Is it foolish to hope that all various narrative tracks of Y: The Last Man would have the same amount of tension, excitement, and overall interest? Because whatever is going on with Yorick, 355, Dr. Mann, and the community of formerly incarcerated women is intriguing. Whatever is going on at the Pentagon with Jennifer, Regina, Kimberly, and Christine could explode at any moment, especially with Kimberly now grieving the loss of her mother Marla, her final immediate family member. And then there’s the PriceMax, Roxanne, Hero, and Sam story, which is just… a slog.
I suppose “Ready. Aim. Fire.” is a broadly necessary episode, to finally move Nora’s story into its next phase and to separate Hero and Sam. But learning that all of Roxanne’s Olivia Benson affectations really are just affectations? That was neither fulfilling nor particularly logical. Roxanne is a psychological mastermind who can easily murder woman after woman, who can assume an all-new identity, who can sway an entire group of women to her will, who can plan a safety perimeter to maintain a lie, who can wage trauma-mining mental warfare against her wards, and who also doesn’t find it particularly important to properly dispose of her PriceMax ID?
On the one hand, I could see writer Coleman Herbert making the argument that Roxanne’s forgotten nametag was proof that she didn’t initially know what she was doing, and that she got in over her head too quickly. On the other hand, I think if there had been more clues in the preceding seven episodes that Roxanne wasn’t to be trusted not because she’s an increasingly deranged cult leader but because she’s deliberately playing that role to retain power, maybe this reveal would have hit a little harder.
As it was, I just didn’t really buy it. And it’s difficult for me to get a grasp on who this show is telling us Hero Brown is. Clearly we’re meant to see her as a vessel for Roxanne’s brainwashing, and I think we’re supposed to sympathize with Hero now that we know so much of Roxanne’s misandry is just the stuff she thinks her captive audience of domestic abuse survivors will want to hear. But Hero’s character arc has been so reactive, instead of proactive, until this point that we don’t have a strong sense of who she was in the first place. (Once again, I ask: Hero, why did you confess your crime to Roxanne? Bad move.)
Comparatively, we know so much more about Sam, and his arc is so much more compelling right now than whatever Hero is going through. I know the point of Y: The Last Man is not to compare characters against each other; that’s something Kimberly has been doing at the Pentagon for weeks, and it’s reflected her fairly selfish motivations. But the series has done a solid job so far in capturing the isolation and loneliness felt by the people on the road, and the varyingly conniving moves by everyone posted up at the Pentagon.
It took a while for Yorick to get going as his own man, so to speak, and for Jennifer to reveal a darker side of her personality. Hero, though, remains nebulous, and not in a provocative way, like whatever Beth is up to. I just want Hero to snap out of it, rather than plummeting further into this faux-victim ideology! It honestly is a little offensive that any of these women fell for what Roxanne is selling! Of course Nora would align herself with a charlatan leader relying on lies to sustain her upper hand! That’s politics, baby! Man, what a bummer of an episode of Y: The Last Man.
Let’s get into plot of “Ready. Aim. Fire.”, which is told in backward time; I will not do that to you. I will simply divide up the subplots. In the present day, Hero is falling more under Roxanne’s spell, while Sam continues to (rightfully) look around like, “What in the actual hell?” and Nora learns that Roxanne plans to kick her and daughter Mack out. Why is Roxanne keeping such tight control over who gets to be at PriceMax? What, really, is the definition of the “our people” Roxanne mentions, except for, as Nora pointedly says, being young, female, and impressionable?
Nora can’t figure it out, but she knows that she and Mack couldn’t survive out there alone. Now we know that you do not want to make an enemy out of Nora, because she’ll use all those political-maneuvering skills to figure out your whole deal. All it took was one wandering walk outside of Roxanne’s established perimeter (had we heard about this before?) to see the cop car, find Roxanne’s ID, and put the pieces together.
So: Nora sucks too, right? Someone could have been hurt in the fire she set after the “Better Off Without Them” party, and the fact that she aligns herself with Roxanne—someone she knows to be a liar—instead of revealing her falsehoods and trying to build a new community is a cowardly choice. I grasp that Sam’s rejection of her suggestion that they flee together must have hurt, but Sam isn’t an idiot. He knows that Nora sees Sam as just another stereotype, too, and in reality, she wants Hero on their side more than she wants Sam. And Hero, of course, is too far gone.
