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Cowboy Bebop Recap: Are You My Mother?

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For a while, I was concerned that “Galileo Hustle” would degrade our heroes to idiots in order to keep the plot moving. When Whitney, Faye’s adopted mother and a notorious hustler, appears at the beginning of the episode begging for assistance, there’s no reason for Faye to believe her. And after she meets the rest of the Bebop crew, despite Whitney’s efforts to influence them with a tragic narrative, amateur chiropracty, and a dish of handmade dumplings, there’s no reason for Spike and Jet to fall for the obvious scam she’s running.

That’s why it’s both a relief and a thrill when Spike and Jet see right through her after 15 minutes. A good twisting caper necessitates constant pacing and constant surprises, and “Galileo Hustle” has plenty of both.

Faye only agrees to assist Whitney because Whitney promises to finally give Faye her Identikit — the box containing whatever information has remained from Faye’s life before she awoke from cryo-sleep with amnesia. All Whitney asks in return is assistance in escaping her husband, an infamous arms dealer known as the Iron Mink. Faye is too educated and jaded to believe Whitney, but she is determined to learn everything she can about her history, so she agrees.

Spike and Jet are a very other story. It’s only been a few episodes since Faye joined the team, and it’s not obvious that the guys fully trust her yet — and given the near-constant line of betrayals that preceded her arrival, why would they? So when Jet runs a fast check of Whitney’s face and discovers an absurdly long rap sheet, it confirms his worst fear: Faye was a con woman all along, and they’ve been deceived yet again.

The episode is no longer about whether Whitney can do a cosmic version of The Sting; it’s about whether Spike and Jet, having suffered the sting of yet another betrayal, would rally around Faye when she needs them the most. And, much to Faye’s relief, the answer stays yes after some hedging and hawing. Spike and Jet agree to act as a distraction for the Iron Mink’s crew while Faye and Whitney sneak away to get Faye’s Identikit.

Both endings of the narrative are highly rewarding. The Spike-Jet distraction is primarily just for laughs, but it also features the show’s cleverest and best-staged battle sequence to yet, with Jet merrily watching his 8-year-old daughter’s dance recital while Spike fights an entire gang in the frame’s background.

Meanwhile, Faye and Whitney continue their mother-daughter con, successfully taking a car from a confused valet and speeding off to a warehouse that allegedly has Faye’s Identikit. As Whitney lavishly hails Faye as “smart, strong, and bold” and says she has always loved her like a daughter, it’s impossible not to predict the next stage of this scam, in which Faye softens toward Whitney just enough for her adoptive mother to stick another dagger in her back.

That’s why, at least as far as Whitney and Faye are concerned, the cleverest twist in “Galileo Hustle” is that there isn’t another layer to the deception. When they arrive at the warehouse, Faye opens her Identikit and discovers a VHS tape with the only remaining record of her life before to cryo-sleep. Unfortunately, the Iron Mink appears, having installed at least one unknown tracker on his wife, and holds the couple at gunpoint.

But, just as the Iron Mink is about to fire, Faye steps forward and defends Whitney as her mother, warts and all. Whitney takes a step forward and says the safe word. As she and the Iron Mink begin to kiss, it becomes evident that this ostensibly life-or-death attempt to leave her murderous husband was something altogether else. I’ve complained in previous recaps about how predictable this show can be, but I have to admit: I did not anticipate Whitney’s actual goal in this con to be an exceedingly intricate sex game.

As the happy couple continues to do their strange thing, Faye finds another method to prove herself Whitney’s daughter, spiritually if not physically. Whitney can’t help but smile as she snatches Whitney’s ship and blasts away from the warehouse: “That’s my girl,” she says to the Iron Mink, smiling.

But, while Whitney is and will always be a mother figure to Faye, she also had a birth mother. When she returns to the Bebop, she settles down to watch the video and finally meet her.

I enjoyed the whole of Cowboy Bebop’s first season, but this was the first time the show truly impacted me. In the film, adolescent Faye, awaiting cryo-sleep, celebrates for her future self while standing in front of a childhood home Faye can no longer recall. Faye’s birth mother, unseen but holding the camera, offers a few soft words of support while her child self exhibits a now-lost gift for playing the piano.

It’s not much, but it’s sufficient. Faye bursts into tears, partly because the film reminds her of everything she has lost. But, as she watches with Jet and Spike, it’s a reminder of everything she’s acquired – not the family she’s been looking for all along, but a family nevertheless.

• In our Syndicate subplot, Vicious and Mao visit the Eunuch vineyard and persuade him to join them in their plan to bring down the Elders. Later, Julia sneaks out to meet with Mao one-on-one and offers her plan: let the Elders execute Vicious so she can flee without the Syndicate pursuing her. It’s difficult to say where Mao stands on this, but it appears that Cowboy Bebop is setting up an endgame in which Julia replaces Vicious as the Syndicate’s main villain. We’ll see how it plays out – if the opening credits are any indication, there will be at least one confrontation between Spike and Vicious in front of a large stained-glass window before the season is up.

Stray Bullets

• “Galileo Hustle” changes the typical “SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY…” concluding text with “EASY COME, EASY GO…” – a straight quote from the original anime episode “Honky Tonk Woman,” which introduced Faye Valentine.

• Faye follows up her previous pitch for a shower-bath-shower with a pitch for double dinners, which is a fantastic concept.

• This time in antiquated technologies that reached it to space: Playboy mags, VHS videos, and at least one bottle of Earth wine.

• While we’re on the subject, the headlines on the Playboy cover were “College Shootball” and “Fucker Hunt.”

• Chalmers is correct: peonies, rather than lilies, are more wow for the Woo.

• This one appears to be a fine substitution, but I wouldn’t mind if someone posted Whitney’s official roast-pepper dumpling recipe.

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