Y: The Last Man
My Mother Saw a Monkey
Season 1 Episode 7
Editors Rating 4 stars ****
Theres a weird thing that happens when you think you can live in this world without anybodys help. When you insist that you can exist in a vacuum with only your own abilities for company; that you dont, in fact, live in a society built and maintained by other people. Call it Off-the-Grid Syndrome (or maybe just libertarianism): The more you insist on independence, the more you will be forced to depend on others to survive in the end.
355 isnt wrong to be angry with Yorick and Allison after their harebrained escape plan undermines her own and results in Yoricks discovery by military operatives. Yorick, for one, certainly couldve taken five minutes to consider the root of 355s explosive cruelty before giving up on her in a fuck-you huff. But ultimately, its 355s fear of emotional intimacy and of yielding an ounce of control, of trusting another person to carry a fraction of the load, that drags her to such exhaustion that she dozes at the wheel of their stolen camper and sends the truck careening into a tree. Where simply asking for help might have wounded her pride, now an actual head wound has completely compromised her ability to do pretty much anything for herself. Her stubbornness gets her a concussion (or worse) and lands her and Dr. Mann in a prison cell, all while Yorick and her mission is commandeered by a heavily armed group of strangers.
In a twist of pure irony, it just so happens that these strangers are intimately acquainted with the very thing 355 cant bring herself to consider: the value of collective effort. While there are plenty more questions than answers about these formerly incarcerated (mostly) women who have (somehow) escaped that prison to settle the (mysteriously) abandoned town nearby, its undeniable that their community is an object lesson in trust and power delegation. Not only do they make political decisions as a group, but they have tapped into their individual strengths to create a peaceful, functioning anarchist commune that enjoys electricity, good food (toast!!!!!!), music, even beer while the rest of the world is collapsing. Theyve only locked up Allison and 355 because they assumed the rope binding Yoricks wrists when they found him was evidence of kidnapping, rather than a magic demonstration cut short. Marrisville is, at least for now, a post-abolition Mayberry, a microcosm of what could be possible if the world was built on good faith and the benefit of the doubt. (Even in the comics, these women are a profoundly compelling rebuttal to the seriess broader apocalyptic tone: Many people would get on just fine without cis men.) For someone like 355, whose entire existence is circumscribed, if not actively defined, by the idea that hell is other people, the concept of cooperation without personal gain is a hard pill to swallow. Literally, in fact, when she pushes herself to the point of projectile-vomiting rather than admitting to being unwell, let alone unable to do her job (and thus maintain her whole identity).
The worst part of this forced reckoning? Shes ceded the moral high ground to people who should have been working to earn back her trust. Even Yorick is making valid points now. You start a fight you cant win, youre going to make things a hell of a lot worse for us, he chides her. Rather than simply accepting the help on offer, she lashes out like a vicious teen, reminding Dr. Mann and Yorick that neither of them would be there if not for her. Where before they took her nastiness at face value, this third round establishes a pattern, one that allows them Yorick especially to see it for the defense mechanism it is.
But theres a silver lining here, for us at least. The goofy, intellectualized chemistry that the trio established in Boston is now maturing into something different. Oh, fuck it, lets just call it what it is its horny. Suddenly, their physical confrontations are laced with intimate subtext: When Allison examines 355s head wound, the spy puts an unexpectedly gentle hand on the geneticists arm before her brain catches up, and she brusquely shoves her aside. Yoricks eyes light up with a maybe-not-entirely-family-friendly intensity when he realizes 355 might accept his challenge and kick his ass. And then, when 355 finally accepts the drugs and bed on offer, she promises Yorick, You wont have to take care of me like this again. Hey, its okay. I know, he responds, and its clear something has shifted. (The way she keeps telling women to stay away from Yorick and Yorick to stay away from women also isnt nothing, but in the case of Sonia, shes probably right. Only a woman with a distinct agenda asks earnest questions about a guys magic tricks.)
Things have shifted even more dramatically over at the Pentagon, where Jennifers Yorick-shaped house of cards has begun to collapse. Captain Nguyens report of a six-foot cis man with a monkey sounds conveniently unlikely, given she was drugged, until Kimberly and Regina repeat the report in Marla Campbells presence.
