Episode 8 focuses solely on the PriceMax Amazon storyline, showing flashbacks of Roxanne’s origin story and how she joined forces with the women from the domestic violence shelter. In the present day, Sam continues to clash with Hero and the rest of the group until things come to a head. Nora works to convince Roxanne that she and Mack belong with the Amazons, even though they haven’t had experiences with men that she considers abusive or traumatic.
Ted Campbell forced Nora to fire a gun. (He was her boss and the POTUS. She couldn’t say no.) As someone who’s had traumatic experiences with guns, that would have been tough for me to get past. What else did he coerce her into that she never fully processed because she’s lived her life in survivor mode? There’s evidence that Nora was numb to most of her feelings and sleepwalking through her life before The Event.
The episode begins with a flashback to “what happened to Kate”, the wounded woman Hero was asked to save the first time the Amazons appeared in episode 4. Kate was too gravely wounded for Hero to help when we met her in the present, then Roxanne unceremoniously shot her dead.
Over the course of the episode, we learn why Roxanne made sure Kate couldn’t tell any tales.
In the first scene, Kate is standing in a field, soaking wet, attempting to run away from the PriceMax. Roxanne holds her at gunpoint, pretending they’re still friends while attempting to coerce Kate into doing what she wants. Kate is scared of Roxanne and refuses to follow her back toward the store. She promises not to tell anyone what she knows, before running in the other direction. Roxanne shoots her in the back, then runs back to PriceMax, yelling that they’re under attack.
After the opening credits, we’re back to the present day and it’s time for target practice with the Amazons. Given the amount of ammo that’s wasted in this episode, several of those trucks in the parking lot must have been delivering bullets. Roxanne lets the women feel the power of firing their weapons, then gives them an empowering speech about the power of their bodies, now set free to live up to their full potential without interference from the tyranny of men.
Sam stands on the sidelines, brooding disapprovingly, as usual. Doesn’t matter what these women do, whether it’s learning to defend themselves, analyzing their previous experiences with men or overcoming their learned hatred for their own bodies, Sam is always in a corner somewhere disapproving of the activity.
Hero’s in the first line of shooters and is a good shot. When it’s time for the next group, she encourages Sam to take a turn. He refuses, telling Hero and Roxanne that he’s “just not a gun guy.” Roxanne asks what he did in the old world. He was a performance artist who worked in theater. Roxanne says that sounds fun, then shoots at the row of mannequins. She explains that in the new world, they’re learning to protect themselves rather than expecting someone else to do it for them. Sam understands the implied threat and takes his turn with the gun.
The comparison between Campbell’s target shooting scene and this one is clear. Campbell forced Nora to fire the gun as a litmus test, so she’d be a real Republican who was fit to be on his staff and not a lying poser. But Roxanne is actually teaching these women to overcome their trauma and fear, as well as to defend themselves. And it’s a litmus test to see if Sam will follow her or continue to challenge her leadership. Sam isn’t acting as a poser, but he is sowing discord in the group.
Inside, Nicole (Sidney Meyer) and Nora watch the kids run shopping cart races. Nicole asks Nora where she and Mack will go when they leave, assuming that Roxanne has already told Nora that she can’t join the group. Nora storms outside and demands to know why Roxanne would do this to a 12 year old girl. Roxanne stays infuriatingly calm as she tells Nora that the group (meaning Roxanne) doesn’t like her and they always intended to send her away as soon as Mack’s leg healed. She says that Nora just doesn’t fit in. But Roxanne is sure she’ll find something else, somewhere else. Having already wandered for weeks looking for something other than the camps, Nora is sure they won’t find anything better.
Flashback to Roxanne kicking in the door of the domestic violence shelter and announcing that she’s the police. The shelter residents hide behind the couch, with a few weapons such as bats. Roxanne tells them that there’s an active shooter in the vicinity, so it’s no longer safe for them there. She takes them to the PriceMax, explaining that she found it by accident, then began protecting its supplies. She also tells them that she was a homicide detective for 11 years. She quickly singles out Kate as the group leader.
