Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Whole Damn Thing--COWBOY BEBOP #5

Hi amigos! All 300,000 bounty hunters in the solar system, how y'all doin? It's time once again for another installment of Witless Prattle's continuing (and halfway over) coverage of the entirety of Cowboy Bebop.

This week, we have what one might consider a bit of a palate cleanser before the finale. These aren't quite as deep an exercise into character as episodes previous to this have been, or indeed as the final three will be, but they're interesting little adventures and are our last opportunity to see the Bebop crew doing their thing . . .well, before what happens happens, that is.

"Unlike someone else here, I always return what I owe!"

There's a nice bit of foreshadowing in the opening scene of Spike thumbing a ride. It means nothing if you haven't seen the finale episode, but it's been telegraphed a couple times by now, if you've been paying attention.

And talking of foreshadowing and repeated motifs through the series, Jet and Faye are fishing. Well, metaphorically speaking. They're trying to capture a group of space pirates who paralyse their prey with a computer virus delivered through a grappling line (this shouldn't be necessary, but Bebop is not really all that interested in science beyond what's needed to set up the premise) which paralyses the MONO system (a universal control system for ships in the Bebop universe) and allows them to hijack and/or capture said craft.

While we get a decent space battle of it, it's not really the point of the episode, as much as it is to fill in a bit of backstory with Spike and his relationship to Doohan, the man who gave him his fighter, the Swordfish (all the Bebop fighters are named after fish--see what I mean about repated motifs?--the other two are Faye's Redtail and Jet's Hammerhead) Doohan has been drafted as Spike's mechanic, as Spike is pretty reckless with his ship (not unlike every other single thing Spike is involved with) and apparently they've done this song and dance many times--Doohan grumbles about fixing it, Spike says he's not the careful type, lather rinse repeat.

Spike has no great attachment to his ship, which Miles interestingly compares to "being in love with the wrong woman." Spike just harrumphs and says it's just an old she ship he can't seem to get rid of, and aren't there just a dozen ways you could read that?

"Wild Horses" isn't really deep, as much as it is a romp. There are some cool bits--the space fight, the space shuttle Columbia being towed by a tank (OK, that one's more bittersweet) but it's a bit thin on meat (and that CGI model has not aged well) but Bebop, like pizza, is pretty good even what it's average.

"There's nothing more pure and more cruel as a child."

Man, the promo for this episode is messed up and really sets the tone for how creepy the episode itself is. It is, according to the creators a homage to Batman: The Animated Series, but I'll be damned if I've ever really worked out how, except in the obvious ways and stylistic touches.

Spike, after leaving a pool hall (called, amusingly enough, "C'est La Vie.") has the misfortune to run into Mad Pierrot, the villain of the episode, finishing up his task of murdering a few dozen someones. Pierrot isn't the sort to abide witnesses, and Spike isn't the type to allow himself to get murdered, so they're at loggerheads.

Trouble is, Pierrot has a force field that blocks every kind of attack thrown his way and has more guns on him than a year's subscription to Guns and Ammo. He also fights a bit like Pom Pom from Homestar Runner, which works far better than you'd think.

And Spike ends up a bandaged mess convalescing aboard the Bebop, a situation which even Faye can recall as familiar. But Spike being Spike, he's determined to settle the score with Pierrot whether he's at full force or not.

He toys with Faye by suggesting that this may be the fight he doesn't return from and asks if she'd go to save him, which is just him winding up Faye and if in no way shape or form any kind of foreshadowing. Additionally, all the stuff about eyes in this episode and how the cat that Pierrot is really terrified of has eyes of two different colours has nothing to do with anything. Nope. Not a thing.

"Pierrot Le Fou" is a pretty exciting episode, somewhat trippy and has a very heavy and dark conclusion, but if you think about it for more than five minutes, it looks a bit ramshackle, as all the pieces don't really fit comfortably together, and when the action is not constantly pushing things along, one notices the flaws. But the action and the mise-en-scene are pretty strong, and I find myself liking the episode anyways.

"Hot dog bun! Not too young!"

Man, this is going to be a short one. An old acquaintance of Jet's ropes him into an overly intricate plot involving his daughter and feng shui. Lots of feng shui.

I'm kinda glad we get one encounter from Jet's past that doesn't end in heartbreak for him, but I gotta be honest--this one doesn't really do it for me. There's a few fitful moments where it might have come together into something interesting--the comparison of feng shui as more active as compared to fortune telling (which bebop has never been shy about portraying as rather futile) and the notion of a treasure hunt with a feng shui twist is an intriguing enough concept.

However, I can't help but feel I would have gotten more out of this if I understood more intimately the underlying concepts of feng shui. But I don't, so it's just kinda . . .there.

"Yeah, and the teddy bear suit wasn't a tip-off at all."

This may be one of the most beloved episodes of the show, now that I think about it. On the trail of a serial bomber known as the Teddy Bomber (who I am contractually obligated to point out--just like everyone else who comments on this episode--is based on the Unabomber) Spike is constantly thwarted by Andy, who, in addition to being an utter lunatic, gets under his skin, because though he won't admit it (and everyone else will) they're very much alike.

Andy and Spike have an interesting relationship--they are alike, but not exactly, as Andy is way more light and upbeat (whether that is the serene certainty of the idiot I leave to you to judge) as compared to Spike. Probably Andy puts it best when he proposes a toast to himself "Reflected in [Faye's] eye." (and isn't that turn of phrase just brimming with meaning)

The whole hunt for Teddy Bomber is a bit of a punchline--whenever Andy and Spike get together, they're almost as destructive in their way as Teddy Bomber is, and the whole running gag of Teddy Bomber getting interrupted every time he's about to deliver his reasons for his bombing spree, it's basically the episode intentionally marginalising what one is led to beleive is the main focus of the episode.

"Cowboy Funk" is a lot of fun and carries a surprising amount of weight in terms of character insight, but doesn't bog itself down in trying to make itself seem more profound than it it is with a lot of forced melodrama. Andy is a one-shot character who doesn't outstay his welcome and manages to shed a little light on what Spike would be if he were just a little different.

That is--he would be utterly ridiculous.

And that's it for now. Join us next week when we finish out the series proper, and owing to spoilers, I'm not gonna tip my hand about what awaits. It's "Brain Scratch"; "Hard Luck Woman" and "The Real Folk Blues, Parts 1 and 2." Join us then!

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