Cowboy Bebop is a live-action recreation of the eponymous anime created by Christopher L. Yost which follows the story of a couple of space bounty hunters chasing down scores while also dealing with their complicated pasts.
The story starts off with Spike (John Cho) and Jet (Mustafa Shakir) capturing a bounty and dropping him off to collect the payout. They get a tip on their next mark, Asimov (Jan Uddin), a member of the ‘Red Dragon Syndicate’ who went rogue and then shot up a bar in New Tijuana.
At the same time, Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) is after Asimov’s girlfriend, Katarina (Lydia Peckham), whose abusive father wants her returned to him. The couple manages to escape their pursuers and head to the spaceport to catch a ride off the planet.
Over there, they are met by Spike, Jet and Faye as well as members of the syndicate and a shoot-out ensues. Spike and Jet succeed in taking out most of the syndicate shooters but Faye shoots Asimov in the neck before he and Katarina escape on a ship. With her lover dead, Katarina decides that she has nothing to live for and decides to kill herself by flying straight towards security ships that fire back at her.
On their next job, Spike and Jet are tracking a bomber that has been blowing up buildings with a signature of his own. Spike runs into trouble from the syndicate who now knows that he’s alive. Jet clashes with the bomber and manages to get his prosthetic hand before he runs away.
The hand allows them to pinpoint the location of the bomber and they go ahead and capture him but not before bickering and almost throwing the plan out the window.
Jet begins searching for a popular children’s toy that he can gift his daughter and then takes on a job in order to afford the toy. The mark is Hakim (Jay Paulson), a man who’s been accused of murder and kidnapping. Following the leads they have, Spike and Jet concur that Hakim will end up at of the two brothels downtown.
Jet gets his hands on the toy but when Spike runs into Hakim, Jet runs to his aid and puts the doll through hell on the way there. Hakim escapes and the doll is damaged beyond repair. After some quick sleuthing, Spike and Jet converge on Hakim’s location, at an abandoned Astro farm where he holds all the dogs he’s kidnapped.
The police get there too and kill Hakim to avoid paying the bounty, but Jet manages to get a corgi named Ein to gift his daughter. When his ex-wife refuses to keep the dog, Jet is forced to keep the dog for himself.
In search of her own past, Faye ends up at a fancy ball questioning the man who pulled her out of cryosleep but she’s interrupted when a bunch of eco-terrorists cause a massive ruckus and then steal Faye’s ship. She tracks down Jet and Spike to convince them to help her out in exchange for a share of the bounty.
They follow a hunch and reach a silo where the terrorists are planning to launch a few missiles with harmful spores into the city. The three of them foil the terrorist’s plan and Faye sacrifices her ship and her life to intercept one of the missiles and luckily survives. Jet lets her stay with them till she can get back on her feet.
A criminal who was involved in Jet’s framing back when he was a cop resurfaces and Jet gets in touch with his old partner to work the case. Jet and Fad were trying to root a dirty cop when Jet was shot and framed for the whole thing. He always suspected Chalmers (Geoff Stults), the man who married his ex-wife.
He’s heartbroken when he finds out that Fad is really behind the screwjob and ends up murdering him as revenge.
After taking care of the assassin sent by the syndicate, Spike contacts his old partner, Vicious (Alex Hassell), who is now a capo and is married to Julia (Elena Satine), the woman he clearly has feelings for. Vicious is incensed by his failure to eliminate Spike, better known in the syndicate as ‘Fearless’, and is convinced by Julia to carry out a coup against the syndicate elders with the help of the other capos.
Jet gets a lead on a very high bounty and sends Spike to check it out. It turns out to be an AI that traps Spike and tries to steal his consciousness by breaking his spirit and emotional tether to this world. Jet and Faye however, manage to rescue his mind just before that happens.
Faye receives a visit from her ‘mother’, Whitney, who askes her for a ride off the planet in exchange for Faye’s identikit that will help shed a light on her past. Whitney sweet talks Jet and Spike into helping her but when Jet suspects something, he does a little digging and finds out that Whitney is a con woman.