In the present, Roxanne leads one of her anti-man support groups. First, she tells a story of her own, about the time she warned a coworker named Jenna that some of the men they worked with were making rude remarks about her. Jenna told Roxanne to stay away from her and accused her of being jealous of the attention. Sam mutters to Hero, “Maybe she just didn’t like you.”
Maybe she didn’t, just like he doesn’t like Roxanne. She’s not particularly likable. That doesn’t mean that the men weren’t using sexist language in the workplace. And it doesn’t make it okay for Sam to mock her while she’s leading a meeting, pushing her buttons the same way Jenna and her male coworkers did.
Roxanne calls Sam on his comment. He looks down and doesn’t answer, letting Hero take the heat instead, as always. Roxanne tells Hero that it’s her turn to testify and won’t let her out of it. Hero sits in a seat in the center of the group. Roxanne asks about her family. When Hero says her father respected her mother, Roxanne asks if she had siblings or if they should discuss Sam.
Hero chooses Yorick and tells the group that he was a good person, while she was a handful, so her parents were harder on her. The Amazons push her to say that she became difficult because of her parents’ misogyny, while her parents must have gone easier on Yorick.
Hero doesn’t take the bait, so Roxanne changes gears, suggesting that Yorick allowed her parents to abuse her without sticking up for her. Roxanne sits close to Sam, leaning into him while they talk about how Yorick’s life would have been easier because he was a boy. She suggests he might have been fine with sitting back and watching Hero struggle, because it made his life seem better in comparison. Roxanne practically sits in Sam’s lap as she asks what he thinks.
Yes, that is exactly what Sam does to Hero. We haven’t seen enough of Yorick and Hero together to know if he did the same thing, but it’s common to repeat these patterns, so Hero’s relationship with her male best friend may mirror her relationship with her younger brother. Beth and Sam both have a lot in common with Hero and Yorick, respectively, but Beth is more of a blend of Jennifer and Hero. Maybe Sam is a blend of Yorick and their father. Yorick usually isn’t as possessive, negative and critical as Sam, but we aren’t seeing Sam at his best, either.
Meanwhile, Roxanne is actively trying to separate Sam and Hero, instinctively finding the weakness in their relationship and driving a wedge between them. But she’s doing it in a way that leaves her blameless- she was talking about Yorick, not criticizing Sam!
Roxanne has likely worked her way through the rest of the group in the same way, weakening close friendships and driving out anyone who won’t conform to her control tactics or who shows leadership potential. Once she’s done, she will be the primary emotional resource for the Amazons. The rest of their relationships will be broken, leaving them without the emotional resources to break away from her. Anyone who sees through her or refuses to fall under her spell, like Kate, Sam and Nora, will be driven out.
Hero doesn’t want to turn on Sam or Yorick, but no one has ever offered her acceptance and this kind of “out” from the self-loathing put on her by her parents. And as I’ve pointed out over and over, Sam actually does treat her badly. In the conversation we saw in episode 1, I think Yorick mainly repeated their parents’ attitudes about Hero, while she did the same to him.
Nora catches Sam outside and tries to convince him to talk Hero into going to Washington. She knows the route and could be their guide. Then Hero could get them into the Pentagon. To Nora, it seems like a foolproof plan. It does to Sam, too, since it’s been his plan from the beginning. But he won’t admit that to Nora, since she worked for a Republican administration and specifically on an anti-trans sports bill. Sam is as rude to her as he is to everyone else. When she grows desperate and tries to persuade him that the bill is water under the bridge compared to the larger issues they face now, he tells her that he just doesn’t trust her and walks away. Nora calls out that the PriceMax won’t remain a safe haven forever. Even the supplies in a big box store will run out eventually.
Sam decides it’s time to take drastic action. He finds Hero alone and suggests they leave the Amazons to go to Smith Mountain Lake. They could start their own artists’ colony in one of the large summer houses, open only to people like them, who don’t like guns. It’s virtually the same thing that Hero asked him to do when they found the domestic violence shelter empty and intact, but he wouldn’t even consider it then. Now that he’s made it his idea, according to his rules, she’s supposed to accept his offer without hesitation.
Seriously, he dismissed the idea when it came from Hero, then he waited a while, tweaked the concept, and presented it as his own, like a cliché of a man who takes advantage of women’s talents. Hero doesn’t overtly call him on his change of heart about staying in a country retreat now that it’s his idea, but it may help fuel her anger in this scene.
