In almost every Cowboy Bebop episode where Spike gets the final word, the moral of the story is something like this: Accept the mystery. Events will unfold at their own pace and everything happens in its own time, if it’s meant to. This is apparent in “My Funny Valentine,” where Faye learns to be more like Spike and accept that not having a past isn’t the end of the world. This philosophy bears out for her as we saw last week in “Speak Like a Child,” where a package containing a beta cassette with footage of Faye’s past literally falls out of the sky (though it should be noted that Jet still has to pay COD for it).
“Wild Horses” is another episode where Spike’s happy-go-lucky philosophy is on prominent display. The plot is fairly basic: a trio of hackers posing as deliverymen really mess up the Bebop. And it’s up to Spike to help Jet and Faye to calm down long enough to improvise a plan that will help them get revenge.
The episode starts with Spike stranded in the middle of the desert. He watches as a spaceship lifts off without him as he lazily raises a thumb, as if to hitch a ride. We don’t know that Spike’s reached out to his friend and mechanic Doofan and has already asked him to pick him up. At least, we don’t know this until a truck shows up out of nowhere to pick Spike up. He’s not particularly anxious at this point but he’s not exactly at ease either. Spike’s just biding his time, waiting for rescue. In the shade of his ship, which is later identified as a Swordfish mono-racer, Spike lights a cigarette, though it doesn’t look like he really needs a light given how hot the desert he’s stuck in is.
Furthermore, when Spike sees that the driver of Doofan’s truck isn’t actually Doofan, he’s only momentarily upset. He doesn’t say anything when Miles pulls up, absorbed in listening to his baseball game. In fact he’s kind of stunned into silence immediately. Then, apart from being late and not being Doofan, Miles happily points to a sign in the truck’s cab that says, “No smoking.” This would make anyone other than Spike really cranky. Or at least, mad enough to get visibly histrionic. But not Spike. Spike sulks quietly when he gets mad. He just sits there and lets Miles chatter at him about the Blue Sox, his favorite baseball team. Miles breaks off the conversation at one point and tells Spike, “Hey, do people often say you’re the silent type?” Spike rejoinders by rhetorically asking Miles if people tell him that he talks too much.
This is, admittedly, a slight, rote example of Spike’s sly, grin-and-take-it philosophy of life. A better example can be seen when Miles brings up Spike’s Swordfish. To Spike, the Swordfish is “…just an old machine. I don’t want it, but it’s a part of me.” That line eloquently and succinctly lays out Spike’s philosophy: he’s not really attached to the ship but he can’t bear to let go of it, either. So if it breaks down and he has to let it go, that’s the way it’s got to be.
Meanwhile, the main plot of “Wild Horses” is, as I said, basically just comical sparring between Faye, Jet and the hackers. Ed and Ein periodically float in to remind us of how silly the fighting is since it doesn’t even amount to a bounty, in the end, but, as Jet puts it, a matter of pride (“Unlike SOMEONE I know, I always pay back what I owe.”). That “someone” is Spike, but still, the fact is: every moment in “Wild Horses” without Spike is kind of just a tangent, even most of the stuff with Miles and Doofan, which is jargon about the kind of parts that are needed to fix various different space-racers. All roads lead back to Spike this episode.
But if I may go on a tangent, allow me to highlight two of my favorite gags in these distended Spike-less interludes. First, there’s the scene where Jet lays out his simple plan to get back at the hackers: “Don’t get harpooned!” As usual, time passes as marked by the slow turning of the ship’s ceiling fan’s blades. “And,” Spike replies incredulously. “That’s it,” Faye adds. This is a simple but fairly well-choreographed routine, much like Jet’s reaction after Faye and Spike attack two identical ships, hoping to surprise the hackers.
I also really like when later, Faye and Spike scheme to take down the hackers. They think that if they fire at two ships, not knowing which ship belongs to the hackers, that if they fire at the wrong ship, the drivers of that ship won’t flee; only the guilty run, or so they think. But both space freighters bolt after being fired upon. Jet sits there stunned while Jet and Faye talk to each other disbelievingly). I love the way we only hear Faye and Spike while we see Jet’s comically devastated reaction: his eyes are closed and his head is hung low as Spike murmurs, “They both ran,” and Faye replies over the comm. system, “We didn’t consider that option.” My favorite part of this joke is that Ein is floating over Jet’s right shoulder. Ein puts his left paw on Jet’s jacket, as if to provide moral support.
Ok, back to the main theme of this week’s episode: Spike’s cool philosophy on life. His take-it-or-leave-it attitude about his Swordfish is echoed later in “Wild Horses” when Doohan and Miles try to save Spike. And as a result, they wind up endangering all three of them. Miles and Doohan are panicking and trying to figure out a way out of their current predicament.
But Spike’s pretty relaxed. He contentedly says to himself, “Oh, well, whatever happens, happens.” And that’s how the episode concludes, not with a definitive resolution of Spike’s current dilemma but rather with a re-assurance that he’ll make do no matter what…if he’s meant to make do, that is. “Wild Horses” in that sense is just another illustrative example of the way that Spike is able to get by simply by improvising. No new ground is broken here but comfortable and clever can be just as good as innovative and clever, too.