Cowboy Bebop is a show that can change tone week to week depending on the type of story being told, but throughout all of it, the series maintained an overall melancholy, centered around the deep internal sadness of Spike (and the other characters as we’ll find out down the road). This might be a show with fun action sequences, genuine comedy, and bouncy and frenetic jazz music, but it’s got a Film Noir or stoic Western hero as the lead and as such it can never be very happy for long. This is where episodes like “Waltz for Venus” come into play; we have what seems like a nice story and the creation of a new friendship, but things don’t usually have happy endings, especially for people who meet the Bebop crew.
This episode begins with Spike and Faye working together very efficiently, something that’s nice to see after a few weeks of being on the same side but certainly not the same page. Three hijackers attempt to overtake a commercial space shuttle to Venus, but Spike and Faye easily take care of them. On the shuttle is a nervous young man named Rocco Bonnaro clutching something apparently important, to him at least. Following the successful apprehension, Spike and Faye go to collect their bounty (one of the few times they actually achieve their task and get paid), and of course Faye wants more than her fair share. Rocco follows Spike because he was so impressed by his judo and kung fu on the shuttle. He begs Spike to help teach him how to do those things and Spike eventually agrees, and later they have a scene in a sunny meadow where Spike tells Rocco to be like water in fighting, much like the teachings of Bruce Lee. Rocco is then spied by some tough looking thugs and makes a run for it, asking Spike to take his parcel and give it back to him later.
Aboard the Bebop, Spike and Jet learn that the parcel’s contents are a very rare and valuable flower called a Grey Ash which is worth millions and is used in the creation of a medicine for Venus Sickness, a form of sudden blindness for people on the planet. Jet then finds that Rocco has a bounty on his head for stealing the plant, as do the members of the gang Rocco works for. Spike is disappointed, because he really liked Rocco. He goes to find Rocco’s hideout, a crashed shuttle in the desert, while Faye goes off looking for the boss of the gang. Instead of finding Rocco, Spike finds Rocco’s sister, Stella, who is completely blind and who at first pulls a gun on Spike but then is pleased when Spike says he’s a friend of Rocco’s. Spike realizes that Rocco’s only reason for stealing the Grey Ash was to help cure his sister, and that he’s actually put himself in danger by stealing the flower from the gang.
Rocco is caught by the gang and beaten and tortured, but he refuses to say where the flower is. Elsewhere, Faye’s search is a wild goose chase. Spike and Rocco meet at their designated place and time, and Spike reveals he’s a bounty hunter, but that he met Stella and doesn’t want to bring him in. Unfortunately, the gang has followed Rocco and begin opening fire on Spike and Rocco. Spike returns fire but they’re heavily outnumbered; luckily, Faye and Jet show up in their personal ships and provide cover fire. Rocco gets taken on by a guy and he uses Spike’s teachings to overpower the man, however he’s shot in the back quickly thereafter. Faye corners the mob boss and makes him surrender while Spike runs over to Rocco, who is beyond help.
Spike goes to visit Stella who is about to have the surgery and she assumes Rocco set it up and asks where her brother is. Spike says nothing but Stella intuits that her brother is dead. Spike leaves her, buying an apple in the town square, just as spores that cause Venus Sickness begin to fall like snow.
Like I said, this is a really sad episode, but it’s also not without its fun charms. Watching Spike teach Rocco how to move like water is really lovely, and we definitely get the sense that Spike isn’t just an emotionless or nihilistic man of action; he really likes people and sees a kinship in Rocco. He starts out as a bit of a doof, a fanboy for Spike in a weird way, but once we learn his backstory, we see how noble he really was, even if he did bad things ultimately for good reasons. Also, as I mentioned above, I love that Spike and Faye are working together as a team now. She’s still a wildcard and ultimately wants the money to buy whatever she wants, not food or repairs or the important stuff, but the two aren’t at odds anymore. With Jet, we finally see the well-oiled machine of the Bebop like we saw pre-Faye working much better thanks to her.
While not a standout of the series, “Waltz For Venus” is a damn solid entry in the Cowboy Bebop saga.
Next week, we at last get the final member of the crew, in the form of the weird and goofy Edward, a name Edward gave Edward, who speaks in the third person. She shakes things up a whole bunch. “Jamming with Edward” is next week, and then I can finally go to Disc 2 on the Blu-ray set.