What’s that? Is that a breath of fresh air? Yup, on the new episode of Y: The Last Man, “My Mother Saw a Monkey,” the show finally showed a glimmer of hope for our characters. After weeks of pain, lies, and death, it was a welcome change.
Though, we shouldn’t be surprised. The episode was written by none other than io9 co-founder Charlie Jane Anders. And while that has nothing to do with the good things we’re about to say about today’s episode it certainly is a nice bonus, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the potential bias.
What made this episode stand out was twofold. First, Yorick (Ben Schnetzer), Agent 355 (Ashley Romans), and Dr. Mann (Diana Bang) find what might actually be kindness in a very unexpected place. The trio hijacks a camper and continues their trek to San Francisco, with the unease between them all still bubbling. But 355 falls asleep at the wheel and crashes the camper, resulting in the three of them being taken by a group of women later revealed to be former inmates of a local prison. Since Yorick was demonstrating his escape artist skills at the time of the crash, the women understandably assume Mann and 355 had captured him. They also have a few questions about that pesky Y chromosome.
The prisoners seem relatively chill though and despite 355 and Mann being locked away at first — and 355 being seriously injured — they all end up being invited to assimilate into the community. Yorick, especially, buys into it. He even attends a town-wide barbecue and gets flirty with Sonia (Kristen Gutoskie), who just so happens to have stripped him naked while he was still unconscious. The story ends with us feeling like the women who run this place have some kind of ulterior motives, but whether those are duplicitous or merely logical remains to be seen. And yet, the fact they might actually be good, helpful people just feels like it’s from a completely different show in the best possible way.
Meanwhile, the soldiers who found 355, Mann, and Yorick in the last episode are back in Washington and we see why Yorick’s call for a less-lethal response to their appearance was a bad idea. One of them reports to President Brown (Diane Lane) and her advisors that 355 had two travellers with her — one was Dr. Mann and the other is what the soldier believes was a man with a monkey. President Brown, of course, knows that this is good news for her but doesn’t want anyone else to take the claim seriously and dismisses them outright. Once the news gets back to Kimberly (Amber Tamblyn) and former First Lady Marla Campbell (Paris Jefferson), though, it sends shockwaves. The description fits the one that Marla saw in the Pentagon but that the President passed off as a troubled woman seeing things she wanted to see.
Kimberly, of course, sees this as confirmation that Yorick is alive which brings about the second standout moment of the episode. She wants the same thing as everyone else! Kimberly, the right-wing opposition to President Brown, wants to bring Yorick back and study him to figure out why he survived. The problem is, she doesn’t know that’s the plan that’s already in place, so that’s going to be an issue. Plus she thinks Yorick was chosen by God and is almost a kind of holy figure which, again, will be an issue. But nevertheless, realising that Kimberly’s devious desires might actually line up with the conspiracy that’s unfolding was most welcome.
Those two things alone really distinguished this episode of the show from the rest. Even the faintest glimmer of hope shined bright in such a dark place. But this show is still set in an apocalypse so that brings us to the two other major occurrences in this episode. First was the surprise return of Yorick’s girlfriend Beth (Juliana Canfield). She shows up outside the Pentagon gates just as the President is attempting to give a calming speech to the crowd and is brought in as soon as Jennifer spots her. Beth gets a chance to catch up with her would-be mother-in-law but in her words, she just wanted to talk to someone who loved Yorrick. The President smartly doesn’t tell her the big secret but invites her to stay, an offer that Beth declines — she’s staying with friends, she says. It’s certainly suspicious that she wouldn’t accept the offer of much better accommodations and safety and those suspicions are proved right when she meets back up with those friends. It’s actually a group trying to break into the Pentagon and Beth was gathering all the information she could while she was inside. It’s a very nice little twist.
Finally, there’s former First Lady Marla Campbell. After being validated that she wasn’t seeing things, she makes a very public display of yelling at the President. The President knows it’s warranted but everyone else sees it as a display of severe mental health issues. Issues that only grow when her daughter — after Marla suggests they leave and go back home — tells her their home has been completely destroyed by floods. She was already angry she was told she couldn’t leave the Pentagon but knowing there isn’t even a home to go to is seemingly too much for her. Marla leaves a note to Kimberly and dies by suicide. Kimberly is left screaming in the hallway after not being able to find her mother. (It was nice to see the series display help hotline information immediately afterward.)
“My Mother Saw a Monkey” was easily one of the best Y: the Last Man episodes yet. It had a few really good, interesting surprises, a hint that maybe this post-apocalyptic world isn’t completely awful, and then events that show the consequences of everyone’s actions. Well-balanced, compelling stuff.