“Peppers” and Pink, Conspiracy and Coup on Y: The Last Man

Y: The Last Man don’t want no scrub—scrub is the (last cis) guy that can’t get no love from me—but if you could pick up some peppers on your way home, that would be great.

 

Summary

We’re back to a three-pronged plot, because we are at the penultimate episode of Y: The Last Man! Even if less actually happens with our core trio of Yorick, 355, and Allison—because what does happen is wonderful. And by that I mean Yorick and 355 dancing to “No Scrubs” while Sonia and Allison stare on in varying forms of longing and/or envy.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review Yorick

Photo: Rafy Winterfeld/FX

The trio doesn’t seem to be making it to San Francisco anytime soon, as they’re cooling their heels in Marrisville with the former inmates of the women’s prison. Today is a “Happy Fucking Saturday” party, and they are joining in on the festivities, even if they’re not the most welcome. There is, however, plenty of romantic intrigue: Dominique is snapping at Sonia for mooning over Yorick, who’s oblivious. Allison decides to make nice by chatting up Dom, but first she has to flirtily get 355’s input on what she should wear for her factfinding mission slash potential opportunity to get laid. Sonia confronts 355 with the Culper Ring tracking beacon, but the agent doesn’t give anything away, so Sonia switches to something that will make her twitch: “At least I can admit I actually like him.” Then Sonia acts on that impulse, by cornering Yorick—after he’s smoked their one allotted joint per household—and giving him a coconut-scented hand massage while he finally starts to get a clue.

Avoiding everyone and their potential messy romantic entanglements, 355 tries to keep up her running post-concussion and has a bunch of flashbacks to her Culper Ring past—and potentially the mysterious Fran (June Carryl)? We get glimpses of how she was presumably recruited as a child in foster care after her parents’ death via car accident, as well as a pivotal point in her training where she seems ready to give up. But Fran tells her that no one else has gotten this far in the training: “You are better than this.” Ultimately, 355 decides to destroy the tracking beacon, though it’s unclear if that means that the Culper Ring can’t find her or that she won’t be able to find the person she’s looking for.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review Hall of Voices

Screenshot: FX on Hulu

Meanwhile, the Amazons descend upon a Museum of Men—ostensibly to take over the warehouse in which they have erected a Hall of Voices (playing old voicemails) for shelter, but once they get there, Roxanne whips the girls into a destructive frenzy. Not only do they tear down all the memorials to cis men, but they start wasting water and ripping into Corn Pops, until Nora screams at them to stop. She tries to do the same for Roxanne, who’s whaling on the tape player at the center of the hall, but the priceMAX-manager-turned-fake-cop clearly delights in the chaos.

Despite Nora’s blackmail power, she still occupies a shaky role within the Amazons, and sees Mac doing Roxanne’s bidding just as much as the rest of them. She tries to appeal to Hero using gentler methods than last time: Noticing how uncomfortable Hero is at the other Amazons praising her for killing Mike, Nora aims for sympathy, and then eventually gives it to her straight: Anger is good, but it has to be used for survival rather than destruction.

Nora makes herself most useful by chatting with one of the vendors they terrorized: a woman sketching out supposed cis men sightings, who has both a sketch of Yorick (with and without the gas mask!) and a selfie from the last cis man’s phone—dropped when he got chased by the JDs’ wives, one of whom (the one who 355 shot in the leg) was the artist’s sister. So she’s got reasonable proof of his existence, plus she’s heard all about Marrisville having power. Knowing that they can’t squat at the Hall of Voices forever, Nora brings this intel to Roxanne, who gets ready to turn the Amazons toward a new, more permanent home.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review Regina Oliver

Photo: Rafy Winterfeld/FX

President Brown and her various political allies and rivals are having the worst time of it at the Pentagon: Regina and Kim get enough dissenters on their side to confront Jennifer with the knowledge that Yorick is alive; when she admits to it, she loses most of her remaining cabinet, at least in esteem. Simultaneously, Beth’s anti-government crew blow up the subway entrance to the Pentagon, which allows them to infiltrate and take everyone hostage, right in the middle of this power struggle.

