What is the point of no return, and how do you know when you’ve reached it? In seventh episode “My Mother Saw A Monkey,” a few familiar faces return to Y: The Last Man to raise that question from a number of angles. There’s Kimberly’s mother, former First Lady Marla, who looks around at the people and world around her and doesn’t recognize—or seem to care for—much of what she sees. There’s Yorick’s sort of ex-girlfriend Beth, who reunites with onetime potential mother-in-law Jennifer, confirms that she loved Yorick but did not say yes to his proposal, and who does recognize in the Pentagon—with its electricity, running water, and food—the world as it used to be. Each of these women sees their currently oppositional reality and decides that enough is enough, and their subsequent choices will certainly reverberate outward, for worse and worser, I think. There is no real “for better” here.
Now that we’re firmly in the back half of this first season, “My Mother Saw A Monkey” reintroduces those characters as it also settles into a nice groove with Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann; really commits to Kimberly being a potentially quite dangerous true believer (although I am still iffy on how Amber Tamblyn is playing Kimberly’s sincerity); and continues to imagine scenarios in which the absence of Y-chromosomed individuals creates all kinds of narrative possibilities. A women’s prison is a perfect example, and seems like maybe the most naturally formed community of women we’ve met so far.
Unlike the women Roxanne seemingly recruited for her group or the government employees all thrown together, women prisoners serving time together before the Event already lived in a contained, controlled environment in which certain bonds and relationships built up, including an arguably rightful resentment and mistrust of men (cross-gender supervision in prison has widespread demoralizing and abusive effects, according to studies like this one from 2007). When the women who were previously powerless become the ones in power, what would they do differently? How would they govern? What needs would they prioritize? What kind of community would they build?
Compare that lovely little village of released prisoners, with all that barbecue and banjo and what I’m sure are a ton of Ball mason jars, with the dramatics going on at the Pentagon. Women on both sides are lying, and those lies are meant to be protective. And yet I cannot help but think about how Jennifer Brown was not obfuscating or hiding anything before Yorick arrived at the Pentagon, throwing all of her priorities out of wack because of blood and family and love.
What does Jennifer owe her son, versus what she owes the country? What does Janice (Mimi Kuzy), the seeming leader of the women’s prison community, owe her people, versus what she owes humanity overall? Does she continue to hide Yorick, or offer him up to whoever comes looking? And who, past anyone sent by Regina or by Kimberly, would actually be looking?
I appreciate how Y: The Last Man has me constantly guessing and constantly imagining an array of scenarios that put Yorick at the center, and then shove him away. We still have no understanding of why Yorick and Amp survived when everyone else didn’t, but I’m less interested in what Yorick represents and more so how others reveal more of themselves after they learn of his survival. And “My Mother Saw A Monkey” offers up an array of reactions. The concern from 355 and Dr. Mann when they’re separated from him and locked in the prison cell together.
The curiosity from double murderer Janice and the other women—including Victoria (Kristen Gutoskie), who both undressed Yorick without his permission and used the royal “we,” two galling missteps—when they meet and then interrogate him. The decisiveness with which Jennifer keeps news of Yorick’s existence from Beth, even when she didn’t know that Beth had turned Yorick down. The fiery purpose lit in Kimberly once she realizes Yorick is alive and Jennifer is lying, so hot that even Regina is like, “Whoa, chill.” And the bitter acquiescence from Marla, who lets Jennifer know that she knows about Yorick before writing a note to Kimberly and stepping off the Pentagon’s roof. Kimberly has now lost her husband, her sons, her father, and her mother, and at this point, I am not sure anyone is more devoted to hating Jennifer than she is. And, I mean, I can sort of get it?
