When I started the review series of the various episodes of Cowboy Bebop, I didn’t expect that the season finale review would turn into the series finale. Yet, as Netflix has decided not to continue with their work on the project, it seems like this is our take now. It looks like my planned piece on what they could improve on for the second season goes out the window, and it’s time to take a closer look at the final episode on the live-action take of this live-action adaptation and see if it somehow sticks the landing.
We continue where we left off with Spike in the eight-episode, as he awakens back in Ana’s jazz bar, where he finds out why she’s been walking in a cane. His friends come in for the rescue with probably one of my favorite moments. Jet realizes Spike is okay and goes on to give him a giant bear hug just shows how much he cares for him. All that only for the series pulls the rug from under us when he finds out his partner worked for the Syndicate and got his daughter kidnapped.
At that moment, it made you realize why he had a daughter in this adaptation. It was the perfect device to drag him into the final conflict, as most Western series focus strongly on having all story points come together in a finale. While it doesn’t hold the same weight as the original, the inclusion of others takes away from the personal moment that this storyline was in “Ballad of Fallen Angels.” It’s strange that most of the time they keep the cast separate, but this is the first time they force them back together in a story that is originally meant purely for Spike.
Still, we get some great moments like Spike and Jet’s exchange. Faye’s “last-minute” save was also a nice moment as she still came back for them, but it did make me question why in the world she managed to find a hint at her past in the same spot that Spike happened to fight Mad Pierrot. As they go out of their way to build connections that weren’t there before, this one felt a bit forced. It also brings the team together only to split them up again for what would’ve been a second season that seems like what the writers love doing.
Vicious and Spike get their confrontation and Alex Hassell’s take on the character ends up being the most cartoony in this entry. The faces he makes are quite hilarious, especially when he is in “stabby” mood – even if it feels like it undercuts the intensity he sometimes tries to convey. Still, his maniac personality remains consistent with what we learned about him from the previous episode and see it in action. Even if it feels like this version of Spike could wipe the floor with him normally.
The biggest departure is the twist at the end when Julia shows up, shoots Vicious and undermines their rivalry, and then decides she’ll become the Syndicate’s new ruler. While it would’ve opened up a potentially new direction for the series to make it stand out from the original, there is a certain lack of set-up about this betrayal. Yes, she was mad she lived in the shadow of Vicious and Spike never came to save her, but this is the case where knowing less might’ve made this character more interesting even if Elena Satine gives a great performance.
In the end, it doesn’t quite stick the landing but does offer at least a fun end to an overall enjoyable experience. It’s still sad that we won’t get more out of the series, but it did give us some exceptional performances from John Cho and Mustafah Shakir. It lacked the subtlety of the original in many ways and struggled quite a bit to find a balance between source material and making it its own, but there were some great ideas throughout. Here’s hoping this is a learning experience for Netflix and Tomorrow Studios when they start working on the One Piece series.