People who follow the rules face a harsh reality. It likes to make you believe it is but isn’t that the huge ruse? Promise the masses that playing the game is the best road to prosperity, safety, joy, and belonging, while the game transforms their blood into money for the powerful ones who live outside of it. We’ve been seeing this desperation story pop up all over the place lately. It’s why Squid Game and Bo Burnham’s Inside have become cult classics, despite the network’s staff staging walkouts. It’s why industries across the country are organizing and striking, and why tens of thousands of workers are quitting.
It explains the rise in ADHD diagnoses as well as the viral success of a random pug on TikTok. We were assured that running this gauntlet would yield results, and it turned out that the gauntlet did yield results – just not for us. Now, as we teeter on the brink of numerous apocalypses — one of which has already claimed the lives of over 735,000 individuals in the United States alone — we’re compelled to ask: What is this all for?
Because this is a different kind of apocalypse, every character in “Y: The Last Man” has had to deal with that subject on some level. 355 has been battling it as she tries to figure out who she is outside of the employer who took her in and gave her a purpose while stripping her of her innocence, identity, and capacity to form meaningful connections. Marrisville’s ex-inmates and the tranquility they’ve found here have left her speechless. She’s spent her entire life doing and doing exactly what she’s been told in order to prove to her handler and country that she was unique.
Doing her job well was intended to provide her a “leg up in a world that [wasn’t] built for” her; it was supposed to have “earned [her] her place” in it. Her handler told her that obedience was not rewarded in this realm, but then expected it of her nevertheless. And she complied out of dread of becoming like these inmates, the social outcasts.
Despite this, they have all ended up in the same area. 355 has probably killed more people than the rest of the town combined, but that’s all she has. These ladies, on the other hand, while being vilified for breaching The Rules, have found happiness. Marrisville’s ex-cons are a functional community, with love and social skills, and the ability to relish life rather than continuously gaming it out, despite having been locked away and neglected — even targeted after the Event killed their jailers. Sonia believes she’s making 355 uncomfortable in the kitchen by expressing her feelings for Yorick, but it’s the idea of them being the same and the allegation that she can’t communicate sentiments in general that makes her nervous.
Allison, who already knows her better than anyone alive, appears to prefer the company of the inmates to that of 355 — rather, the spy’s inability to be vulnerable forces the geneticist to seek intimacy and creature comforts elsewhere with people like Dominique, whose sole crime was driving a getaway car. (It’s worth noting that Dr. Mann, Saudi Grant Solicitor, and Human Trial Do-It-Yourselfer, also broke The Rules.)
For the first time in her life, 355 is presented with options, and no one is pressuring her to choose one. It’s probably the first moment of self-determination she’s had in a decade when she brings her spy detector down to the stream and smashes it on the rocks, breaking whatever contact she has with 525 and the remnants of the Culper Ring.
Beth, on the other hand, has been subjected to a far more heinous deprogramming, which has led her to the same heinous conclusion: the whole thing must burn. When Beth discovered her mother’s body, she had been essentially abandoned by the physicians without food or water, leaving the horrifying question of whether it was cancer or dehydration that ultimately killed her unanswered. Anyone, let alone someone with a personal tie to people in authority, could be radicalized by such an event.
Jennifer emphasizes that she’s “not a nasty person; these are just the standards she’s learned to live by” as they prepare to storm the Pentagon based on Christine’s information. “This system has always been flawed, but they’ll cling to it for as long as they can.” When her new allies’ bombs start blowing people up and their leader shoots the self-proclaimed new president in the head, she discovers revolution isn’t as simple as “letting the grass grow.”
No, those who still believe in the system and feel it will work out for them will insist on going down with it. Regina Oliver’s main transgression — aside from being a racist anti-vaxxer — was assuming she was one of the exceptions when she was always cannon fodder. She might have argued if pressed, that her incendiary performance was merely a means to an end; her popularity meant she was winning the “game” and would soon take it all. But she overlooks the fact that the house is always victorious: Regina had been too distorted by the game to understand the moment when merely shutting up may have provided her heart’s desire and then more.
Jennifer might have gone the same route if she hadn’t been deposed just ten minutes before. Her cabinet clings to political appearances to the point of death; first, they dismiss her experience from their on-the-go war room as they flee amid gunfire, all because she didn’t inform them about Yorick; then, in the middle of a smoke-filled combat zone, they attempt to surrender unarmed. The ridiculousness and confusion that ensues as the military attempts to flush out the insurgents with tear gas, especially combined with Beth’s last-minute rescue, serve as a stark reminder that there are more important things in life than hegemony. (For example, both women adore that floppy-haired man-child.)
This week, there’s another life-saving close call. Kimberly would not have been as quick to adapt to the chaos that has engulfed the Pentagon if she hadn’t been orphaned last week. Whatever you think of Kim, she’s not entirely incorrect about infants being the world’s top priority, and she’s now been forcibly unchained from her own rulebook without warning. She’s free to focus only on saving Christine now that she has nothing to lose (even if the aide is still a chess piece to be hoarded). She’s almost savage as she shivs a vengeful insurgent who tries to obstruct their escape with shards of broken glass. Kimberly Campbell Cunningham’s loss of mind may turn out to be the best thing that has ever happened to her.
Nora appears to be the only one who can see the true game, the one buried beneath the old-world ruse. Perhaps it was because she had front-row seats to the Squid Game known as America, but when everything went wrong and she found herself on the charred remains of the playing field, she didn’t take long to count the score. She informs Hero, “I did exactly what I was supposed to do.” “I had my husband, my children, my home, my career… yet it wasn’t enough.” I aspired to be better, to be unique. However, I am who I am. I’m enraged. It was the only thing that kept me alive.”
Meanwhile, Roxanne and the Amazons cling to their primal rage at being forced to follow The Rules in the first place, even as the fire threatens to consume them as well. They ruin the valuable resources they locate at the hangar they commandeer as their new home, all in the name of “punishing” anyone who dares to remember the deceased. (Forget about the fact that piracy was already punishable.) Roxanne continues to play checkers with their lives, despite Nora’s chess-master counsel. (Yes, despite my dislike for Victoria’s claim to fame in the comics, I’m extending the metaphor.) Life is a beautiful tapestry.) Nora’s tolerance for this Kirkland-brand fake messiah is becoming thin. And, fortunately for Roxanne, Hero — whose bravado and wit earn her more clout among the Amazons by the hour — recently discovered that Roxanne had spread her deepest, darkest secret among the group as if it were a fun fact. Nora might end up being the one who gets to construct a whole new set of rules with a little myth-building of her own.