We are coming into the halfway mark of Netflix’s first season of Cowboy Bebop and the crew is altogether. Except for Ed. We haven’t forgotten Netflix. The last episode was by far one of my favorite and really shows how well the series is able to blend the serious and comedic tones we remember from the anime. In episode five, Darkside Tango, Jet (Mustafa Shakir) teams up with an ex-partner while Spike (John Cho) and Faye (Daniella Pineda) try to pick up a quick job. Wonder how those two will get along! Let’s dive in!

DISCLAIMER: This is a recap and, by definition, will contain spoilers for Cowboy Bebop. If you haven’t watched it yet – stop. Go watch it first and then come back. You can thank me later!

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Darkside Tango opens with a flashback to Jet’s career in the ISSP. He is riding along with an ex-partner named Fad (Wade Williams) while discussing the genius of a sax player. They then discuss a case where Jet thinks that Chalmers (Geoff Stults) is the dirty cop. The two head into a run-down apartment building to try and get Udai (Matthias Luafutu) to name the dirty cop, but things go wrong when Udai returns home and spots them. Fad gets shot and Jet leaves him to go after Udai. Jet manages to corner him and tries to get him to name the cop. However, hidden behind bright car lights, someone else takes a few shots at Jet and leaves him bloody in the street. 

Before we cue the opening credits, I want to briefly share how much I loved this opening scene. The allure of Cowboy Bebop has always been the noir type feel it gives and this is what we have here. Everything from the music to the car to the cinematic style. It reminds me heavily of old noir films and it’s perfect. Okay, back to the opening credits. If you skip them, Jet will feed Spike peppers and noodles for the rest of the season. You don’t want to make Spike mad, do you?

We pick back up in the present, where Jet is going on about jazz music while Faye is listening. She is totally listening. Spike pops in to complain that there is no hot water and we learn all about the magic that is shower-bath-shower. She isn’t wrong. But it seems like living with her will take a lot of patience from Jet and Spike. Before shower-bath-shower talk can continue, the Big Shot show pops on and it turns out it’s the Bebop’s lucky day.

A prison ship has crashed and the captives are on the loose and heading for Europa. They try to decide who to go after before we see Udai Taxim pop up on the screen. Jet is clearly still angry about the whole situation and heads out, leaving Faye and Spike to team up on a job. Faye and Spike aren’t keen on the idea, but you do as he says when Jet has his cop face on.

Jet retreats to go through a box filled with stuff from his past, including the file on Udai. We learn quite a bit about the owner of the Bebop here. Turns out that after he was shot, he was named the dirty cop. Not only did he lose his arm, but also spent the next five years in prison for a lie. I really didn’t need any more reason to feel bad for Jet, but this makes his past feel so much heavier. He makes a call to an unknown person, telling them what has happened and where to meet. Very secretive of him. He heads out, but not before donning one of his old school suits.

Darkside Tango puts us back into that noir feel just as Fad meets up with Jet. They figure that Udai is going to try and get fake papers and sneak off the planet. Jet shares how he feels about the situation with Fad, including Chalmers’ involvement in his shooting and putting him away. Chalmers took everything Jet spent time building and he wants it back to prove to his daughter that he really is a good guy.

Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black in Cowboy Bebop.

Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black in Cowboy Bebop. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Back at the Bebop, Spike and Faye are trying to nail down which bounty to go after. Spike wants to play it safe while Faye is more concerned with the amount of woolong they are going to rake in. Quick question, what value would your face be? Just curious. Anyway, Faye decides she is ready to roll, but Spike convinces her that they need to think this through and work together. When they can’t settle on what bounty to take, they decide to shoot for it.

We shift from the Bebop to Vicious (Alex Hassell) and Julia (Elena Satine), discussing the upcoming meeting. Julia knows that this Mao individual is just baiting him by requiring Julia to be at the meeting. Vicious is worried that Julia is scared that he can’t protect her, but she swears that isn’t it. Julia knows that if this goes wrong, they are screwed. So, Vicious promises to kill Mao… with kindness, of course. I am still a firm believer that Julia is trying to manipulate Vicious and I am worried she might not win at this game.

We flip back to the Bebop where Spike and Faye are playing rock, paper scissors or what Faye thinks is hunter, bear, ninja. Bear eats ninja. Ninja kills hunter. Hunter shoots bear. When Spike doesn’t seem to grasp what is happening, Faye swaps to foot, cockroach, atomic bomb. You know foot crushes cockroach, atomic bomb blows up foot and cockroach survives bomb. Pretty simple stuff here. Spike still doesn’t grasp it, so they go old-school rock, paper, scissors and Spike wins.

Spike lets Faye know that it was pretty easy to read her since she always chose the third option. Something she should keep an eye out for in the future. And while they are heading out to collect this bounty, Big Shot announces he is off the table. Of course, T-Bone is still available. But our face-eating friend has killed six bounty hunters already and the ISSP is sending in a sniper to deal with him. Looks like they are back to square one.

Darkside Tango takes us back to Jet and Fad, who follow up on a lead that takes them to Dagmar (Scott Wills). They want to know if Udai has come through for new papers and finds some hidden within Dagmar’s desk. With some persuasion, they uncover when Udai is supposed to show up. On their way out, they spot Chalmers and his partner. Jet and Fad manage to knock Chalmers out and sneak away to find Udai with some quick thinking.

