Session 26 : The Real Folk Blues (Part 2), is the 26th and final episode or "Session" of Cowboy Bebop.
Mechanical Animation Director:
- Masami Goto
- Tsunenori Saito
- Hiroshi Ousaka
- Hiroki Kanno
- Takahiro Komori
Spike greets Julia by saying it was raining just like their last meeting three years ago. Julia, with gun in hand, reveals to Spike that she was supposed to kill him then, but, out of love for him, instead chose to run and be hunted. She embraces Spike and expresses her desire to run away with him again.
At the Red Dragon crime syndicate headquarters, Shin arrives just after Vicious and his men had killed The Van and their supporters, shocked. Vicious confronts Shin and asks if the "target was terminated." Shin replies that "he got away" after killing their agents. Vicious then inquires about Julia's whereabouts and, after receiving no definite answer, warns Shin not to follow in Lin's footsteps.
Spike and Julia drive to Annie's store for supplies. Spike notices someone may have already been there. When they enter, they find her bleeding to death from a bullet wound. Annie informed them she denied knowing Spike's whereabouts to the Syndicate, instead telling them that he was dead. She also tells Spike that the Elders have been assassinated. As Julia enters, Annie expresses her joy that the two have been reunited and dies. Spike goes and gets some weapons and, as he does so, Julia realizes he intends to go after Vicious and not run away. She promises to stay with him, but just then Spike realizes the store is surrounded and prepares for a fight.
Back on the Bebop, Faye approaches Jet and the two discuss Spike. Faye says that Spike was "nothing but trouble" and may already be dead; Jet refuses to go after Spike, insisting that he is dealing with his own past and that Jet is in no condition to help him. Jet then asks about Faye's impression of Julia, to which she responds, "Like an angel from the underworld. Or maybe a devil from paradise."
Syndicate members burst into Annie's shop, and a firefight ensues. Spike and Julia escape to the second floor, killing several men along the way. They get to an adjacent rooftop and kill a few more, however, the last man exits as Julia and Spike run. Spike shoots the man just after he shoots Julia. She's mortally wounded and collapses. As Spike holds her, Julia mutters a final sentence and dies in Spike's arms. Spike looks into the sky with rage in his eyes, the rain mixing with and wiping away the tears he also is shedding.
Jet seeks out Laughing Bull to find out Spike's location. Laughing Bull explains that a guardian star is formed when a new life is born and this star fades when that life ends; he predicts that Spike's star is about to fall. Laughing Bull also tells Jet not that he should not fear death, but rather allow it to "gently guide us to infinity."
Vicious arrives at Annie's store and finds Julia's coat. Vicious now knows that Spike has nowhere to return and predicts that he will seek them out.
Spike returns to the Bebop, to Jet's surprise. While Spike eats, he tells Jet a story of a tiger-striped cat who died a million deaths and came back to life each time. One day, the cat met a white female cat. She lived to old age and died, and the tiger-striped cat cried a million times, eventually dying but not coming back to life. Jet comments that it's a good story; Spike says he hates it because he doesn't like cats. The two share a good laugh, and Jet asks if "it's for the girl." Spike replies that she's dead and there is nothing he can do for her now. He starts to leave when Faye blocks his path. Faye points a gun at Spike, accusing him of still being tied to the past. In response, Spike reveals to Faye that his eyes are different colors because one is artificial, replacing the one he lost in an accident. He says that he sees the past in one eye and the present in the other, watching life as if it were a dream. Faye protests, since Spike has never told her anything about himself before. She tells Spike that even though her memory came back, she had no place to go to and begs Spike not throw his life away. Spike replies, "I'm not going there to die. I'm going to find out if I'm really alive. I have to do it, Faye." Faye fires her gun into the wall in frustration and tears up as Spike walks away.
