The key question that I haven’t resolved for myself regarding this episode is Jet Black’s decision not to make money off the bounty. His reasoning that “Ed will lose his playmate” doesn’t ring true to me. Unless, his actions actually come from his own fear and loneliness: that he’s so alone that he’d do anything to keep the Bebop crew together, including perpetuated mutual poverty.
Now that I’ve written that out, I think it’s a splendid explanation for his actions. Look at how he went after Spike and Faye in Jupiter Jazz! He can talk tough about not needing anyone but Jet is super lonely and would like to have everyone around. He’s just not into talking about his feelings, nor into hugs.
Having resolved that (it took me 2 weeks to begin writing about this episode; I couldn’t get over how it ended), I want to focus on how Cowboy Bebop continues to shit on things human beings romanticized in the 20th century: Bohemians.
Bohemianism is this feeling, or spirit, that manifests itself as ideals that get people to reject societal norms in the pursuit of freedom that results in art of some form. There are several kinds, having perused the wikipedia article on it, here are some:
The Bombshell Manual of Style author, Laren Stover, breaks down the Bohemian into five distinct mind-sets/styles in Bohemian Manifesto: a Field Guide to Living on the Edge. The Bohemian is “not easily classified like species of birds,” writes Stover, noting that there are crossovers and hybrids. The five types devised by Stover are:
- Nouveau: bohemians with money who attempt to join traditional bohemianism with contemporary culture
- Gypsy: drifters, neo-hippies, and others with nostalgia for previous, romanticized eras
- Beat: also drifters, but non-materialist and art-focused
- Zen: “post-beat,” focus on spirituality rather than art
- Dandy: no money, but try to appear as if they have it by buying and displaying expensive or rare items – such as brands of alcohol
In this session, however, there is no art. There is only survival, indolence, and substance dependence. This is wholly consistent with how Cowboy Bebop takes the ideals and artifacts of the 20th century, puts them in space, and shreds them of the “shiny” kind of romanticism and puts the stench of decay on them.
The Bohemian colony where Chessmaster Hex lives out his senile, dying days is no haven. Who really believes that Jonathan is better off losing all his money and living out his own days there? Is he “liberated” from consumerism and the shackles of economics? But hey, who’ll argue that Chessmaster Hex himself isn’t happy. After all, he still pwnd Ed in their epic match.
If there’s any idealism in the episode, it’s Jet’s “sacrifice.” I couldn’t get over it. He gave up the bounty, the upper hand over the authorities, everything. But it fits the explanation I reached earlier. Jet is lonely as fuck. I bet he didn’t even tell the others that he could’ve gotten a lot of money out of this. He’s that much of an asshole. This piece of profound failure and inauthenticity, I must admit, is one of the most interesting discoveries I’ve enjoyed having rewatched these episodes. Cowboy Bebop just keeps getting better.
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
Oh baby – can’t do this to me baby
Just gotta get out – just gotta get right outta here
Anyway the wind blows
Oh Jet, you’re gonna carry that weight.