‘Cowboy Bebop’ Ending, Explained – Is Spike Spiegel Really Dead?


Even after a span of more than two decades since it came out, Cowboy Bebop remains unforgettable for its wonderful genre hybridity, the rich narrative takes, and its magnetic protagonist: Spike Spiegel. While Cowboy Bebop is only 26 episodes long, this anime series manages to philosophize life in the most exciting ways. Especially in the final episodes, which feature the end of an era for Spiegel. Interestingly, Cowboy Bebop is set to receive a live-action Netflix adaptation, with John Cho assuming the role of Spiegel. 

‘Cowboy Bebop’ Plot Summary

Set in the year 2071, in the aftermath of a massive event that rendered the Earth almost uninhabitable, Cowboy Bebop sets ups Spiegel as a bounty hunter. Spiegel, a former hitman of the Red Dragon Syndicate, is responsible for chasing criminals amid ever-rising crime rates across the galaxy. He had a long-standing rivalry with Vicious, another Red Dragon affiliate, with whom he used to be close friends before the partnership turned sour. Cowboy Bebop ends with an epic showdown between Spike and Vicious, who engage in a dance of death while fighting for their individual ideas of justice. 

Death In An Abandoned Church: Spike Spiegel’s Epic Duel With Vicious 

During his time with the Syndicate, Spike had fallen in love with Vicious’ girlfriend, Julia. The two decided to flee together to fashion a life away from the crime family. However, love comes at a dire cost, as the altercation that follows almost kills Spike, post which he is seemingly abandoned by Julia, who disappears without a trace. Ever since Julia’s absence, Spike simply saunters through life without attaching much meaning to tangible events, as the sting of this betrayal renders him numb, essentially dead inside. Adopting the philosophy of sprezzatura, Spike exudes a resigned, nihilistic nonchalance like no other, as captured in a memorable sequence wherein a light a cigarette and muses, “Whatever happens, happens.”

When Vicious takes over the Syndicate, he immediately sends his men after Spike and also Julia. She has chosen to remain hidden away as a means to keep Spike safe years ago. Through a series of events, Spike and Julia reunite, locked in a bittersweet embrace and the burden of loss and memory that plagued them through the years. However, in a cruel turn of events, Julia is shot by Vicious’ men during a shootout, triggering the end’s beginning. Left with no choice but to avenge Julia, Spike faces Vicious in an abandoned church, before which he is already seriously injured in a fight with members of the Red Dragon base. Spike manages to shoot Vicious right in the chest, but the latter slices his abdomen with a katana, causing him to bleed heavily on the spot. 

Is Spike Spiegel Really Dead? Harkening The End of An Era

The final moments of Cowboy Bebop are haunting, to say the least, as audiences see an injured Spike stumble out of the building, battered and broken. A zoom-in into his right eye reveals a reflection of Julia, which situates his mindset in the present, symbolizing that he has surrendered to the harsh reality of Julia’s death and the acute absence of any tangible meaning in his existence. While Spike’s injuries are enough to plummet him to swift death, which is most probably the case when he falls forward with a thud, and the screen fades to black. Julia’s death acts as an emotional catalyst in this respect. Having lost the love of his life, his dreams shattered to smithereens, Spike succumbs to the sweet lull of death and the dream state that potentially follows. 

Theories encircle the true ending of Cowboy Bebop, as it is unclear as to whether Spike is really dead in the end. It is also interesting to note that series creator Shinichirō Watanabe crafted Cowboy Bebop as a self-contained storyline, planning out Spike’s confrontation with Vicious right from the beginning, making the ending a necessity, an inevitability. However, the ending is deliberately ambiguous, as Watanabe, in an interview with IGN, posited how Spike could only be “sleeping” in the ending, exhausted by his battle wounds and the intense trauma of the final moments. Irrespective of whether Spike is really dead, Julia’s death marks the end of an era in his life, wounding his sense of core identity and human desires beyond repair.

Cowboy Bebop is a 1998 Anime Television Series created by Hajime Yatate.

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Debopriyaa Dutta
Debopriyaa Dutta
I am a Features Writer/Film Critic at ScreenRant and a frequent contributor to High On Films. I oscillate between extremes, having a tender spot for cinematic pieces that act as an intersection between hope and hell.

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