, which features typical anime proportions and minuscule clothing; rather, it’s that she’s very much her own person, and really doesn’t give two chips about anybody else. It’s through her, though, that we end up learning more about Spike (and vice versa), and the two will eventually have a clear understanding. But, in “Honky Tonk Woman,” they’re just at each other’s throats.
Faye is one of those characters designed entirely to make the lives of the main characters messy. Early on in her Bebop tenure, she’s much more of an antagonist than any kind of ally. She’s often getting in Spike and Jet’s way, or is out trying to get all their bounty money for herself before they can. But she’s also incredibly deep, nuanced, and has an exceedingly tragic backstory. While none of that will come into play until much later in the series, I think it’s necessary to bring that up to point out what a ballsy move it was on Watanabe and company’s part to make her SO irritating at the outset, and so completely not someone with whom you think Spike or Jet should be spending time. This whole episode is about her being on the wrong end of a particular deal, having stolen from the wrong people, and Spike getting accidentally, wrong mans-style, wrapped up in the shenanigans. That fella can’t catch a break. Or can he?
We begin with Faye, in her usual shorts, half-open button-up shirt, and whatever passes for undergarments in the future ensemble, walking into a bar, taking the bartender off guard, and eventually robbing him in a hail of gunfire before being captured by a bunch of armed men. She’s not doing what she’s supposed to do, it seems. She gets brought to see Gordon, a satellite casino owner and ruthless gangster to whom Faye owes a great deal of money. He tells her she can repay her debt in full if she does one simple thing: work as a Blackjack dealer in the casino for one day to cheat a specific patron, who will then give her a specific gaming chip which she is to bring back to Gordon. She doesn’t know why the chip is so important and she doesn’t care.
Meanwhile, Spike and Jet go to the casino, completely unrelated to what’s going on, just to play and hopefully win some money. Spike goes to Faye’s table and he looks enough like the man she’s supposed to meet that she performs her scheme, eventually taking all of his chips. She expects him to tip her his last one, as was part of her plan, but he doesn’t. She gets angry and chases him and he shouts that he didn’t say anything when she was cheating the whole time. He then bumps into the actual guy with the actual chip and the two drop their respective chips and pick up the other’s. Spike is approached by Gordon’s henchmen and a fight ensues, while Faye tries to make a getaway. Unfortunately for her, Spike and Jet intercept her in the Bebop and chain her to the toilet while they figure out what to do next.
After analyzing the chip, they discover it’s been encoded with some very important information, and Big Shot then tells them that Faye is worth 6 million woolongs. But she’s managed to contact Gordon who’s on his way to get back the chip. They set up a deal wherein Spike goes out onto the outside of the ship and Gordon sends a guy to give them 30 million woolongs (a paltry sum compared to the value of the chip), but it’s a trap and the guy plans to just murder Spike, who of course is too fast. Faye escapes and gets into her little ship and leaves with the money as Jet blows up Gordon’s ship.
This is an episode that is really a lot of fun and introduces Faye in a very fitting way. She’s a force of nature. She comes into a situation and all hell breaks loose. Unlike Spike, who tends to cause a lot of damage in the course of his bounty-hunting, Faye doesn’t seem to possess the ability to play it cool, even if it would suit her better. While she’s locked up, she tells Jet and Spike about being a “Romani”, a gypsy person who can’t be tied down in one place for too long. She has no roots, she doesn’t need anyone but herself, and she’s got no cares beyond surviving. This all changes, of course, once she becomes a part of the Bebop crew. All of the characters are lost in some way, and Faye is perhaps the most lost of anyone.
We find out the tiniest bit of info about Jet in this episode: he says he used to be ISSP special forces, meaning he’s an ex-cop. Jet gets his own centric episode but not for a few weeks yet.
“Honky Tonk Women” also shows us that the show can do space fights and things. While the first two episodes had Spike flying to different planets, they were both very land-based; this episode spends a lot of its time actually out among the stars, and Spike has to don a space suit to make the trade-off. The designs and animation for these sequences are really pretty, too. Even the rotating roulette wheel casino looks great, despite its now-outdated CGI.
Next week, Faye returns (it’s like she never left) for another rip-roaring adventure, this one about ecoterrorists in outer space. “Gateway Shuffle” is next time.
See You Space Cowboy…Bang