Spike takes off in the Swordfish II, and flashbacks of the past (Spike meeting Julia and fighting alongside Vicious) are interspersed with scenes of the present (Faye crying, Jet cleaning the Bebop, and Vicious walking into a chamber at the Syndicate headquarters and waiting for Spike). Spike walks into the syndicate headquarters, to the surprise of its members there, and begins a one-man assault with plentiful explosives and firearms. He fights his way through the entrance, setting an explosive on the escalator, and kills several men. He gets into the elevator and reloads his gun. Now with two guns, he exits, kills a few more men and finds Shin. He reveals that Vicious is on the top floor and leads the way. As Shin presses the elevator button, however, he is caught off guard and gunned down. He tells Spike before he dies that Vicious must be stopped and that he was waiting for Spike to return and take over.
Spike storms into the chamber on the top floor where Vicious is waiting. An explosion destroys much of the room, and Vicious tells Spike again that he is the only one who can kill him and set him free. Spike retorts that the same applies for Vicious, and the two duel, proving equally matched despite Spike's numerous wounds. Spike and Vicious end up disarming each other, with Spike's gun at Vicious's feet and Vicious's katana in Spike's hand. Spike coldly tells Vicious, "Julia passed away. Let's end it all," to which Vicious replies, "If that is your wish." At the same time, the two slide each other's weapons back to their proper owners – Spike shoots Vicious in the chest before Vicious manages to land his blow, and he falls to the ground, dead. A flashback of Julia's death reveals her final words: "It was all a... dream," with Spike responding "Yeah...just a bad dream."
Bleeding, and covered in the light of the rising Sun, Spike limps down the stairs and towards a group of Syndicate members, who stare at him in shock. Spike looks up, smiles, and mutters "Bang!", pointing his finger as if it were a gun, before collapsing to the ground.
As Spike lies there, with a peaceful smile, a bright star fades away in space.
You're gonna carry that weight.
- Memory – Cold open, Julia and Spike reunited at the graveyard, and Session card
- Forever Broke – Jet realises he has to let Spike go, but Faye tries to stop him anyway as they each lay bare their true feelings
- See You Space Cowboy – Spike leaves the Bebop for the final time and infiltrates the Red Dragon HQ
- Blue – Closing titles, weight carried
Themes and motifs
This being the final episode, it of course resolves the plotlines concerning Julia, Vicious, and Spike.
The use of Forever Broke, previously used in the series as a quirky motif, as the music cue when Spike is about to leave the Bebop for the final time, is an interesting and unexpected counterpoint to the tone of the scene. For Faye in particular, having finally realised a Bebop comprised of Spike and Jet (and perhaps mourning the departure of Ed and Ein, whom she didn't have a chance to say goodbye to) is a home she has and wants, while for Spike risk of death is all he has to make him feel alive, suggests that the song was never about money, it was about being forever broke emotionally.
The climactic gunfight in the Red Dragon Syndicate headquarters mirrors the church shootout from Ballad of Fallen Angels in a few ways:
- Spike throwing a hand grenade around a corner after pulling the pin with his teeth.
- Spike briefly using two handguns akimbo before getting shot and losing the use of one arm.
- Spike getting cut on the left cheek (though this time it is from broken glass, not being cut by Vicious)
- A brief standoff between Spike and Vicious before they wound each other (this time mortally).
Homages and References
- The Real Folk Blues is a series of blues compilation albums released between 1965 and 1967 by Chess Records and distributed by MCA Records. Each album in the series highlighted the music of one major Chess artist, including John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Sonny Boy Williamson II.
- You're Gonna Carry That Weight (The final words shown on-screen before the episode fades out) is a reference to the song Carry That Weight, the 15th track of the seminal album Abbey Road, by The Beatles. It was written to tell their fans that the Beatles had broken up and was part of the final suite on the last album they ever made as a group.
- The birds flying away in Julia's death up to Vicious' fight is a reference towards A Better Tomorrow 2.
- The final shootout scene is highly inspired by the film Taxi Driver where Travis Bickle enters the brothel and shoots everyone on sight.
- When aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, Session 26: The Real Folk Blues Part 2, has the brightness and contrast levels of the colors turned almost extremely dark, probably to mask the blood shed that occurs frequently during the gunfights.
- It is the only episode not to feature Tank! and the opening title sequence.
- With only four songs, this episode has the fewest music cues of any in the series. Other than the use of Memory during the cold open, there is no music at all in Part 1 of the episode.