If dystopian narratives have taught us anything, it’s that you gotta trust the ones with you’re with. The Walking Dead, The Road, The Handmaid’s Tale—they each draw tension from the distance between who you think you are and who those other people might be, and it seems like Y: The Last Man is committing to that methodology for the remainder of its first season.
355, Dr. Mann, and Yorick are splitting apart as their trip to San Francisco becomes an escape. Hero and Sam are splitting apart as Hero becomes enthralled with Roxanne’s “fuck men, all of them” mindset and Sam realizes that he might be in danger at the heavily stocked PriceMax. And while Jennifer and Kimberly were never allies to begin with, Regina’s ascendancy is broadening that gulf—and showing the harder edge of Jennifer Brown. Diane Lane losing her temper? Yes, please, give it to me!
We’re now past the halfway point of season one with the sixth episode, “Weird Al Is Dead,” and things are contentious everywhere. I suppose that’s not news in the world of Y: The Last Man. As we’ve discussed many times in preceding recaps, people have been protesting since the beginning, conspiracy theories are spreading, and the country’s leaders are infighting about who gets to lead this mess. Regina wants to send the military out to crush dissent? Of course she does! Kimberly wants to raise Christine’s baby? Of course she does! Hero continues to make a series of choices that cement her as the worst? Of course she does! And finally, Yorick might have a crush on 355? Of course he does, and I’m putting that in the “contentious” column because I’m going to assume that 355 is not into it!
“Weird Al Is Dead” is a solid episode, and perhaps the series’ best so far, because Catya McMullen’s screenplay crystallizes the various factions at play, and the unexpected flaws of their best-laid plains. This installment pays off a number of narrative developments introduced in preceding episodes, and kept them at the forefront: 355’s sleep walking, Kimberly’s grief over her children’s deaths, Hero’s secret about how Mike died. We’ve seen the kind of dreams 355 has while she’s sleep walking, and we’ve now seen the tears she sheds while in the middle of them.
I can’t quite get a handle on how much of Kimberly’s “conservative values” talk is posturing for power and how much of it is genuine, but I think her sadness over the loss of her sons is the realest thing about her. And Hero’s emotions are haywire, exploding out from her in all different directions as she’s desperate for some kind of rebirth/renewal/rejuvenation to let go of the guilt caused by killing Mike. There’s no closure for any of those elements, and I’m not sure there can be closure. But they’re out there, they’re informing these characters, and they’re pushing Y: The Last Man forward. The writing keeps building on itself, and I can appreciate that deliberation.
We get the full Brown family treatment this week, with Yorick, Hero, and Jennifer all sharing the stage. I’m going to assume “Weird Al Is Dead” is set about 10 days after fifth episode “Mann Hunt,” since Yorick, Dr. Mann, and 355 are in Pennsylvania, 300 or so miles from Boston, and are trying to set a pace of 20 miles a day. In that time, Yorick and 355 seem to have grown closer, while Dr. Mann has set her sights on befriending Amp.
That hesitation from Dr. Mann is because she feels on the outside of whatever bond is brewing between our favorite spy and our favorite hapless man, but I’m not sure 355 is comfortable with their developing relationship, either. She doesn’t want to be the person who tells Yorick to masturbate, because her primary responsibility to see Yorick as a job (and, well, because that’s awkward as hell). But she’s also not totally heartless, and she’s also not entirely without a conscience—at least when it comes to Yorick.
I think she was ashamed about having to admit never speaking with Jennifer, and I think she was purposeful in disabling Captain Nguyen (Marianna Phung) and the team following them rather than killing them. And to Yorick’s credit, although he cannot stop wandering into places and taking off his mask, he finally seems to realize that he has a part to play in all this, too. (The fact that Weird Al is dead seemed to really hit hard.) Yorick guides 355 off that loft while she’s sleep walking, and he demands answers from her about the satellite phone lie.
Dr. Mann might never understand why Yorick and Amp survived when so many others didn’t, but it’s on Yorick to pick a side. He has a responsibility to stay alive, and to making decisions on his own, and to protecting the women he’s with. Maybe that means sparring against 355 sometimes, or sparring against Dr. Mann sometimes. But I’m a fan of Yorick being involved in his own life, and inching his way toward some equality in this trio—and maybe toward some answers about which, or whose, instructions 355 is following.
