‘Cowboy Bebop’: When Spike Met Julia… (RECAP)

COWBOY BEPOP (L to R) ELENA SATINE as JULIA in COWBOY BEPOP
Spoiler Alert
KERRY BROWN/NETFLIX © 2021

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 9, “Blue Crow Waltz.”]

After a season of teases and brief flashbacks, Cowboy Bebop took a break from the main story to focus on Spike (John Cho), Julia (Elena Satine), and Vicious (Alex Hassell) and their interconnected history. Needless to say, it’s a doozy—and the vast majority of it does not come directly from Bebop canon.

That’s not to say there’s nothing to enjoy about “Blue Crow Waltz.” In some ways, the episode is almost better because it’s largely untethered from the original—there is very little like it in the anime, so it suffers little from comparison. But it is plagued by the same issues that haunted earlier episodes; stilted dialogue, uninspired acting, and a romance with little chemistry between the leads. And in the end, the majority of the episode is “fill in the blank”-type info that viewers have likely already guessed by now.

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

KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021

As we know, Spike and Vicious worked together for the Syndicate and saw each other as brothers. We also know they both fell for Julia, but “Blue Crow Waltz” allows us to actually see Julia’s first moments on the stage and the men’s awestruck reactions. She becomes a star, but one that’s glimmer is dulled by her relationship with Vicious. They’re together from the start, but, again, as viewers already know, he has a dark side—one that Julia doesn’t recognize until it’s too late for her to break free from it.

Spike, on the other hand, knows Vicious’ dark side all too well. After a botched negotiation with a rival gang, both he and Vicious are on the outs with the Syndicate. Spike takes it in stride and seems to think they can work their way back up, but Vicious mopes. His moody, erratic behavior casts a dour mood over a date with Julia, and a far cheerier Spike, who is also present, winds up dancing with her. As they leave, Vicious spots one of the gang members and brutally beats him, leaving Spike to get Julia out of there; he takes her home, and, well, the rest is history.

But things are complicated for them, since Vicious would never allow Julia to follow her heart. And for Spike, the situation is even worse: The Syndicate wants him to kill Vicious, giving the reasoning that he’s become too much of a liability. If he doesn’t, his boss says, someone else will—he thinks Spike, as Vicious’ “brother,” will at least make it quick. But when push comes to shove, Spike can’t slit Vicious’ throat. Instead, Spike goes to the Blue Crow Club and… kills all of the rival gang members who would’ve had a bone to pick with Vicious. He also kills a child who witnessed the carnage.

COWBOY BEPOP (L to R) ALEX HASSELL as VICIOUS of COWBOY BEPOP

GEOFFREY SHORT/NETFLIX © 2021

After that, Spike and Julia agree to run away together. Spike gets Gren and Ana to make up new identities for them, but in the meantime, Vicious has learned about the affair. He has his people intercept Julia before she can meet Spike, and he then goes to meet his brother. He taunts him, saying that Julia chose him over Spike (not true), and then he, and his men, open fire. Spike falls into the water, and Vicious walks away. Of course, we know Spike survives—but not unscathed.

It bears mentioning that this isn’t how this happened in the source material, and the comparison actually robs Julia of some agency. In the Netflix adaptation, it’s implied Vicious forced her to marry him after he discovered she cheated on him with Spike; in the anime, he gives her a choice between going to meet Spike and killing him herself, or him killing them both. Julia runs away, not meeting Spike but not caving to Vicious’ demands, either. Yes, she had to be married to him for the plot of the show to happen as it does, but it’s a bit strange how the show convoluted Julia’s original story in order to give her back a level of agency she’d already had. Anyway, all three of them are “carrying that weight,” as the ending card reminds us.

Cowboy Bebop, All episodes now streaming, Netflix