Spoilers follow for Y: The Last Man’s seventh episode, “My Mother Saw a Monkey,” which arrives on Monday, Oct. 11 on FX on Hulu.
Y: The Last Man deepened the dynamics of Yorick and 355’s cross-country trek while complicating things immensely back in D.C. with “My Mother Saw a Monkey,” a good episode that still found itself steeped in the overall baby-step bumbling of the series.
Nothing inherently bad happened in “My Mother Saw a Monkey,” save for maybe 355’s asleep-behind-the-wheel camper crash (which felt jarringly plot-mandated). The series faltered a lot in the first half of the season due to Yorick’s silly, selfish choices combined with the overall drag of the dystopian hellscape genre in 2021, but the back half of Season 1 is suffering from a slow-moving story that’s creeping toward an easily predictable crescendo.
The series shows its hand too early. Ever since Regina Oliver showed up, a coup was on the way. And we knew it would involve Yorick and having Jennifer’s big secret get revealed, so with each episode since the fourth, it’s sort of been a waiting game. The onion sheds a layer each week, but nothing’s surprising. At this point, the most shocking thing might be Jennifer just giving up power and surrendering to the takeover (because WHY would anyone want to be in charge of this, and hated as much as she is?).
Likewise, it was easy to spot how little time former First Lady Marla Campbell had left. Thematically, she was not long for this world, so while her death didn’t feel totally empty this week, it didn’t carry the full impact the show was probably going for. As the mother in “My Mother Saw a Monkey,” Marla was more than capable of blowing the story open right now, this week, in front of nearly everyone. But it wasn’t time yet, because that huge public revelation is slated for later — perhaps the finale. This is what we mean by having a story feel aggressively plotted out in a way that doesn’t benefit the characters. Poor Marla’s tearful confrontation with Jennifer could have led to something big this week, but the show wasn’t ready to move on that front yet, so it had her speak in mostly hushed tones and delay all the things we know are coming.
“My Mother Saw a Monkey” also transformed Kimberly into a bit of a raving lunatic. It’s not exactly out of nowhere, but it still feels like a larger leap than normal. Everyone’s feeling a thousand different stressers at this point, but Kimberly now loudly proclaiming that God saved Yorick Brown felt like small stretch. It would have made a little more sense for her to suspect Jennifer of being behind a conspiracy regarding her own son, but now, to her, this was a religious miracle and Yorick must be used to “bring back men.” Anyhow, she went from prickly schemer to maniacal zealot in a heartbeat.
Surprisingly, the loose-screw crew out on the open road — that of 355, Yorick, and Allison — were the strongest parts of this week’s chapter. The deepening of 355 as a character (with some flashbacks to a childhood accident) and the layering in of vulnerabilities has helped make her pop more while also balancing out the trio a bit. They’ve all made huge mistakes at this point and though they’re still not above bickering, it’s all helped them care for each other more. This time around, they wound up being taken in by the remnants of a women’s prison who are now living a commune lifestyle, with power and food, outside the area of the former penitentiary — fearful of outsiders arriving and telling them they all need to be back behind bars (though an argument should be made that old world regimens and rules no longer apply).
Technically, we only got half of this women’s prison story this week: the good half, where 355, Yorick, and Allison feel safe for the time being (and Yorick even gets to feel flirty with Kristen Gutoskie’s Sonia). Next week, things will presumably fall to s*** and kick them back out on the road. But their short time as prisoners allowed for 355 to stumble, as she’s not only dealing with past trauma that manifests via sleepwalking, but also a fresh new concussion. Had she not been injured this week, her knee-jerk aggression might have gotten them all killed.
This week also marked the return of Juliana Canfield’s Beth, who showed up at the Capital Building to spy on Jennifer. It was good to bring her back into the fold, though, once again, the show has a very hard time not tipping its hand. Beth was off from the moment she came inside. That’s saying something, since we’re really not all that familiar with her to begin with. The fact that she didn’t seem to have endured any hardships out there, given what we’ve seen, was suspicious. She also literally arrived strangely, the way she just sort of loomed outside of the gate, as if she were a ghost from Jennifer’s past that haunted her while she was giving a speech. If your intention was to get inside and talk to the president, that was mild effort to say the least — just hanging around the gate.
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But through Beth, it looks like we’ll be getting a peek into one of the rebel groups out there who, for whatever reason, thinks Jennifer was the cause of this virus, and get clued in on how and why they think such a bizarre thing. Beth may know something’s up with Yorick, but that’s not fully clear yet. We never found out what happened to the phone Yorick lost back in Episode 4 (when Yorick thought he saw Beth), but Beth and her company may know the truth and were checking on Jennifer to see if she was ready to let Beth in on the secret since she was almost family.