My last article talked about Spike from Cowboy Bebop. I decided to write this week’s article on Bebop’s other fan-favorite character, Faye Valentine.
Originally a theif who trusts no one, Faye becomes an important – if annoying – member of the Bebop’s crew. Jet and Spike encounter her through a misshap. Faye owes money. A mob boss makes her a deal. Pick up a chip from a contact in a casino, and he’ll help her out. Faye believes Spike is her contact. Spike just thinks that Faye is cheating him at cards.
Through a series of adventures, Faye forces herself onto the Bebop as part of its crew. Though she stays aboard, it’s evident from the get-go she doesn’t trust either of the two men. In Faye’s mind, she’s teamed up with them for now, but when the next big opportunity presents itself, she’ll be gone.
It’s typical behavior on her part. She even says, at one point, “They often say that humans can’t live alone. But you can live pretty long by yourself. Instead of feeling alone in a group. It’s better to be alone in your solitude.” Cheery. Throughout the series, Faye will typically drop off the map. She’ll take on bounties by herself, vanish for weeks on end, etc. The guys are left wondering where she’s gone, and though they always find her again, they become used to it.
Though Faye originally claims she’s a gypsy, she actually has no memory. She woke up in a cyrogentic chamber after fifty or so years, due to an accident in early spaceflight. She doesn’t know who she was beforehand, what she did, who her family is. She’s a pretty basic amnesiac.
She becomes a con-artist. She lies and cheats and steals. She pretends to be interested in men because she knows men desire her. But this is all a shell, and we can see that from episode to episode. She doesn’t like living this way, but she does because it’s the only way she knows how to keep herself safe. If she doesn’t let anyone get close, no one can ever hurt her.
That’s why she runs. That’s why she’s devious and always trying to screw over the other guys. In some way, I think Spike and Jet know that too, which is why they let her come back so many times.
When Faye’s memory finally returns, she realizes it doesn’t change anything. She’s still in the future. Her old life is gone, and she’s still made mistakes. Spike and Jet and Ed and Ein are the only real family she can return to. An old friend of hers does spot her, and calls out to her, but Faye insists this is a mistake, even though she knows it’s not. She’s been running her whole life, and she’s run clear away from whatever her old life was.
Her attitude is brash. She argues, yells, flaunts her superiority, and puts down the guys whenever she can. This feels genuine, initially. As the story proceeds, Faye’s attitude doesn’t change, but you can tell she possesses a real respect for her newfound family and friends underneath her exterior. She’ll probably never change on the outside, but on the inside she’s shifted dramatically.
This is why Faye reacts so harshly when Spike leaves to face Vicious. Yes, there’s the sexual tension and mutual attraction. But also, there’s the unwillingness to let go of her newfound family. Faye has stopped running, and she doesn’t want to run anymore. She wants to stay with the Bebop, with Jet and Spike, and catch badguys.
And if she won’t, and can’t, run anymore, why does Spike get to? She’s finally found a home and Spike wants to throw it away. Spike feels like he needs to face his destiny, to “Wake up from a bad dream,” but Faye feels like she’s finally woken up from one.
That’s what makes Faye so interesting to watch and tragic. She doesn’t want to be alone, but she spends all her time making herself alone. Then, when she finally realizes she’s not alone anymore, everyone slips away from her.