Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Y: The Last Man – You have no idea who you’re dealing with.

Y: The Last Man: 1x10 Victoria. 

We start the final episode of Y: The Last Man’s first and hopefully not last season with a dinner scene from hell that continues in flashbacks throughout Victoria, like an escalating framing device to tell a more complete story about the Brown siblings. For the first bits I didn’t even realise that Hero was at the table, because nobody else acknowledged her, so engrossed are they in Yorick’s story about his next show – a bit about Elvis’ brother, who died and left a whole world of questions about alternate realities behind. It’s maybe meant to be a story about Yorick in other worlds, with other circumstances, not those of a privileged white cis man with wealthy parents, one of whom is also a Congresswoman – although it is questionable if he realises that he is describing a piece about privilege as much as just one that is, as always, very much about himself, and accidentally leaving out the existence of a troubled and increasingly more inebriated sister. The dinner has everything – sniping from all directions, questions from the parents about Hero’s college plans, Hero’s probing her brother (questions that are, deep down, always about why their parents love him more), Hero noticing, repeatedly, her father texting someone, Yorick asking loudly about Hero’s new boyfriend, a provocation that she eventually takes up, revealing she is dating a married man with a baby on the way. Jennifer immediately attacks her for it, and neither Yorick nor her dad support her, which is why she then proceeds to point out to everyone at the table that he is having an affair with his TA, hence the texting (we know that Jennifer knew about it, but Yorick most definitely didn’t). It’s a horror show, the kind of dysfunctional family scene that leaves deep scars. Later, when Nora tells Hero that she was the one who vetted Jennifer when she was in the running for VP, she points out that Jennifer thought Hero was the liability – but after that scene, they might as well all have been, and it is a bit ironic that the one person at the table who stays out of it is Beth – and she’s the one who ended up with the anarchists who stormed the Pentagon. In any case, it’s a scene that ties together all the hints we have gotten about Hero’s reluctance to return to her mother, and Yorick’s profound self-involvedness that has made him such a difficult person to look after for Sarah. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, but this one has created two siblings who are now on opposite trajectories in the apocalypse. 

Hero and the Amazons are speeding towards Marrisville, carried by the promise of revenge on another man, a group that Nora knows is volatile and dangerous, after the carnage she witnessed at the museum/art installation previously. They take over a swimming pool to plan their attack, mapping out the town with toys but running on wrong information – these women think they are about to have an easy win over a town of soccer moms, while we know fully well that the women of Marrisville will never give up their freedom without a fight. It’s sheer hubris, and it will cost them dearly. Before the night is over, two women who claim the pool as their own bud in, but are soon intimidated by all the guns and posturing, but don’t leave before sharing that the President has been shot dead – and the only person who knows that that means for Hero is Nora. They’ve bounded before over their shared mistrust of Roxanne, but their connection goes deeper here, with Nora trying to help Hero navigate a very complex grief. 

In Marrisville, Sarah is still sleepwalking but has recovered enough to decide that they are ready to leave. The town throws them a going away party that ends with Allison and Sarah sleeping together (not like that! But it’s very, very sweet, following an offer from Allison to act like a human sandbag to anchor Sarah and keep her from wandering off), and Yorick and Sonia sleeping together (like that) after Yorick reveals that he has only ever been with Beth. They’ve been dancing around each other for a while now, yearning, and Sonia explains to him that the only way to conceptualise time if you have done a horrible thing in your life that has sliced it apart is to see it as an ocean, not as a straight line – “If time was more like an ocean, then you can’t just pick one moment out. It’s all mixed together, the good and the bad.” She understands that Yorick still loves Beth, and won’t stop looking for her, but she also understands how lonely he is. I’ve already mentioned how Marrisville is the only place we’ve seen so far that appears to be habitable, and these gentle scenes drive it home even more – for once, there’s more than surviving happening, and it’s so necessary for these people to be able to have that before it all comes apart violently. 

Which it does the next morning, before Sarah, Yorick and Allison can leave. First Sarah finds a new tracker on the window sill, and then the Amazons ride into town guns blazing, with a clear idea of how things will go that very soon turns awry when the soccer moms they expected turn out to be heavily armed and very capable of defending themselves and the utopia they have built. The ensuing shoot-out is heart-breaking – people die needlessly while we see all the little things that made the town a home (a shared library, a whole infrastructure of mutual support and collective decisionmaking). I had a visceral feeling of grief in these scenes, of being on the verge of losing something valuable in the world of Y: The Last Man that has otherwise been so dark. Sarah sends Allison and Yorick off the hide in an empty silo and defends the town with the other women. On their way to the silo, Hero follows them on horseback, and Sonia almost kills her before Yorick recognises her – but their tearful reunion doesn’t last long, and Hero almost immediately tells her brother that their mother is dead, and that she has every intention to return to the Amazons to rebuild this world. Before she leaves, another Amazon shoots Sonia, and Hero kills her before she can do the same to her brother – but the siblings are doomed to remain on their own paths, because Hero’s too far gone to change it now. 

