Surviving cataclysmic events is seldom a sure thing. On one hand, you’re still alive. You, on the other hand, are still living.
That’s the mood among the survivors of what we’ll refer to as the Event: the sudden, brutal killing of every Y-chromosomed individual on the planet. Hundreds of women have gathered outside the White House, demanding answers and accusing the administration of a cover-up. Meanwhile, de facto President Jennifer Brown and her ragtag squad at the Pentagon, where the government actually operates, have inherited a burning house and are being ordered to make it fly. They battle to stave off the triple catastrophe of already-crumbling infrastructure, a destroyed supply chain, and a country full of furious, increasingly desperate survivors as coal supplies, food, and clean water decrease.
(Did you know that women account for 6% of truck drivers in the United States, 5% of pilots globally, and 1% of the global marine workforce?)
Jennifer’s lack of concern in orthodoxy as a leader makes her a natural commander in a crisis. She abandons all pretenses of preserving material goods right away, leaving beautiful art and even the White House to the ravages of time in favor of human lives. “I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not going to lie to you. When people start worrying, she warns the situation room, “I think it’s going to become worse.” In private, she debates how much of her newfound power she should use for personal reasons, such as hastening the evacuation of New York in the hopes of finding her daughter.
(As demonstrated later by a drunken former FLOTUS declaring that she’d send the entire army after her kid, no man in her position, and certainly no right-wing president, would be hand-wringing about this.)
But the universe must be reconsidering the powerful hand it dealt Jennifer Brown, because a consolation prize appears at the epicenter of the shitstorm: 355, a super-covert agent from a super-redacted operation known as the Culper Ring who has suddenly found herself between missions as of a few hours ago. She’s just returned from a trip to a bogus mailbox store storing the organic and inorganic relics of her local Culper cell, guided by an emergency GPS device (Find My Spy, if you will).
She’s practically unemployed now, with her handlers dead and no word from the other cells… But she isn’t unemployed enough to look into the weird Massachusetts address she has hidden among her three other belongings. (In a competition among millennials who mix their occupations and identities, 355 is unrivaled.) So it’s not like she has anything better to do when President Brown orders her to find Hero.
Hero hasn’t exactly thrived since her release from criminal charges. Although we don’t witness her drinking, her conduct (combined with Sam’s half-joke about her never being halfway clean) suggests that she’s relapsed. Not exactly the conduct of a healthy person, loitering in the FEMA center while the family of the man you slept with and then killed seeks news of his body!
Instead of pitching in with the trans males she and Sam have joined for the evacuation, she opts for masochism, making friends with the wife and then stealing the dead man’s ID from his body, presenting herself as the homewrecker. But instead of the condemnation Hero appears to be seeking, the wife merely thanks her for confirming her concerns. “At least he wasn’t alone,” she remarks, leaving Hero to wallow in her tremendous, still-hidden shame.
When Hero’s warped pursuit for personal absolution costs Sam the chance to depart the island with the rest of the trans cadre — including the huge stockpile of testosterone they’d scrounged together — her antiheroic behavior is brought into sharper light. They may have been jerks, and their idea to ride their bikes to Vermont to impose on a transphobic grandmother may have been ill-advised at best, but they provided Sam with an invaluable shield. And Hero is too preoccupied with an unpayable obligation to a stranger to recognize how easy she could assist a loyal friend who may now be among the world’s most vulnerable individuals.
“Do you have any idea what it’s like out there for me?” Sam says when she strolls into their hideout, long after the others have gone, to find him alone in the dark with a lone vial of T. She deflects — onto him for choosing her, onto the others for leaving him with so little — and then recoils when he asks her again to leverage her extraordinary privilege, just once. One phone call to her estranged mother, who is literally the president, and her only friend would be out of danger. When Hero finally acquiesces, it’s with a sulking expression on her face, one that whispers, “I’m still the main character.”
The Campbell women, speaking of white women being the absolute worst, have completely checked out of any and all practical relief efforts in their grief. Kimberly “My Father Is the Inventor of Toaster Strudel” Campbell Cunningham is at least more proactive than her drunken mother, weaponizing her feelings of powerlessness and clinging to any vestige of the patriarchy she can find by donning a little black gown and pearls to confront the new president, whom she despises.
Kimberly storms into the situation room, accusing Jennifer of sacrificing the “priceless genetic material” that may still exist in New York cryobanks in the interest of finding Hero. (Forget about the cryobanks they’ve already rescued; this is that elite, one-percenter spunk.) “Ma’am, there is no future without men,” she sneers. “I hear you, but we’re just trying to get through the day,” the president says between clenched teeth, avoiding eye contact. And with that, she goes back to work, leaving Kimberly standing awkwardly in heels and pearls, surrounded by dozens of sleep-deprived women in sneakers, all attempting to save the country from starving to death or succumbing to cholera.
The only individual who has proven to be more ineffective than the Republicans? You guessed correctly! Yorick Brown, the millennium’s sadboy, is here. At this point, praise must be given to Ben Schnetzer, who masterfully balances the character’s helplessness and entitlement. In the comics, Yorick was supposed to be both, but in fact, these defects were frequently overlooked in favor of a rakish, comic-book-hero appeal. But Schnetzer plays him honest, annoying, and pathetic in equal measure, and it’s spot-on.
He’s the perfect foolish man-child to bring out the best in the rest of the group, wanting to strangle and then having to rescue and then wanting to strangle again. He’s rationing candies, wasting the power on his phone, watching videos, and spending all of his time alone with his monkey, practically painting the town red with messages for Beth in all of their favorite haunts. And, okay, I’m not saying I wouldn’t swim into a flooded subway station to save my dog, but before giving myself dysentery, I’d stop too, you know, listen for even a hint that he was in there. For the love of God, Ampersand is a monkey. It’s the equivalent of chasing a cat out the window.
In any case, this Darwin Award-worthy move does not result in a monkey, but it does result in a sewer-soaked Yorick being caught nude trying to steal clothing from dry cleaners by its three immigrant owners, one of whom speaks English and the other with a gun. It’s the first time he’s identified as the “last man,” a lottery ticket that needs to be traded. However, the fact that said lottery ticket is also a hyperventilating, weeping wretch tends to lessen the attractiveness a little.
They finally throw a shirt and pants at him and shoo him out the door, completely perplexed by the fever dream of a wet, naked white lad having a full-blown panic attack on the floor of their business. He returns (shoeless) to the subway entrance, where he flops down on the stairwell (shoeless!!!) to bawl piteously and watch more videos, this time of Beth and Amp, until even the monkey is mortified into conceding the game and drops into the stairwell from the street level, where he’s been the entire time.
This is where we witness Yorick’s imagination’s boundaries and the depths of his impotence. He collapses in a chair, all but giving up, when he eventually arrives at Hero’s abandoned apartment — yeah, it takes him two months to think about looking for his sister. (It’s not lost on me that he calls himself an escape artist.) If Agent 355 hadn’t barged in at that precise time, expecting to find a completely different Brown sibling, and physically airlifted him out of jeopardy and back to his mother… The real game now begins.