In episode 5, Agent 355 and Yorick reach Boston and what’s left of Harvard University, the place where they expect to find geneticist Dr Allison Mann. Boston is a war zone and Dr Mann is full of surprises. Yorick’s mother, President Jennifer Brown, prepares for the return of Secretary Regina Oliver, the far right conservative former Cabinet member who poses a threat to Jennifer’s presidency. Kimberly Campbell Cunningham, self-appointed Republican spokeswoman, circles the situation like a shark. She hones in on President Brown’s assistant, Christine, as the likely weakest link in the President’s team after she finds the other woman in the midst of a medical crisis.
Agent 355 (Ashley Romans), Yorick (Ben Schnetzer) and Ampersand ride the motorbike they acquired in episode 4 into Boston, avoiding burned out police cars and fenced barricades in the deserted streets. Now that paint is free and there are no limits on the surfaces they can use for canvases, street artists have been busy expressing themselves, from repurposing memorial statues to covering entire sides of buildings. Sentiments range from anti-racist slogans to anti-government art. Conspiracy theories cover the political spectrum.
While 355 hides the bike in a makeshift shelter, Yorick covers his anxiety by imagining Dr Mann as an insufferable academic snob. Since his father taught Shakespeare at Princeton he has some familiarity with the type, but he adds the stereotypical Boston accent to his Allison impression. Of course she’ll be above watching TV.
355 lets Yorick know that he’s being obnoxious, but he’s visibly shaken by the graffiti on the surrounding walls, so his bravado is understandable. Various signs criticize and threaten his mother, the old political and economic systems and whatever “hoax” has caused all of the men to die.
Men are definitely dead- there’s just no way anyone could miss 5 billion dead human bodies of all shapes and sizes cluttering up the entire planet, plus the trillions of other male mammal bodies all over the place. So the supposed hoax must have to do with how the Y chromosome carriers died or why the world’s systems crashed without men to maintain them.
Yorick and 355 return to their rom-com banter, with 355 trying to convince Yorick that she only cares about people as mission assets, including him and Dr Mann. He turns the charm up to 11, since he’s sure there’s at least a little affection between them. She tells him they don’t need to like Dr Mann, they “just need her to do her job,” as they walk in front of a wall full of graffiti criticizing Jennifer. The sentiment applies to the president as well. The newly reformed, all female Boston military ruin the moment by driving through in armored vehicles, enforcing an immediate lockdown for the protection of the population.
As in, the military is protecting the population from itself, because starting in a few minutes, they will shoot anyone who’s outside in the streets. Boston is not exactly a democracy anymore- they seem to be under martial law. The Bill of Rights has taken a big hit.
Spooked, 355 urges Yorick to put on his mask. He doesn’t argue with her.
Yorick: “You’re a dark spirit, Boston.”
They do a little more recon, then 355 finds a blind alley for Yorick and Amp to wait in while she checks the Harvard science buildings for Dr Mann. Just to prove she’s cold as ice, she picks an alley that has hate images of Yorick’s mother covering one side, then sits him down facing the repeated portraits.
It’s an odd slip from neutrality- lawless Boston is throwing 355 off her game. Seeing his mother’s face covered with insults and threats isn’t calming for Yorick, especially when he’s already calling Boston a hellscape and begging to leave. It doesn’t help anyone or prove anything to make him stare at unfounded rumors about his mother.
We’ve seen Yorick save Amp from a falling helicopter and dirty sewage water and get himself out of more than one crisis. We know he’s able to deal with whatever is thrown at him, even if it’s not the way 355 would handle it. But that’s the issue- she wants him to put his emotions away when they are his strength. His emotional honesty got him out of the dry cleaners, with everyone alive. He has a talent for de-escalating tense situations that I don’t think even he recognizes.
She hands him a small knife and recites a speech they both already have memorized- don’t move, don’t think, don’t breathe, don’t get creative, just don’t, Yorick. You, too, Amp. And for heaven’s sake, keep your mask on.
Yorick is confused by the knife- she’s never trusted him with a weapon before. Amp makes derisive comments about Yorick’s defensive capabilities, but the subtitles don’t translate them.
355 finds the nearest military command center and presents herself as a local recruit. She has enough military and spy experience to talk her way in. While she’s badgering the Private who’s standing guard, she’s watched by a sniper on a rooftop and by someone nearby through a scope. The sniper may or may not be with the military. I suspect the other watcher is from the Culper Ring. They need to know which of their agents have gone rogue and which are still on mission.
As she and 355 debrief each other, the squad leader, Corporal Permar (Evangelia Kambites), continues supervising troop activities. The Army is prepping to tear gas the city to beat back the resistance, after riling them up in the first place. They tear gas the general area several times a day in order to keep the peace, though they have no idea who or why they’re fighting. Corporal Permar was ordered by the Feds to protect the Harvard campus, so that’s what she’s doing.
