‘Cowboy Bebop’: A Good, Good Boy Joins the Bebop Crew (RECAP)

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[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Netflix‘s Cowboy Bebop Season 1, Episode 3, “Dog Star Swing.”]

Ein! Ein is here!

Unlike the live-action show’s missing bubbly, orange-haired super-hacker Edward, Ein the corgi has been part of the marketing and advertising from the get-go for Netflix’s anime adaptation. And this dog is as smart as he is adorable, which is to say, very. It’s no surprise that fans had been anticipating the brilliant canine from the moment the show was announced… it’s just too bad that Ein makes his introductory appearance in the worst episode of the series.

It’s not the corgi’s fault, first of all. The dog is the best thing about “Dog Star Swing,” but it’s all downhill from there. Bebop again takes the skeleton of the anime without any of its soul, its breathless action sequences or unique world, adapting bits and pieces of “Stray Dog Strut.” Here’s what’s the same — and what’s very, very different.

COWBOY BEBOP (L to R) JOHN CHO as SPIKE SPIEGEL in COWBOY BEBOP

KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021

Bounty hunting partners Spike Spiegel (John Cho) and Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) are still in the city of Tharsis. Spike is awaiting further word from Ana (Tamara Tunie) about the Syndicate after she let him know that his ex-partner Vicious (Alex Hassell) knows he’s alive — and Spike intends to stay that way. But he can’t just tell Jet that, so he convinces Jet to take on a bounty that’s located on-planet. They chat with a woman who goes by “Woodcock,” who gives them security footage of the guy… and flirts with Jet in a rather cringe-worthy sequence.

They realize the man kidnapped someone (or something), and that in the footage, he wanted to be seen because he was wearing a face-changer. They can use their tech to make the machine short out, then they can go to the brothel where the man got the face-changer to snag him and collect their reward. That’s exactly what they do — they go to the brothel and wait until Spike finds the guy, a fight ensues, and Spike ends up dangling off the roof between the painted breasts on the establishment’s sign.

The live-action adaptation differs from the original in a wide variety of ways, but one of the most glaring is the brothel sequence. The original Cowboy Bebop had its share of violence and nudity (and certainly plenty of barely-there outfits, like Faye’s), but it was rarely eyebrow-raising levels of explicit. The S&M brothel sequence is, and the contrast in tone between it and the original, in which Spike and Jet used Ein to get the criminal and wound up in a car chase, is off-putting. It’s unclear why the show needed a neon sign that said “PORN” to backlight the fight, or a hooker with a heavy accent to tell Jet and Spike the man was rich, or why on Earth she had to be smacking a man with a riding crop while he barked, gratingly, throughout the conversation.

COWBOY BEPOP (L to R) ELENA SATINE as JULIA in COWBOY BEPOP

KERRY BROWN/NETFLIX © 2021

For that matter, it’s also unclear why Vicious’ live-action-only storyline in this episode involves him murdering a whole lab of blinded, nude people he was using to create the Red-Eye, or why those scenes take as long and are as graphic as they are. An argument can be made that the nudity was a form of humiliation, which feels in-character for Vicious, but that’s never explained. But we really didn’t need an extended, bloody sequence of him and his henchmen gunning down these defenseless, naked people for viewers to know he’s not a good person. He almost killed his wife Julia (Elena Satine) twice in the previous episode.

At any rate, from the woman’s info, Spike and Jet are able to track the guy, who shares the name Hakim with the character from the anime and little else, to an “atmo farm.” Turns out, his tragic backstory is that he and his family were left behind on Earth when the apocalypse came, while the rich people for whom they worked used their escape pods on their dogs. His plan was to steal the dogs and kill them, but after he spent time with the canines, he just couldn’t go through with it. Spike and Jet almost convince him to let him take them in, but then the ISSP shows up and shoots him down — because they don’t want to pay the bounty or the reward.

Throughout the episode, Jet’s been trying to get his daughter a birthday present, a sought-after talking doll. The doll he bought was destroyed in the fight, but he picks up a corgi — Ein — as he and Spike leave the scene. Unfortunately for him, his ex-wife tells him he can’t let their daughter keep the pup, because it’d be too expensive, so Ein winds up on the Bebop. As he was always meant to.

While Jet’s away, Spike confronts Vicious from afar. Using a rifle that Ana left for him and a radio, he has a chat with Vicious while lurking behind some silos — and when he pulls the trigger, the bullet grazing Vicious’ cheek. It’s a clear warning to Vicious, but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll stop: If anything, “Fearless” has just made his situation a whole lot worse.

Cowboy Bebop, Season 1, Streaming Now, Netflix