It soon becomes apparent that Beth is in over her head, as no one was prepared for two middle-aged white women fighting over who’s the President. When Regina tries to share the Yorick bombshell, the group’s panicked leader accidentally shoots her in the head. There goes President Oliver. In the ensuing chaos (with the people at the barricades also threatening to break in), Beth and Jennifer get separated from Kim and Christine. The latter two run into someone who’s ready to beat Kim up, but she winds up stabbing (!) her in order to protect Christine and her fetus.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review Beth

Photo: Rafy Winterfeld/FX

In a nice reversal of President Brown ineffectually offering up her POTUS jacket, Beth gives Jen her jacket as camouflage so the (former? at least disgraced) president can escape the Pentagon unnoticed. While they haven’t discussed anything that has transpired this episode, Beth does remember what Regina said before she died: “Yorick. Tell me.” And finally, Jen tells the truth: “Yes.”

 

Commentary

I love the worldbuilding of the Museum of Men; it’s one of my favorite things to come out of the series because of the Station Eleven vibe it gives, and I’m only bummed that it took until the penultimate episode to get excellent cultural details like this. The voicemails initially brought to mind 9/11, though as it became clear that most of them weren’t panicked goodbyes but the more banal stuff, it became more of this world—women treasuring little moments that they took for granted before. What’s funny is that it plays as a reversal of Yorick rewatching old videos of him and Beth in the early weeks post-Event before he lost his phone; it was never clear if that were him engaging in typical post-breakup wallowing or if he truly believed her dead and was really mourning her. Those moments made me roll my eyes, but the Hall of Voices was spot-on, especially watching Hero grit her teeth as she strolled through casing the place.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review Roxanne Hall of Voices

Screenshot: FX on Hulu

Though you’d think that Roxanne, who wouldn’t be where she was without bargain-bin DVDs, would have a bit more reverence for the tape player. Then again, if she had her way, she’d probably wipe Law & Order from everyone’s collective memory so they’d think she created Olivia Benson instead of the other way around. This scene encapsulates what makes her a bad leader: She would rather cheer on petty demolition and a culture of violence than actually build any structure with an eye toward the future.

Not that Nora is necessarily any better of a leader—she’s too willing to sacrifice her morals in order to align herself with the strongest person in the room. But you can see how fed up she gets with Roxanne, which helps ebb any lingering fear over her. I have spoilery comics thoughts down in XYZ, but I definitely think we’re gearing up for another power grab in the finale.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review Regina dead

Screenshot: FX on Hulu

Not sure how I feel about Regina being dispatched so easily. It all happens so quickly! One minute she’s smirking and preening, the next she’s bleeding out on the Pentagon floor—and it seemed to be an accident, even though the leader recovers quickly enough to act like it was all part of the plan. I mean, they did want to dismantle the government; with POTUS going AWOL and the only potential alternate candidate now dead, it will be very interesting to see if President Brown’s remaining cabinet takes a page from their absentee leader’s book and creates a massive cover-up. I can’t imagine they’d want the American people to know that they suddenly have no leadership, as opposed to coming clean about what a clusterfuck they’re in now.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review Kimberly Campbell Cunningham

Photo: Rafy Winterfeld/FX

Great costuming to have Kim continue to wear mourning black, but instead of squeezing herself into a dress for appearances, it’s a more functional top and pants that come across as much sloppier along with the unwashed hair and heavy eyeliner. This Kim does not give a fuck, but she’s also not going to risk missing her chance to do something. Though when doing something means going full knife-fight on an old acquaintance in order to save the (I’m sure in her mind) “holy vessel” of Christine—yikes.

It was so sad to see Christine apologizing to Jennifer for getting pregnant—as if she had somehow intentionally sabotaged her job, though it’s not even clear exactly how she feels about it. She describes missing a pill or two, berating herself for her carelessness, but in the next breath she seems more upset over the fact that she’s conceived a life with someone she didn’t even love. By the end of that conversation, she seems more interested in keeping the fetus, even if it wasn’t how she saw motherhood happening—though having Jennifer say about Hero, “even at her worst, she’s the best decision I ever made” doesn’t really create any space for Christine to ponder the alternative. But considering how Kim treats her (and kills for her), that may change her mind all over again.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review Christine pregnant

Screenshot: FX on Hulu

I wish that this plotline had been made clearer: either Christine clearly doesn’t want the fetus, but circumstances (limited access to abortion) and people like Kim force her to carry to term; or Christine is open to the idea, but it somehow causes more marked strife or otherwise elevates her into a position she doesn’t want. A post-apocalyptic baby is usually treated like a bigger deal, so I’m not sure if the writers were trying to avoid that “dystopian virgin Mary” trope by downplaying it as just one of several post-Event complications—or what.

