Difficult to say who is the most annoying character in “Peppers,” the penultimate season (and maybe series?) episode of Y: The Last Man. Is it the anarchists/separatists/something-ists—Y: The Last Man hasn’t made it clear, so I cannot either—who storm the Pentagon and who don’t really seem to have a plan past “burn things”? Is it Regina Oliver, who was planning a coup of her own and who immediately jumps into conspiracy theories as soon as her life is threatened? (Goodbye, Regina, I will not miss you.)
Is it the Daughters Of The Amazon, who see attacking other women as their responsibility and their right, but who also are so shortsighted that they end up destroying food and wasting water? Is it Hero, who just wanders around like a zombie, or Nora, whose insincerity is so obvious that I do not understand why no one has seemed to notice? I fully understand that this is a brave new world and everything, but we are months in at this point, and people sure are continuing to act nonsensically! Get a grip!
“Peppers” is a strange episode in that it brings together a lot of narrative threads built over the season (the protestors outside the Pentagon, Kimberly’s resentment of Jennifer) but also relies on a strange amount of inactivity from certain characters who frankly are still quite cypher-like (Hero, Beth). And that inactivity also applies to Yorick. I understand that 355’s head injury needs time to heal, but another episode of Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann just hanging out in the little community of Marrisville—with no real forward movement, aside from Yorick getting a little high and Dr. Mann getting a little laid—feels like treading water. So “Peppers” just feels tonally disjointed, and in particular, I find myself caring less and less about what the Daughters Of The Amazon are up to.
Y: The Last Man has not made them compelling, the attack on that Hall of Voices display was (perhaps unintentionally?) very corny, and every time Missi Pyle lowers her voice another register as Roxanne, I roll my eyes not just with irritation at the character, but irritation with the performance of the performance. I can appreciate how the series has moved focus away from Yorick specifically to build in details of the rest of this world, but the Daughters Of The Amazon are neither believable villains, nor interesting ones. I will pay deeper attention when Nora finally betrays Roxanne, which she should have done immediately. Until then, I can go without.
That’s about all the discussion of the Daughters Of The Amazon subplot we need, right? The women are on the move to find a new home, Roxanne is still spreading her all-men-are-bad ideology and turning other women into enemies (“They are mourning a world that hurt us. That has consequences, and we are those consequences”), and her acolytes are eating it up. And Roxanne clearly doesn’t take Nora or her threat of exposure very seriously, since she ignores Nora’s insistence that they gather resources and supplies.
Between that disrespect and the adoration Nora’s daughter Mack feels for Roxanne, I’m thinking Nora tries to turn Hero to her side—since Roxanne also betrayed Hero by sharing her story of killing Mike without her permission. But who can say, since Olivia Thirlby plays Hero with such blankness this episode that I have no idea what’s going on in there. She is a good little soldier for Roxanne and that’s about it, and maybe this is a commentary on cult brainwashing? Or maybe the series doesn’t quite know what to do with Hero or Nora or this whole storyline. Tough to say!
But we do know that the Daughters of the Amazon are on their way to Marrisville once Nora sees a sketch of Yorick, sees his cellphone and its picture of Beth (HOW DOES IT STILL HAVE A BATTERY CHARGE?), and learns that the community has electricity. Important here is that Yorick’s travels alongside 355, and her violence in protecting him, have not gone unnoticed by the women they encounter. And yet in Marrisville, Yorick and Dr. Mann have been chilling: Yorick as he gets aggressively flirted with by Sonia (Kristen Gutoskie) and Dr. Mann as she, in her own way, flirts with Dominique (Mercedes Morris). Is Yorick really into Sonia?
I still think he has a crush going on 355, and I will admit that the pair dancing to “No Scrubs” together was cute and I could have watched another hour of Yorick’s frankly awful attempts at body rolls. But 355 is lost in her own haze of memories of Fran (June Carryl), the woman who recruited her into the Culper Ring, and she has no mental space to really wonder about what Yorick and Dr. Mann are up to. Is Sofia a threat? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s why 355 smashed the tracer she was using to find Fran. I think 355 might be done with that part of her life, and if so, then from whom is she taking orders on what to do with Yorick and 355? Especially since there’s no one at the Pentagon to guide her way?
