Rounding out the characters from Cowboy Bebop, we end with Jet Black, the Black Dog. Yes, there’s still Ed, but what else can be said about her than, he’s a seven foot ex basketball pro, hindu, guru, drag queen, alien?
Spike and Faye are certainly more popular than the Bebop’s oldest crew member, but Jet is still a strong character in his own right.
The first we see of him is with Spike. How the two met remains a mystery, but we know that Jet was a former police officer who retired too early because he felt the system had let him down. He decided to hunt for bounties aboard a modified fishing vessel, and the Bebop was born.
Jet is depicted as gruff, unforgiving, and cautious, though he’s been known to act fast when the time arises. In reality, he’s a pretty nice guy, and extremely loyal. Spike consistently abuses his loyalty, all but forcing Jet to come to his assistance, but Jet always comes (except in the last episode) anyway, even when he knows.
The two episodes which defined Jet the most involve his arm and his ex-girlfriend. In the former, an old partner comes to Jet for assistance, and the two chase down the criminal who shot off Jet’s arm years ago. In the end, Jet learns it was his partner, working for the very crime syndicate they were tracking, who shot him. Losing his arm caused Jet to develop a cautious streak, and he scolds Spike several times about being too gun-ho. Finding out his partner had betrayed him, cemented his belief in the inadequacy of local law enforcement.
Jet may be a easy going guy among his friends, but underneath is someone who’s been burned one too many times. It’s implied, but never shown, that Jet came across a lot of corruption within the police departments he served. Him leaving had much to do with his desire to actually support the cause of justice.
It’s a nice juxtaposition to Spike, who was a member of a crime syndicate, and left when it became too much for him. Jet and Spike are polar opposites, but are similar in many ways.
One thing fans may notice about Jet is his suppressed desire to control things. While Spike tends to go with the flow, Jet generally likes things planned out. When Spike does the opposite, Jet will throw his hands in the air in exasperation, before coming to his aid.
This is dealt with in the episode, Ganymeade Elegy, when Jet encounters his ex. She left him, years ago, and though he’s moved on, he still wants to know why. “Back then when I got home from work, you were always there waiting for me. And that was all I needed. Just you. But on that day, when I came back home the only thing there was that pocket watch; that and a small piece of paper that just had one word written across it: farewell.”
Turns out, his ex felt stifled. “You decided everything,” she tells him, “in the end you were always right… I never had to do anything for myself. All I had to do was to hang onto your arm like a child without a care in the world.” And she resented it. So she leaves. Jet doesn’t hate her, he doesn’t even react much to her explanation. You can tell, though, that it stings to some degree.
We love Jet because he’s world-weary, and to some degree we all feel a bit tired of everything. The man is only 36 years old, yet he comes off as someone much older. He’s been shot, dumped, abused, tread on, and left out on his own, but for all that he still retains a fierce loyalty to his friends and partners. It’s admirable.
And when Spike goes to die, you can tell Jet wants to follow him; to help him. But he stays out of it, because Jet knows that some fights you have to handle by yourself.
He’s a man who got old too fast, and survived everything the Universe threw at him. Yet, in the end, he’s still alone. It’s sad, but sometimes stories shouldn’t have happy endings.