Hero doesn’t typically just go along with whatever Sam wants any more than he automatically agrees with her, but there are times when each of them pulls their punches in disagreements because they are both afraid honesty will drive the other one away. In those cases, Hero doesn’t necessarily use healthy means to resolve the issue any more than Sam does. We’ve seen him become pushy and/or passive aggressive and seen her go behind his back (such as when she removed the car battery or with resolving her issues surrounding Mike’s family before leaving NY) or deny his valid concerns both in NY and with the Amazons.
Now Sam reaches his breaking point.
She tells him she’s not against learning to use a gun. He backs down on his anti-gun stance, but tells her that the real issue is that the Amazons just aren’t “them”, meaning they don’t fit his image of who he wants himself, and by extension Hero, to be. They aren’t artists, appear to be working class, dress in clothes from PriceMax, and live in a rural, rather than an urban, area. In other words, they aren’t hip and woke enough for Sam to give them a chance. And as we’ve seen from the beginning, underneath it all he feels that he is superior to Hero, so she should follow him rather than thinking independently. But Hero actually had a working class job and a working class boyfriend in a working class neighborhood. She’s not a hipster snob in the same way that Sam is.
(Maybe Sam is a snob out of self defense, maybe he’d be a snob no matter what, but it doesn’t change the fact that he has elitist attitudes. Hero and Yorick clearly went to elite private schools from birth through college, but they both strive to escape the elitist attitude they were raised with. Hero does a better job than Yorick of leaving it behind, maybe because her job brings her into contact with all sorts of people. Illness and injury are great levelers. As is addiction.)
Maybe joining the Amazons is a mistake, maybe not, but it’s Hero’s right to make her own decisions. She has some issues to work out and she can’t do that with Sam passive-aggressively smothering her. She easily has as much in common with the women of the Amazons as she does with Sam.
Hero tells Sam she’s tired and doesn’t want to argue. He snaps.
Sam: “Cause being in a cult is f**king exhausting.”
Pretty sure what’s exhausting is navigating between him and the cult, which at this point feels like she’s being torn in two, in addition to surviving the plague and having her own issues. But Sam only sees the part that involves him.
Hero tells him to give her a break.
Sam: “You know what? You may as well just join the NRA while you’re at it.”
Hero points out that this is a safe place with everything they need to survive and asks why he’s trying to ruin it. He tells her he doesn’t like it there. She says he’s uncomfortable because he’s not even trying to fit in.
Sam: “They keep talking about how terrible men are.”
Hero tells him that everyone likes him. She’s wrong about that, but it’s true that he’s not even trying to win them over.
Sam: “So which is it? They like me because I’m not really a man, or I am, and I’m just another f**king serial killer or rapist? No, honestly, it’s f**king confusing. One second Kelsey is all over me, and then the next she literally can’t look at me.”
He saw the others call Kelsey away from him and tell her she wasn’t allowed to talk to him. Then the next day, she was covered in bruises from the late night enforcement session. How self-absorbed and clueless is he? Other than a couple of comments when they met, the women have all treated him like a “real” man, including aiming the resentments they feel toward men at him.
But maybe he’s having a hard time with the realities that he wouldn’t be alive right now if he were a biological male and that he faces certain long-term issues because he’s trans. When he left the other trans men behind, he also left behind the only other people who relate to the particular flavors of survivor’s guilt and post-Event life that he’s experiencing. Pretending there’s a magical solution to his situation, such as going to the Pentagon, won’t change that. There will also be a lot of guns at the Pentagon.
The Amazons are breaking down gender stereotypes and reclaiming the full range of human thought and behavior as women, from wearing pink to shooting guns- and wearing pink while shooting guns. Sam defines himself as a man and an artist, but not a “gun guy”, so he should understand their need to redefine themselves now that they are free not just of the patriarchy, but from the daily threat of violence imposed on them by the abusive men in their lives. Instead, he rigidly defends gender roles, especially when it comes to interactions between men and women.
So, yes, these women are hostile toward men who enforce gender stereotypes, including Sam, and don’t feel they need to spare male feelings over it anymore.
