Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Cowboy Gospel

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Even if you are unfamiliar with the original 1998 anime, you can't help but recognize that Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 1 is purposefully styled to emulate and recreate something unique in look and vibe.

The world of Cowboy Bebop is a bizarre mix of the retro and gritty futuristic. At the same time, the dynamic between the main protagonists, Spike and Jet, is an awkward balance of bro-love and frustrated business partners.

The premiere does a great job introducing the major players and central tensions, as well as establishing the primary understanding about the Bebop's resident cowboys: They may be bounty hunters, but they really aren't that good at it.

Key Art - Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 1

"Cowboy Gospel" throws us into the action of the galactic underworld immediately with Tanaka's gang robbing the Watanabe Casino. The whole interaction illustrates precisely how haphazard a bounty hunting team Jet and Spike can be.

John Cho's Spike Spiegel exudes a level of cool bordering on ennui, and yet he's able to spring into superhumanly effective action at the drop of a coin.

Meanwhile, Mustafa Shakir's Jet Black is the focused, pragmatic team member, more concerned with getting his daughter a birthday gift than his own personal luxuries.

The premiere establishes that Spike and Jet are effective bounty hunters -- they get their mark -- but they aren't successful ones in that they lose most of their payoff to fees for damages caused in the process of the capture.

Working Relationship - Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 1

That this is not the beginning of the story also forces the audience to get up to speed quickly, engaging brains as well as adrenaline.

Jet is a bounty hunter now, but he was a cop. He travels the galaxy with Spike, but he was married before and has a child. How did he get where he is now? What happened to his face and his arm?

Spike: They can grow you a new arm, you know.
Jet: You know, sometimes when you lose something, there's just no getting it back.
Spike: Any more fortune cookies you want to crack open, or can we eat now?
Jet: You work at being an asshole?
Spike: No, actually, it comes naturally. Unlike your arm.

Spike is a bounty hunter now, but he was someone in The Syndicate before. He was someone who The Syndicate knew as "Fearless" and thought they had killed. He also has a woman in his past, and, as seen in the closing shot, she is still tied to the crime organization.

Spike's backstory will drive the long arc action of the series. It'll be interesting to see how much we learn about who he was before becoming who he is now.

Asimov and Katerina - Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 1

Clever plot-planning has the fallout from the first Tanaka bounty dovetailing into Chalmers giving Jet the heads up on Asimov.

The Asimov and Katerina takedown are directly transferred from the anime and provide the entry point for Faye.

And how awesome is Faye? The character personality's been tweaked from the anime version, and Daniella Pineda has also put her personal stamp on it. Still, I can't see fans of the original series having issues with that. (Watch the Internet prove me wrong.)

Her swagger and confidence convey that she probably does better commercially as a cowboy (cowgirl?) than Jet and Spike, with the fact that she can battle Spike to a stalemate proving she has the skills.

Faye in the Vertical - Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 4

While Jet and Spike will pull the weight of the series, I predict that Faye's energy will lighten the load.

Jet is weighed down by responsibility and parental guilt.

Spike has a past that threatens everything he cares about, and he carries a lot of cynicism under that hedonistic outer shell.

Faye, despite her take-no-shit attitude, is an optimistic character. Furthermore, she's focused on a specific goal beyond simply keeping food on her plate and fuel in her ship.

While the three of them aren't exactly a team yet, there's potential for cooperation.

On Fire - Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 1

With names like Vicious and Fearless, one can assume The Syndicate provides titles or monikers to those who rise in their ranks.

After all, Tommy doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of his opponents, does he? And his run-of-the-mill name reflects that somewhat.

Then again, he runs a crew that includes a guy named Chivo, and they're hunting a fugitive named Asimov, so maybe the naming is actually arbitrary.

However names are assigned, Vicious assuredly lives up to his, which doesn't bode well for Spike/Fearless.

It's also fascinating that he's still haunted by his love affair with Vicious's wife after all this time. More on that to come, I'm sure.

Spike Spiegel On the Job - Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 1

As far as premieres go, this one checks all the boxes in terms of coherent plot, engaging characters, rich world-building.

What elevates it is that being an adaptation, it successfully incorporates the music, pacing, and uniquely-anime camera angles to reflect the source material series and finesse.

Yes, this is live-action, and, as such, there are elements of realism added to the over-the-top hyper-action of the narrative. Having actors in the roles allows for more emotional depth and subtle ironies conveyed by micro-expressions.

However, this series is about as close to anime as live-action has ever come. There are moments, usually still shots from above or behind characters, where you'd think they employed photo-realistic animation.

Spike Spiegel - Cowboy Bebop

How did you like this melodramatic space Western?

Are you a fan of the original? If so, does it live up to the source material?

Which characters have made the transition to live-action best in your estimation?

Who else are you excited to see come to life in the series?

Hit our comments with your biggest kudos and worst gripes.

Cowboy Gospel Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (26 Votes)

Diana Keng was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on X.

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Cowboy Bebop Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Tanaka: I am walking out of here or she dies.
Spike: Or she dies? Wait, that's your hostage? What is she? Like 80? I mean, she looks like she's led a very full, rich life. Haven't you, ma'am?

I worked in a casino once. Until they fired me. For stabbing a pit boss in the eye. And then he got fired because what's the use of a one-eyed pit boss?