Recap / Cowboy Bebop Session 6 "Sympathy for the Devil"
The episode begins with a surgery. A figure is surrounded by doctors and not too far from them, cultivated organs with a particular focus on an cybernetic eye. As it's being lowered toward the subject, we see from its reflection that its Spike. Spike suddenly awakens, the whole sequence having been a flashback. He is currently in a blues club where a child prodigy is on stage, skillfully playing his harmonica. On the Bebop, the ship is low on food with only a can of dog food left. Obviously meant for Ein. Faye callously eats it in front of him before noticing a picture of the latest bounty. The reward being three million Wu Longs, Faye decides to let Spike and Jet catch it. At the club, Spike and Jet have located their target, identifying him as Giraffe.
The two start to move in when Spike notices someone, a portly man, in the way of one of their attack routes. Jet recognizes him as "Fatty" River, a fellow bounty hunter. Jet distracts him by greeting him as an old colleague while Spike goes after Giraffe alone, whose following after the harmonica prodigy along with a wheelchair bound fellow. The trail leads to a hotel where Giraffe continues after the pair while Spike gets his ship, Swordfish. Giraffe locates the pair's room and busts in, yelling for "Zebra" to give something back. However he's suddenly shoved out of the hotel's window. Spike spots him as he's falling and catches him on the nose of the Swordfish before landing. But its too late, Giraffe is already mortally wounded from a gunshot wound and dying. Before he passes away, he tells Spike "not to be fooled by him" and to help a certain someone before giving Spike a stone on a ring. Spike returns to the Bebop and has Jet analyze it while the two mull over what to do with it. Faye suggests selling it but Spike claims it'll pay for Jet and his food, not hers. When Faye complains, Jet gives her a present; an invoice for all the expenses she racked up to her annoyance.
Jet meets up with Fatty, bribing him with sweet to gain information. Fatty reveals that the harmonica prodigy is named Wen and that Giraffe was after his guardian, Zebra. The two apparently were friends and the leaders of an organization call the Self Defense Volunteer Squad. However ten years ago they raided an R and D facility against raiders. Zebra went missing during the operation, the raiders were wiped out and Giraffe was found blindfolded in a silo. Its assumed that Zebra double crossed him to run the squad by himself, but for some odd reason turned up with Wen as his guardian, apparently the plan having not worked out for him. Spike sees Wen playing at another club before following Zebra and him to a warehouse. However as Spike steps in, a light is shined on him and he finds himself confronting the pair. Jet and Faye look over archives of Wen in the newspapers, Faye notices that the date is over thirty years ago and the guardian in the paper isn't Zebra. Back at the warehouse, Spike tries to talk with Wen, but he pulls a gun out and fires. Hitting Spike in the arm and knocking away his gun. Wen warns Spike not to get involved and when Spike brings up his age, Wen reveals he was still alive when the area they're in was still an outpost.
Wen divulges his backstory; when he was still his rightful age his parents and he were out on a picnic. However the Gate Incident, in which the testing of the hyperspace gate first started, malfunctioned and blew up a chunk of the moon, happened. Wen's family was caught in the blast radius, his parents managed to shield him but died in the process. He survived but stopped aging and claims he can never die. Every so often he would be found by scientists and experimented on, but would always manage to outlast them. When the defense squad raided the R and D lab he was currently at, he incapacitated Zebra and made him his "parent" to hide his cover. Its then that Spike realizes Giraffe's final words, not to be fooled by Wen's appearance and to help Zebra. Wen reveals Zebra is the third victim of this deception before asking about the ring. Spike feigns ignorance of it before Wen opens fire on him. Spike is able to duck out of the way and hide until Wen has to reload. He rushes for his gun and returns fire, knocking Wen's gun away. As Spike rushes for him, Wen pushes Zebra toward him as a distraction while he runs. Spike shoots at Wen as he's getting away and manages to get off a headshot. However when he goes to see where the body fell, Wen is gone.
Spike returns to the Bebop with Zebra's body and has Jet bandage his arm. Ein notices something and barks to get their attention. Faye does, seeing that Zebra is crying despite being braindead. Spike suggests using the Alfa Catch, a device that monitors brainwaves. They hook Zebra up to it and look at his thoughts through a monitor. Through it, they see what went on in the Hotel room; Giraffe confronted Wen and demanded that he return Zebra to him, showing Wen the ring and claiming it can return time back to him. However Wen shot Giraffe in cold blood and sent him flying out the hotel window to the shock of the crew. Jet finishes analyzing the stone, finding out it's part of the hyperspace energy turned to crystal after the accident. Its also the same energy keeping Wen alive. They fashion the gem into a bullet and stick it into a shotgun. Jet however tells Spike he doesn't know what will happen when they shoot Wen with it, for all he knows it could blow up. Thus as Spike's leaving, Faye comes to see Spike off and Jet gives him a final smoke just in case.
Wen, meanwhile, hails a taxi then kills the driver and commenders the vehicle. Spike manages to locate him in the Swordfish and blows him off the road into a gas station which explodes. Wen escapes unharmed as Spike lands nearby and, after letting Wen have a few potshots, aims the shotgun. Wen lets him shoot him unaware of gem bullet. Spike nails Wen in the forehead and for a moment nothing happens. However Wen suddenly starts to glow and rapidly turns into an old man. He falls over, panting heavily but happy he can die now. His last words to Spike asking is if he understands now before passing away. Spike claims he doesn't before taking Wen's harmonica, blowing a note then throwing it in the air and making a gun motion with his hand as he "shoots" itSee You Space Cowboy
This episode has the following tropes:
- Alas, Poor Villain: Hard not to feel sorry for Wen once you learn his backstory. Stuck with a fate he never wanted and changing over time because of it.
- Boom, Headshot: Spike scores not one, but two headshots on Wen. Its the second one that does him in if only because of the gem bullet.
- Bowdlerise: The scene of Wen getting hit in the forehead had the impact replaced with a Hit Flash and his bullet mark digitally removed in the [adult swim] version, as at the time, the censors were wary about showing a kid getting shot in the head.
- On top of that, this was one of three episodes that had to be held back because of the 9/11 attacks, as it contained a scene of a man falling from a high-rise building and a child (Wen) emerging from the burning rubble of a destroyed building.
- The beginning dream of Spike in surgery had his lower nudity blacked out (even though it was Barbie Doll Anatomy) on [adult swim].
- Creepy Child: Wen, in spades
- Destination Defenestration: Giraffe getting tossed out the window.
- I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: Spike's turn this time as Giraffe gives him the ring gem. Unlike Faye in Gateway Shuffle, he honors Giraffe's request.
- Interrogating the Dead: Subverted in that Zebra's only braindead
- No Ontological Inertia: Wen's eternal youth is explained as a result of an overactive pineal gland that can be stopped thanks to a rock. As soon as he's hit with the rock, his eternal youth ends and he instead experiences Rapid Aging.
- Older Than They Look / Really 700 Years Old: Wen
- Paper Cutting: Spike getting nicked on the cheek by a stray gunshot from Wen in the climax
- Rapid Aging: Wen after getting hit with the gem bullet
- Red Herring: We're lead to believe that Zebra is the bad guy and Wen in need of rescue. Turns out its the other way around.
- Too Soon: During the initial broadcast on [adult swim], the episode was removed from the line up due to 9/11 as it shows a scene of a man (Giraffe) getting thrown out a window and Wen crawling from the rubble of a destroyed building.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: So what did they do with Zebra's body?
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: While Wen will survive however he has too, he's finally happy to be able to die at last and end his immortal existence after Spike hits him with the gem bullet.