That’s the part Hero doesn’t want to get into, because she knows Sam won’t hear her. Instead, she focuses on Kelsey making a play for him, which he failed to mention until now, when he could weaponize it. Of course he acts like her response is ridiculous, when he purposely used wording that exaggerated what happened between him and Kelsey in order to make Hero jealous. He tries again to point her toward hating Roxanne, while she tells him to try looking at the positives of the Amazons, using Kelsey as his entry point if necessary. But she yells that last part.
Sam is shocked, SHOCKED at Hero’s “overreaction”. Hero sneers that she wants him to be with Kelsey, who she thinks is a good match for him- sweet and a little dumb. (Hero is unfair to Kelsey, but correct about the type he should be looking for. Only she should have added “cheap plastic blonde” to the description, since he wants a Barbie, not a complicated human woman.)
Sam has been given his opening to go for the kill: “Better for me. Than what? Than you? I am smart enough to know the second I have you to myself, that just starts the clock, and then it’s only a matter of time until I’m in the discard pile with all the rest of them.”
Hero: “The rest of them? Just say you don’t want me cause you think I’m a wh*re.”
Sam: “I don’t think that. You do. I am not the voice in your head.”
Except he just told her she’s a tramp who would only hurt him in the end and he physically came on to her, then rejected her, just a couple of episodes ago. He’s worked hard to perfect his backhanded tone with her, which I would bet is a close impression of Jennifer’s tone with her daughter. So yes, he’s pretty close to the voice in her head that constantly tells her she’ll never live up to expectations, whether they’re his, her own, or her mother’s.
Sam counts on Hero feeling like she needs someone in her life to replace her mother as a supposed stabilizing influence who reins in her worst impulses by criticizing her rebellious streak. Hero’s relationships don’t work out because she has issues and makes bad choices. Sam implied that she’s a maneater who uses men and tosses them aside. In reality, he has as many or more issues than her and has a vested interest in encouraging her self loathing so that she doesn’t leave him.
If she wants to have short relationships with a dozen men a year, that’s her right. If she doesn’t want to be with Sam, no matter how much he wants her, that’s also her right- and it seems clear that she doesn’t really want to be with him. Sometimes she gives it a try because he wants it so much and she cares about him. It seems like a simple solution to both of their relationship problems, so she wants to be attracted to him that way; but they both know that she’s actually not.
That’s the true source of Sam’s bitterness toward her. And if he can’t handle her choices, he should remove himself from her vicinity.
I won’t even get into the way he treats her like a possession.
Now that Sam has broken Hero down, he tries to reel her back in. When she asks why he didn’t go to Vermont with the other trans men, he tells her she’s his family. He insists that she’s all he has left and begs her to leave with him. Hero holds his face and tells him again that they could make it work with the Amazons, as long as they have each other.
This is not the reaction he was hoping for. She’s supposed to be contrite at this point in the argument. He pulls away and tells her that she doesn’t have him and she never has.
Sam: “If you loved me the way I love you, you would keep a single promise. But you can’t. And I am so stupid for ever thinking that you…”
Roxanne has heard enough and cuts him off. She did him a favor, really, because he’s already said some unforgivable stuff, but he was about to make it so much worse that even someone as used to abuse as Hero wouldn’t take him back. He argues with Roxanne anyway, which turns into an argument between the three of them. Roxanne won’t let Sam continue to treat Hero this way. Hero tells Sam to say he’s sorry, but he’s not sorry for any of it. He tells them they’re all messed up and Hero knows it.
They are messed up- they admit it. So does Hero. That’s the point. They are working through the ways they’ve been messed up by a male dominated society. It might take a while. It might get ugly. Sam doesn’t mention the messed up things he said about Hero- we’re left to assume he meant every word.
Let me say this again, because people have a hard time with it- Hero doesn’t owe Sam romantic love. It’s sad that their friendship has been poisoned by this difference in the level of their feelings, but that’s what’s happening. She feels deep friendship for him and he feels unrequited romantic love for her. He thinks if he waits long enough or pushes her hard enough, her feelings will turn into romantic love. Her life would be easier if her feelings turned from loving friendship to romantic love, so she occasionally tries to make that happen, but after years of trying, it hasn’t worked.