“My Mother Saw A Monkey” begins with Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann, who haven’t yet reached a truce after Yorick and Dr. Mann tried to abandon 355, but who also aren’t outwardly fighting. Instead, while 355 pushes them forward, Yorick and Dr. Mann have a kind of constantly bickering sibling vibe going (her “They don’t know what an idiot you are,” his “… Hey!”), which is interrupted when 355 falls asleep and crashes the camper they just stole. After they are discovered by women in trucks with guns, the trio is separated, with Yorick being questioned by Janice.
The older woman isn’t the collective’s leader because they are, you know, a collective, but she seems to steer the group where she wants them to go. And although Yorick isn’t particularly inspiring during this interview, with Ben Schnetzer’s gleeful line delivery of “Holy shit. Toast!” conveying his boy-man status, maybe Janice responds to his loyalty as he asks over and over again where 355 and Dr. Mann are, or to his no-bullshit as he observantly notices they’re basically treating him like a hostage.
This village might be safe for now, for as long as it takes 355 to heal (and maybe for Yorick and Victoria to hook up, against 355’s directive). But will they let Yorick et al. leave? And what happened to the people who originally lived there, and the people who worked at the prison? I think at a certain point Y: The Last Man might need to ease off the “every woman has a hidden past” thing, but I’ll indulge it a little while longer.
Especially because the series is, to its credit, also doing an “every woman has a hidden future” thing, and that is a good segue to Beth, isn’t it? Because whatever Beth is up to seems not good, and although I don’t have a clear grasp on how much time it’s been since the Event—I think at least three or four months, given that second episode “Would the World Be Kind” gave us a Day 63 signifier—I am curious about how quickly Beth went from grad student moving to Australia and maybe dating other people to government overthrower conning the President, who happens to be her ex’s mom.
How much of what Beth told Jennifer is true is up in the air. Maybe she was in a bike accident that landed her in the hospital; maybe her mother did recently pass away; maybe she did try to see Yorick one last time but couldn’t bring herself to be in the same room as the corpse of the man she once loved. Portions of that seemed genuine. But I don’t think we’ve spent enough time with Beth to really know her yet, and I don’t think we can disregard how much people have changed, and how quickly, after the Event.
“To me, it feels like a person. Nature’s indiscriminate. This had intent,” Beth told Jennifer of what caused the death of nearly every being with a Y chromosome; “It’s a time machine, but it could all fall apart, and it wouldn’t take much,” Beth says to her comrades in that van. Equilibrium is an illusion, and Y: The Last Man won’t let us forget it. And man, if Beth and Yorick ever meet again, that’s going to be some “So… what have you been up to?” conversation.
- Anyone else find that prison cell scene with Yorick challenging 355, 355 kicking his ass with the least amount of energy possible, and Dr. Mann smirking at all of it … unexpectedly sexually kinetic? Or “You’re about to get your ass beat with a fucking shoelace” unexpectedly arousing? Whatever combination of these three characters could have started kissing at any point and I would not have been surprised at all!
- Related: I assume people are already writing 355/Dr. Mann slash fic; can you please incorporate Yorick’s bared forearms?
- I know we shouldn’t pit women against each other if we can help it, but who are you taking in a stare down, Janice or Roxanne? They both are fairly foreboding and seem unruffle-able; I cannot decide.
- Or, would they both quake in response to Marla? Paris Jefferson has a really powerful unimpressed gaze, and that disdainful look she gives Tamblyn’s Kimberly as her daughter insists on praying together was great stuff. Plus, her venomous delivery of “Suffering, really? Well, if you shed even half a tear, your boys would have to split it”—yikes.
- I am not too proud to admit that Yorick talking about being an escape artist is simultaneously deeply endearing and deeply silly, and I could listen to self-serious musings like “Life and death, it’s too theoretical” all day.
- Some more 355 backstory with that flashback to a car accident that killed her entire family when she was 12 years old, leaving her with that necklace and a childhood spent in foster care. When did Fran enter the picture?
- “God chose him. It is not up to us to question that. We have to bring him here and then we have to use him to bring back men!” OK, Kimberly, but how? Magic? I cannot see you being down with either stem cells or cloning!