[Note: The following contains spoilers for season one of Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop.]
In the lead-up to the release of Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop adaptation, the streaming service was very cagey about whether or not the show would find a way to include ace hacker Radical Edward. In the anime, Ed is the fourth member of the core Bebop crew and the most explicitly silly and cartoony of the group. But while her backstory is no less tragic than that of her bounty hunter friends, the fact that she isn’t constantly weighed down by her past sets her apart from the others (and makes her eventual departure all the more heartbreaking, because it reveals that they needed her more than she needed them).
Call her the comic relief character or the heart of the show—or even an annoying sidekick who occasionally distracts from the cool sci-fi bounty hunter action, if you want to be a jerk about it—but it’s hard to imagine Cowboy Bebop without Edward. She’s as much a part of it as Spike and Jet and Faye and the jazz music.
That’s what made Netflix’s refusal to definitively say “yes, she’s in it” or “no, she’s not” so strange. She is, again, very silly and it’s hard to capture either her physical appearance or her wacky noodle-armed mannerisms in live-action, so Netflix would’ve at least had a viable excuse for leaving her out. But the streaming service never actually said she wouldn’t be in the show.
Yes, though it takes a while for her to pop up. A hacker named “Radical Edward” is first name-checked by Mustafa Shakir’s Jet in the show’s sixth episode (the one inspired by the anime’s “Brain Scratch”) after feeding the Bebop crew some info on a bad guy, but that’s the only reference to her until the final moments of the season finale. After having his secret criminal past exposed to Jet and facing off against his nemesis Vicious (and another villain who reveals their true nature at the last second), John Cho’s battered and bloody Spike aimlessly walks around the streets of a city before collapsing in an alley.
But before he can black out, Spike is woken up by none other than Radical Edward, played by newcomer Eden Perkins (as announced on Twitter). She has big computer-y goggles, red hair, an aggressively zany attitude, and is not wearing any shoes. In other words, for better or worse, she looks and acts just like she does in the anime for the few seconds she’s onscreen—a departure from nearly every other character, most of whom were altered in some way in the transition to live-action.
During her brief appearance, Ed explains to Spike that she needs his help with a bounty-hunting job. She says there’s a terrorist named Vincent Volaju who is up to something nefarious, which anime fans will recognize as the plot of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie and an obvious tease to where Netflix hopes to take the show in a potential second season. Maybe… something about a deadly virus? And a giant sci-fi Halloween parade? A cool fight on a train? That’s what happens in the movie, at least.
None other than Spike’s long-lost love and Vicious’ wife Julia. She spends the season alternating between cowering in fear of Vicious and feeding his obsessive need for power. After Spike beats him in their climactic church battle, she decides that Spike should kill Vicious and replace him as the head of The Syndicate. Then they can be evil together! Because it turns out she’s evil!
Spike refuses, presumably because this side of her comes out of nowhere and completely upends everything that everyone (including the viewer) thought they knew about her, and so she—not Vicious—is the one who knocks him out of the big cathedral window (an iconic moment from the anime).
Julia will presumably be a full-on villain if there’s another season, secretly pulling Vicious’ strings as she sets him up to be the figurehead leader of The Syndicate. That’s assuming that a second season will even happen, which is no guarantee at this point.