Realistically, that suggests it never will, but the writers may take a different approach if the show gets more seasons. I hope they don’t put the characters together without growth on both sides, starting with Sam letting go of his obsession with who he thinks Hero should be so that he can eventually appreciate who she really is.
Sam buys into the idea that women should fall in love, or at least into an obedient relationship, with whatever man wants them, so he feels entitled to her love. But he also defines himself as a “nice guy”, so until now he’s restrained himself to passive aggressive assaults on her and denies that he’s trying to push her into anything. Now that he realizes she’s growing away from him, the assaults are becoming full frontal, but they reflect resentments he’s had for some time.
Hero apologizes to Roxanne for him, saying they’re both just tired and she’s fine. Roxanne decides to let the scene end with that. Sam storms off alone.
He wakes up in the middle of the night and packs his supplies to leave the PriceMax without even saying goodbye to Hero. Roxanne catches him in the act. She says she knew he’d been stealing. He tells her he only took what he needed to survive for a few days. She lets him leave. On his way out the door, he tries to explain that Hero is a good person, but… Roxanne cuts him off and tells him that Hero isn’t his problem anymore. They’ll take care of her.
Now that Sam is out of the way, let’s return to Roxanne’s origin story. In a flashback to the early days after the Event, Roxanne drags a body outside and adds it to a pile of bodies on a tarp in the PriceMax parking lot. She pours lighter fluid over the bodies, then touches a flame to someone’s wrist. They don’t catch fire, though she makes several attempts.
She walks over to a police car that’s a parked nearby with a dead male cop inside. As she peers into the car at the cop’s body, a horse appears at the edge of the parking lot. Roxanne approaches and the horse moves away. She follows it all the way back to the shelter, where the rest of the future Amazons are eating dinner outside. They greet the horse like a long lost friend. Roxanne watches but stays hidden.
In the present, Hero sits in Sam’s bed and mourns his loss. Roxanne tells her she can stop. Hero pretends she was just tidying up, but Roxanne isn’t fooled. She lets Hero know that even though Sam left without warning her, he’d been making preparations for a while. Hero feels guilty because she promised Sam they’d stick together. Roxanne holds her while she cries and reminds her that Sam left her, not the other way around.
Roxanne talks about the way her husband left her and says that men aren’t good at being there for the long haul. Then she takes Hero outside, where the Amazons are standing around a huge bonfire, dressed in shades of pink and purple. They tell Hero this is a “F**k ‘Em” Party. A “We’re Better Off Without Them” Party. The Amazons believe their bodies are temples, but those temples belong to them and they can throw a party in their temples if they want to. Roxanne throws a bottle of Viagra into the fire, then pushes Hero to throw the reminder of Sam that she’s holding (his hat?) into the fire. Hero hesitates, then screams and throws it in. The other Amazons cheer and throw stuff in too. The wild revels begin, to the tune of God’s Whisper by Raury.
As the party is winding down, Mack dances with some of the Amazons to Dance Monkey by Tones and I. Nora sits by herself, thinking and smoking. She calls Mack away from the other women and suggests they leave the PriceMax, explaining that they’d be better off at home, in one of the camps near DC. Mack recognizes this as a lie and refuses to leave. She guesses that Nora is being forced to leave because the Amazons don’t like her. They argue, with Mack complaining that her father would let her stay, then returning to the party.
Hoping to spare Mack’s feelings, Nora made it sound like it was her choice to leave, but it backfired on her. By not telling Mack the entire truth, including that Roxanne won’t allow Mack to stay either and that the other Amazons won’t go against Roxanne’s decisions because they’re afraid of her, she allowed Roxanne to drive a wedge between them without even trying.
Once the party is over the Amazons pass out just inside the building, leaving the fire burning. Nora is the only one still awake. She wanders through the sleeping women, staring at them resentfully. She lingers over Roxanne, getting right in her face, maybe considering what she’d like to do to the other woman. But she doesn’t touch Roxanne. She takes her beer back outside to contemplate the fire instead.
The fire that has a bottle of lighter fluid sitting right next to it. When you think about it from Nora’s point of view, the Amazons were already asking for trouble.