The men may be gone, but in their place, women have already perfected a system of endless, meaningless urban warfare instead of negotiating a truce with
local residents protesters. Good job turning your own people into terrorists, President Brown and General Reed.
355 asks Cpl Permar about Dr Mann and the Harvard science buildings. The science labs were destroyed by the resistance, who rejected science after The Event. They assume human intervention created the mass die off, so it can’t be trusted to fix it. Cpl Permar explains that if Dr Mann was in the labs when they were destroyed, she;s dead too. Then Permar and her squad head out on their tear gas mission before it rains.
Wouldn’t the rain tend to keep the resistance inside anyway, especially in a city with no gas or electricity?
When Yorick can’t handle the faces in the alley anymore, he uses 355’s knife to pick the lock on the door he’s leaning against. He finds a resistance command center behind it.
Pause to note that Yorick used one of 355’s weapons to nonviolently escape his situation. And also to note the note painted next to the door: “Need help go to the bridge”. If the resistance HQ isn’t open, the
trolls homeless resistance satellite office under the bridge is open 24/7 for all of your black market needs. Also, it’s another symbolic bridge- this one helps you cross over into life as a fugitive in the resistance.
Inside the resistance base of operations, Yorick finds an annotated wall map, freshly printed protest posters, bomb making materials and Molotov cocktails, and some kind of mechanical contraption he uncovers. My first thought was that it was Henry Fondle, Todd’s sexual harassment and daddy issue robot from Bojack Horseman, but it was probably just their printer’s press. Yorick pockets a piece of typeset from the printer’s press, probably a Y, since he’s a little slow with the concept of anonymity.
The sound of gun fights reach the neighborhood just as a woman, Steph (Vanessa Sears), enters the room. He pulls out the tiny knife and tries to hide, but she’s already seen him. She assumes he’s supposed to be there and tells him to drop the knife and start helping out with the injured people who soon follow her through the door. Yorick keeps his mask on, but plays along for once, including dropping the knife on the floor instead of pocketing it. 🤦🏻♀️ The injured resistance members have been tear gassed and need their eyes washed out, so Yorick helps pour aseptic cartons of milk over their faces. Someone says it will take 15 minutes to clear the gas.
Once the protesters have been treated and moved to another room to eat, the resistance leader asks Yorick if he was in Boston in 2013 during the lockdown and manhunt for the Boston Marathon bomber. The whole city was stuck inside for hours, tense and waiting.
My son and son-in-law lived in that general area of Boston at the time. I remember it well. In real life, we had no idea how familiar lockdowns would eventually become. In the Y-verse, the resistance has gone from hiding from terrorists to being the terrorists, but they are still tense and waiting. So is Yorick.
She changes the subject to tell Yorick that if he needs a place to go or testosterone, her brother Tom is in Jamaica Plains (above Bella Luna) with some other guys. Yorick tells her he’s with a friend, in addition to Amp, so he’s ok for now. She approves when he explains that he rescued Amp from a lab.
Before she leaves him, Yorick asks her to remind him where they found the bomber. “Hiding in a rowboat. No one can hide forever when the whole world’s looking.”
We get two things from that scene- the resistance is well organized and supplied, but the government is antagonizing them to make them seem out of control; and no one can hide forever when everyone wants to find them. Keeping Yorick a secret may not even be an option for long since he stands out wherever he goes.
By the time 355 runs back into the alley, Yorick is sitting in his spot like he never left it. He does have to admit that he lost her knife, apparently while sitting in one place. Since she doesn’t have Dr Mann and has to hurry him away before they get tear gassed, she lets it go for now.
Back in DC, Regina Oliver’s arrival is imminent. General Reed (Yanna McIntosh) goes over the plan to get her from the airport to the Pentagon. When she’s done, she brings up the two missing helicopters, suggesting they put a team on locating the onboard tracking software. Jennifer (Diane Lane) agrees to quietly assign a small team to do an electronic search, since they don’t want to start rumors.
Jennifer, who is wearing her power color, returns to the subject of Regina Oliver (Jennifer Wigmore) and how they can keep her out of the presidency. She wants to explain the situation logically and gently, but persuasively, to Regina. Since Jennifer is the one who’ll be perceived as stealing the presidency, her advisors don’t think she should be the one to deliver the news to Regina. They all agree that they wish the Israelis had just kept the Secretary.
When 355 and Yorick break into Dr Mann’s apartment they find a lot of books, a baby crib, no TV and rotting strawberries. There are several photos of Dr Mann in front of the Union Club of Boston, a real life, private, formerly gentleman’s only club founded in 1863, whose membership is still invitation only. In the photos, Dr Mann is candid about how she feels about the club.😉 They decide to look for her there. Yorick tries to pick the lock on the club’s front door with another knife, but 355 is impatient and shoots off the lock instead.
