After six weeks, Cowboy Bebop continues to prove itself unclassifiable, despite being classified in a bunch of different ways. Following one of the series’ creepier episodes, the show gives us a brief respite with one of its most fun, straight-up bounty-hunting comedy action episodes. It also gives us one of the rare badass allies in the series, that being tough-as-nails space trucker VT. And, true to the episode’s title, Yoko Kanno and company give us their rendition of a typical ’80s hair metal song, and it’s kind of the best thing ever.
This is a bit of an outlier episode in that the main character, really, isn’t Spike or Faye, even though they’re working “together” more or less in this episode; the main character is VT, the world’s coolest truck driver woman who can beat people up and has a cute cat. Jet barely features at all, but that’s all right. He’s going to be important in the next few episodes. So why then do we care about VT? Because sometimes the bounty isn’t interesting at all and we want to spend some time with someone who is interesting. Plus, I could watch scenes of VT driving her dreadnought-looking semi truck of a spaceship for the next calendar year it’s so cool.
VT is a trucker who is forever bet by other truckers that they can guess what her initials stand for, and they always lose. She has a cat named Zeros and mostly just tools around doing her job and listening to very loud heavy metal music. She makes it to her usual haunt of Mac’s Diner and remarks that it’s much, much busier than it usually is. Her friend tells her it’s because they’re all bounty hunters waiting on a tip off that a fugitive named Decker was going to arrive. Spike is in the bathroom talking to the person who gave him the tip, chastising the source for not keeping it exclusive. At a much different, and much less truck-stoppy truck stop, Faye sits and drinks a weird, froo-froo beverage and waits for Decker there, though the only thing she knows about him is that he has a dragon tattoo. When she spots someone she thinks might be him, she starts her flirty routine and then pulls a gun on him. Except this big guy isn’t Decker, he’s just some guy; the real Decker is a scrawny little Woody Allen looking guy (this restaurant is called “Woody’s” interestingly enough) but Faye only realizes that too late. Decker gets away and leaves her ship in shambles.
Back at Mac’s the bounty hunters begin harassing the waitress, named Muriel, and VT comes to her rescue, beating the snot out of many of them. Spike helps when he gets bumped into, spilling the egg he was going to put in his glass to aid with his monster hangover. VT and Spike make all the other hunters leave and VT expresses how much she hates bounty hunters, and good thing Spike isn’t one. She offers to cover his tab, but after their meal, Jet breaks in on the radio telling Spike to go chase after Decker and the jig is up as VT clocks him one. Spike wants to leave but the other bounty hunters jacked up his Swordfish II and now he has to hitchhike. VT, much later, feels sorry for him, especially after Zeros decides she likes Spike. She decides to give him a ride, and he asks if she wouldn’t mind picking up Faye on the way also.
After dropping the pair back at the Bebop, VT continues on her way, only to get a warning that some maniac is driving a big rig erratically, breaking things left and right. VT catches up to the driver and recognizes it to be Decker, and calls Spike to let him know. He quickly tells her to be careful because Decker is a known explosives smuggler, but the signal cuts out before she can hear it. Spike and Faye quickly get back to their only partially-repaired spaceships (Jet’s only one man, after all) and hurry to catch up to them. Decker is trying to lose VT by driving into a mining tunnel on an asteroid, but he misjudges and instead of slowing VT down he causes a cave-in, which kills Decker before either Spike or Faye can get to him. VT attempts to remove Decker’s craft from the mine, but the cave collapses and the explosives are bound to kill them if they aren’t careful. Spike then attempts a dangerous maneuver to get an explosive into an escape pod and blow-up the other end of the blocked tunnel. He does, and as he and VT are about to say their goodbyes, Spike says that he knows her name is “Victoria Terpischore” which he guesses because he knew her late husband, Ural, one of the best bounty hunters to ever live. She gives him the wad of cash, but he only takes one bill, saying to give it to Ural when she gets to where he is.
This is a great example of an episode that COULD have been the pilot of a spinoff show with VT as the main character. Alas, this wasn’t to be, but Cowboy Bebop has such a rich tapestry of characters that really any one of them could sustain their own show for at least a little while. VT is a great character, unflinching, but also very funny at times. She doesn’t suffer anyone gladly, and doesn’t need anyone’s help. Supremely likable, too, despite her gruffness, and finding out the reason why she despises bounty hunters is part and parcel to her as a character.
As per usual, terrific animation in this episode, too, especially hungover Spike fighting off handsy jerks in the bar. Always love seeing Spike kick a bit of ass himself, with as little effort as possible. And, as I referred to before and is in the video above, the space animation continues to be unparalleled. Though this show can change genres any time it wants, it’s still at its core a space opera and much of mechanical designer Kimitoshi Yamane’s stellar (pun intended) work comes in scenes like the ones in this episode. It’s stunning, the ships being both aesthetically pleasing and seemingly functional. While not the most poignant or “essential” of episodes, “Heavy Metal Queen” remains a favorite for storytelling and style.
Next week, an episode that Jet’s narration in the next-time trailer describes as a very different kind of episode. It’s a lot more melancholy than our usual brand, and it allows Spike to explain his Bruce Lee-style of Kung Fu. Called “Waltz for Venus,” it’s the last episode before the debut of the typhoon of energy known as Edward.