She pours a flammable trail from the fire to the building, then kicks some embers into the trail. For a moment, Nora can’t believe she’s been so daring, but she doesn’t put the fire out.
The building catches fire. Nora gets everyone outside, but there’s no way for them to put the fire out once it gets going.
In another flashback, Roxanne puts the pile of bodies in the police car, then has the car drive itself into the nearby river. The water is shallow and only covers the car halfway, with the bodies still fully exposed. Roxanne gets angry and tries to push the car the rest of the way under water, but it won’t budge.
In the first two scenes, Roxanne was wearing a brown vest. She stops wearing it after this. Next we see her lying on the ground, eavesdropping on the women at the shelter. Then she goes back to the store and cleans blood off the floor. She covers what she can’t clean up- there’s a substantial amount. She sets up the seating areas we’ve seen in other scenes. She goes back outside and arranges the Pricemax trucks into a protective circle to form the perimeter in front of the doors.
She changes into jeans, a button up shirt and a blazer, returns to the shelter and fires her gun into the air a few times. Then she enters the shelter and tells them she’s a police officer investigating the shots that were fired. We’re at the beginning of the flashback from earlier in the episode, when Roxanne met the women from the shelter for the first time.
Sam finds an abandoned elementary school and plays piano in one of the classrooms. He’s discovered by the school principal, Mrs Blackwell. She’s maintaining the school because she believes that it will reopen someday. She approves of Sam’s playing and asks him to continue.
As the Amazons salvage what they can from the burned out building, they argue about who was supposed to put the fire out before they went to bed. Roxanne tries to calm them and says it’s no one’s fault, but they ignore her and continue arguing. Others consider whether they should go to a camp or return to the shelter.
Nora sits down next to Hero and talks about her mother. They never got along. Nora left home at 17 and never went back. Her mother died not long after. Hero interrupts what’s about to turn into an inspirational story to ask why Nora is telling her this. Nora says that she knows that Jennifer is tough, but she’s certain she’s forgiven her daughter. They can leave for the Pentagon tonight… Hero bluntly informs her that’s not going to happen.
Nobody asks if Hero has forgiven her mother or wants to see her mother again. They just want to use Hero as their free pass into the Pentagon. But Yorick went with 355 when she found him instead of Hero. Jennifer let him stay at the Pentagon for less than a day, then sent him away based on the word of a covert agent she barely knew. There’s a reason neither of her children rushed to her side for the safety they thought she’d provide- they knew she wouldn’t. And Nora should know better- her Republican friends wouldn’t have been any more welcoming. Regina currently wants to use the military to mow down the starving, angry crowds gathered outside.
Short flashback to Roxanne watching Law and Order on her laptop in the PriceMax after the Event. Someone turns the lights out.
Nora sneaks outside the perimeter to hide stolen supplies in a nearly full backpack near the river. She’s already packed it with a gun and food. A vulture floats by on some debris, both a sign that there are bodies nearby and a recurrence of the omen that told Nora it was time to change course before she and Mack left their home in DC behind. Heeding the sign, Nora follows the riverbank until she finds the police car with bodies in it. She wades into the water and looks inside the car. A garment with a name tag sits next to the cop’s body. Nora pulls off the name tag with a triumphant look back toward PriceMax.
Flashback to the early days after the Event. Roxanne meanders through PriceMax, tidying up the mess left by looters. Suddenly, a young woman runs in, looking for a place to hide, quickly followed by another young woman with a shotgun. Roxanne ducks down and watches the two women kill each other in a shoot out.
Once they’re both down, she timidly checks the bodies that are bleeding out on the floor, claiming their guns for herself. It’s clear that she’s unfamiliar with firearms and is not a police officer as she claims. Roxanne teaches herself to shoot by using the next several looters for target practice- the bodies she was trying to burn in earlier flashbacks. By the time she’s done, she’s on her way to developing the confident persona we’ve met in the present day.
