After dropping its first three episodes in one chunk, this week Y: The Last Man got back on its regularly scheduled course, in a few different ways. First, from now through the end of October, the remainder of the episodes will release once per week. Second, the titular last man Yorick (Ben Schnetzer) and his protector Agent 355 (Ashley Romans) finally set off on a mission that, they hope, can save the world. Well, one of them hopes that. The other one is just kind of being an arsehole.
Episode four of Y: The Last Man is called “Karen and Benji,” named after aliases Hero (Olivia Thirlby) gives when she and Sam (Elliot Fletcher) are asked for their names. That pair — last seen in New York with Sam wanting Hero to go visit her estranged, now-President of the United States mum (Diane Lane) — find themselves on a seemingly safe farm somewhere in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Hero’s brother Yorick has landed outside of Boston with 355, trying to keep a low profile on their way to find the Harvard geneticist they hope can figure out why he survived.
After what we can only assume is a long walk from New York to rural Pennsylvania, Hero claims she needs to rest so she and Sam stop at a nice, quiet farm. A farm with an empty barn… save for a flashy, Mary Kay pink Cadillac parked inside. Sam wants to hop in the car so they can drive to DC in a few hours but Hero — obviously scared of seeing her mum — is not ready to do that and asks for one evening in comfort. She and Sam are able to chill out and smoke weed but as he sleeps, Hero sabotages the car, making sure the trip to DC will take longer than it should.
The next morning, on a supply run to a convenience store, they come upon a young girl with an injured leg — yes, it’s Mackenzie (Quincy Kirkwood), daughter of former press secretary Nora Brady (Marin Ireland). Now, we don’t love when main characters of a show just happen to run into each other in the middle of nowhere, but at least it gives Nora’s increasingly unrelated story newfound purpose. Since Hero’s an EMT, she offers to help Mackenzie, and everyone goes back to the barn, which we find out was a home for domestic abuse victims.
This is when those aliases come into play, as Hero wants to hide that she’s related to the president. She also drops the idea to Sam — before a brief, awkward hookup — that she believes they should stay at this place instead of going to DC. This seeds the episode’s overarching theme of hope versus happiness. Sam hopes they’ll find salvation and answers in DC with Hero’s mum, President Brown. Hero thinks happiness can be found right where they are. That difference of opinion crosses over with Yorick and 355’s story, but more on that in a second.
After only a few hours of calm, reality sets back in when a group of armed and very dangerous women returns to the house. Their house. They are about to kill the new inhabitants until Nora reveals that “Karen,” aka Hero, can help with an injured friend. Hero leverages her medical ability to save her friends and they’re all taken to a new location. These new women are very on edge and particularly disturbed by Sam, a trans man, mostly because of the fact they were all victims of domestic abuse and are probably relieved all men with Y chromosomes are all dead.
Hero does the best she can for their injured friend but when the leader, Roxanne (Missi Pyle, of Galaxy Quest fame) returns, she shoots the injured woman out of mercy and not-so-convincingly makes all the other women feel guilty for not showing Hero and her crew some mercy of their own. Roxanne invites them to stay, revealing they’re inside basically a fully stocked Costco, and Nora whispers to Hero that she knows she’s the president’s daughter.
Meanwhile, a few hundred miles northeast of his sister, Yorick and 355 have landed their helicopter well outside of their destination of Boston, hoping to avoid any detection — detection like 355 also avoids in the episode’s disconnected opening. We see her on a stage, dancing, singing, intercut with her in the woods, eyes closed, and sleepwalking toward a cliff. We’re left wondering what this fantasy means to the deadly spy. Is it her way of detaching from the horrors of the world? Is it some aspirational dream?
The remainder of the episode holds no answers as only the audience witnessed it. Yorick does, however, get an answer to the cliffhanger from episode three, when their other helicopter mysteriously crashed. His caretaker basically admits she sabotaged the helicopter to both make sure the pilots didn’t tell anyone about Yorick, and to cover the fact that two helicopters were missing. This revelation stuns Yorick as he realises now he has no idea who 355 is. That’s likely to change though as they’re forced to share moments of intimacy, such as him stripping in front of her so she can wash his clothes and a tense situation with some looters where Yorick almost reveals himself.
Yorick’s near detection by strangers makes the next scene with the pair incredibly uncomfortable. Yorick and 355 are at a bustling post-apocalypse marketplace, with him in his trademark poncho and gas mask — a place he could very easily be detected so he has to play it safe. 355 spots a motorcycle she likes and while she bargains for it Yorick thinks he sees his girlfriend, Beth. Whether or not it’s actually Beth, we don’t know, but instead of playing it safe as he knows he should, and as 355 has repeatedly warned him, he chases after this figure and finds himself surrounded by six of the policewomen who control the marketplace. They unmask him, revealing he’s a man, and as he tries to talk himself out of it, 355 shows up and basically slaughters them.
This brings us to the episode’s best scene. After they’ve gotten away on the new motorcycle, Yorick yells at 355 for what he feels is wanton violence and she sees as necessary for the mission. She’s finally had it with him. She goes off explaining how she cannot take that this privileged white man, who has had everything handed to him for his whole life and thinks he’s the most important person in the world, is still being so selfish and careless when he literally becomes the most important person in the world.
Facts are facts but the tension and implications here are palpable. It’s that happiness and hope thing all over again; 355 hopes they can save the world, Yorick just wants to find his girlfriend and be happy. One of those causes is noble. The other is destructive. Something tells us these types of disagreements will continue happening with these travellers.
You’ve got to say, though, the show is 100% on the side of 355. Yorick’s constant selfish actions in risky situations is infuriating. I can’t be the only person watching the show who wants to scream “Just freaking stop!” at him again and again. The time for thinking about yourself is over — there needs to be hope for the future instead of happiness in the present. The pair do eventually bury the hatchet over a blazing fire and some card tricks, which is when 355 says after they find the doctor, she’ll help him find his girlfriend. At the end of the day, that’s all he wants to hear.
“Karen and Benji” didn’t just forward the story of the Brown kids, it showed that while they each have similarly selfish viewpoints from their perspectives of white/cis privilege, their situations make them completely different. For Hero, wanting to give up on the journey to DC and make a happy life seems like a viable option. Yorick isn’t allowed the luxury of having thoughts of happiness with Beth though, he needs to save the world. And he should start doing that next week when finally meet the series’ next major character: Dr. Allison Mann.
Y: The Last Man airs on Binge in Australia.