Many shows have melancholy characters, some perhaps have the same kind of bitter memories made a little sweeter with reunions, albeit we all know that things could never come back to how they were before. It would be enough if Jet Black had that moment with Alise, in that dive called “La Fin.” It could’ve really ended there and we would’ve had an interesting show.
But this is Cowboy Bebop, the knife must twist in an awesome way. Here we won’t see how Jet is hurt by what he had to do. It was a joyful thing in fact, to see Jet be something more like awesome, than just be the straight man to everyone else in the Bebop ship. And in signature style, the show does it with action: a chase scene, gunfire, and the most amazingly dissonant music set to it all.
The music plays exactly after this moment, Spike was already chasing Rhint with a bounty of 1.8 million Wulongs. Rhint is the gigolo of Alisa, Jet’s old flame run afoul with loan sharks. Rhint killed one defending her. Spike had to do a hard vertical climb against the face of a skyscraper, just narrowly avoiding crashing into Jet’s Hammerhead.
Spike tells Jet the score. Jet just has this empty face, like all life has drained from it, then the music plays.
You see, Jet’s life didn’t really drain away. It was already gone. It was gone when he left Ganymede when Alisa’s watch stopped. It was replaced with this undead life of the Cowboy, the bounty hunter. Jet tolerates the weirdos on his ship because they have the semblance of life. His undead life carries with it the habits of life, but impossibly so – the way Jet’s massive physique is maintained by eating mostly carbohydrates. But more importantly, how he has the shade of his minor legend as a police officer:
This is the land where I was a cop… I’m the Black Dog. Once I bite I never let go. I have no regrets about her, but I’ll settle this score on my home turf.
The medieval wistfulness of ELM contrasts immensely with the aerial spectacle that Jet performs, no less impressive as what Spike has shown so far. Rhint and Alisa weave their boat through a metropolitan labyrinth of waterways but Jet pilots the Hammerhead through all that. Sure, this dissonance is played up since Asteroid Blues’ chase scene, but Jazz is different… ELM is different. There’s a wallowing in Space Lion where in ELM it’s pretty much an elegiac.
Jet harpoons the boat after reaching open water. Rhint panics. Alisa is resigned. A confrontation on the shore. Alisa shoots at Jet. Jet doesn’t flinch. She was never going to hit him. The undead can’t be harmed by bullets. “There are other bounties to find!” She implores, “Even if I let you go, someone will come for you someday… If you run, you will be an accomplice.”
Alisa fires bullets of the past. He spoiled her. He constricted her. She wanted the freedom to fuck up her own life. She’s still free to suffer the consequences of her mistakes, though Jet leaves her with a parting gift: a self-defense plea to escape the justice that’s meted against murderers. Alisa would need someone to protect her.
A Prayer for Jet:
All I ask for when I pray,
Steady rollin woman gonna come my way.
Need a woman gonna hold my hand
And tell me no lies, make me a happy man.
The black labrador retriever that prowled around the studio where Led Zeppelin recorded this track had nothing to do with the song lyrics, just as Ganymede Elegy had nothing to do with this song. And yet, this symmetry is just perfect, and is how I end this post remembering love for the cop living out his undead life as a cowboy. Stay cool Jet. You’ll live and die again soon enough.