“It’s, uh, complicated,” Paula tells Father Jude when he asks about the photo of Layla in Jamie’s trash. “It’s complicated,” Jamie says of his reason for volunteering to test a dangerous drug intended to help survivors live without sunlight in the comet’s aftermath. “I know it’s complicated between you two,” Father Jude says, breaking the news that Layla gave birth to Jamie’s daughter six years ago.
Family is complicated, but in its sixth episode, “Home Sweet Home,” You, Me And The Apocalypse begins to uncomplicate it, laying out its web of connections with clarity. Rhonda and Scotty aren’t just siblings; they’re twins, like Ariel and Jamie. Or maybe triplets: Father Jude is Jamie and Ariel’s father, and Rhonda and Scotty are their aunt an uncle. Jamie is the father of the 6-year-old Jane Doe resurrected in Warsaw. And the bunker in Slough belongs to the as-yet unnamed woman behind the curtain (Diana Rigg), the spider in that web of connections.
“Home Sweet Home” hits its emotional notes with ease. Spike’s resentment of his uncle rings true, and in the heightened world of an oncoming disaster, his teenager’s all-or-nothing thinking rings true, too. Kyle Soller makes Scotty’s guilt (over his sister’s predicament, over quite possibly killing Ariel in the previous episode) quietly palpable, spurring his last-minute diversion to save Rhonda. He and Jenna Fischer swap insults (“Oh, wow. Wow. Wow. You smell like a skunk whose wife just left him”) with siblings’ ease. Even Rhonda’s reaction to learning Scotty’s been secretly partnered for four years feels right, feels like family: “You’re ashamed of me, right?”
But the most effective, and most stirring, display of family dynamics is Paula’s. Storming NocturnaPram’s headquarters, Jamie’s mother—not his birth mother, but the one who raised him from infancy, who made him peanut butter sandwiches and bought champagne on his birthday—won’t be stopped by burly guards. “My boy is in there and I’m getting him,” she announces, pulling up her sleeves for a barney—and letting Father Jude and Sister Celine slip through to tell Jamie he has a daughter.
Paula’s posse buys some time, but Sister Celine and Father Jude don’t talk Jamie out of his suicidal guinea-pig mission. Again, it’s Jamie’s mum who saves the day. Entering in action-hero slow-motion complete with music, Paula barks, “Get down here right now. I said right now, young man! Right, I’ll count to three.” And it works, because family is complicated and a mother’s familiar, commanding voice can make a bank manager forget he’s 30, he’s grieving, and it’s the end of world.
When Jamie interrupts her, Paula shuts him down. “I’m doing the talking now, sunshine.” Jamie’s sacrifice—his almost certain death in the drug trials—would guarantee his family and friends access to any subsequent successful version of NocturnaPram, but Paula doesn’t want to live without sunshine, or without her son. And she doesn’t want her son to miss out on feeling the way she feels. Paula urges him to meet his daughter, and to live for her. “You pour every part of you into being her dad—your time, your energy, your love. You pour it all in until you don’t even know where you end and she begins… and you hope that that’ll be enough.” For Paula, love is enough, and she wants Jamie to have more of it, even if it’s complicated.
Besides “It’s complicated,” another refrain of “Home Sweet Home” is Gen. Arnold Gaines’ “We’re just private people,” and Paterson Joseph rattles it off with the readiness of a stock answer. You just know he’s said that a lot, maybe even to Scotty, maybe even as an instruction, because even with the best intentions—even with love—families are complicated.
“Home Sweet Home” seems like it’s softening Gaines, changing him from a distant, crisply commanding military man to a more vulnerable figure. “You must be Arnold!” Rhonda says, excited and nervous, putting herself and the audience on a first-name basis with this distant, polished officer. Then Gaines—Arnold—pulls back, citing the need for plausible deniability to retain access to Mount Genesis.
Scotty’s “I love you” is a quiet plea. “I love you, too,” Gaines responds, “but right now, who cares?” The long, silent hold on Arnold’s face as he drives away is the most affecting shot in the series to date, and the turmoil playing over Joseph’s almost still face highlights the difference between persona and person, between military officer and man, between the Gen. Gaines we’ve seen all along and Arnold, who hides inside.
If family is complicated, Diana Rigg’s character is, uh, the most complicated. She’s Jude, Scotty, and Rhonda’s mother, Ariel and Jamie’s grandmother, and great-grandmother to Jane Doe. Explaining to Ariel why she’s unknown to her offspring, she says, “Gerbils eat their babies. I can empathize.” She doesn’t want to bask in the sunshine of their love. “Plus, it’s complicated what with me being dead and everything.” Legally dead, living underground in a bunker of her own, Grandma only needs one thing to secure her future: blood. Clean blood. Familial blood. And Ariel knows just the 6-year-old to provide it.
- “Home Sweet Home” is likely to be my last weekly review of You, Me And The Apocalypse, but I’ll be back to cover the finale. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you at the end of the world!
- Mary, poor Mary. Just as I decided she’d outlived her usefulness to the plot, a literal ton of bricks dropped on her and her death paid off in one last big plot development, bringing father and son together.
- Gaines to Scotty, with their teenaged nephew sulking outside: “You remember that chat we had about starting a family? I’m so glad you won that.”
- Rhonda and Spike pulling the newly redeemed Scotty from his spot jammed into the lower third of a high-school locker is a symbolic rebirth, and also just really funny.
- Jamie’s offhand revelations to the NocturnaPram interviewer: His wife was married to his brother, his mother lied to him for 30 years, his “other mother” thought he was the son of God “and in return God dumped a ton of bricks on her,” he buried her that morning, and he just met his father. Her reply: “Okay, I’m just going to check the ‘wants to help others’ box.”
- NocturnaPram’s possible side effects include paralysis of the thumbs.