As Yorick has pointed out, 355 is effective, but not subtle- you’d think a secret agent could muster up both traits. After firing her gun twice, she signals to Yorick to enter the building quietly- wouldn’t want to lose the element of surprise. Or maybe she wanted to give Dr Mann some warning, to give her the option to escape rather than be drafted. Maybe 355 is in the mood to chase Dr Mann down and wanted to give her a head start to make it interesting.
Inside, Yorick drops his duffel bag and straps on Amp’s crate. He has his priorities straight. They creep up the stairs of the seemingly empty building, then find a lounge with a fire lit in the fireplace. Yorick, who suggested Dr Mann might be hiding here based on her inappropriate photo collage, is thrilled that his intuition was correct.
355 tries to stop him when he lets Amp out of the crate, but he goes into his standard speech about Amp being a person, too, and having needs, okay, Mom? Having once traveled across the US with a cat, a dog, 3 kids and an RV that was prone to breaking down, I feel 355’s pain as far as keeping Yorick and Amp on task and on schedule. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow, because life isn’t going to give you any other choice.
They slip into banter about whether or not Yorick could have picked the lock downstairs if he hadn’t had a gun pointed at him. Amp takes Yorick’s side, since he didn’t like the loud noise 355 made when she fired the gun and he knows Yorick picked a lock earlier today. While they’re busy talking, a small Asian woman with a large kitchen knife sneaks up behind Yorick and stabs him in the shoulder. She jumps on him when he falls and they wrestle. He wins a fight for once, pinning her down.
They take a good look at each other and are both stunned. He realizes she’s the geneticist; she realizes he’s a biological man with a Y chromosome. 355 doesn’t recognize her, despite having looked at the same photos as Yorick. That and the distraction that allowed Dr Mann to sneak up on them are more evidence that she’s off her game today.
355 attempts to officially introduce everyone and explain the mission but Dr Mann (Diana Bang) isn’t interested in formalities. She wants to know about Amp and is gleeful when she hears that there are two male survivors. Yorick pleads for them to discuss him and Amp respectfully, as people rather than science experiments, but they ignore him. 355 continues her introduction to the mission. She suggests they can find another lab for Dr Mann to work in. Dr Mann understands what they want without being told, but tells them, “No, thank you.”
Her research is unique, not completely legal and deals with human cloning. The only lab that can duplicate the 15 years worth of work that she lost when her lab was destroyed is in San Francisco, so that’s where she’s headed. She turns to Yorick and asks if he knows he’s bleeding, as if she wasn’t the one who stabbed him 5 minutes ago.
355 stitches up Yorick’s wound, even though he says he’s fine. Dr Mann makes friends with Amp. 355 chastises Dr Mann for almost killing the man who’s going to save the species. Dr Mann says she’s sick of apologizing. Yorick and 355 speak in unison as they point out that she hasn’t actually apologized, then Yorick suggests they all chill out. What’s a little attempted murder among friends?
355 says she’s going to call Jennifer to inform her of their change in plans. Yorick suggests they could stop in Ohio to look for Beth on the way to the cloning lab. 355 asks Dr Mann how she intended to travel to San Francisco. Allison planned to walk, but she figures now the president can send a plane for them. 355 tells her Yorick’s survival is classified, so they’re on their own.
Allison insults Jennifer, saying she’s vanilla and the country could have done better. Yorick makes a face and 355 tells her again that Yorick needs to stay a secret, so that the crazies in the resistance don’t come after him. Allison points out that the “crazies” who think the government is lying to them are right and Yorick is living proof of that. As they escalate into a full blown argument, Yorick interrupts with half a joke as a distraction.
They were giving him flashbacks to his mother and sister arguing. As the
dead clown, his role was to step in between them before they said things they couldn’t take back. But, just as the king’s jester can’t joke away all of the pain, Yorick wasn’t always there to save them from themselves, so it wasn’t possible for him to ever be good enough. Also, following the symbolism in Hamlet’s “Alas, poor Yorick” scene, with Yorick reduced from a beloved playmate to a rotting skull, our Yorick was showing a little vanity and confidence earlier in the scene, but has now been reduced by this argument to a walking science experiment rather than a person.
355 leaves the room to call Jennifer. Yorick questions whether he’s safe alone with Allison. She says she could be asking the same thing. He notes that she was the one who stabbed him.
355 pulls out the sat phone, then reconsiders and breaks it. Yorick follows her downstairs and asks to have a safe word or a meeting before she leaves him alone with the tiny scientist. 355 interrupts to tell him the phone is broken, darn it. She’ll have to go find another so she can call his mother. She’ll be back in a couple of hours. Yorick should keep busy by charming Allison, since that’s his thing. Yorick is relieved that she didn’t blame him for breaking the phone, but he’s not sure when he became charming?