Right then, they are warned by a very dangerous arms dealer, the Iron Mink, to return Whitney to him or suffer the consequences. After a wild goose chase, Faye and Whitney ultimately reach the stash house, and Faye finds a tape in the identikit. It’s a message of encouragement from a younger self but without any markers as to who she is or where she’s from.
After spending some quality time together, Spike, Jet, and Faye are attacked by a superhuman assassin sent by Vicious. They manage to escape but Spike comes away with some serious burns on his body. Jet reaches out to his sources to find out who attacked them but he’s met with nought.
The assassin calls out Spike and tells him to come to an abandoned amusement park or watch his friends get hurt. The three of them come up with a plan to take on the assassin but Spike sabotages the ship so that he can do it alone. He defeats the assassin but is caught in the follow-up explosion that decimates the park.
Vicious sets his plan in motion to murder the elders and even overcomes the double-cross set by the other capos and his own Julia.
A deep dive into the past shows Spike and Vicious back when they worked as hitmen for the syndicate. Vicious is the hothead who acts impulsively and Spike is the calm, collected partner who stabilizes the situation. When Vicious messes up a negotiation between the syndicate and the Neptune cartel, his death is sanctioned with Spike as the intended person to do the job.
Spike goes out and eliminates the entire cartel instead to protect his partner. The elder, Caliban, who is also Vicious’s father, tells him that Spike intends on running away and has betrayed him by sleeping with Julia, who was actually Vicious’s girlfriend at the time. He sends someone to intercept Julia and meets Spike himself. He presumably murders Spike, but Spike survives before ultimately starting a new life as a bounty hunter.
What happens to Spike after the explosion? What’s in store for Vicious and Julia with Vicious now standing at the head of the syndicate?
Here is the ending of Cowboy Bebop season 1 explained in detail (Session 10: SuperNova Symphony):
The truth comes out
Spike survives the explosion and is taken back to Ana’s (Tamara Tunie) by Gren (Mason Alexander Park). Ana says that it was her fault that Vicious was able to foil his plans of running away all those years ago and she didn’t want to be responsible for his death yet again.
Jet and Faye show up there as well to rescue Spike. Jet receives a call from his daughter but is given the news that she’s been kidnapped by the syndicate and they want Spike in exchange for her safety.
Spike then finally reveals his past and Jet is furious with him about it. He stuffs Spike in his trunk for the exchange but Faye disagrees with the plan to give him up so easily and walks away.
Chaos in the Crypt
Jet and Spike show up for the exchange and try to get on over Vicious but their plan is unsuccessful and they are then ambushed and subdued.
They wake up tied to pillars near a crypt inside a church. Vicious shows up and starts admonishing Spike and talks about making him suffer. He’s about to take out Jet and his daughter when Faye rains down a hail of gunfire from her ship and kills all the syndicate members except for Vicious and a few of his seconds.
Jet and Faye then head out but Spike stays behind claiming that he needs to finish what he started.
True colours and a parting of the ways
Spike goes back into the church for one final showdown with Vicious. After taking out his lieutenants, he gets into the thick of it with Vicious. When it seems like Vicious has the upper hand, Julia shows up and shoots Vicious.
Spike suggests they run away and start a new life together because he still loves her, but she has other plans. She says that living in fear with Vicious for so many years helped unlock a dark side to her and she wants to use that hunger to take over the syndicate, now that there is no one else standing in her way.
When Spike does not agree to this plan, she shoots him and watches him fall out into the ocean. He survives again and heads back to Jeff who tells him to never show his face again. Faye sets out on her own to find out more about her past and who she is. Julia takes her place as the head of the syndicate with Vicious as her helpless prisoner.
As Spike walks out of a bar and passes out on the street, he’s woken up by someone named Ed, who has Ein along with him. Ed is ranting about some big job and wants to hire Spike to complete the bounty. That’s how season 1 concludes.