Once again, we open up to find Spike stranded on some desert planet. The Swordfish II is in disrepair and he’s biding his time, trying to hitch a ride back to civilization. Meanwhile, the rest of the Bebop crew are trying to nab this band of space pirates, though every plan they come up with tends to backfire. All in all, it’s just another day for our plucky crew, leading us to another wild adventure.
1. Embracing a Relic
Cowboy Bebop wears its Western influence on its sleeve. The bounty hunters are called cowboys, the world they inhabit is wild and untamed, full of danger and criminals and people trying to find a new home or name for themselves. The show has used elements of the Western extensively but until “Wild Horses,” I don’t think it was ever the show’s prominent genre.
There’s a romanticism in this session, a desire to create awe, to make us cheer for the old guy able to raise him and prove he hasn’t been involved in some crazy lot of nothing over the years. You kind of want the bad guys to succeed but you want to see our heroes put them in their place in the end regardless. Everything is constantly falling apart in the world of Cowboy Bebop and no matter what anyone does, it doesn’t seem like it’s reparable. Which makes the whole idea of the old technology saving the day sort of odd in the broader scheme of the show, though I think it still works overall.
2. Fast Talkers
Maybe it’s been a while, or maybe the last bunch of sessions have blended together in my head a bit, but it seems like it’s been a while since Cowboy Bebop gave us our last quick talker. “Wild Horses” introduces us to the old man’s assistant, Miles. He loves baseball (including a team who don’t seem to be very good) and motorcycles, doesn’t think he’s appreciated by his big boss. He has a lot of similar traits to the guy from “Waltz for Venus,” though he survives this one. Everyone’s so dour all throughout Cowboy Bebop, so having a character like this come back is a welcome trope.
3. The Follies of Technology
The big turning point in this session comes when Spike goes after the space pirates. Watanabe and crew established in an earlier chase they use these harpoons loaded with a computer virus tobreach the hull of the various ships, take control of their mono-computer systems, and wreak havoc. Because this was the ’90s and frankly everyone was still sort of guessing about how computers worked. When it happens to the Bebop, the crew finds themselves stuck at an impasse, all their fuel and weapons spent. Even Ed can’t do anything as she waits for Jet to finish repairing the system.
The crew meets their own end by launching a whole slew of these harpoons at Spike’s Swordfish. One of them gets turned around
and penetrates them, and that’s the end of that plot line.
Cowboy Bebop has never been above presenting us with cool gadgets and tech, but it maintains its romantic spirit here by making it so easily obsolete and self-defacing.
4. All the Pieces Being Set
There are a lot more elements of the show coming to its close. We’ve seen plenty of other people tell Spike he’s crazy, that he needs to step back. Scattered throughout all these sessions there’s been references to what happens to a warrior’s soul or the meaning of a shooting star or whatever. But the foreshadowing is definitely in place in “Wild Horses.” “If you really keep pushing yourself like this, you’re going to find yourself being cut down for good,” says the old mechanic. “I’m not really the cautious type,” Spike replies.
5. One Hundred Years of Awe
Everything in this session leads up to Doohan coming to rescue a stranded Spike floating in orbit, waiting to die. Turns out, the passion project he’s been working on is a retrofitted space shuttle, a Columbia no less. The show plays it big when the hanger doors open and the shuttle launches off. Frankly, there probably wasn’t any other way to do this reveal.Continued below
I don’t know, there’s still something inspiring about that kind of ship. It cuts through the air, a sky dolphin. The animators at Sunrise also have a soft place in their hearts for it. From the shot of Miles leading the way in his giant truck to it barely making it out of the atmosphere to intercept the Swordfish, this scene has this huge heart and respect for the shuttle. Has there ever been any other ship that has so easily been able to capture our imagination?
What did you think? Let us know in the comments and we’ll see you next time, space cowboys, for our encounter with “Pierrot Le Fou.”