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The Ending Of Cowboy Bebop Explained

Spike Spiegel. Jet Black. Faye Valentine. Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV. Ein. These are the characters we follow across space in the seminal anime series (and forthcoming live-action seriesCowboy Bebop. The show may be about an oddball crew of bounty hunters struggling to make ends meet and keep their bellies full, but, of course, it's not really about that at all.

Cowboy Bebop is about trauma. It's a story about struggling to identify, out run, and accept the bad choices we make while rebuilding a new life in the ruins of what came before. Sometimes, it's just about accepting when things are over. 

Spike is an ex-assassin from a notorious crime syndicate. Jet is an ex-cop. Faye is a thief in incalculable debt. Ed is an abandoned child. Ein is a good dog. Among them, these wayward souls have lost loves, memories, fathers, and even body parts along the way. On the Bebop, their ship, the most valuable bounty is, irony aside, the friends they make along the way. But just like all the other literal bounties, that one seems to slip through their collective fingers, too.

To understand how Cowboy Bebop ends, you first have to rewatch the whole story and understand the unfolding way the characters' pasts catch up to them. Because, yes, our final moments of the series are with Spike alone, but there's so much lead-up to him holding his bleeding guts as he walks down those steps that involve both his time with the Mars crime syndicate The Red Dragon and onboard the Bebop.

Let's focus on Jet and Faye's ending points first, because so much of their stories bleed into Spike's (and the show's) final moments.

Jet and Faye — the cats who came back

Long before Jet Black was a bounty hunter, he was a part of the Inter-Solar System Police on Ganymede. During his time as a police officer, he was beset on all sides by police corruption. Jet's time on the force ends when, after chasing down a syndicate gunman named Udai Taxim, he's ambushed by an unseen assailant who shoots off his arm.

It isn't until years later that Jet discovers who took his arm — it was his partner Fad. Jet spent so much time chasing after what was directly in front of him that he missed the forest for the trees. Udai Taxim was the part of the syndicate he could see, even though Fad was right in front of him, too. And similarly, Jet struggles to see what Spike's going through right in front of him. Jet lets Fad die, and he finds himself resolved to a similar fate with Spike.

Faye Valentine doesn't trust anybody, and that's because she doesn't remember her past. When she awakes from cryogenic sleep after an accident, she has no memory of who she was. She trusts a con man named Whitney Haggis Matsumoto who fakes his own death and dumps all his debt onto her. After that, Faye becomes the type of woman who shoots first and asks questions later just out of safety.

When Faye gets her memory back, she hopes there will be a place for her to belong. But in the time she was asleep, the Earth she called home became a wasteland of asteroid collisions. Her home is destroyed and her family is long gone. The closest thing she has to a family are the people she found on the Bebop. Like Jet, she chooses to come back to the Bebop. Yet, it's too late.

Spike Spiegel — the cat who died a thousand deaths

Life is about two things — circumstance and choice. Circumstances we usually can't control, but the choices we make are at least partly our own. Spike Siegel chooses to die. And Cowboy Bebop is about accepting that choice, accepting that our lives will end, and it's about the hope that we'll have some choice in how our stories conclude.

When Jet finds out his old partner betrayed him, he comes back to Spike. When Faye finds her old home is gone, she comes back to Spike finally open enough to find a home in him, Jet, and the Bebop.

But Spike's life ended a long time ago. Like Jet with his arm, Spike lost his eye escaping The Red Dragon. He also lost the love of his life: Julia. When Spike finally finds her again and convinces her to run away with him, she gets killed for it. She's killed by the same man who held her captive the first time — Spike's former partner Vicious.

Spike doesn't want to be a bounty hunter. He doesn't want a found family. He wants Julia. And when Julia dies, the only thing that matters to Spike is taking out the man who killed her. More than that, if circumstance led Spike to the syndicate, then by taking it out, maybe no one else will suffer the loss he has.

And so Spike goes on a suicide mission to defeat Vicious and wipe out the syndicate, or at least make it less bloodthirsty. For what it's worth, he succeeds. Vicious dies and, then, what remains of the syndicate watches Spike die, too. Seeing their deaths is a reminder that there's nothing about being a killer in a syndicate of killers or surviving a thousand near deaths that is more glamorous or cool than just getting to live once, both eyes safely facing forward and clear, with the one you love.

See you, space cowboy.