‘Cowboy Bebop’: Jet’s Past Comes Back to Haunt Him (RECAP)

COWBOY BEBOP (L to R) MUSTAFA SHAKIR as JET BLACK in COWBOY BEBOP
Spoiler Alert
GEOFFREY SHORT/NETFLIX © 2021

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Netflix‘s Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 5, “Darkside Tango.”]

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop adaptation is at its best when it’s sticking to the original—which is why parts of “Darkside Tango” work pretty well. Jet’s (Mustafa Shakir) storyline is almost a one-to-one adaptation of his tale from “Black Dog Serenade,” which saw him tracking down a criminal named Udai Taxim. In the past, his pursuit of Udai left him bleeding out in an alleyway and, after, he left the police force.

That search, in both the live-action version and the anime, leads Jet to reunite with his old partner, Fad, in hopes of taking down the criminal (Udai escaped from a prison barge). There’s another layer added in for the live-action, though: Jet suspects that the officer his ex-wife is now with, Chalmers, was the one responsible for double-crossing him on the night he and Udai last met. Someone blinded him so that Udai could get away, and that left Jet framed for being a “dirty cop.” Given how involved Chalmers was in the investigation against him, Jet thinks it was him.

COWBOY BEBOP (L to R) DANIELLA PINEDA as FAYE VALENTINE in COWBOY BEBOP

GEOFFREY SHORT/NETFLIX © 2021

And throughout the episode, it does kind of seem like that could be the case; the boyfriend follows them as they search, appearing to not want them to get too close to Udai. Things escalate and Jet and his old partner track Udai to a shipyard, where Jet manages to confront the baddie. He asks the man who it was who set him up—and before Udai can answer, Jet’s partner shoots him. From there, it’s not hard to put two and two together: Jet’s partner was, in fact, the one who set him up to fall. He went to the Syndicate for money, and he served as their “inside man” on the force. But Jet’s investigation into corrupt cops got a little too close to him, and so he set Jet up to take the fall.

After he explains all of that, he tries to shoot Jet. Jet deflects the bullet with his metal arm, then he fires back, hitting Fad in the chest. He dies, and then Chalmers appears—he says he, too, suspected Fad was dirty and was trying to build a case against him. Now, that work is for nothing. And on top of that, Jet has just killed the only person who could clear his name.

John Cho as Spike, Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black, Daniella Pineda as Faye in Cowboy Bebop

Netflix

While all of this is going on, various B-plots are also unfolding, neither of which occurred in the original. One works better than the other. On the ship, we spend a little time with Spike (John Cho) and Faye (Daniella Pineda), who bicker and bond over which bounty to go after with Jet gone. They compare scars and compare stories, and while they never agree on a bounty to go after, they develop a grudging respect for each other.

This happens over time in the anime, as Spike and Faye were always at each other’s throats… but it was clear they respected each other, and she came to his rescue when he was in trouble. But nonetheless, in an adaptation that seems to be moving through the whole series in its first season in addition to an added subplot about Julia, there’s not much time to devote to the nuances of the Spike-Faye relationship, so getting their early hostility out of the way might be the right call. If nothing else, it’s fun to watch even though there’s little action; Cho and Pineda play well off each other.

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On the other side of that coin, the Julia-Vicious story remains slow-moving and somewhat baffling. The meeting Julia had Ana set up between Vicious and Mao comes to fruition, but Mao won’t agree to anything unless Julia sings for her. Vicious is outraged, but Julia complies. So, their next step is to meet with Santiago/”The Eunuch,” a man who has a reputation for cutting off bits of people who cross him and eating them. “You’ll never know true power until you’ve tasted the testicles of the man who has wronged you,” he says in a flashback. Uh, okay? And as the episode ends, Julia figures out that “Fearless” is alive. So, that’ll complicate things going forward.

Cowboy Bebop, All episodes now streaming, Netflix