Cowboy Bebop: Misty Blue

This is a part of my “Alternate Take” on Bebop, basically a relook at the same series but from a different perspective. You can click here for background on that. This is a four-part series on the relationship of Spike x Faye across the entire series. The others can be accessed below:

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Spike x Faye

Jupiter Jazz is a very pivotal episode for the series in many ways but especially so in the context of these two characters. It starts off with Faye running away from the ship. We do understand eventually she has run away in a large way because of Spike. She really has no reason to have an issue with Jet or Ed at this point and the way she runs away is fairly childish, clearly calling attention to the act of leaving itself (she leaves a letter, empties out the safe when she could’ve just taken a bit since Jet was clearly not keeping tab, and why suck out the coolant?). Plus, she takes his shearling jacket with her. Her motives here are complex but we are explained later that the general situation of being around people she’s beginning to get attached to triggers her fear of abandonment and she runs before they can leave her. This is the first episode which gives us an actual insight into what is going on within Faye, things which are brushed away under humour up to this point.

I feel Toys in the Attic was likely placed anachronistically just before this episode, since it’s a lighter one, to buffer and create a contrast with the dramatic events of Jupiter Jazz (will refer to it as JJ now), and to foreshadow the ‘pivot’ in JJ which results in the events of Real Folk Blues (RFB) being about Spike protecting his crew and not the revenge story we normally believe.

But Jupiter Jazz maybe continues from Ganymede Elegy where Spike has insulted Faye by telling her not all women are like her. We may understand that remark hurts her more than we are shown her displaying at the time since she follows it up with the sunbathing sequence mentioned earlier.

No one really shows their real emotions out here anyway-we find out later through something else that they were actually impacted by a particular moment which they laughed off or ignored otherwise (e.g. Spike making fun of Faye’s story in My Funny Valentine but we realise later he does understand its implications and it’s bothered him). In the Japanese version, the dialogue in Ganymede Elegy goes a bit differently than the English one. It is right after this sequence that she decides to sunbathe on the deck grumbling about men, perhaps to just spite or entice him, but he flies off ignoring her.

Or maybe just the general being around people who begin to feel like home overwhelms her emotionally and makes her lash out by running away, to subconsciously test if they truly care, if they will come after her or not. This kind of behaviour is very characteristic of people who have faced trauma or grown up with it.

At the beginning of Jupiter Jazz, Spike reads Faye’s message in a monotone. On the face of it he seems to assume it just an act and is skeptical. He might be concerned about her or baffled at why she has suddenly left but, in classic Spike fashion, expresses nothing but joy.

We as the audience are used to being guided in our perception of a particular situation based on how our protagonists treat it. Therefore, when Spike brushes it away as ‘good riddance’ and just an act on her part, we may also initially write it off on the same tone of humour, especially since we have seen Faye largely only in comedic contexts so far. It’s only when Jet points out she has run away in a sector which is dangerous that we understand the implications of the situation. It’s only when we see her sitting in the bar truly broken over something, when we see her try to launch into self-destructive behaviour by trying to pick a fight with dangerous people, and hear her conversation with Gren at his home, that we realise something deeper is up with her. Something has seriously gone wrong to make her run away and it’s not an act.

Jupiter Jazz as an episode shows us multiple aspects of Faye which we have not seen before then. We have never seen her actively go out and seek danger without a bounty involved, never seen her spar with anyone, not really. She has come across as someone very self-serving and focused on preservation of herself. But in this, we get to see her empty and untethered, nursing a callous disregard for her own well-being, a deathwish almost, which is a complete contrast to this image.

This is the first episode in which we see the true Faye, divested of the forced desire for money, more pensive, intelligent, vulnerable, and expressive than she has been before. We also begin to understand that maybe the person we have seen so far is just one aspect of her.

The sequence between Faye and Gren at his home is the first time we see the extent of pain Faye truly is in. Though we still don’t know her full story, we do get to see how much she represses her own emotions. She can’t even voice the true reasons for why she has run away to Gren since her emotional aspect is so damaged by her horrible experiences.

