How the Ending of Netflix's 'Cowboy Bebop' Drastically Deviates From the Original Anime

The live-action adaptation of the classic anime remixes some important final plot points to lay the groundwork for a potential Season 2.


“Our show is much like how the Cowboy Bebop anime is: a mash-up of a million different genres,” showrunner Andre Nemec tells Thrillist, regarding Netflix’s live-action adaptation of the groundbreaking anime series from Shinichiro Watanabe. “We’re sort of a mash-up of a retelling of a reimagining of a continuation.”

That’s a pretty keen explanation of the series, which hit the streamer over the weekend, more than two decades after the original program premiered. This new iteration (which takes influences from genres like film noir, cowboy western, sci-fi space adventure and throws them all in a blender) stars John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda as Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine-a trio of bounty hunters (or “space cowboys,” if you will) who venture out on various adventures together with Ein, their trusty Corgi friend, aboard their spaceship the Bebop, while equally attempting to reconcile their own personal traumas, along the way.

This narrative foundation sets the live-action series on similar ground as the original series, allowing for easter eggs, familiar characters, and recognizable episodic plot points to come through-albeit in a new framework that allowed this new version to be faithful of the iconic story where it needed to and to pivot into unexpected directions to keep things feeling fresh.

The “mash-up of a retelling or a reimagining” concept came through in a multitude of ways, most notably in the Season 1 finale where a huge story twist revealed completely different fates for sociopathic Syndicate member Vicious (Alex Hassell), and his tragic femme fatale-style girlfriend Julia (Elena Satine) than what befell them in the anime 23 years ago.

Cowboy Bebop gives a lot to the audience in its 10-episode run, that it could be a bit of a head-spinner to keep track of all the pertinent story details hurdling through the galaxy. Let’s break the most important details down, shall we?

This article contains major Cowboy Bebop spoilers for both the anime and Netflix’s live-action series.


The Bebop crew’s uncertain future

Cowboy Bebop wouldn’t be Cowboy Bebop without the crew of iconic outcasts barreling through space searching for their next bounty and their next meal. Much like in the original anime, Spike, Jet, and Faye form a lovely, albeit dysfunctional, family unit. Each character’s past is mired in some sort of regret or trauma that leaves them either clinging to the memories of what once was, running from them, or trying to dig up what has been lost to hopefully regain a sense of identity.

These are the main driving factors for Jet, Spike, and Faye, respectively, and the live-action series mostly takes the snippets of these characters’ lives, as first revealed in the anime, and expands on them. There’s Spike’s history as a hitman working with a criminal organisation known simply as the Syndicate and Faye’s amnesia, which was sparked after being taken out of cryosleep against her will. Spiegel running from his past and Faye speeding towards hers offers an interesting dynamic in the conflict that plays out here.

Jet’s story offers the first big deviation in the series, as the Netflix adaptation gives him an ex-wife and daughter-two factors that ground him as a character, supplying a soft side to the former cop who Shakir described as “a bruiser” during a separate virtual press conference done for the series.

“Ultimately, for his personal tale, it hasn’t helped him,” Shakir continues. “That level of sentimentality can get in the way of seeing things for what they really are.”

A balance between empathy and by-the-books brutality drives the law-enforcer that is Jet, even if it means cutting some corners to bring in the next bounty. That family man aesthetic provides a patriarch for the Bebop‘s found family, but it also provides a blindspot for Jet who, up until the final episode, doesn’t see Spike for who he truly is: Fearless, the Syndicate’s former murderer-for-hire.

The anime doesn’t spend a lot of time on how Spike’s history affects his relationship with Jet, other than revealing that the former cop knew all along. The Netflix series pivots majorly here. When Kimmie, Jet’s daughter, is kidnapped by Vicious and the Syndicate, the truth ends up coming out. From best friends to worst enemies, Jet allows Spike to keep his life as long as his daughter is rescued and returned to safety unharmed.

“Death follows you wherever you go,” Jet tells Spike in the episode’s final moment. It’s a quote that is initially spoken by Vicious to his former partner and brings the haunting nature of the ghost story Spike is living to the forefront.

Spike’s secret doesn’t deter Faye from helping her fellow cowboy. And it’s her words of motivation that keep Jet on that path, as well. However, Valentine has her own issues to tend to. And while the bond between Jet and Spike breaks, Faye says goodbye to her partners so she can find the details she needs to unlock the missing parts of her past and answer who she truly is. A street name in front of her childhood home, as revealed in a VHS tape recovered during her mission to reclaim her identity, has put her on a voyage to Earth.


What’s going on with the Syndicate, exactly?

The main driving force behind the Cowboy Bebop story is the sordid history Spike shares with Vicious and Julia. Spike, always with his hands in his pockets, holds this info close to his vest. ​​”Spike is a person who is hiding a bunch of stuff and is putting up a good front for most of the time he’s on-screen,” Cho explained during the virtual press conference.