Yorick looks up to discover Allison was listening to the whole thing, including when he told 355 to drive safe in the apocalypse. Dork.
Jennifer’s advisors want to hold a press conference to dispel some of the rumors and misinformation that are circulating and fueling anger and conspiracy theories. “They’re storming statehouses, governor’s mansions, food banks…” Jennifer is especially worried about losing the statehouses- not the food banks that regular people depend on to survive. She dismisses the idea of a press conference, assuming no one would be listening since the power is out in most of the country.
She’s old enough to remember when people got print newspapers delivered to their houses everyday, often twice a day. Ham/short wave radios, battery operated devices, solar and hand crank radios, printing presses, hand delivery, handwritten notes, word of mouth- everything that existed before the mid 20th century still exists. If the president of the United States calls in the remaining press corps because she has something to say, chances are someone will listen and get the word out, if only so that they can disagree.
Jennifer says they’ll take a wait and see approach, then send out troops to shut down an uprising if necessary.
Once again, she underestimates both sides of the equation. She doesn’t speak directly to the press, which would give them some direct quotes and give the American people the chance to get to know her as president and develop some loyalty, so they have a reason to do as she asks. And she doesn’t pay attention to how dire circumstances are across the board. She doesn’t have the troop numbers to stop uprisings all over the country. She’d be much better off nipping them in the bud. And she doesn’t consult her military advisors before deciding she’ll ignore the situation for now then send in troops later, unnecessarily risking the lives of soldiers.
She asks how the resistance groups are getting information out by word of mouth, newsletters. Jennifer loftily declares that the government can do better than newsletters. How? Leaflets thrown from tanks? Without TV, radio, email, social media and texts, you’re left with signs, individual printed messages from flyers to magazines to books, and speech, from local gossip to planned, well attended speeches. Newletters have been a standard tool for decades, whether sent by email, snail mail or hand delivered.
Peggy has news about the missing helicopters. Jennifer impatiently tells her to go ahead. They found the crash site 90 minutes ago. They’re not sure yet if it’s one or both helicopters, but given the condition of the equipment, anyone on board is dead. Jennifer nods, but doesn’t say anything to Peggy. She whispers something to Christine (Jess Salgueiro) and makes odd, sort of impassive faces while trying not to react to the possibility that Yorick is dead. The entire War Room staff, plus Kim, are in the room watching. Kim (Amber Tamblyn) makes note of how close Jennifer and Christine are.
Later that day, Kim is at the sinks in the ladies room when Christine uses a stall. Kim drops her bag, which is full of small children’s items.While she gathers them up, she asks Christine about the missing helicopters, assuring the other woman that she can get her immunity for coming forward with whatever information she might have about Jennifer’s actions.
From inside the stall, Christine asks Kim to save the blackmail for another time, as she’s a little busy having a miscarriage right now. Suddenly, Kim is her best friend forever- motherhood trumps politics. She helps Christine take care of the bleeding and get in for an ultrasound to check on her baby.
The doctor asks how far along Christine is. She thinks maybe 10 weeks, but once she finds the heartbeat, the doctor confirms it’s more like 12 weeks. The end of the first trimester, just at the point when the worst danger of miscarriage passes. The doctor doesn’t think the blood was anything unusual.
Kim is at the ultrasound with Christine. She and the doctor cry when they see the evidence of a healthy pregnancy. Christine implies that this wasn’t a planned baby, but she specifically says this “wasn’t my anything.” She leaves open the possibility that she was acting as a surrogate for someone but doesn’t want Kim to know. Or the baby could be the result of an affair with a married man, such as a prominent Republican- maybe even Kim’s father or husband.
I wonder if Christine miscarried a male or intersex twin with a Y chromosome, leaving a girl behind.
Instead of going to the nearby military encampment to borrow a phone, 355 goes to the address from her Culper Ring box. It’s a large brick mansion with the ground floor windows boarded up. 355 climbs in a second story window. There are several balls of yarn and knitting needles on a table in one room, similar to the yarn and needles that were in 355’s box. She’s not the first agent to find her way here.
She goes downstairs and searches room to room with her gun out until another woman sneaks up on her and forces her to drop her weapon. They fight over the other woman’s gun. She fires it next to 355’s head. 355 disarms her, but she pulls out a knife. 355 disarms her again. They fight until both have recovered their guns and point them at each other- stalemate, though there were a couple times the second woman could have killed 355 if she’d wanted to.
The second woman breaks the stalemate by telling 355 that this isn’t her house. She says they both know they’re there looking for the same person. Woman#2 has been at the house for 3 weeks, looking for “her”. She takes the clip out of her gun and introduces herself as Agent 525 (Lou Jurgens). 355 repeats the procedure.
The fight was an extended secret handshake and a test. 355 is still distracted and off. Maybe that’s why there’s someone here to greet her- she needs a pep talk to get her head back in the game.