She expresses indifference toward dying and tells him she doesn’t need any comrades. She mentions bitterly how she ends up worrying about things she doesn’t need to worry about. There is only one individual we have been shown causing her worry so far but she doesn’t say it directly obviously, talking instead about how men end up fighting over her which is the exact opposite of what is happening. She finds herself needing the attention of a particular man but it is not forthcoming and it hurts her to the extent of abandoning everything and coming to a place where she may just end up dead.

And that’s why I feel we are to understand it is Spike’s remark or something similar which triggers her. Spike is clueless to the fact that she woke up to this world as a naive young girl but has had to build herself up to the way she is. He reacts out of his own space of emotional conflict, hitting out at her. She is likely already nursing insecurities about not being good enough for anyone (recall her bit in Mish Mash Blues where she talks about her clothing and personality driving all the good men away) and a stray, callous remark made by him without knowing her background, one making her seem inferior to other women and coming from someone she seems to have developed feelings for, hurts her more than she can handle. Faye suppresses her feelings since they would make her weak while she needs to survive, building up the exterior of a tough and difficult woman, but at the end of the day that’s not who she really is.

Of course, we understand later how this additional pain, added to everything else already in her kitty, would be the breaking point for her. Being alone she did not have to feel this way so she chooses to run away from the situation but with the secret hope that she would be pursued. As she talks about it being better to feel alone by yourself than in a group, there is a deliberate shot panning up to Spike’s hanging jacket which she has also stolen leaving him with the puffy coat. We have seen this jacket in the ending credits before and it is symbolic of her to take that as she runs away. We have seen her with other coats and clothing before so it’s not like this was all she had. We can’t help who we fall for and for Faye, she does not see a way out of the situation other than to avoid it completely.

Spike x Faye
Cowboy Bebop

Her running away is also about her larger insecurity of being abandoned to some extent, something which both Jet and Gren seem to understand but to which Spike remains or acts clueless. His priority right now is Julia.

When Jet comes to find Faye and takes her back home we do get a sense of how much she needed that. Thanks Aldrean for pointing out that, when Jet does show up she says “Oh, it’s you” almost as if she was expecting someone else. She doesn’t resist or anything, just gets towed back to the ship by him like a sleepy child. Faye’s running away was act of childish rebellion and trying to attract attention but she likely receives the attention from the wrong individual, disappointing her.

Spike here is a contrast to both Jet and Gren-his skeptical and apathetic reaction is an imbalance (maybe all that hair is cutting off circulation to his brain?). He is completely out of touch with his emotions and intuition which causes him to be out of touch with those of others as well. He pretends to not understand the implications of Faye running away and remains or acts clueless to her feelings toward him in general. He also suppresses the feelings emerging in him toward her (she tags in at the end of his flashback). Both Spike and Faye are very similar in this context, both out of touch with their emotions, repressing them to another level due to their circumstances. Both have had rough lives, been let down by people they counted on, and have been damaged in similar ways. Essentially, both are partial individuals looking for someone to allow them be whole, a partner who allows psychological safety and reciprocity, but neither has found it yet.

Jupiter Jazz again reinforces the theme of entwined paths which was built through the Aces in Ballad of Fallen Angels. Faye ends up in a place where she is in Julia’s footsteps without even knowing it, similar to her humming earlier. She becomes involved in a part of Spike’s life without meaning to. This is driven deliberately through the scene where she spots Vicious in Gren’s old photograph and immediately recognises his voice on the answering machine. As a viewer, you are reminded how close a brush she has had with his past.

In the context of Spike in this episode, he is frantically searching for what he thinks is a person who will make him feel whole again but he ends up finding only a cold trail with a false lead. He is not emotionally sound, missing the person he believes loved him but whom he has not seen in three years and does not know if he ever will see again. I feel a very critical pivot happens for Spike during this arc which makes him begin to doubt the reality of his romance. Through his interactions with Vicious and Gren, getting to know that Julia was the common thread in all of this, he seems to reach an understanding that he was set up. Whatever he knows of his relationship with her was a lie and she is still involved with Vicious. I’ve talked about that in detail here so if you wish to, you can just pop over there and read it.

If this pivot were not to have happened at this point then our hero basically ends up looking like a royal fuckboy later on, playing on the emotions of two women, which is not how his character is built in the series. That’s not the message the show gives us at any point. Men who behave badly toward women are ridiculed in the narrative largely or are antagonists.