The love triangle in question leads Vicious down a violent path fed by his own jealousy and paranoia that leaves the Syndicate’s Elders, his father included, dead. Meanwhile, Spike proceeds on his own mission to reconnect with Julia and save her from Vicious. And Julia? Well, she had a whole other set of plans in mind.

Much like in the anime, Spike’s presumed dead in the live-action series-gunned down by the Syndicate. Netflix’s rendition hones its focus, though, and as Fearless reinvents himself from hired hitman to space cowboy, the secret romance he shared with his best friend’s girl ends up fueling much of the narrative. But once they are finally back in each other’s arms, things don’t go as Spike (or diehard fans of the anime) expect.

The anime’s ending is pretty cut-and-dry. Vicious and Julia are both gunned down, leaving Spike to deal with the aftermath in a rather dramatic ending to the series. The Netflix series goes a different route completely, offering Spike a whole new layer to his heartbreak-fueled rock bottom.

After Spike and Vicious face off in the cathedral, harkening back to the iconic battle featured in Episode 5 of the anime, “Battle of Fallen Angels,” Julia steps out of the shadows and shoots Vicious herself. It turns out that over the three years that Spike has been gone, Julia’s resolve has hardened under the abusive thumb of Vicious. Making her escape is one thing. But taking back the power, and reigning as the true head of the Syndicate, is the ultimate goal that’s on her mind.

Of course, Spike isn’t into the idea of partnering with her. So she shoots him, too, and leaves him for dead as she moves on with the next stage of her plans. In the end, Julia is still alive and holds Vicious as her prisoner. Since he’s now a Syndicate Elder, his role involves the requirement of being hidden away in secrecy, never showing his face. In his place, Julia will rise to power as the real leader of the Syndicate.

“It was great to be able to go from the beginning of the season to the end of the season and watch her end up in this place,” Satine revealed to Thrillist. “And to be weaved into that ending in the cathedral, which is such an iconic scene, and to give the fans that new twist on it, was just so satisfying.”

Where does this leave us for Season 2? While it’s possible Vicious can escape captivity and seek to gain back his power, we have to speculate that Julia’s Syndicate will face off with the Bebop crew again. But considering this big script-flip, could Vicious and Spike mend fences and team up against this new common enemy?


Radical Ed, the Butterfly Man, and the potential for Season 2

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop features a whole load of side characters from the anime, getting beefier roles in the story that plays out in the streamer’s 10-episode first season. One of the glaring concerns fans had going into the adaptation’s release is the way in which the live-action rendition would work in and present those characters to audiences.

For most of the season, the red-haired Ed is missing, mentioned in passing as the source of questionable intel regarding one of the Bebop crew’s bounties. Instead of leaving Radical Ed as a fun easter egg that joins many in the series, the iconic character shows up in the final moments of the series-teasing where the show may indeed go if it’s renewed for another season. After Spike is left for dead, spiritually and physically, his heavily inebriated body is stirred to consciousness in a back alley. And there’s one of the galaxy’s most impressive hackers, begging Spike for help in tracking down a new foe known simply as “Butterfly Man.”

“Wake up, I have a job for you! A bounty!” Ed shouts at Spike in the show’s final moments. “Bad man, big reward. We have to find the Butterfly Man. Oooh, danger, danger! We have to find Volaju, Volaju, Volaju before he does spooky, bad things!”

Volaju is referring to Vincent Volaju-another character from the anime, specifically, the main antagonist in the Cowboy Bebop feature film, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. According to the original subject matter, Volaju is a veteran of the Titan War who supposedly died during wartime. In reality, he was experimented on and turns to a life of terrorism, convinced his experience on Earth is actually purgatory and that, if he searches hard enough, he will be able to open a gateway to heaven. To do so, though, would involve the release of a catastrophic virus. The “Butterfly Man” moniker refers to the hallucinations of butterflies he’s plagued with. This finale tease definitely sets up some interesting directions for Season 2. But will there be one?

“Even if the show weren’t to go on, I might just be doing this on my own,” Nemec explained. “I would love to tell the stories of these bounty hunters until they end up in the retirement home. There are so many more stories to tell with his Bebop crew that the opportunity to tell them would just be outstanding.”

While the first run of episodes found Cowboy Bebop cycling through recognizable characters from the anime while bringing our heroes together to fight crime how they see fit, it seems that, if Netflix does renew the series for another season, the Bebop crew will need to put their differences behind them. After all, if the Butterfly Man has his way, the fate of an entire planet’s population hangs in the balance. No pressure, space cowboy.

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Aaron Pruner (@aaronflux) is a contributor to Thrillist.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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