Because at the Pentagon, things are not going well! First up is the coup attempt orchestrated by Regina, Kimberly, and General Reed (Yanna McIntosh), who believes that Jennifer ordered the murders of those two helicopter pilots. That’s not entirely right, because it’s not like Jennifer personally signed off on 355 wiping out witnesses. But still, two women are dead, and General Reed doesn’t believe Jennifer should be president anymore, and Regina and Kimberly never thought she should be president anyway. It all comes to a head with the trio swapping out Jennifer’s security detail and presenting to her crew of advisors their evidence of Yorick’s survival. And Jennifer, to her credit, comes clean—but stands up for herself, too. What would the other women have done if their sons were alive?
It’s all moot, though, once Beth and her comrades storm the gates, set off a few bombs in the Metro system near the Pentagon (which in real life, is more adjacent to the Pentagon than directly below it), and enact their plan to destroy the current government system and start something new. (“We have to tear that place down. Let the grass grow,” sounded like the same stuff the Harvard protestors were saying, but I wish the show were a little more nuanced than just “Resist!” when it came to describing these ideological stances.)
But from the beginning, as organized as these women seem, they aren’t entirely on the same page. Beth is a newcomer to their group, and she’s not entirely trusted by leader Malika (Natasha Bumba); the invaders are frazzled when they can’t figure out who the President actually is because Jennifer and Regina are fighting; and they don’t seem prepared for the intensity of the Army’s response.
But maybe I missed something here: Did General Reed and the Army actually switch sides to join Malika et al.? They were separated from the politicians, and they certainly were shooting with abandon after flooding the place with tear gas. And amid/after all that chaos, Regina was killed by Malika (bye!), documents were destroyed, the Pentagon seems to be overrun, Kimberly and Christine ended up together (with the latter killing to protect the former), and Jennifer and Beth reunite for a second time under very different circumstances.
Thanks to Regina’s pre-death admission, now Beth and some of the women she came in with know that Yorick is alive, too. Jennifer’s closed circle of knowledge is broken way open, and I’m thinking of what Sonia said to Yorick: “Believe me, I started shit. Most of us did.” How does the shit started at the Pentagon reverberate outward? Does it reach Marrisville? Do Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann ever get on the road to San Francisco? Will Hero wake the hell up and realize, “Hm, maybe Sam was right along about how awful Roxanne is?” Only one more episode, possibly ever, to explore these questions.
- I am increasingly irritated with Roxanne’s followers, who are all presented as survivors of domestic abuse, also being so gullible and immature (being fine with Roxanne solely referring to them as “girls”). Them eating pilfered cookies and gossiping together about Hero just seemed like a fairly condescending portrait.
- Corn Pops ARE a superior cereal and I do understand Nora’s desire to protect them!
- Ben Schnetzer had a lot of great line deliveries this week, from his gleeful realization that Marrisville has weed (“One [joint] per household! … Just don’t tell Allison, because she’s been on me about my sperm count”) to his rolling-with-it reaction to Sonia, 355, and Dr. Mann calling him on his women’s-prisons mansplaining (“He whispered ‘racism’!”).
- A weekly “Happy Fucking Saturday!” cake seems like a great idea, actually.
- Nice touch to have Kimberly’s mourning communicated by her very visible, very dark roots.
- Nikola Tesla being included in that van graffitied with portraits of impactful, lost men: correct.
- I still would have loved to know what Beth was up to all this time. I understand that finding her mother abandoned in that hospital was traumatic, but that’s a huge leap from “normal grad student” to “anarchist, or whatever.” And her questioning of Jennifer about whether Yorick is really alive—did she just ignore all the graffiti he seemed to leave around the entirety of Manhattan?
- Jennifer comforts Christine by calling Hero “the best decision I ever made,” but I’m not sure she would still think that if she were to meet the new brittle, hollow version of her daughter.
- Amber Tamblyn snarling “You wanted him all to yourself” was her best work as Kimberly, and the first time I’ve really bought that character. Although I do wonder where on her person she was hiding that Deus Ex Glass Shard—and who was she going to use it on if that heckling dissident (who stormed the Pentagon just to put up some spray paint, apparently hadn’t appeared?