Welcome to the Cowboy Bebop episode guide! This time out, we’re looking at episode 25, “The Real Folk Blues, Part 1.”
Welp, we’ve said goodbye to Ein and Ed, and partially said goodbye to Faye, so it’s almost time to say goodbye to Cowboy Bebop entirely. Sad times, but there are few shows that have such a definite arc for all its characters, and this show does it better than just about anybody.
But anything with a beginning needs an end, and Bebop ends with a two-parter entitled “The Real Folk Blues,” which also happens to be the name of the end theme song. For 25 weeks, we’ve been getting little hints and clues surrounding Spike Spiegel’s history with Mars’ Red Dragon Syndicate, his arch-rival/former best friend Vicious, and the mysterious blonde named Julia around whom everything hinges. We now have the answers, we just don’t have a conclusion…yet.
The pre-credit sequence to the show’s very first episode, “ Asteroid Blues,” features black-and-white glimpses of a huge gun battle involving our hero Spike that resulted in the dropped rose, which became a recurrent image on the program. This was followed by episode 5, “ The Ballad of Fallen Angels,” where we first see Vicious and get the inklings about Spike’s troubled history as well as flashback images of Julia. This was followed by episodes 12 and 13, “ Jupiter Jazz part 1” and “ Jupiter Jazz part 2” in which Spike meets Vicious again, we learn of Vicious’ former military days with Gren, and Spike’s former friend Lin who lost his life remaining loyal to Vicious and the Syndicate.
For a full 12 episodes, we’ve had nothing else about Spike’s past, but these laid the groundwork for the finale. Did we want more? Yes. But did we need more? I don’t think so; Spike needs to remain a mystery, from his friends and from the audience.
We begin by learning that Vicious has attempted (yet again) to take control of the Red Dragon Syndicate and has been turned down by the Elders. This leads him and his followers to attempt a coup that is ultimately foiled. Vicious is taken prisoner. Despite his request to just be killed, the Elders wish to make him suffer first. Julia gets a message on her answering machine telling her of Vicious’ capture and warns her that Syndicate people will be after her soon too.
In a seedy bar on Mars, Spike and Jet drink away their sorrows after their whole crew up and left them. Jet laments that he now understands why Spike was always so against women, children, and animals, but it’s clear, despite Spike’s constant nihilism, that he probably liked having Ein, Ed, and Faye around. Just then, Syndicate thugs raid the bar and begin firing, killing the bartender. Spike and Jet take cover and return fire with Jet catching a slug in the leg. They’re soon joined by Shin, the brother of Spike’s former friend Lin, who was working with Vicious to overthrow the Elders. He warns Spike that the Syndicate is trying to wipe out anyone who has ever been associated with Vicious, and that includes Spike and Julia.
Shin helps Spike drag Jet out and to a local clinic to patch up his leg, and Spike then starts to tell Jet about Julia and Vicious, names that always sound like “doom” to Jet’s ears. Spike has a flashback to his final night working with the Syndicate, where he asks Julia to come with him and start a new life. She says she can’t, and that the Red Dragons will kill him if he tries to leave. Spike, though, has a plan to fake his own death and wants Julia to meet him at a graveyard. We then cut to Julia driving on the highway and she has a flashback of her own, with Vicious holding a gun to her head and telling her he won’t kill her if she kills Spike, but if she doesn’t, both of them will be targets.
Faye also happens to be on Tharsis where Julia is and doesn’t have much of a plan. She sees a man come to meet his mother at a spaceport and she thinks he looks familiar. Of course, we know that he’s actually the host of “Big Shot,” minus the ridiculous cowboy outfit and silly accent. She goes out to her Red Tail ship and gets a call from Spike who yells at her to come back and look after the wounded Jet. Naturally, this isn’t the kind of talk to which Faye responds, so she hangs up, just in time to see a black car chasing Julia’s red convertible down the street, firing at her. Faye, for seemingly no reason other than women sticking together, uses her amazing aiming skills to shoot out the black car’s tire. Julia stops near her and she gets in, firing on the other car that has materialized. She gets that one too and the two ladies drive off, looking supremely badass.
They talk in the car and Faye reveals that she’s a bounty hunter, or at least used to be but is taking a break. Julia then asks if she can get word to a fellow bounty hunter, and that her name is Julia. Faye wonders if it’s the same Julia Spike has mentioned but somehow Julia knows Faye knows Spike and just says “Tell Spike to meet me at ‘the place.’ He’ll know where.” Julia then drives off and Faye decides to go find the Bebop.
Back on the Bebop, Faye lands and Spike starts to chide her about leaving in the first place, but she tells him about Julia and the request to meet. He gets angry and hops in his Swordfish and takes off. Jet comes out and yells at Faye also, but she tells him about Julia as well. Before Spike can leave, the Bebop is attacked by Syndicate fighters and Spike is the only fighter that can help, since Faye’s ship has been badly damaged. Spike fights off some of the Syndicate, but Jet eventually tells him to go meet Julia and to end what’s been troubling him for so long.
Meanwhile, Vicious is about to be put to death, but just as the firing squad is about to shoot, Vicious’ black stork flies in and explodes, and several of the firing squad members begin firing on their own guys. Vicious, now free, grabs his katana and cuts down several of the Elders. He announces that the Red Dragon is under new leadership.
At the cemetery, Spike waits in the rain. He spots a rose on the ground and looks up to see Julia, who pulls out the pistol Vicious gave her and points it at Spike. TO BE CONTINUED.
Oh my GOSH what a great cliffhanger. Vicious looks like he’s got the upper hand, the Bebop and Jet specifically are crippled, and Spike’s finally reunited with the woman he loves only to have her pull a gun on him. He doesn’t even look like he cares if she shoots or not. It’s such a perfect set up to the finale. If you thought there would be anything like a happy ending here, you were sorely mistaken, folks.