Photo: Geoffrey Short / Netflix
When you do a TV show about characters who desperately avoid facing demons from their past, you end up having a problem: At some point, those characters have to face demons from their past – if only for the sake of it. the public can understand what motivates them.
More than half of a season more stylish than material, Cowboy Bebop clearly understands that it’s time to dig into what makes our three heroes tick. In fact, the show attempted to fix this issue just one episode ago, when Jet’s dark past as an ISSP cop was (awkwardly) thrown back into the present.
But what do you do with a character like Spike Spiegel, who is way too cool and self-sufficient to let anybody delve into his past? “Binary Two-Step” provides a brutal but innovative solution: subjecting Spike to elaborate technology that penetrates directly into the brain, forcing him to face his deepest traumas on a loop.
This means, of course, that he is forced to come face to face with Julia. Or, at least, a computer claim to be Julia.
Spike falls into this particularly unconventional form of therapy as he attempts to earn a lucrative bounty by tracking down a mysterious target named Dr. Londes. Spike ends up wandering around an extremely Scientology storefront – apparently operated by Londes – that promises to solve all of its problems with a fancy computer and a pair of glasses.
Unfortunately, but inevitably, there is a catch: Dr Londes is not a person at all. LONDES is an AI. better known as the Life Observation Neural Developmental Emulation System. This AI has become a thug – and now that Spike is plugged in, he will completely devour his consciousness unless Jet can unplug the plug before it’s too late.
As Jet races against the clock, much of the episode is spent in Spike’s mind palace – a western town with “Julia” at its center. Walking down the street, Spike encounters his long lost love again and again, reconnecting with her just a moment before Vicious shows up and rips her off again.
Within the confines of this simulation, the important thing to remember is that we don’t actually see Julia and Vicious; we see Julia and Vicious as Spike remembers and imagines them. In a first loop, as Spike convinces Julia to run away with him – then watches helplessly as Vicious shoot him in the head – Spike lives through an imaginary hell. A few cycles later, in the midst of a brutal shootout with “the Syndicate,” Spike experiences a completely different hell: one in which Julia confirms that all the horrific aspects of himself that Spike fears might be true.
This is, by far, the most information we have on how Spike perceives himself, so it’s worth quoting it in full:
“Vicious is not the bad guy; you are beautiful. You never loved me. You just loved taking your best friend’s girlfriend, and now you’re gonna get me killed. I don’t love you. I could never love a monster like you. Who are you kidding? Everything you touch dies. So for once in your life, do something right and let me go.
As far as exposure therapy goes, it’s pretty drastic, but it’s hard not to be relieved when Spike responds to this soliloquy by agreeing to let Julia go. Of course, this only happens in his brain, but at least it involves a new kind of closure that suggests he might let go of his obsession with Julia in the real world. For sure looks that way, when Jet manages to get Spike out of the loop just in time, bringing him back to reality as – we have to assume – a sadder, wiser man.
But as Spike recovers on the Bebop and reflects on his experience in the machine, we see the rest of his conversation with “Julia,” in which Spike agrees to run away from Vicious and the Syndicate – on the sole condition that Julia runs away with it. him. The LONDES method ultimately failed. No matter what it takes to resolve Spike’s angst of losing Julia, it looks like he’ll have to resolve himself in the real world, with real-world consequences to match.
But that’s a problem for another episode. For now, Spike has his true memories, his false memories, and a bowl of noodles. I’m not sure it was the destined moral of this episode, but this is the one I’m going with: whatever else is wrong with your life, you can still eat pasta.
• Back on the Bebop, Faye hooks up with Mel the Mechanic (and gets her first orgasm – or at least the first she can remember – in the store). There’s not much to this subplot other than a rare and welcome moment in which Faye briefly lets her guard down, but it’s nice to see a same-sex relationship that isn’t treated as unusual or as a preamble. before an unnecessary tragedy.
• No spoils, but several allusions to the episode “Ed. radical “ are definitely designed to excite fans of the original anime.
• “Binary Two-Step” replaces the traditional closing text “SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY…” with “DO YOU LIVE IN THE REAL WORLD? “For connoisseurs, it is an allusion to Cowboy Bebop: The Movie – but without that context, it seems to overstate how trippy this episode was. (Or is it just what they want to make us think …?)
• This time in archaic technologies that have made the leap into space: Polaroid photos and audio reels!
• The bonus on “Dr. Londes” is 90,000,000 ₩, which is both double the price of Udai Taxim from the previous episode and 60 times the price of Tanaka (before the damage to the casino) in the series premiere.Call me crazy, but I’m starting to think that the Cowboy Bebop economics actually makes no sense.
• Maybe this is just a problem for me, but every time someone says “Dr. Kaypack” my mind flashes. this horrible, horrible movie.