The muted pivot of these two episodes finally begins to allow Spike to move beyond the fidelity (emotional at-least) he has been holding out for someone who is not even there in his life anymore and likely was a figment of his imagination. The person he held in his mind was a perception built through a lover’s eyes but in truth she has been someone quite different all along and he can’t go back to that ever again. I feel he lets go of her completely here and she is no longer a priority for him from here on out. That’s why he meets her so coldly in the finale and is depicted as pointedly distant while displaying emotion toward everyone else.

We are also given a clue here that Faye holds more importance for Spike at this point than he is letting on through the tagging of her memory in his flashback as he comes back to consciousness. It’s from the exact same point where she was last equated to Julia for him. It feels like a foreshadowing of what is to come, another key factor in the “pivot” since as he opens his eye from this flashback, the camera pans to his right eye, representative of the present. In the next chronological flashback he is seen to have (the CB movie), there are no images from his past, nothing of Julia. He begins the episode pretending like he’s happy she has left and does not care what happens to her but that reaction is again similar to him forcefully suppressing feelings he views as “wrong” at that point in time, the same way he does at the end of Ballad of Fallen Angels.

Also significant is the post-credits sequence at the end of the first part of Jupiter Jazz which has just Faye and Spike talking about men and women. She mentions ‘women are hiding more vital secrets than men’ foreshadowing the theme of deception which comes up in the next episode. Spike also talks about liking women who are not usually feminine but show that side of themselves sometimes.

He quickly follows it up with telling her he is not talking about her but that’s Spike being contradictory/deflective again since Jupiter Jazz is the first time that we see the softer, more vulnerable side of Faye. This part is again often interpreted to be about Julia which I don’t for the life of me understand the logic behind since Julia is shown as classically “feminine” consistently in most of Spike’s flashbacks and when she does make an appearance we see a slightly tougher side of her but even then she is mostly stereotypically feminine in her appearance and behaviour. In Jamming with Edward, Spike is specifically shown calling Faye a tomboy (in the sub version-in the dub this is changed to “women with attitudes” for some reason, screwing up the context completely) while listing out the three things he supposedly “hates.” These two episodes are very significant for the equation of Spike and Faye and hence it seems they are shown to be having this dialogue here. It is even accentuated by Ed and Jet wondering if he could be talking about them, as if bringing attention to the fact that ‘Really? If it’s not her then who else could you be talking about?’ The episodes also have a theme of masculinity and femininity which ties in somewhat with these two.

We don’t see Spike jump into acting on any feelings for Faye immediately though and I don’t think they go very deep at this point either since he does not know Faye yet in the way he is about to get to know her. Similar to how she has ended up being the only one in his life who knows both sides of him, the narrative proceeds from here on to put him in the exact same space for her.

Something interesting happens in Jupiter Jazz, I feel. As Spike becomes more free to allow himself to feel something for someone new, and we do see him begin acting on this slowly, Faye builds an understanding that there is someone existing in his life romantically and actually withdraws from the situation. They move in opposite directions. At the end of the episode we see her asking Jet about Julia and then later musing over the name back on the ship as well (The “anything but blue” line in the English dub here is an anomaly since in the sub she simply tells Ed she is not being cute). It feels like she understands now that the reason for Spike’s emotional unavailability has been a lover he has unfinished business with and steps out of the situation herself, suppressing what she feels for him. We are no longer shown any sequences equating to her looking out the window with concern, running away leaving trails for him to chase, or taunting him through sexual tension.

What also happens now is that the same deflection which both Spike and Faye practice toward each other is what the show practices toward the viewer. The progression of their story is buried down in clues and fleeting sequences which you really have to hunker down and pay attention to in order to catch what’s going on. If you miss the pivot in Spike’s understanding of and feelings toward Julia during Jupiter Jazz, you end up following a false trail for the rest of the narrative and it gives everything a completely different meaning. Understanding the love story of Spike and Faye is not just about fluff or “shipping” one love interest over another. It’s extremely critical to understanding what happens in the rest of the show and correctly understanding the character development of Spike himself, the lessons in the series, and its resolution.