Nora finds Roxanne sifting through the burned remains of the PriceMax. She says that she used to work in politics and Roxanne has a communication problem. Roxanne tries to blow her off, but Nora won’t let her- probably a first for Nora with a boss or authority figure. Nora goes on, explaining that using hatred of men to unite the group worked well as a starting point for the Amazons, but it wasn’t going to work long term, since the men are dead and no longer a threat. Most of the women continued sticking around for the safety and resources the PriceMax provided, not what Roxanne herself brings to the table. Roxanne needs Nora’s skills as a handler, since she has good instincts, but she’s not pulling off her cover up as well as she thinks she is. Roxanne pretends she doesn’t know what Nora is talking about, so Nora pulls out the tag she pulled from the police car.
Nora: “The only thing that will keep you safe out there is numbers. You don’t need the building. You need the people. But to keep them, you’re gonna need more than “men suck.”
Roxanne: “What do you expect to get out of this, I wonder?”
Nora: “I’m in the inner circle from now on. You run things by me. And I want privileges. Mack and I eat first.”
Roxanne: “That’s not how we do it.”
Nora: “Well, if there’s not enough to go around, you’ll make sure there’s enough for us. We get first dibs on everything. And you’ll never talk about my husband or my son ever again. It’s up to you. You can go out there and tell them the truth about what you are. Or you can go out there and be the thing you so desperately want to be.”
Flashback to before the Event: Roxanne, who is an assistant manager at the PriceMax, sits in the manager’s office as he reprimands her for overstepping her authority. Terry is upset because Roxanne tried to fire an employee for several instances of sexual harassment, offenses that Terry doesn’t see as a big deal. With Roxanne watching, he calls Travis, the offending employee, into his office, and tells him to stop the offensive behavior or his hours will be cut.
Roxanne complains that Travis has been physically harassing one of the female employees, Jenna. Terry shoots her down, saying Jenna likes the attention and Roxanne’s uptight attitude is the real problem. Maybe she should take a few more weeks off to rest up from her cancer treatments. She tells him she can’t. There’s no once else to pay her bills since her husband left. Then he accuses her of stealing a boxed set of Law and Order Season 10 DVDs, a fireable offense. Roxanne tells him it was in the bargain bin, with a damaged package. He doesn’t care- he’s putting her on notice.
We already knew that Roxanne resents men because her husband left her to deal with her cancer alone, taking his health insurance with him, leaving her a member of the working poor, with medical bills so high she’d never be able to pay them off. This scene reveals that the PriceMax was rife with misogyny and sexual harassment. When she tried to address it, her boss humiliated and punished her, making it clear that though she was technically an assistant manager, the male employees would be treated with more respect. If he hadn’t died in the plague, he probably would have fired her before long.
Terry told her to find her own store to manage if she didn’t like his decisions- before long, fate gave her the chance to take his job. And he’s likely just one of the men that taught her how to be an abusive leader who’s afraid to share power.
Kelsey reads Hero’s palm in the back of one of the trucks, saying her “will” line is bigger than her “logic” line. Hero isn’t surprised. Kelsey pauses her reading to assert that she’s not dumb, responding to the insult Hero threw at Sam. Hero admits that she was wrong to say that. Kelsey tells her she won’t get to know them if she doesn’t give them a chance. Hero agrees. They go back to the reading. Kelsey discovers Hero’s Ring of Solomon, a sign she’ll serve others to benefit the greater good. Hero doesn’t think that description sounds like her, but Kelsey does.
It sounds like exactly what Hero was doing as an EMT. She’s continued to treat the injured people she’s met since the Event, even when it posed a danger to herself.
They’re interrupted by Roxanne, who wants to speak to the group- she and Nora must have agreed on terms. She climbs into the back of the truck to stand above the others as she speaks.
Roxanne: “What happened here is a tragedy. Y’all know I had a bout of cancer a few years back. Took one of my tits. Lost my health insurance, my life savings, bunch of fair-weather friends. My husband left me- few months into the treatment he couldn’t take the heat. F**k him, he wasn’t some prize, but that didn’t feel good. I could have given up, right then. Thrown in the towel, you know? What’s a broke, 45 year old woman with one tit and no man good for in this f**king world? You ever heard of the Amazons? [“From Wonder Woman?”] No, no, the originals, from Greek mythology. Warrior women, daughters of Gods. Whole city of women, living on the bank of a river. And they made their own rules. And when people f**ked with them, when men f**ked with them, they never backed down. They were killers, conquerors. Sliced off one of their tits so their arrows would shoot straighter. I learned about that after my cancer. When I was picking myself back up, looking at all the pieces of my life, trying to figure out what any of it was for. And instead of giving up, I thought about them. There are so many women out there who still think that they have lost something. But not us. We celebrate the absence of fear. We embody it. This is an opportunity to take what we deserve, to be fearless. Let the rest of them cower. That is all that they were taught. But not us. We are warrior women, Daughters of the Amazons, and this is our world now! Yeah!”
