Ritual and ceremony figure prominently in Y: The Last Man Season 1 Episode 6.
Community comes at a cost in this new world. What would you believe? Who would you follow if it means you could be safe?
How does one find peace in the face of such inexplicable chaos?
It is no surprise that religion and cults can offer comfort and the promise of security, especially in times of extreme hardship.
This is presented in various ways through the different plotlines of this episode.
The first is an absolutely gorgeous opening, with our traveling trio — Yorick, Dr. Mann, and Agent 355 — coming upon a ceremony that celebrates great (dead) male musicians every Sunday night. Attendees bring candles and walk silently, listening to a small choir singing “Karma Police” by Radiohead.
The whole song can have many interpretations, but there are a few remarkably prophetic lyrics.
“For a minute there, I lost myself.“
They head from one church to another. Agent 355 sleepwalks, and she is VERY sensitive about it. When Yorick finds her on the balcony, she looks like a statue. When he tries to offer his help in the morning, she gets very defensive, essentially telling him to behave.
He’s not used to being told what to do — especially by a woman. She’s not used to being disobeyed. Both of them have powerful egos. It seems like Yorick wants to have an emotional connection with her, but she’s very resistant because that’s something she’s never had in her life.
Dr. Mann: Every time I turn around you’re making googly eyes at her.
Yorick: I have an expressive face.
Dr. Mann is just calling it like she sees it, but Yorick protests too much, methinks. Yorick is a caregiver, as we saw in his relationship with Beth. He wants to be able to contribute in his way and feels useless that he cannot.
This isn’t Home Alone, this is Waco.
At the PriceMax, women worship at the church of Roxanne. Cults are not an uncommon trope in post-apocalyptic fiction, though at first, this just seems like a group of armed women defending the vast store of good they have.
Sam expresses his concerns to Hero. She is open with her feelings, but it’s still unclear if they are any closer to figuring what their relationship is now.
I’m the lucky bitch that didn’t lose the man she loves.
Things start getting weirder and weirder at the PriceMax. Roxanne used to be a police officer; clearly, she’s skilled at interrogating. She has the vibe of someone who could question a suspect until they broke.
Here, Roxanne uses tactics to instill in these women the idea that ALL MEN are evil — the root of all female misery. By doing so, she glorifies the current state of the world.
Nora loses her cool, but after witnessing how cold Roxanne can be to outsiders, she comes groveling. Roxanne reveals her mastectomy to Nora as an act of dominance, which absolutely works on Nora.
Roxanne is an Amazon warrior, and she expects all the women around her to be strong and fearless. Nora hasn’t ever known a life in which she wasn’t beholden to someone in power over her — she just wants to have a safe place for her daughter, and she will do whatever it takes.
The world ended. It’s okay to be yourself.
The contrast between Nora and Hero here is telling.
Hero has always been a fighter and always fought back against men, which is why Roxanne likes her, but she’s still hesitant about staying. Nora is desperate to stay, but she can’t seem to click or fit in. She tries too hard, and it shows.
“I’ve given all I can, it’s not enough.”
The bathing scene was so powerful for so many reasons — to see so many different types of female bodies on the screen, completely unsexualized, just existing, unafraid, unencumbered by the male gaze.
Theirs is a different type of seduction.
Notice the difference in their body language and Hero’s. She still tries to hide her body, but they are at ease. This comfort in themselves is what they offer to Hero. A safety she has not felt since the Event — perhaps ever.
Don’t you want to stop being tired?
These are words every woman wants to hear. It is a temptation very few could refuse. Every woman in this scene is brilliant. It could come off as gratuitous, but it’s exactly what it needs to be — unsettling and empowering (rather like this entire series).
“We have crashed her party.”
The “funeral” scene is an exercise in suspense with, thankfully, a relief of an ending. Again, playing up the “cult” trope of these post-apocalyptic narratives, it seemed like Laura was destined to be a human sacrifice or something equally macabre.
But no. It is a baptism, a rebirth, the arrival of Athena as a true Amazon warrior. If not for the ominous music and Sam’s concerned point-of-view, one could easily have imagined this scene as celebratory — if a little strange for the uninitiated.
Nora steps up here and shows that she could be part of the group. She has to suspect something more sinister, but she still participates. Mackenzie’s look of horror when her mother returns to her side with dirt on her hands is telling.
Mackenzie may be finally understanding just what her mother is prepared to do for her.
“This is what you’ll get when you mess with us.”
Sam’s fears for his safety, as well he should. Kelsey (played with such sincere desperation by Samantha Brown) wants to be his friend, but the women will not allow such things. Their violence towards Kelsey shows the rage bubbling underneath.
There is no way to paint over a dystopia to make it seem like a utopia.
Their world was only harmonious until the bad guy — a man — showed up. Though he’s totally innocuous, it’s what Sam represents that puts him in danger. Sam still has questions about Kate, the woman who was shot, but Kelsey can not answer.
Roxanne again shows a different tactic with Hero to get a confession. If anything, the knowledge that Hero has killed a man endears her to Roxanne even more.
Now, the drama will come from Sam’s desire to escape and Hero’s wish to stay, leaving behind the world of men forever.
The Christian God is invoked back in DC when Kimberly tells Christine that she would happily raise the baby if Christine didn’t want to keep it. Kimberly’s motivations seem selfless, but it feels like there’s more to it. Kimberly’s entire identity is built around her being a mom.
Without her children, she doesn’t know who to be. She sees Christine’s baby as a chance to get a semblance of everyday life back.
It’s appropriate that Kimberly and Regina meet at the memorial — yet another church-like setting — and that they discuss the man-hating feminist Democrats have gotten the world they always wanted. They more accurately describe Roxanne’s cult, one that cites men as the source of all women’s suffering.
Regina and President Brown’s scene was good fun. Diane Lane and Jennifer Wigmore do great work together, even if their characters can’t see eye to eye. These are two very powerful, intelligent women competing for the most critical job in the world — while the world is at stake.
For a feminist, you’re sure quick to call another woman crazy.
The production design, courtesy of Alexandra Schaller, is absolutely stunning here. From the candle-lit ruins of the opening sequence; the enormous shelves of PriceMax converted into bunk-bed rooms; the lone bathtub at the funeral — it’s all so inventive and visually engaging.
Any space can be made holy if it is given the proper reverence.
Only in the empty church where Yorick, Dr. Mann, and 355 reside do we get a clear, stark sense of what this show conveys — God is absent in this world. Humans make religion and cults to create community and offer comfort, but they can be used to sow division and justify brutality.
Mm, yummy, body of Christ!
Thanks to director Destiny Ekaragha, this feels like the most thematically cohesive episode so far. Everyone “loses themselves” at one point or another but eventually makes it back.
What do you think will happen next? Share your thoughts in the comments! (But please, no spoilers from the comics!)
Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.