Comprehending the fact that from this point on Spike proceeds to fall in love with Faye to the point that by the end of the series he describes her as “his other half” and the “piece” of him he had lost somewhere (and I’ll point out what supports this, am not just conjecturing it because I like the idea or some such) is understanding the narrative rightly from here on out. It means comprehending the meaning and motivations behind what he says and does in the finale, why he goes to confront Vicious at-all even after Julia is dead. It redefines his entire relationship with Jet and the meaning his life on the Bebop holds for him.

Without this understanding, our image of Spike as a character gets flawed drastically. We come to view him as self-centered, a prisoner to his past, a thankless man to whom the people in his life mean little compared to one illusory woman he loved, a man who cannot discern what is good for him, someone with a death wish just waiting to die.

We see him get a deep understanding into the horrible life circumstances of Faye but feel he doesn’t care because he is so hung up on his past that these things hold little meaning. His requesting Faye for reassurance that she cares for him as he is forced to set out on a potentially suicidal mission in Pierrot Le Fou appears to us as him just playing around with her feelings while being firmly ensconced in the love for another woman. The value of his life on the Bebop and Jet’s importance to him reduces since we feel he disrespects and brushes off Jet’s good advice to let go of the past, that he does not see his new life and people as a reason worthy of going on once his presumed lover is dead. We assume he is a man not in control of his emotions, lacking in emotional resilience, a dark character and a weak man, thirsty for revenge.

In truth, he is a man who lets go of his past quite practically once he realises he does not owe fealty where he thought he did, who is sensitive to the plight of others, especially Faye, a guy who values the people in his life, and who is in love by the end with a woman who makes him want to go on living (again, not pulling this out of thin air). He moves from living like his life does not matter to actually having a reason to live for by the end.

And we cannot be blamed for making this mistake either because we were intended to make this mistake. It’s a mistake which both Faye and Jet make as well and their perspectives are used to misguide us too.

What this confusion ends up meaning is that where we are supposed to let go of Julia, we don’t, and carry on with an all-encompassing, illusive veil of her hanging over us till the very end, a character we have never actually seen except through Spike’s memories which were a lover’s fond memories, likely to glorify her more than anything else. We have seen her twice in his memories and then we see her again at the end. When our hero lets go of her, we don’t, so in our minds she becomes the defining factor for the rest of the episodes, the woman he loves so much that nothing shakes his resolve toward her. Everything is about her to the extent that all else we see on screen is meaningless.

We do exactly what Faye does-assume Julia’s continued presence and influence in Spike’s life and build a fantasy in our heads. It’s the reason why Faye ends up misunderstanding his actions and motivations completely from here on out. And so do we, even though there is an undercurrent of something deeper happening, but not easy to grasp because you are following the wrong narrative than the one needed to understand it. We believe that he fights a war for Julia, casts aside friends who risk their lives for him just to get revenge for her. She is everything. So we try to build an image of someone deserving of this dramatic and extraordinary commitment, a woman so remarkable that someone like Spike does all this for her. Someone who is infinitely more important to him than the characters we have spent 24 episodes with him building our investment in. But it’s a false trail and that’s why we end up an emotional mess at the end.

We imagine Julia as a character much larger than life and put that illusion on her even when she finally does appear on screen. In truth, the character we see on screen is not a very remarkable woman compared to the kind of women we have already been seeing. She truly is an ordinary woman. Faye describes her correctly when she says this but then she adds in things which she believes to be true but are actually attributable to her own obsessive thinking trying to figure out what kind of woman someone like Spike would love, again a strain of thinking which the audience have also been doing along with her.

When she says Julia is the kind of ordinary woman you can’t leave alone, Faye is unconsciously voicing out the fact that she herself can’t leave alone the idea of trying to figure out what appeal a woman so ordinary holds for a man like Spike. Ever had that moment where your friend introduces you to their significant other and you think “Why are they with this person? What do they see in them?” Then you assume maybe they have some outstanding qualities you are missing.

Faye calls Julia ‘an angel from hell or a devil from paradise’ after having spent only a few minutes with her, which is again very odd. You cannot judge someone so well this quickly. In truth, Faye is describing herself and superimposing that image on Julia. This again further confuses the audience because yes, makes sense-Spike would definitely love a woman who fits that description but we really don’t see Julia do anything angelic or devilish in the brief interaction we have with her and neither does Faye.