It’s dispiriting that Hero really has no answer for Sam when he asks, “They like me because I’m not really a man? Or I am, and I’m just another fucking serial killer or rapist?” All it took was a few weeks in this environment for her to turn her back on her best friend, which speaks to the rapidity with which the aftermath of the Event is transforming people. And it’s a little ironic how Hero turns into the kind of woman who tries to apologize for a man (“He’s just tired”) in that interaction between her, Sam, and Roxanne, as if Roxanne’s “all men suck” ideology is in fact having the reverse effect. The whole vibe here is hypocritical and superficially considered, and yet Roxanne and Nora joining forces, with Hero as an obedient follower, cannot be a good thing.
While all this is happening in the now, we also move backward throughout the episode and learn that Roxanne used to once work at this PriceMax, making enemies out of slacker male colleagues and her eye-rolling boss. Did Roxanne genuinely want to protect her female coworker from sexualization, or was she actually jealous about other people ignoring her? “Ready. Aim. Fire.” isn’t clear, but I honestly lean toward the latter because of how easily she starts killing other women who come to loot PriceMax after the event. Not much solidarity there, huh?
(I will admit that the closeup on the charm bracelet threw me, because at first I thought Roxanne was collecting already-dead male bodies to burn. The backward reveal that those were women she had murdered was a jarring one, and probably the most effective moment of the episode.)
After securing PriceMax, Roxanne draws in followers by mimicking the good cop/bad cop pretensions she watched on stolen Law & Order DVDs, scaring the women from the shelter, and then inviting them to live with her back at the store. Protection is a lure, and the women fall for it hook, line, and sinker.
But all the other stuff—I don’t know. Yes, I can buy that the confusion we’re seeing on the ground now, especially regarding which men died and which men lived, links back to the failures of Jennifer’s administration in battling the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation. Yes, I can acknowledge that cults work by cutting their followers off from their families, and by establishing a new community in which obedience is the norm. I watched The Vow, I watched Seduced, I know what’s up.
Yet everyone reacting to everything Roxanne planned out in exactly the way she hoped for is a little too narratively tidy. The Daughters Of The Amazon are now born, and with PriceMax burned, they’re on the move. How long until they cross paths with Yorick, or with Jennifer? Will the Browns still recognize each other? Or is Hero, well… the villain? (I’m sorry, I’m sorry.)
- Showrunner Eliza Clark confirmed on Twitter on October 17 that FX on Hulu has not renewed Y: The Last Man for a second season, and the creative team is now trying to find a new home for it. We have two episodes left, and that might be it! I’ll keep my thoughts on all this until my finale recap. If you want to read Clark’s whole statement, it’s here.
- Any episode without Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann really makes me miss Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann.
- “I’m not a gun guy.” I appreciate how the very existence of Sam challenges all the heterosexual-stereotype stuff Roxanne is parroting, and of course that’s why Sam has to go. In a storyline that otherwise seems somewhat flatly considered, their animosity toward each other works.
- Related: “Not everything is about me being trans” felt like a very intentional moment from the Y: The Last Man creative team in signaling that Sam serves a greater purpose than just being “the trans character,” and I hope that stands. The Sam/Hero divide has worked narratively because the show has been clear that their friendship had a lot of toxicity and codependency to it regardless of their genders, but I wonder where Sam’s story goes now. It can’t just be playing piano in an abandoned elementary school, can it?
- “We don’t vote,” said one of Roxanne’s followers, and yeah, that’s bad. How do none of you realize this is bad?
- “You don’t trust cops, do you?” is a real meme waiting to happen.
- I flashed back to a lot of college Resident Life bonding sessions when someone demanded that Hero “interrogate that” when she praised Yorick. No thanks!
- Kelsey is not dumb, and it took bravery to stand up to Hero’s mean girl tendencies. But with Kelsey now cowed by that beating she received for daring to talk to Sam, will the Roxanne-murdered Kate ever get justice?
- The vulture balanced on the floating lights of the cop car: a good visual moment.