On the Bebop, Faye and Spike still haven’t figured out who they will go after. Bounties are getting picked up left and right. Those that haven’t been are chump change. Faye realizes that Spike just doesn’t want to work with her. Something about how he doesn’t believe she can do it and his choice to go for easy bounties proves it. The two play a round of comparing scars to prove which one is the better bounty hunter and Spike realizes that Faye might actually be the real deal. Though, he isn’t willing to admit it without some proof.

We find ourselves back in the noir scene as Jet and Fad spend some time figuring out what Udai’s next move is. Fad gets a call from his wife while Jet figures out what Udai’s next move is. Without papers, the only other way off the planet is in a box and the sorting station is the first place to look. I have some suspicions about Fad at this point. But I wonder if the show wants us to think that or if he really is behind the dirty cop business. I hope not. It looks like Jet and he have quite a friendship and after everything that happened, it would be terrible if he was behind it.

At a smelting facility, Vicious and Julia finally meet with the infamous Mao (Rachel House). She wants to know what happened to her hitman, but Vicious doesn’t elaborate. Can’t spill the beans that Fearless is still alive in front of Julia. Vicious has other matters to get to and that means getting Mao on his side. Seems like she has been thinking about putting an end to The Elders as well, but she knows that Santiago (or the Eunuch as Vicious has been calling him) (Blessing Mokgohloa) would never go with it. And we learn a little about this mysterious third man and now there are things I can never unsee.

Elena Satine as Julia in Cowboy Bebop.

Elena Satine as Julia in Cowboy Bebop. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Vicious offers a percentage of his sales and his region, but Mao isn’t interested. That is, unless, Julia sings for her. This sets Vicious off the deep end as Mao taunts him how Fearless was always the better of the two. He calls the deal off, but Julia isn’t willing to let it go. She starts to sing for Mao against Vicious’ wishes. I hope he realizes that Julia just saved their lives. If Mao wanted, she could have gone to The Elders and told them of his plan, which would undoubtedly put a target on his back.

Darkside Tango flashes back to the Bebop, where Faye impresses Spike with a bounty she single-handedly collected. We get a fun little flashback scene where Faye tangos with a bounty before disarming him and then punching him dead in the face. She gets Ein to dance with her and then, in the end, has him play dead to emphasize her point. I’d dance with Ein any day of the week. He seems like a fantastic partner.

This story wins Faye some props from Spike, which only gets better when Spike experiences the shower-bath-shower trio and fully understands why this is the way it should always be. They then bond over loofahs in one of my favorite moments of the series so far.

We jump back to Jet and Fad, who have arrived at the sorting station and are on the lookout for Udai. Jet manages to find his box and the chase begins. He corners him again and tries to get him to out the dirty cop. Udai doesn’t have the chance to speak before Fad shoots him. It was Fad all along. He was broke and needed money and the Syndicate was willing to pay him to be their inside man. The problem was that Jet wouldn’t let go of the case and Fad needed to put him down. And he needs to again. He takes a shoot at Jet, but his metal arm blocks it and without a thought, Jet shoots back at Fad.

Chalmers and his partner arrive on the scene to find both Udai and Fad dead. Chalmers knew all along that Fad was the dirty cop and they had been building a case against him for months. He then goes on about how Jet just shot the only man who could clear his name. Worst luck ever for this bounty hunter. Chalmers tells Jet to get going and that the official report will show that these two shot each other. But before he does, Jet drops the woolong from their bet onto Fad’s chest, even now keeping true to the terms.

Darkside Tango comes to a close at Vicious and Julia’s apartment. Vicious is angry that he was made a fool of, but in this case, Julia is right. They needed her to agree. Julia then tries to get Vicious to open up about why he needed one of Mao’s best assassins, but he doesn’t. Alone, Julia pours herself a drink and we can hear bells ringing in the distance. And as if they unlocked something in her, Julia realizes that Fearless is still alive.

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I have always loved Jet’s story from the original anime. The way Netflix was setting up Chalmers to be the bad guy in this adaptation had me hopeful that the ending with Fad would be different. But, that’s not the case. This episode of Cowboy Bebop made me feel exactly how I did the first time I watched Black Dog Serenade. Jet was set up and had his world torn apart by someone he trusted. Yet, he still manages to trust and work with both Spike and Faye and look for the good in people. I love that Netflix took the time to get into all of their backstories and give each of them an episode unto themselves.

Speaking of Black Dog Serenade. If you have seen the anime, then the scene from this episode about the shower will be awfully familiar. Of course, last time, it was Faye complaining the shower didn’t work. But, it still feels so nostalgic to see these similar situations. I’ve loved how Netflix and Tomorrow Studios have been able to give us both a fresh new look at the franchise while also making us feel like we are spending time with an old friend. I’m excited to see what other fun easter eggs and nods to the anime we will get in the second half of this first season. Without further ado – let’s dive into episode five!

But first, what bounty would you have gone for? Let us know in the comments below and on social media!

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Julia Roth
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