What happens with Faye here is in line with what the viewer does as well when building their image of Julia. The only direct point of comparison between Julia and Faye that we ever get in the series is Spike’s description of Julia as ‘his woman’ and of Faye as ‘the other woman’ in Jupiter Jazz. He never speaks of the two women in the same sentence ever again. But he is our protagonist and his opinion is key so our mind begins building from this particular point of reference. Actually, even when he juxtaposes both of them this way, we have already been shown Faye holds greater significance for him than he is letting on.

So we design who Julia is based on the belief that she is “Spike’s woman” and Faye is the “other woman,” our premise being that Spike continues to reject Faye for Julia throughout the narrative. It causes us to infer that no matter how amazing, Faye must still be an inferior woman to Julia. We don’t really see it happening and have no proof of it but the idea builds up in our head. Is it the way she dresses? Is it her brash nature? Because the Julia we have seen in Spike’s memories is sweet and homely while Faye is shown gambling, eating the others’ food, lying etc. Of course they don’t compare. We underplay the good we see of Faye which is actually a lot more than these ‘low points’ for her character and compare her at her worst to the best memories of Julia from Spike’s limited collection. So we think Julia must be a lot more than Faye is in every aspect when, in truth, she really is not. Spike himself is deeply flawed and has his own ridiculous character qualities.

The episodes of Bebop fall into two categories-comic and serious, with little to no overlap. In the comic episodes we see all our characters have very weird quirks and flaws. In the humorous episodes, Faye gambles and does some very unlady-like things but we also see Spike being an obnoxious ass. In the serious episodes, they are both very different, far more remarkable creatures. We see Julia only in the serious episodes. So while we are building our biased temple to the imagined figment of Julia, it is very easy to compare ‘comic episode ‘Faye to ‘serious episode’ Spike and the ‘serious episode-only’ Julia, thus branding her inferior both as a woman and as a love interest (Shinumaru (sorry I realised later this was asked by Oscar)-I hope this answers your question).

For instance, the Julia we meet is not very skilled in combat but since we are anyway filling in the blanks flatteringly based on an understanding that she is ultimate, our mind fills in that she is actually really skilled and we just happened to not see it in the few shots we got of her, even though this is depicted consistently in two sequences. Her skill and ability to handle herself in the rooftop sequence where she finally dies placed against how Spike handles the fight or against any sequence in the show where Faye and Spike team up on a mission does not really compare. When Faye meets her as well, the two women are juxtaposed against Faye’s far superior skill and instinct in dealing with the situation, her humility in telling Julia right back that she saved her life as well when Faye had been in no danger in the first place. She could have stayed a bystander. But to our mind, Faye remains inferior on some level despite all this, despite knowing that Julia is from a Syndicate background while Faye has learned all she has in only three years.

It’s only once you realise that you as a viewer are continuing with the myth of this woman whom the protagonist has long since let go of that the pieces actually begin to make sense. But since the show has built up Julia’s myth to us as Spike’s lost love very perceptibly while downplaying when he begins to move away from that love, we continue to carry the torch.

In fact, it tells us more about who the true Julia is supposed to be that we are shown Spike is able to put two and two together and reach a very conclusive decision about her by the point we reach the culminating episodes of the series. He is anguished for her initially but does realise he has been deceived and lied to and moves on. The fact that he is able to do this tells us what he had with her was most likely a fling. He felt responsible while he believed she was on the run to protect him but once he knows that is not true, he is able to put the lingering ghost to rest and move on.

Jupiter Jazz has a theme of loving the wrong person and how devastating that can be, the loss of one’s own identity due to the betrayal of someone you trusted. It’s also about holding on to the past and how destructive that can be. Vicious had been leaving Gren alone but he goes to seek him out, losing his life in the process. At the end of the episode, Gren chooses to return back to his past Titan while Spike begins to let go of his. What we see him confronting at the end are lingering ghosts who refuse to let go of him, not something which holds meaning for him any longer.

For more Cowboy Bebop Essays, please click here

This is a part of my “Alternate Take” on Bebop, basically a relook at the same series but from a different perspective. You can click here for background on that. This is a four-part series on the relationship of Spike and Faye across the entire series. The others can be accessed below:

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PlutoMango

I am a mango who lives on Pluto. I like to write, you like to read. That makes us official best friends.