We dont have a whole lot of information on who the former First Lady was in the before times, but judging by the contextual clues of her family her husband and now, especially, her daughter she was a paragon of Wasp wifery. Consider her relatable conversation about motherhood with Jennifer a few episodes ago: She was likely a master of relatability, a savvy Southern belle who skated through life on the entitlements afforded her by genteel white patriarchy, playing up her salt-of-the-earth, not-like-other-Republican-girls brand to woo unlikely allies like Jennifer Brown on behalf of her husband. The Event dissolved her power as much as it did her daughters, but where her daughter sees the possibility for redemption, she is too tired to continue the grift. In her mind, she spent her life hustling on behalf of other people first her husband, then her children, then her grandchildren and after watching all but one of those people disintegrate in front of her, shes not about to seek out a new master, especially not once she realizes her sole frenemy, one of the only people she still sees as a decent human being, has been gaslighting her while enjoying the survival of her own son. You werent even a good mother, she protests in true mean-girl-mask-off fashion when she confronts Jennifer in front of the entire war room. (Its poetic, really, how conservatives white people, white women, basically anyone with ill-gotten power never fail to lose their shit the moment the tables turn and they discover someone else is benefitting from a system theyve been successfully gaming for years.) Unfortunately, this revelation combined with the news that their Lynchburg home was swept away by a broken dam weeks ago shatters the dissociative delusion shes been clinging to, leaving her without a shred of identity worth living for. She dresses for the first time since the Event and somehow gets to the roof while her daughter babbles about peach cobbler. Its a testament to Paris Jeffersons magnetic performance that, after everything, Im genuinely sorry to see Marla meet this end.
Her mothers suicide is likely the final straw that will send Kimberly into full-on Joker mode from here on out. She has already been showing distinct signs of fraying. After describing Hero Brown as kind of short, doesnt really brush her hair, looks like a drug addict at the top of the episode, she takes on this exact appearance herself by the end. (Written by Charlie Jane Anders, My Mother Saw a Monkey is chock-full of this kind of irony.) She insists that she will see [her kids] again and is curiously horrified when Marla responds, Yeah, when youre dead! She practically spits the phrase atheist Ivy League ass-kissers when conspiring with Regina about overthrowing Jennifer Browns presidency, then practically screams that God chose [Yorick], then fervently intones, We will become a nation of mothers again. And then her mother kills herself while Kimberly is busy bartering for canned fruit, and shes left alone with her Second Coming convictions, an extremist megalomaniac as her sole ally, and no one to reel her back in. We who have lived in the time of Kanye West know that this is a recipe for certain disaster.
Speaking of radicalization, Beth DeVille may be a full-blown insurgent herself now. In the comics, she is already in Australia when the Event strikes, and as a result, we dont reconvene with her until much later. In the TV series, Beth never left. She has got some serious survivors guilt, too, after the one-two punch of having rejected her now-assumed-dead boyfriends proposal and failed to reach her mother before an all-but-collapsed health-care system abandoned her to die alone of cancer. (This part comes off as a particularly COVID-informed point about the cascading impact of pandemics and pandemic-adjacent disasters.) And now we know that, wherever she has been, whoever she ha been with since, the experience has cultivated a resolve that may or may not be directed toward revolution. She exploits Jennifers compulsive politicians need to be seen as a good and maternal person to sidle into the Pentagon and be lavished with special treatment while secretly collecting intelligence for her comrades. Its clear her initial intent is to suss out what the government knows about the root cause of the Event. People treat it like a hurricane, a tsunami or something, but to me, it feels like a person, she casually observes, hoping for Jennifer to take the bait. But when that fails, she gets multiple consolation prizes. Christine, tasked with babysitting her in the war room, straight-up tells her the Secret Service is operating at quarter-capacity, then she witnesses Marlas confrontation with Jennifer a dot that a smart woman who studies human beings for a living will probably be able to connect, given time, to the survival of her erstwhile nonfianc.
Sadly, Jennifer herself seems poised to learn a harsh lesson, not unlike the one 355 is learning: That hoarding information and responsibility, assuming that you know best, is a strategy with an extremely short half-life. It doesnt matter that her ends justify her ignoble means any more than it does in 355s case. The simple fact is the more she manipulates people Kimberly, Marla, Regina, the military, her own atheist Ivy League ass-kissers, even Beth the narrower her margin for success. And at this point, that margin is razor-thin. Secrets dont make friends, and in this world, they sure as hell make enemies.
Allison making origami cranes out of prison toilet paper. Thats it. Thats the note.
Yoricks resolve immediately evaporates at the prospect of hot food, which is possibly the most Golden Retriever shit hes pulled to date.
At the same time, challenging 355 to a fight has strong area man who has played tennis twice thinks he could beat Serena Williams energy.
Then again, he also voluntarily says the words, Okay, I will stay out of the way, when Sonia tells him the vote to let them stay was contentious. Coming in fits and starts, but we gotta take the growth where we can get it, you know?
Is it wise to go to sleep after a concussion like that??
Kimberly exclaiming Moths! In the Pentagon! is insanely funny to me for reasons I cant quite articulate, but it might have something to do with this old Married to the Sea comic.
Never thought Id agree with Kimber about anything but beta boy who does magic tricks is actually a perfect Yorick burn.
How does one quantify being a pussy?
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