Next, 525 interrogates 355, using the modern method of pretending to have a conversation. She asks when 355 was recruited and if Fran gave her the address, which is supposed to be secret. 355 refuses to answer, because they aren’t supposed to share classified information with each other.
But 355 does ask some questions of her own. Is 525’s 1030 (handler) alive? She says, “Of course not,” which would only be true if they’re all men/ have Y chromosomes. Where was she when it happened?
525: “Middle of a op in Michigan. Years of recon. They pulled me out, told me they were sending me to the State Department. They’d brief me in a few weeks. The day it happened was my first day on the job. Where were you?”
355 gives her a vague version of the truth. Their stories share similar details. Maybe someone planted 525 and her story here because they know that 355 was placed in exactly the right place at the right time hours before the Event and they hoped she’d tell them what she knows about the attacks. Or maybe this is more evidence that the Culper Ring shuffled multiple agents around 24 hours before the Event because they either had warning about the Event or were involved. Since the agents and their mentor, Fran, are all female, at the very least the Culper Ring knew in advance that they needed to use female agents.
Or the Culper Ring is actually the Red Room, training ground for the Black Widows, stealing young girls from their families and turning them into lethal operatives who are controlled by male handlers and male plots. I sincerely hope they had male agents, too.
525 notices the similarities between their stories. 355 asks her if she thinks the Culper Ring knew what was about to happen. Now 525 tells her they’re not supposed to ask questions. I take that as a probably yes.
525 pulls out a large duffel bag that contains the home arsenal Fran left behind when she bolted. (Imagine what she took, if this is what she left.) 525 has already taken what she wants from the stash- the other agents who dropped by probably did as well. I can’t even begin to name most of the variations on knives, grenades, other small bombs, tear gas, flash bangs, etc in the bag. It also includes a fresh supply of tracers, the small cylinders that flash red or green, providing non verbal contact with the Culper Ring.
355 holds her current tracer next to one in the bag and they both turn green. She’s completed the next leg of her mission. 525 tells her that Fran didn’t take a tracer with her- “She doesn’t want to be found.”
How does she know Fran didn’t take a tracer? Does she have the equipment to track the tracers, which would mean she could also track 355? Or is she figuring that since there were none missing from the stash she found, Fran didn’t take any? I assume this is code and she’s trying to tell 355 to stick with the mission she’s on, with Yorick and Allison, rather than dropping them to find Fran.
525 has probably been watching 355 from a distance for a while and will continue to do so. Something in this conversation tells 355 that she has a handler again and possibly that 525 will take Fran’s place in the next leg of the mission, as mentor/handler.
525 says that she wants to kill Fran for recruiting her and asks where 355 was recruited from, juvie or a foster home?
525: “We were chosen because we have no one.”
355: “That’s not true.”
It could be that they have no one because they were chosen- the Culper Ring might spot likely candidates, then eliminate the obstacles to them choosing to say yes, including family. If they’re typically recruited from foster care and juvie, the places where kids from damaged homes and those with no relatives go, that’s potentially evidence that their families are killed or broken up, then denied custody, leaving the path clear for the Culper Ring.
355 tries out an extendable baton. She looks at home with it. She asks what 525 will do when she finds Fran. The other agent replies that she’ll kill Fran and then be free of the Culper Ring, finally able to live her own life. She counsels 355 to do the same.
Speaking of people who no longer have their own lives, while Allison changes her clothes, Yorick looks over some historical Union Club member portraits that she’s creatively defaced.
Yorick: “Did you draw all these dicks?”
Allison, deadpan: “People grieve in their own way.”
Allison’s grief has taken the form of dancing on the graves of those who discriminated against her when they were alive- as a woman, a person of color and as a scientist whose work falls outside of mainstream approval. As I noted earlier, she has a long memory for grudges.
As she pulls off her shirt to put on a new one, several scars with patterns of black circles on her abdomen are revealed. A form of plague or scarring from a science experiment? I forgot to mention it at the time, but a few episodes ago, the camera lingered on a Secret Service agent in the Pentagon with several similar black circles behind her ear.
Yorick asks if she likes teaching at Harvard. He mentions that his girlfriend is a PhD candidate and teacher in anthropology. He doesn’t mention his father, the Princeton professor, since he’s talking about teaching, not trying to position himself as her equal in social standing or intelligence. Even though earlier he was nervous about how she’d react to him (he has a lot of experience with academic snobs- his fear isn’t unjustified), he doesn’t use either of his parents to impress or compete with her.
Allison tells him she only teaches to avoid working for the government or Big Pharma and to pay the bills. She doesn’t actually like it. Yorick says he’s a teacher too- he teaches magic to kids.
You can see it on her face as her opinion of him sinks.
