What is it with Western shows and their pre-season finale flashback episodes? It’s a funny trend that continues in Cowboy Bebop. Yet, in a way, the timing is perfect as Spike’s fight with LeFou knocked him out land Vicious unleashed his wrath. So, once again we move away from the trio that is supposedly at the forefront of the series and explore Spike’s time as Fearless and what lead to his new identity. Is it worth the detour, or are we just treading water until the show comes to an end?
John Cho carries the show once again, but Alex Hassell does continue to have some fun with the role this time around. It feels like we get more of the unhinged version at times that we were given a glimpse of during the last episode. It does add a lot of weight to this interpretation of Vicious, who is described as mostly unhinged and childish. It’s definitely the character we’ve seen in the past episodes, but it does seem like a more cliché approach given how little he changes across the season’s runtime.
Julia also gets more character development, as we find out how exactly she met our two Syndicate members. I’ll be honest, the romance feels a bit rushed here, especially when you consider how strong it was in “Binary Two-Step.” Elena Satine gives a good performance but having to know how she became a singer didn’t seem like a necessary addition to this story. Her introduction through the song may have been more efficient as it adds a layer of mystique to her that is gone, especially given what happens in the finale.
The strength of the episode, however, lies in Fearless’ storyline. We finally find out what the references for what he blames himself for were all about. It’s a strong moment that punctuates a well-done action sequence, but it adds one point of confusion. He has his affair with Julia, who Vicious is dating at the time, but also goes out of his way to save his “best friend.” While I get why he wants to leave the Syndicate and it’s a rushed action out of love, it still seems like the build-up to that moment was a bit, lacking. That’s kind of the drawback of telling this entire story in an episode, just in time to highlight the eventual meeting of everyone involved in the finale.
While a lot happens in this episode, it feels like there’s not that much to talk about. We mostly get some clarifications on some smaller elements that were built up, but it felt like it could’ve been also scattered through flashbacks by Spike. I liked the idea to use the new storytelling structure to build up the mystery of our protagonist’s time with the evil corporation, but it’s not the strongest landing. Most revelation or story elements were already hinted at, which makes most of the “bigger revelations” less impactful s they could’ve been. It’s a competently made episode with some strong moments but a bit forgettable overall. Here’s hoping the finale can continue where episode eight left us off on.