Because I’m not sure she’s really following Jennifer’s instructions, although that’s certainly how Regina is trying to spin things back at the Pentagon. Regina has an ally in Kimberly, who passed along her theory that Jennifer sent “Sarah,” the pilots, and the choppers out to find Hero. (So close, yet so far, Kimberly!) And of course Regina moves on that information, which allows us to see Jennifer finally enter “Don’t fuck with me” mode. This is why you cast Diane Lane, so she can read her scene partner for filth. Lane has done well with Jennifer’s steadily increasing anxiety and defensiveness, and it’s impressive how she swings from the apprehension of “Proceed with caution” to the anger of “Maybe you just play one on TV. Whatever sells catheters, right?” to the final sneering KO “You do that. I’d be fucking grateful” in response to Regina’s threat to “show them who you really are.” Maybe people would respect this version of Jennifer more? Maybe she should lean into this more brusque, more direct persona? It certainly seems to work for Roxanne.
Ah, Roxanne, Roxanne. I did not anticipate Missi Pyle to be such a great cult leader, but here we are! She is giving her followers what they want, which is an opportunity to start again in a world she thinks is rightfully without men, and giving girls trauma, which is fueled by an ideology that insists men were always abusers. Think of how she questions/berates both Laura and Mack—and also think of how she positions other women as her followers’ enemies. She doesn’t let in a mother/daughter duo, because I think Roxanne wants people who are alone so she can manipulate them easier; Nora and Mack were an exception because they were with Hero. (The same goes for Sam, who is very clearly Not Welcome Here.)
Roxanne is making these women and girls believe that she is their only savior, and they do her bidding. They swarm on Hero at the bath to convince her to stay; they go full Midsommar flower crowns at that funeral for Laura/naming ceremony for Athena; they make Sam feel like an other; and they evoke that Winter’s Bone beatdown of Jennifer Lawrence’s Ree Dolly with their attack on Kelsey (Samantha Brown), who dared speak to Sam.
Does Sam have any allies in this place? You would think Hero, who is doing her same ol’ “flirt with my best friend because I’m a mess” thing, and who said to Sam earlier, “They’re staring at you because you’re a sight for sore eyes. ... You’re fucking dreamy. I’m the lucky bitch that didn’t lose the man she loves,” would be there for him. But no! Hero has found absolution and forgiveness in Roxanne, to whom she admits her killing of Mike before the Event.
Roxanne doesn’t offer Hero forgiveness, because it’s not hers to give. A fresh start, though, is certainly appealing, as is Roxanne’s spinning of Hero’s choice as self-defense and self-actualization: “You kick an animal enough times, it’s going to bite back. … You can be whoever you want here. It’s up to you.” Is Hero going to be a person who has her best friend’s back, or who abandons Sam when a “better” partner comes along? Maybe Sam needs to reassess who he trusts, and whether he stays. If I were him? Grab the testosterone and run.
- I am not shipping Yorick and 355, but her little butt bump against him during that “Great Dead Men” vigil was cute. And for the people who are shipping Yorick and 355, have fun writing some slash fic with that “Wander off again, I’ll get you a leash!” line.
- I am very emotional at this current moment, and the cover of “Karma Police” made me cry!
- Re: Dr. Mann’s “Yummy, body of Christ!” Do you think she would like Midnight Mass?
- A nod to the source material: Roxanne’s mastectomy. I’ll be honest, though, I expected the Laura-becoming-Athena ritual to be less religious and more along the lines of the ritualistic rite the Daughters of the Amazon perform in the comic.
- A moment that didn’t sit right: Why would Sam, who surely knows the power of being your true self, be so surprised by what Laura/Athena does in that funeral ceremony? It wasn’t that “fucking weird,” was it?
- Regina really has an encyclopedic memory of every insult everyone has ever leveled at her, doesn’t she?
- Don’t mind me, I’m just laughing and laughing about “I’m not sure what you’ve heard about Christians, but we’re actually pretty understanding.”
- So what did happen to Kate?
- Director Destiny Ekaragha had some great shots this episode: Amber Tamblyn and Jennifer Wigmore’s blond heads conspiratorially leaning toward each other; Laura/Athena’s foot in that bathwater; those guns in the PriceMax mannequins’ hands.
- How did the PriceMax not get looted before Roxanne and her crew set up shop there?
- Nora is playing the game by trying to worm her way toward Roxanne’s side, and I’m wondering if that sets up drama between her and Hero, who already seems to be there. What does “Stop apologizing for who you are” look like for Nora?