So, Hero is terrible, huh? For readers of the Y: The Last Man comics, you know this character development for Yorick’s older sister is already far more than what we received in written form this early on. And I will not complain about Olivia Thirlby’s performance so far, which is believably communicating the exhaustion of her situation. But Hero is shockingly selfish, and if I were Sam, I would have laid into her like none other. First you’re sabotaging our ride, then you’re initiating a sexual situation that is only complicating our friendship, then you’re pulling us into a partnership with strangers whom we don’t really know? Hero… you’re a mess.
“But she helped a child in need!” Yes, sure, Mack needed assistance, and Nora seemed frantic/useless, and admittedly, Hero seems to be a pretty good EMT. “But those women had guns; how could Hero have denied help for their injured friend Kate?” Yes, sure, in this new The Walking Dead-like world order, everyone seems to be packing. I will acquiesce that writer Donnetta Lavinia Grays effectively raised the stakes in “Karen And Benji” by introducing new character Roxanne (Missi Pyle) and her crew of devoted followers, which helped us understand what the United States is like right now outside of Washington, D.C., and outside of the federal government bureaucratic structure.
As already has been established, food is scarce, camps are overrun, and people are turning against each other with backstabbing, thievery, and abuse. And so the response has been, as “Karen And Benji” fills in, a distilled version of the same old status quo. Recall that back in D.C., women like Kimberly are clinging to “conservative values,” while somewhere on the way to Boston, police officers’ wives step into their husbands’ vacated roles as the new police. Do they have training? Doesn’t seem like it! And yet they they’re just as pushy (and power-hungry, and impulsive) as their husbands were. They intimidate the vendors at the marketplace. They jump to attacking Yorick, pulling out their batons and their guns. And I initially thought that the vendor from whom Agent 355 takes the motorcycle and Kate, Roxanne’s follower who Hero helps, were the same woman. They both had gunshot wounds in their upper-right shoulders, and we saw one of those Nu! Cops shoot at the vendor while 355 and Yorick sped away.
From perusing the credits, though, I realized the vendor was Trish (Kelly Marie McKenna), so not Kate (Sarah Booth). But the physical locations of Yorick and Hero were fuzzy enough—Yorick and 355 are a day away from Boston, while Hero and Sam are in Pennsylvania, a day away from D.C.—that I thought the similar gunshot wounds and potentially overlapping locations were meant to be a “small world” situation for the siblings. The different characters of Trish and Kate clarify that they’re not. But just because Yorick and Hero aren’t very close together physically doesn’t preclude them from both being fairly bratty! Why can’t Yorick just do what 355 tells him to do? Why can’t Hero just respect what Sam needs? Why are the Brown children unable to consider how they impact the world around them, instead of just how the world is impacting them? (When Hero said her mother described her as “selfish and self-destructive”… I get it.)
“Karen And Benji” opens with the first fantastical touch we’ve gotten so far on Y: The Last Man, which has mostly stayed very grounded in its presentation of the end of the Y chromosome. On a stage, to an unseen—and maybe not even present—audience, 355 sings and dances with a stranger (Kris Grzella). She’s wearing a gauzy pink gown, popping her leg out of the dress’s long slit like Angelina Jolie, and really belting out the swing standard “Taking a Chance on Love.” “We’ll all have a happy ending now/Taking a chance on love,” 355 sings, but various elements of this scene are obviously strange. Who is the girl watching from the side stage? What goes wrong that the stage ends up flooded with light, and 355 loses her rhythm? Is this a manifestation of her anxiety and frustration at being seemingly the last remaining spy alive in the Culper Ring? Or is the real issue the uselessness of Yorick? (Between Ashley Romans’ committed physicality to the unexpectedness of this scene and her bemused delivery of “That’s unlikely” in response to Yorick’s near nudity, Romans remains this series’ MVP.)
Perhaps I am being mean. The psychological trauma of what Yorick is going through is probably a lot. And hey, he knew how to use a wrench! But I cannot get over wandering and being caught off guard when those two women just creep up into his and 355’s camp and start looking through 355’s stuff, and then ignoring 355’s attempt at ground rules, and then bailing on her as soon as he saw a woman who might look like Beth. Of course 355 was going to save him again. But offering to help him look for Beth after they meet up with Dr. Allison Mann in Boston? That was a little surprising. Maybe Yorick will eventually grow more competent, in the same way that he mastered those more complicated card tricks? (In the comics, Yorick was at least capable enough to get himself to D.C.) And maybe he will consider what 355 said about his privilege (“an entire life of just being given shit”) and will man up to be a better partner on this road trip? Only time will tell!
Similar questions are coming up in the Hero and Sam and Nora and Mack pairing, since at first, Nora seems like she isn’t offering much. She didn’t know how to fix Mack’s leg. She didn’t have a place to stay. She didn’t have anything good to offer Hero and Sam for trading purposes. So I am very curious what role Nora could play under the Roxanne world order—especially after Nora reveals to Hero that she worked at the White House and knows who her mother is, and then follows that up by telling Hero not to share that information with Roxanne. Roxanne seems principled in a potentially fair, but also potentially callous, way. She shoots Kate to “show some fucking mercy.” She puts the incredulous, resentful Laura (Jayli Wolf) in line once Laura tries to abandon Hero, Sam, Nora, and Mack: “A child doesn’t deserve our help?” She refuses any prejudice toward Sam. And notice the last thing she says: “It’s the least we can do.” That sounds like a quid pro quo situation to me, as if by helping Mack heal, Roxanne will expect something in return. But with that Costco-like warehouse full of food and supplies, what else could Roxanne need? I’m thinking of a moment from The Wire here: loyalty. And loyalty in this world might be a dangerous thing.
- This episode overall felt very reminiscent of The Walking Dead for me, in that it mostly felt apocalyptic rather than political. That’s what happens when you leave Washington, D.C., I guess! But along those lines, which Walking Dead villain do we think Roxanne most aligns with? I’m gonna with Jadis. Roxanne is giving me a strong “I am charismatic, and I will manipulate you, and I will make you feel like you owe me, and that alliance will mean you never step out of line” energy.
- Or, am I wrong for thinking that Roxanne will be a villain at all?
- Hero came this close to telling Sam what happened with Mike. Why do I think she’s eventually going to confess to Roxanne?
- Yorick is STILL letting Ampersand out of his carrier in unknown places? My teeth hurt from gritting them so hard!
- I will almost forgive him, though, for “They were quoting Anne Frank? That’s garbage!”
- The KLSYLDY car with the eyelashes was worthy of some mockery, but theoretically whoever drives that car worked at the women’s shelter and helps victims of domestic abuse, so thank you for your service.
- 355’s showdown with that rabbit took me right back to the top-notch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode “The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods.”
- I respect 355’s commitment to her “Those pilots? Who, me?” cover story, from saying that the pilots stole the helicopters to her deadpan “They got what?” when Yorick tried to lay their deaths in her lap.
- Coach Karen and Benji, the homeschooled horse boy, sounds like a rejected 30 Rock skit.
- Re: only the Dad-related cards being left at that grocery store that Hero and Sam were surveying—were a lot of women and girls loading up on greeting cards during their looting? I understand the thematic point of that scene, but it didn’t make much real-world sense.
- In a nod to the comics, we see Yorick pretending to be trans to divert questions about his gender identity. But in a solid update for the series, Sam standing up for himself and who he is, and having Hero’s support in that, was a pointed, purposeful moment.