“Belonging is the very best thing there is.” – Faye Valentine
At some point I wanted to do something epic. I wanted to experience every cultural product referenced in Cowboy Bebop. I really may not be able to do this anymore, as I’ve come to watch more and more anime that take up my time. I believe that a massive part of the show’s coolness is due to the interesting things it references. There are many “Easter Eggs” that I still come across after viewing the anime maybe about 4-5 times in as many years. Right now, I’m here to write about episode 24: “Hard Luck Woman”.
Perhaps the best place to start is here. Quite the informative article on what’s behind the Cowboy Bebop name. As the article suggests, a big influence of the Bebop musical style is on the aspect of quoting. In a bebop track, often it would start with two musicians quoting a musical phrase from another song entirely, and then building a new song from there. Most if not all of the episodes is named after a song: “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Wild Horses” are Rolling Stones tracks, the movie title “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is a Bob Dylan song, and “Hard Luck Woman” is a song by the band KISS. So the writers take that song title and jam away to put out this awesome episode.
I’ve never listened to the song itself, and I don’t want to read too much into its lyrics (it’s mostly a song about a “sailor’s daughter” who the narrator is saying goodbye to, as men seem to leave her a lot). But I do know that this is probably my favorite episode.
The Bebop Cowboys disband. They were never really a team anyway. They worked together due to contingency and whatever genuine attachment they had for each other was never overtly expressed. Maybe they all hated each other as they hated themselves. But we want to believe otherwise, because we’re really fond of them. In this episode, Faye and Ed find out about their pasts, serving as a wrap-up of their storylines.
Faye studied the video of her past life (in betamax format, lol) when Ed mentions that she knows the location of the waterfall in one of the video segments. They set the Bebop’s objective to Earth instead of Mars. While the girls explore, Spike and Jet are not happy about the change of course, but manage to find a bounty to work on. This bounty turns out to be the father of Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky 4th, who reveals Ed’s name to be “Francoise”. We know Appleby is the father because Ed says so: “This is the father person.”
It was a very interesting meeting, because Spike utterly failed to beat him in a fight. Spike was only really thwarted by Cowboy Andy prior to this, but Appleby swatted away Spike’s attacks with ease. Appleby didn’t take Ed with him, but gave the boys a whole bunch of hard boiled eggs.
What really made this episode a winner is the outro, which featured a break-up montage set to “Call me, Call me”. One of the reasons I did not want to write about this episode is because I hate it when the writer fails to take into account what I find to be important references and allusions (I felt very bad when Television Without Pity missed the boat on the significance of the musical pieces used in 30 Rock season two ep. 13 “Succession” which heavily alluded to the movie “Amadeus“). Here, the hard-boiled egg eating scene references the Paul Newman movie, “Cool Hand Luke”. I never saw this movie so I can’t comment on it at depth I’m afraid.
Nonetheless, the music plays. Spike gets a pinwheel, and tells Jet that he doesn’t think Ed’ll be coming back as look upon Ed’s goodbye painted on the Bebop’s deck. Faye lies down where her bathtub used to be. She traced out the lines on the ground with a stick. The Merlion monument lies broken. Ein convinces Ed to take him along. And it all ends in the next two episodes.
There are people who watch Cowboy Bebop who complain that it had too much filler. I’m not one of those people. Groaning when I remember a particularly painful episode to watch is part of why I love this anime so much. There is a palpable nihilism running through the entire narrative. Human society didn’t get better after the colonization of the solar system. Earth is broken. They are headed nowhere. The Bebop crew’s careers as bounty hunters aren’t the successes that their talent promises, and only Jet is truly serious about it. Everyone else is just drifting. The empty filler is the true content. I can even argue that the introductions and culminations of the (Spike’s) narrative are just placeholders for the emptiness of life in that place and time that the anime portrays.
But is it supposed to be depressing? No. It’s supposed to be musical. And it is.
See you space cowgirl, someday, somewhere…