22 thoughts on “Cowboy Bebop: Misty Blue”

  1. When Jet rescues Faye doesn’t she say something all emotionless like “oh it’s you” ? Like perhaps she’d still deep down hoped someone else might come get her… After Brain Scratch her reaction to her “savior” is a bit more hopeful and happy if I am recalling tone correctly

    1. Oh yes absolutely. She runs away specifically with his jacket. That’s again one of those situations where we’re not told anything but shown a contrast.

  2. Oh mannnn! That’s a pretty awesome way of looking at it and yeah I got my answer. I guess the illusion thing is what I was thinking from….liek we are conditioned that way so…I totally get that explanation though it goes pretty deep with that Faye thing. How’d you come up with that insight? It’s like you got a window in her head man. I loved this.

    1. My apologies. I realised later the question was asked by someone else and I mentioned it with your name. Thanks so much for playing along. Haha.
      I’ve just always found that description by Faye strange. Like you don’t understand a person that fast. It took a bit of introspection and I mean it’s just my take on it. Not like I have any way of knowing what they truly intended but as I was writing in a flow that just struck.

    2. Actually it’s like…when people are in unrequited love and the object of their affection is with someone else, there is a tendency to over-inflate your image of that individual, the person someone you wish to be with has chosen over you. I’ve always felt her views in that scene stem from a similar place. She’s overthinking and imagining Julia to be more than she is, just like we are.

  3. I’ve been reading your posts pretty consistently over the last couple of weeks. I’m very curious to know what the progression of the second half is going to be because there was a lot in the first half which I didn’t realise was significant and then got it when you pointed that out. You are writing about a very drastic shift in Spike which I can’t figure out how you are going to get to but I want to know.
    would like to request something. You have got a lot of research and details after which you came to the idea that the story and love interest situation was not how we think it is but I keep losing track. If it’s not going to be a lot of work would you mind doing one post that points out all the things which made you come to this conclusion? It will be easier for people like me coming in the middle to follow.

    1. Hey there! That’s actually a pretty stellar suggestion. I’ve sort of been marinating in all this for quite a while now so I tend to lose sight of the fact that all the information in my head is not there with the reader. I’ll just finish the third part of this and then definitely go back and write a proper one to sum up all the details in one place. Thanks a lot for the suggestion!

  4. I always loved that bit too where Jet is towing her back – like it’s such a tolerant father with an errant teenage daughter

    1. Yeah. I often wonder what the crew of the Bebop would have done without Jet but then the answer is simple. Nothing. Because they would all be dead of their own personalities and general idiocy in five flat minutes.

  5. Big time Bebop fan here. I got to know about your blog from a friend and we were discussing how what you’re covering isn’t necessarily an “alternate” take but just might be the right interpretation. We feel it is. A lot of it I’m reading and going yes it makes more sense this way.
    We’ve often had discussions and arguments on what a scene or episode means. Very accurate on the anime guide because it’s a product and nothing which adds to the episodes. I love Faye and the idea that the whole thing was about her is awesome.

  6. Also I kind of get why you’re choosing to call it an “alternate” take to avoid arguments but this is the correct take as far as I’m concerned.

    1. Ok first of all I am like super flattered by all of that. It’s really an honor to read that…honestly, I kind of just started this thing because I was so filled with Bebop energy post being furious with the butchering the Live Action did and needed to write about it but this kind of became a creature of its own. I’m winding down mostly because I feel I’ve covered the major chunks I wanted to..maybe a couple of more things might get covered in the future. But it is so cool to hear back from others who love this thing too. It’s a great show and it’s a gift that keeps on giving everytime I see it. And yeah, great catch on why I’ve called it “alternate.” Thanks a bunch for writing back!

  7. Gotcha. Read your other piece and the one about Faye too and it’s logical. Guess they could have tried to fit with the image of the usual love interest but that would be like doing eh same thng as eevryone else so they doing something a bit different here. she has her moments too

    1. Yeah that’s just what they tried to play around with. Like you don’t think of her as a love interest because she doesn’t fit that mould. It’s kind of like Lupin and Fujiko Mine though that one is borderline nuts sometimes. Haha! This is a bit more sincere and honest.

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