Welcome to the Cowboy Bebop episode guide! This time out, we’re looking at episode 12, “Jupiter Jazz Part 1.”
It’s only taken three months’ worth of episodes, but Cowboy Bebop finally has a two-parter, which it only does once more after this. True to form, both of these two-parters are about Spike Spiegel’s past, and specifically the history that caused him to leave the Red Dragon crime syndicate and become a bounty hunter, and his blood feud with his former friend Vicious.
This episode, “Jupiter Jazz part 1,” has a bit in the way of action, but it’s mostly setting things up and moving the plot forward, which is pretty impressive. We still don’t get all the answers, which we won’t for awhile, but the mystery gets intensified, new mysteries are created, and the show gets all Crying Game on our asses.
Bebop finds a way to be melancholic a fair amount without becoming maudlin, which is a very thin line to walk. None of our characters are particularly suited to being together yet, but they also can’t really stand to be on their own, even if Spike maintains he could easily. This is one of the few episodes where it feels like it’s a serial drama and not an adventure-of-the-week, which works surprisingly well. If someone only watched the first few episodes, they might not have any idea that this show could be so dark, or so human, or so weird.
Vicious appears in the opening, at a meeting with the elders of the Red Dragon Syndicate, three little guys known collectively as The Van. He has gotten a shipment of Red Eye from the Moon and wants permission to deal it on Jupiter’s moon Callisto. The Van tell Vicious that he needs to take Lin, a loyal enforcer in the organization, and should the upstart get any ideas about superseding his authority, like he did by killing Mao Yenrai in “ Ballad of Fallen Angels,” that Lin would have to put Vicious down.
On the Bebop, Faye has decided to hightail it; she’s taken all the money in the safe, as well as all the coolant in the ship, and skedaddled. Jet is really upset by this, but Spike almost doesn’t care, or at least outwardly claims not to. Edward searches the net for any signs of Faye and instead finds something from Callisto called Codename Julia. This immediately makes Spike have sepia-toned flashbacks of the woman we saw in his visions after being shot by Vicious the last time. Spike immediately decides to go investigate, even though Jet pleads with him to forget it, that Julia’s a very common name and it couldn’t possibly be the woman he thinks. Jet says if Spike leaves, he won’t have a place to come back to, to which Spike just replies that their partnership was based on convenience anyway, deeply hurting Jet’s feelings.
Faye is on Callisto at a jazz club called the Blue Crow and gets drunk while having the sniffles (Callisto is a frigid moon, and Faye’s not known for wearing much). She listens to a sax player named Gren. Following his set, he comes over to talk to her and she assumes he’s hitting on her, but he assures that he’s not interested in women, but everybody else in the bar is; this town has no women. Spike is elsewhere in the town getting intel about Julia and ends up finding a trans person named Julius, who suggests the bounty hunter go find Gren; Gren hangs out with women a lot.
While asking around for Gren, Spike is followed by a gang of thugs who reveal they believe him to be Vicious, because Vicious and Gren are known associates. This royally peeves off Spike who proceeds to beat the ever-loving snot out of all of them and gets the leader to tell him Gren is Vicious’ contact for the Red Eye sale. Elsewhere, Jet goes into a bar looking for Faye and can’t find her, but Big Shot is on the TV and he sees a new bountyhead posting for Gren. He nearly calls Spike but stops himself. Gren, meanwhile, saves Faye from the same gang Spike fought and takes her to his place where he says she can stay. He goes to take a shower when his phone rings. When the machine picks up, Faye is terrified to hear Vicious’ voice on the other end. She takes her gun and surprises Gren in the shower, but it’s Faye who gets a surprise.
Spike finds where Vicious is and walks out into a snowy field for a confrontation. He pulls his gun while Vicious pulls his katana. Spike figures out that Vicious used the name “Julia” as a codename for the deal, and that she wasn’t there at all, but Vicious says that Julia WAS there, and very recently. Lin, a former friend and underling of Spike’s, steps between the two men and pulls his gun on Spike, saying his loyalty to the Red Dragon is stronger than his former loyalty to Spike. The episode ends with the sound of a gunshot and Spike laying in the field while Vicious and Lin make their getaway.
Holy crap, man! What a crazy cliffhanger. So Gren is somehow involved with Vicious; Jet, Faye, and Spike are all in the same town and don’t realize it; Vicious knows where Julia is; and Spike has been, apparently, killed by Lin. He wasn’t, of course, but that’s not what we know yet. How can Spike get out of this?!?
“Jupiter Jazz part 1” is one of the more ambiguous episodes in the show, and that’s perfect. Nothing should be resolved; they tell us right away it’s a part 1, so why would they answer any questions outright? We don’t even, at this point, know the full extent of Julia’s relationship with Spike and Vicious. The snowy landscape of Callisto gives a very different vibe to the episode, also. If you’ll recall, it rained a lot in “Balled of Fallen Angels,” and now it’s snowy; every time Vicious shows up, the weather gets bleak.
I imagine we’ll get a big puzzle piece next week, but as of now, the audience probably has no clue what to expect.