It doesn’t take long for Nora, bunked down with her daughter with an Amazon dying in their arms, to realize that they have dearly miscalculated and are hopelessly outnumbered. Nora surrenders, to Roxanne’s despair, who cannot admit defeat. The Amazons retreat back to their pool, Roxanne raging against Nora, calling her a coward and a traitor, until something snaps in Nora. She stands up to Roxanne, questioning how she strips down these women until they become people she can control, doing to them exactly what she has claimed men do to women. It’s a much more powerful narrative than Roxanne has ever offered – that these women do not have to make themselves strong by changing their names, themselves, but are already strong. Nora reclaims her old name – Victoria, an old-fashioned name her parents gave her that she changed as soon as she could, only to find that “The real you is a shadow, and it is always there.” Nora shoots Roxanne, and takes over with Hero’s support. 

Nora: We don’t have to reinvent ourselves. We don’t serve Roxanne. We don’t belong to anyone. The world will learn to fear us, because we will show them exactly who we are.

In the Silo, reunited with Sarah, Yorick is grieving his mother and his sister (he immediately uses the word “brainwashed” to describe what happened to her, which is a good pick-up on his part). He feels guilt for the first time, because he knows that the Amazons were after him, that if he hadn’t survived, Sonia would still be alive. It’s the first time that Yorick takes responsibility for something, and reveals how much of a burden he feels now that the fate of the world lies on his shoulders. Sarah tells him a story about her childhood, about her grandmother who was a singer (like in the dream we saw) taking her to a gig when she was young, and her father’s anger that caused the car accident which killed everyone but her. “I should have died, but I didn’t. I survived. You will too.” – and somehow, from that connection, Yorick makes a decision, and says he wants to continue with their plan, but only if he is given agency in it, if he isn’t a liability, or a pawn, or “a Y chromosome with legs”. Sarah knows he needs to understand this before they can meaningfully continue, especially now that she believes Jennifer dead, now that there is nobody left to give her orders. 

Elsewhere, Jennifer and Beth spend a night in Jennifer’s old house, with Jennifer questioning Beth about her ideology, and Beth questioning Jennifer about whether she really thought she could rebuild something that was already broken before the Event. They seemed on even footing before, Jennifer genuinely liking Beth, but maybe never really seeing her as a person beyond her relationship with Yorick. Then, at night, just before the house is stormed, Sam appears! Sam, who tells them what has happened to Hero, and that they have to help her somehow, because he couldn’t by himself. Sam, who was there after the doomed catastrophe dinner, who held Hero after she messed up again. But then, they all get captured, and are driven away in a truck – and find themselves in a room, under observation, from none other than Agent 525 and Fran. It also appears as if the remains of the Culper Ring have left Sarah, Allison and Yorick a vehicle filled with the medical supplies that Allison will need for her research, and directions for a pick-up point. They were watching the whole time.  

Random notes: 

Ben Schnetzer has been great all season but his performance in this episode is outstanding. I hope we get to see this evolved version of Yorick. 

Same goes for Marin Ireland, showing the transformation of Nora here, who is too fed up to try and contain Roxanne and decides to take the reins – a much more dangerous version of the Amazons, under the leadership of someone who calculates and plans a whole lot better. 

Hero's second killing was not an accident. It was to protect her brother, but it was also without hesitation, and I wonder how that will play out in the next season. 

Before she dramatically leaves the table at the dinner, Jennifer whispers something in Hero’s ear – and these are, presumably, her last words to her daughter, and from Hero’s perspective now, believing her mother to be dead, the last words she will ever hear from her.  It’s also heartbreaking how in the scene it seems as if the only concern is how Hero’s behaviour will reflect on Jennifer, they are in public after all, and there is no attempt made to acknowledge Hero’s genuine pain, or any of the valid points she makes about her family’s dysfunction. 

Allison’s “I could tie you to the bed”. We know she knows how to tie a good knot. 

Also Yorick's kind-of-realisation when he calls Sarah a "super spy version" of his mum - which is maybe why he's so into her?! But then, who could blame him. 

Nora: I’ve spent my entire life making assholes seem reasonable.

Also in a small scene we see Kimberly’s freaky dream about leaking milk and then having sex with Yorick, from which she awakes in a barn with Christine (obviously biblical) – proclaiming she has had a vision about the future of humanity, and it very much involves them finding Yorick (and also, very much, all those things that Yorick hated – being a pawn with no agency in his own future). 

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