Let’s start with the women, and by now it’s just women because Ed left the stage in the previous session. I always enjoyed the narrative contrivance that let Faye run into Julia first. Faye accounts for herself well here, being a good Samaritan with dead-eye accuracy using a Glock. She takes a ride with Julia and even attempts to recruit her for a partner. Wouldn’t that be something to watch? Faye and Julia chasing bounties together would be sexy as hell.
But pretty soon it’s Julia who knows who’s who and what’s what. She makes Faye carry her message to Spike, quite the unkind cut… since Faye would reveal later on, while she did get her memory back, nothing good came of it; and while belonging is the best thing there is, the Bebop is the only place she feels like she belongs.
But that’s a Bebop with Spike in it, Faye. He was always going to leave. Sure he and Julia may stay there a while and things may be both fun and awkward – since without even trying, she’ll be the lady in the ship, while Faye remains the tramp. But even this never happened, because Julia got herself killed.
I really, really loved how the show served Julia’s death. It was quick, and had the feeling of inevitability. There was no protraction of the drama, instead the show used the visual shorthand of John Woo’s doves and slow motion for the moment. I will never forget how beautiful her hair looked as she fell in a heap in her last moments. “This is just a dream” her last words remind us of this aging theme.
Faye and Jet wonder if Spike is going to meet certain death all for her. Spike says that he can’t do anything for a dead woman. This is a great response to Faye, actually. Julia you see, was never really alive in the narrative – she was a ghost revealed at the very end, just appearing for a short while then vanishing to set the motion of doom. It’s Faye’s death that’s more interesting. Faye? Dead?
Yes. She died when she got her memories back, when it proved no cure to her directionless present. She returns to the Bebop to find it changed forever, no longer the place she wants to call home. Spike is good as dead and will not stay for her sake. No future, just futile shots to the heavens. Julia’s death was a cinematic moment, but Faye’s slow death is more interesting.
The Real Folk Blues is the name of a compilation album of Muddy Waters’ first recordings. The term “the blues” refers to the “blue devils”, meaning melancholy and sadness; such are very important elements of Cowboy Bebop; underscored, highlighted, boldfaced, italicized, and punctuated by this two-part session.
The trick here in this show, is that it builds up people and events with lots of meaning – very easy given that the content in question have to do with character back stories, histories, the pasts that catch up, or are sores and wounds endlessly picked at. Then the narrative renders all of them futile, pointless, and meaningless. The space between these, is where the blue devils play; where melancholy and sadness take our hand and give us company.
Paul McCartney was singing about how nothing he, nor Ringo, nor George, nor even John would ever produce music as individuals that would amount to anything equal to what they able to do together as The Beatles. Similarly, no matter what happens, Ed, Jet, and Faye would never live lives as interesting as the time they spent together on the Bebop. Once the past caught up, it was painfully clear that there was no future… only an uninteresting drudgery of the present.
But the present… was crumbling all around them too. Bounty after bounty turned out to be inconvertible to cash. Institutions like the Red Dragon collapsed. When organized crime dies down, does it mean a fresh new frontier of criminality? Does this lead to fresh bounties? Maybe, but cowboys aren’t the individuals who take on criminal organizations. They’re good for tracking loners or splinter groups. People who aren’t powerful. People who are also running away.
I can only imagine a short, unsuccessful bounty hunter partnership between Faye and Jet. After that, maybe she marries someone and ruins his fortune. Jet gets killed during some attempted bust, or is robbed then killed by some dirtbag would-be partner.
Thankfully, we are spared from these probabilities. Spike’s death is the last thing we see, and it is dignified, with a veneer of triumph – he bested his rival. It was permissible for him to die now, not having anything left to live for. But after a long slump, Spike won a fight, and it was the fight he had to win.
Let us look into Spike’s last sortie.
The battle and the final duel were amazing. Spike would not be denied by the henchmen and he stormed the headquarters with grenades and explosives. The sword duel, and Vicious ensured that Cowboy Bebop would have a sword duel for its finale, is favored by narrative media because it allows for dialogue and particularly debate. This show turns that on its head by making Spike and Vicious exchange very few words.
The trope is played straight and is spoken overtly: “I’m the only one who can kill you.”
Spike does kill Vicious, and it can be said that Spike eventually dies from wounds suffered from Vicious’ attacks. Then Spike goes all the way down to the lobby where the now headless Red Dragon gang members look on to him as they must be wondering… “do we shoot him?” “Is he our new boss now?” “Do we get him medical attention?”
No one moves.
Spike threatens them with a hand pointed like a gun.
Spike finally dies.
While there’s nothing left to be said about “The Real Folk Blues” on my part, I wish to extend my thanks to all the readers who followed me in this blogging project. It took me more than a year to complete, but it was worth it. From the very first post here on We Remember Love I declared my desire to blog every episode of Cowboy Bebop with a view to survey the references, as well as provide my analysis of the sessions.