As a person who has dealt with infertility, I get twitchy when TV uses the shorthand of “I missed one pill and somehow managed to get pregnant”; to me it feels about as science fictional as the Y chromosome imploding. But I also get that they were going for a familiar shorthand of an “oops baby”—and at least we got some IVF representation from the other side with Allison! At least, that’s what I’m assuming those bruises on her abdomen were, from injecting herself with all the meds you need to harvest your own eggs and then do some “unorthodox” science from there.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review 355 Allison

Screenshot: FX on Hulu

The Marrisville action seemed to end on an odd note, with none of the intriguing interpersonal plotlines getting even half-resolutions (aside from 355 and the tracker). I was especially taken by the seeming gender reversal in the Sonia/Yorick scene: It felt almost uncomfortable to watch her come on to him so strongly when he’s stoned—under the influence, perhaps not in control of his faculties—especially as she’s using a ritual coded as very feminine (nail care) as an excuse for touch. I know there was so much to cram into this episode, but it felt as if they could have used a few more minutes to either build to a Yorick/Sonia kiss or have a final moment with 355 back at the town.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review Allison 355

Screenshot: FX on Hulu

I have a feeling that we’re only going to get one frustrating little hint about what happened to 355 with Culper training, as the writers were planning for season 2. Still, the flashbacks are compelling, with Fran telling her that, as much as the Culper training seems to be breaking her physically and mentally, “This is your leg up in a world that isn’t built for you.” At times the Culper backstory has leaned into “government experiment” cliché, but lines like this recenter it so well and make me want whole episodes devoted to 355’s life pre-Event.

Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review Hero Brown

Photo: Rafy Winterfeld/FX

I was surprised that we didn’t see Hero glimpse the sketch of Yorick, as she was right there. I guess that will be a dramatic beat for the season finale, once the Amazons are already bearing down on Marrisville and it’s potentially too late for Hero to switch sides.

 

XYZ

  • “Oh my god, is this our song?” YORICK. Stop being strangely adorable?
  • “It’s not like she killed anyone.” Aww 355’s face!
  • Lots of nail visuals in this episode, from a mourning (but also unhinged) Kim filing her nails as a sign of not being invested in Regina’s power play to Sonia having perfected her cosmetology on the inside and then carrying that skill out to life in Marrisville—note the vampy red polish as she’s seducing Yorick via hand massage.
  • Love me a good visual Easter egg: The book that Roxanne gets from the “man sighting” sketch artist is Louis L’Amour’s The Lonely Men, from his Sackett series about brothers who strike out West for adventure. The Lonely Men is “the tale of a man who must elude an Apache trap—only to discover that his greatest enemy might be very close to home.”
Y: The Last Man 109 Peppers TV review survivor sightings Museum of Men

Screenshot: FX on Hulu

  • A spoilery prediction for my fellow comics readers (highlight to read): The season finale is called “Victoria,” which initially had me thinking that the writers were bringing back the name of the Amazons’ leader, perhaps to bestow upon Hero when she finally ascends. But then, I noticed again Nora’s fiery hair—which is not Marin Ireland’s natural color—and the fact that she appears to be wearing a skirt in some shots, though it’s more like a long layer over jeans. Add in the look on her face when disciplining Laura, who said, “My name is Athena!”, and I think Nora will become Victoria before the end of the season.
  • Also, today I learned that Nora’s vulture buddy (not CGI!) is named Dennis Rodman.
  • Which reminds me—Ampersand hasn’t done much of anything lately! At the start of the episode he’s snagging food from the tables and looking out over Marrisville, but I kept expecting him to stumble upon some secret of the town or otherwise stick his cute CGI face where it’s not supposed to be. The Amp of the comics got into a lot more trouble, but it’s difficult to replicate that effect with only so many episodes and plotlines.

 

One. Episode. Left. Where do you think Jennifer Brown is going? Will Hero be able to stand up to her Amazon cult buddies when they follow that caricature to the last (cis) man? What kind of note do you want to see the season end on, if it might be the series’ last?

Natalie Zutter has found her post-apocalyptic role model: Sonia with the great DIY manicure. Eagerly await the season (series?) finale with her here and on Twitter!

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