The Amazons erupt in cheers. Nora hides Roxanne’s PriceMax name tag. For now.
This episode was directed by Karena Evans and written by Coleman Herbert. It has stand out cinematography by Catherine Lutes, film editing by Melissa Lawson Cheung and sound editing by Lauren Stephens. Production design by Alexandra Schaller and music by Herdís Stefánsdóttir.
Roxanne and Hero’s stories are representative of the Amazon’s stories. The show spared us representations of ongoing violent abuse, but we saw Mike become violent with Hero and both Mike and Sam manipulate and control her. Roxanne was used and abused by multiple men in multiple areas of her life, leaving her with nothing- her health was gone, she was destitute, her job was on the line, which means she would have been threatened with eviction before long, her friends left with her husband in the divorce and her work friends also took the men’s side. The other women in her life followed the power rather than sticking by her. Of course she wants to amass a wall power for herself now that she has the chance. First she killed some women to get revenge on the ones who abandoned her, now she’s creating a new family. But she’ll make sure none of them get the chance to betray her. Nora needs to tread carefully.
Star Mariska Hargitay was injured performing a stunt during the filming of season 10 of Law and Order: SVU and suffered a partially collapsed lung. She returned to work, but eventually underwent surgery for the injury and missed filming one episode of the season. Not only is Roxanne channeling Hargitay and her character, Detective Olivia Benson, to create her police officer/cult leader persona, she’s obsessed with season 10 in particular because Hargitay/Benson had chest surgery on one side that season, which parallels Roxanne’s mastectomy.
Kate found the police car with the bodies and Roxanne’s name tag. She tried to leave because she realized Roxanne wouldn’t risk that she’d tell the others the truth and Roxanne killed her to make sure she didn’t reveal the truth.
By the time Nora found the bodies, she’d already changed the game by burning down the PriceMax. Roxanne wasn’t smart enough to adapt her policewoman/cult leader act on the fly and figure out how to feed and house the Amazons at the same time. She needs Nora as her imagemaker, though she probably doesn’t realize how much she needs her. Her time was always going end when the supplies ran out because she was teaching hate, but not survival skills beyond shooting guns. The Amazons need to learn how to fend for themselves in the new world, while Roxanne is still stuck in the old world.
Nora helped Roxanne update her message, but it doesn’t feel finished yet. In this episode Nora came closer to acting for and being herself, rather than trying to be whatever she needs to be to fit in. Roxanne is still playing the fantasy role she created for herself after the Event and playing out her revenge fantasy. That means she has to keep the other women at arm’s length and under tight control, something they’re already chafing under. As long as Roxanne is living a lie, she’ll also live in fear, and her warrior woman message will ring hollow. The other Amazons will eventually figure that out.
It never occurs to either Nora or Sam that the Pentagon will run out of resources and fall just like the PriceMax, only worse. When the packaged food runs out, the federal government can’t magically produce more. Anyone inside the Pentagon will then be in a siege situation, with the hostile crowds outside acting as the invading army, waiting for the people inside the building to starve so they can take over the way they did with the White House. The crowds surrounding the building already have the people inside in a low level siege, unable to come and go freely. (Or maybe the Feds have begun underground hydroponic gardening and I missed it, in which case why aren’t they working to help the rest of the country grow their own food?)
Sometimes I wonder if Sam, Beth and Christine are all Culper Ring plants, embedded in Hero, Yorick and Jennifer’s lives to monitor and guide them as the operation approached, then eventually given new instructions at various points after the Event. But that seems paranoid. Plus, Orphan Black already did it.
Images courtesy of FX on Hulu.