I like Allison and this show, but the elitist attitude that working with children and providing backup support for one’s partner/family (which was Yorick’s second job) are less important than other forms of work, which she just silently expressed, keep women and people of color from having the financial security that Allison’s white male colleagues enjoyed. As long as “women’s work” and the people who do it are considered lesser, women themselves will also be considered lesser, no matter what work they do. Every time this show implies that Yorick was a loser for putting the people in his life first and teaching children the arts*, they also promote attitudes of misogyny and classism.
Allison asks if 355 is prone to taking off without much explanation. Yorick says that’s the way she is. He also says she prefers to be called by her agent number, showing his discomfort with it. Allison is appalled that she uses a number instead of a name.
Yorick asks her to remind him why she wants to go to San Francisco. She needs the lab, with it’s “highly technical, highly secret research …the kind of research that only two people in the entire world know about.” She insults Yorick’s intelligence blatantly enough that he baits her in return, suggesting she’s hiding something- maybe she’s really going to California to check on her secret boyfriend?
Allison responds that she’s gay, which is a deflection. She could be going to San Francisco to find her secret special person of whatever gender/orientation, that part doesn’t actually matter as far as her motivation goes. Yorick continues to bait her by showing mild skepticism of everything she says, as only someone who grew up in a competitive, argumentative household and had to learn to argue like a lawyer to survive can instinctively do. Right on cue, Allison increases her defensiveness, asserting that she needs the particular software that’s in San Francisco, along with the 15 years worth of data and samples stored there.
Then she turns the tables back on him, saying they need to hurry across the country so she can finish her experiments on him before he’s too old to be reproductively interesting. (He’s 27.) Sure, men theoretically can have children after the age of 40, but should they, with their deteriorating, even impaired genetic material? She thinks he already looks older than his age.
This is a riff on the typical criticisms women hear about looks and aging- already past our prime before we’re 30; might as well give up once we stop being young according to men’s standards; of no use to society beyond sex and childbearing. According to IMDB, Ben Schnetzer was born February 8, 1990, so he was 30 or 31 when this was filmed.
Yorick has had enough of arguing and asks what there is to drink. Allison suggests chardonnay. Joke’s on her. I doubt he ever cared whether or not he was drinking a girl’s drink.
As she dresses to meet Regina Oliver, Jennifer is overcome by the thought that Yorick might have died in the helicopter crash. Christine checks on her and finds her nearly panicking. She roughly questions why 355 and Yorick haven’t called to say they’ve reached Boston yet. Christine tells her that General Reed has just confirmed that the remains of the two pilots were found with the debris from the helicopter crash, but there was no mention of Yorick or 355.
Jennifer sobs with relief. Then she wonders if 355 killed the pilots and if she did it because she thought Jennifer wanted her to. Christine is sure it was just a terrible accident. Jennifer orders her to assemble whatever information is available on the Culper Ring and to have the hard drives 355 brought back from the field office decrypted. Christine asks what cover story she should give the techs who decrypt the hard drives. Jennifer will figure that out. She needs to understand who she sent Yorick away with.
She notices that Christine looks tired, but Christine says she’s fine. Since they have a meeting, Jennifer doesn’t push it.
Regina gets brought in by wheelchair in front of the military and remaining federal dignitaries. Jennifer leads them in a round of applause. Then she’s taken to her rooms, where Kim greets her privately, Republican to Republican. They exchange pleasantries and air out previous grudges, then Kim tells her that it’s time to stick together. “This place is a Rachel Maddow fever dream.” Regina asks her about hair dye, because Republican women recognize each other by their bleached blonde, heavily styled helmet heads.
Then they begin to plot their coup over the socialists.
The socialist-in-chief interrupts their treason. They let her know she’s only the third most important person in the room. Jennifer has played politics on the world stage for decades, against much bigger fish than them, so she’s not impressed. After Kim exits, Regina, whose default facial expression is bemused smugness, continues to control the conversation, keeping it mainly on the level of veiled and not so veiled insults. Jennifer gives up on her attempt at diplomacy, but not her manners, when Regina makes it clear that she doesn’t think the other woman has any right to the presidency.
Now that Yorick and Allison have had a few drinks and played a little pool, she explains genetic diversity among humans and biodiversity in the animal kingdom as it relates to the variety of beings with Y chromosomes who died in the Event. We hear her describe a little about 5-alpha reductase deficiency, a disorder of sex development that impacts XY males, which involves a shortage of the hormone dihydrotestosterone. This affects sexual development before birth and at puberty and sometimes causes XY infants to be assigned female at birth.
Allison: “And then there’s androgen insensitivity syndrome. One in 20,000 genetically XY births are resistant to androgens, the male hormones, and so babies are born with internal testes but typically female external traits. Millions of women dropped dead that day, some of whom had no idea they even had a Y chromosome.”
Yorick asks about the crib in her apartment. She says she doesn’t have a kid and complains that men make assumptions about women and children. That’s often a valid complaint, but in this case, he was wondering if she had a son who died and so she couldn’t bear to stay in the place where she lived with him. Escaping the evidence of overwhelming loss seems to be one of the unspoken reasons for the mass movement that’s happening among the remaining population, simmering under the physical deprivation that’s causing more immediate crises.
It may be that she had a partner who died that day and that’s why she left her apartment. But I assumed she was afraid the angry mob who destroyed her lab would find her home eventually and figured they wouldn’t think to look for her at the racist, misogynist Union Club.
And then they’re back to misunderstanding each other. After she accuses him of being a man, he reminds her that she said there’s no such thing as men and women. She explains that she said there’s infinite variations, not that there’s no such thing.
Allison: “And the idea that I’ll be working to bring back men is reductive and ridiculous and beyond stupid.”
He says he asked because she seems sad. She’s outraged that he doesn’t understand how bad things are. Just figuring out why and how he survived and/or finding a way to replicate him barely touches on how much has been lost and will continue to be lost. So many different people died that day, not just men. And other animals- monkeys, giraffes, tigers lemurs, koalas, coyotes.
They slump on the floor together with another bottle of wine. She looks at him and says, “I don’t envy you. You won’t have much of a life from now on, will you?” Yorick looks like that thought is fully sinking in for the first time. Maybe somewhere inside he hoped she’d magically bring back men so that he wouldn’t be as rare as a unicorn anymore and could live a normal life. Instead she’s not sure she can successfully clone him.
355 breezes back in and tells them to pack up. They’re leaving. Yorick asks if she spoke to his mom. He mentions to Allison that the president, who she’s been insulting all day, is also his mom, but says Jennifer isn’t so bad once you get to know her. 355 tells him that she spoke with the president and they’re authorized to head for San Francisco. When Yorick asks if his mother said anything else, 355 tacks a “hi” onto her fake message.
Then she asks what’s wrong with Allison. Yorick has to admit that his special brand of charm involves getting drunk with tiny scientists. He notices that 355 has a cut on her face from the fight with 525 and asks what happened- for the two agents, this is the equivalent of sharing several drinks together. But she doesn’t answer him, so he gives up and walks away. He can’t work so hard on deciphering her moods if he also has to keep Allison happy and run interference between them.
355 checks her tracer, which is flashing red, and touches her necklace. She’s back on mission for the Culper Ring, so she has no more need for friendship with a civilian.
Episode 5 was directed by Mairzee Almas and written by Tian Jun Gu. Cinematography by Kira Kelly. Film editing by Louise Innes. Sound editing by Lauren Stephens. Production design by Alexandra Schaller. Costume design by Olga Mill. Music by Herdís Stefánsdóttir.
*Someday, maybe I’ll do an analysis of all of the skills Yorick was teaching the kids when he taught them the playful subject of magic (and taught himself when he was a kid). As a former special ed teacher and homeschooling/unschooling mom I did this all the time. Almost every interest is educational- every subject has a history, interacts with science, uses math, involves reading- if you talk about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, which we were shown Yorick doing. He’s an amazing teacher who respects kids. He just hadn’t found the right place to use his skills yet.
Boston is a combination of the dystopias of George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut– there should always be room for chaos and irony to combine into spectacle at the end of the world (for Orwell, think of the series of events in Animal Farm rather than 1984). This episode takes us to some fascinating new places that are intricately designed, then gorgeously shot. The attention to detail could keep me busy for months if I let it.
355 made so many small, out of character mistakes and was so twitchy in this episode that I suspect she was having some of her previous trauma triggered. Maybe she opened that door by letting Yorick in as a friend. Not sure how much was due to the combat in Boston, or if she was anticipating visiting her mentor, Fran, who’s possibly the woman who recruited her into the Culper Ring.
After her conversation with 525, she was rededicated to acting as a Culper Ring agent. When she came back to the club she emotionally distanced herself from Yorick, as if the progress they’d made in their relationship hadn’t happened. I suspect Fran’s house was bugged by factions within the Culper Ring and their enemies, so 525 and 355 spoke in code. Killing Fran= taking over her role. Reminding her that she works alone and has no one was a warning not to get to close to the subjects of her mission.
But Yorick thrives on establishing personal connections and had come to think of himself and 355 as a team. 355 dehumanizes both herself and him. He’s confused by her rejection and also has his own trauma to deal with. Now he’s stuck between two companions who don’t trust each other, put their work before all else and only see him as their work.
Allison dismisses Yorick and feels a little sorry for him. She views 355 as a tool of the government and therefore an enemy agent. And she’s literally been holed up in an ivory tower. As with the women in the Pentagon, her heart is in the right place, but she doesn’t understand yet how thoroughly the world has changed. That means her decisions and attitudes aren’t based on accurate information, the foundation of all good science.
Why isn’t Yorick using an alias instead such an unusual male name, which is also the name of the president’s son? His name makes it harder to hide in plain sight. They could also scare up an almost empty bottle of testosterone and maybe a binder or an ace bandage to help sell his trans cover story.
Experts recommend using clean water or saline instead of milk to wash off tear gas residue because milk generally isn’t sterile and can cause eye infections. Milk is soothing for the effects of pepper spray, but has no special effect on tear gas. Aseptic packages are sterile, so for these protesters in post-Event Boston, freshly opened aseptic milk is cleaner than the available water supply. The experts assume victims of tear gas have all the conveniences of a modern city available to them when they make recommendations.
Someone in the background asks how come they don’t have clean water, but the soldiers have unlimited tear gas- because the military’s budget always comes first, kids. First rule of leadership- if you want to stay in power, you keep the military happy.
I’m going to admit right now that I have a thing for General Peggy, especially combined with President Jennifer. I’m old enough to remember when it was unthinkable for women to hold anything more than support positions to powerful men in any field other than as caregivers and teachers. It still moves me deeply to see the progress women have made, whether it’s in real life or realistic fictional portrayals. While I critique Jennifer’s mistakes, I think she’s doing as well as any president could do in her situation.
General Peggy reminds me of General Colin Powell, an honorable soldier who takes seriously her oath to serve the Constitution and not the president or dominant political party. In times of extreme crisis, it’s ultimately the military who decide the fate of a nation. We depend on the loyalty and integrity of the military and law enforcement to rise above their personal beliefs and put the good of the country first- to serve the Greater Good and the People as a whole and the Constitution, not the political flavor of the month.
General Peggy is one of the main leaders during the initial crisis as the men are dying. She helps with the transfer of power to Jennifer as president. After that, she’s a constant, steady presence in the War Room, but mostly remains a minor character, other than a few key moments when she needs to make judgement calls. In my recaps, I’ve been going over Jennifer’s decisions in detail to help eventually explain Peggy’s choices. In this episode, Jennifer is a little cavalier with Peggy’s concerns about the stolen helicopters and the missing pilots. When she instructs Peggy to quietly send a small search team, she shows minimal concern for security, personnel and now irreplaceable equipment. Since Jennifer is usually responsible and detail-oriented, Peggy takes notice and wonders what’s going on.
Kimberly, Grief and Opportunity
Kim has decided that her cause within the Pentagon is to champion Regina’s claim to the presidency and to push the right wing agenda. She’s still dedicated to keeping up appearances, much more so than anyone else, but her dedication seems to reflect a lack of confidence. She’s hiding inside her wardrobe, bundled up in outfits made of layers and straps that hold her together and act as a shield.
No one else in the Pentagon is trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey the way Kim is, with layers of fabric, belts and scarves tying her up tight. Is she trying to set a modest example like a good Christian woman; ashamed of her weight; swaddling herself for comfort to stave off her growing, probably now unmedicated, anxiety? Does she need to feel pressure against her arms and torso to replace the sons she’s no longer holding everyday?
This week her excessive fabric does come in handy when she whips off her scarf like a pioneer doctor in order to help Christine. She seemed like she’d finally come home again when she was able to help Christine, mother to mother. Motherhood was more than just a political game for her- it was her calling in life. Though she exploited it, her children were all boys by chance. If she’d had girls and was still actively a mother, she’d be a very different person right now.
Kim is a savvy political operative, but she also lost 3 young children (plus her larger than life father and superfluous husband) and has somehow kept going despite that. Her need to insert herself into everyone’s business is more understandable when you consider the mental, physical and emotional energy those young boys required and her desperation for distraction and purpose now that they’re gone.
Kim is opportunistic, so it may take her a minute to understand the value of the various opportunities available to her now, especially beyond destructive political machinations. I worry that her grief may eventually take her to a dark place if she doesn’t find something positive to channel it into.
The structure which supported Kim’s entire way of being for her whole life is gone and she doesn’t seem to have thought for herself much before, beyond the manipulative analysis it took to keep herself close to power and her father. Besides having lost most of her family, women and Democrats are now in charge, turning her world upside down. She’s having to reinvent how she navigates power structures when she’s under duress and they are crumbling.
Kim is able to work the back channels she’s always used, so she’s retained much of her previous networking, investigating and organizing power. Jennifer would be wise to gain Kim’s loyalty before Regina figures out that she needs the moderates. Given the way Kim has her finger on the pulse of the Pentagon, from larger issues like Regina’s return to remembering birthdays and the names of staff members’ children, she’d actually be a fantastic COO/Vice President, if Jennifer could be sure they were working toward the same goals. At first, Kim just asked to be listened to and taken seriously. But the combination of Jennifer’s dismissals and Regina’s return have made Kim change her goal to taking over the government.
Images courtesy of FX on Hulu.