In episode 9, Roxanne fully embraces her role as societal enforcer, moving beyond her Mariska Hargitay impression in order to take her rage and lust for vengeance to a whole new level. She and Nora continue their struggle over who the Amazons should be as a group. Yorick, Allison and 355 develop closer ties to the people of Marrisville. Beth and her resistance friends use the security information Christine gave her. General Peggy turns against Jennifer, which gives Regina and Kim the leverage (and military backing) they need to stage a coup.
Undeterred by her concussion, 355 (Ashley Romans) runs out on the edge of town, pushing herself until she stumbles and falls. She has brief flashback hallucinations of her Culper Ring mentor, Fran, taunting her before she gets up to keep running.
When she’s done, she finds Allison (Diana Bang) and Yorick (Ben Schnetzer) with Sonia (Kristen Gutoskie) at the weekly Saturday birthday party, where the town celebrates all of the special events they missed while they were locked up, plus their current occasions. 355 grumbles that Allison and Yorick aren’t safe out in the open, while they fuss back at her that she’s not following the doctor’s instructions regarding her head injury.
That the doctor is a convicted felon and Marrisville seems safe are irrelevant in the current world.
Yorick argues that women are mostly locked up for soft crimes, or crimes that they were goaded into committing against their abusers or because of over-prosecution due to racism and inequality. To him, they all seem harmless enough. He whispers most of this, so as to be sensitive with his mansplaining. Allison takes offense when he whispers the word racism. Sonia assures him that she got into trouble on her own, no goading necessary. Same with most of the other women. But he’s not the first guy to explain prison to her.
The song “No Scrubs” plays and suddenly everyone’s in the mood to dance. Yorick discovers a desperate NEED to break out his Weird Al Dad-like moves on the dance floor. This strange courtship ritual works on 355. Her attempts to resist him prove futile and she soon joins him, while he declares No Scrubs their official song as a couple.
Amp is so embarrassed he sits on a roof and pretends he’s not with them. I know, Amp, PARENTS, OMG.
No Scrubs might be my favorite moment of the season. Kudos to Ben Schnetzer for thoroughly committing to his dance moves.
As Sonia watches them dance, a woman named Dominique (Mercedes Morris) notices and tells her she’s not the only one interested in the newcomers. She jokes about pimping them out. At least I hope it’s a joke. Post-apocalyptic, utopian towns like this typically turn out to be either organized crime fronts known for their brutality or cannibals or both. It would be a relief if this one is basically what it seems.
Allison overhears Sonia and Dominique’s conversation and decides to investigate the stranger. She starts the conversation by asking if the other woman is into Yorick. Dominique tells Allison her name, but says to try some small talk next time. Allison explains that she’s not into small talk. They’re flirty, but a fight develops nearby and Dominique needs to help calm things down.
Sonia finds 355 in the kitchen making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a large knife. She puts the Culper Ring tracker/communicator on the table and asks what it is. 355 jokingly says it’s a vibrator. Sonia says she found it in the RV and threatens to show it to Allison and Yorick. 355 doesn’t blink, claiming she’s never seen it before. But she also picks up an even bigger, sharper knife.
Sonia isn’t intimidated. She tells 355 that they’re the same- they’ve both done terrible things. But Sonia is able to admit she likes Yorick, while 355 won’t let herself be that vulnerable. She wonders whether the cylinder is a detonator for a bomb, then tells 355 that Yorick trusts her, so she should be careful not to mess that up.
Yorick appears with a joint and 355 quickly shoves the cylinder in her pocket. He explains that Janis rations out one per household, per week, and asks if Sonia wants to share. She definitely does. But they have to keep it secret from Allison, who’s still giving him a hard time about his sperm count.
It’s like Days of Our Lives around here.
355 stays behind to eat her sandwich. She has more flashbacks of her mentor, Fran (June Carryl❤️ ), who taught her beginning bomb making.
At the Museum of Men, Hero (Olivia Thirlby) wanders through the Hall of Voices, which is housed in a huge, burned out building. Old voicemail messages left by men play over the loudspeakers. Outside, a row of vans and trucks display the rest of the exhibits: a collection of male survivor sightings with the opportunity to add to the stories; male belongings such as clothing, hats, books; artwork depicting men, such as paintings and drawings; and a stage for sharing oral histories about men as a way to process grief. A survivor tells the story of her last hours with a loved one, lamenting that he ultimately died alone.
While the expressions of grief and documentation of the Event and the hours surrounding it are essential, the overall fetishization of men seems excessive. Nothing from the old world has disappeared except the men themselves, and they spent thousands of years thoroughly documenting every facet of their existence.
Almost every museum is already a museum of men. Kim isn’t the only woman who’s been more focused on what was lost than on what survived.
When Hero’s done with her recon, she sends a messenger back to the rest of the Amazons, who are waiting just outside of town. The messenger lets the group know that Nora was right. The Amazons are strong enough to attack the museum group and win. Nora instructs Roxanne to tell the rest of the group that their first priority is taking as much food as they can carry.
Roxanne resents that Nora wants to turn her grand mission into a grocery shopping trip. Nora feels that it’s enough for right now that they get enough to eat tonight. Roxanne sticks to her anti-men message: “Alright, girls. This is what we’ve been training for. These women built a shrine to men. They are mourning a world that hurt us. That has consequences and we are those consequences. We will take everything they have: their tents, their food. It is the only way that they will learn.”
Nora wants to stay back and watch the kids, but Roxanne insists she come along, leaving Mack, who’s a kid herself, in charge. At the Museum, the Amazons indiscriminately destroy whatever they find, even the food stores and 5 gallon jugs of fresh water. Nora is appalled. Water, in particular, will become an increasingly valuable resource. She eventually uses a baseball bat to make Laura stop trashing the corn pops cereal. Missing the point entirely, Laura asserts that her name is Athena now. Nora looks like her head might actually explode.
In the Hall of Voices, voice mail messages continue to play as Roxanne attacks the answering machine with a golf club in hopes of permanently silencing men. One husband attempts to check in with his wife about what color peppers she wants, since her list just says peppers and the store has several to choose from.
On second thought, maybe the content of the messages set Roxanne off. If the wife cared about the color, she would have written the acceptable choices on the list, yeah? Calling to ask her to choose shows a tendency toward conflict avoidance on the husband’s part, which probably means the wife already gets stuck doing more than her share of the decision making and emotional labor, allowing him to avoid blame when things go wrong. She gets to do the thankless emotional and organizational work and be the bad guy who creates rules and limits, while he gets credit for being the nice guy who goes to the store for his wife.
The peppers will come up again later.
Nora enters the Hall of
Ghosts Voices as the peppers recording plays. Roxanne finishes destroying the answering machine just as Nora reaches her. She says she used to be a golf caddy. Then she tells Nora that this was a great choice for a raid and the girls did a great job destroying it. She mocks Nora for trying to save the water. Nora argues that they should have saved the food, water and even the answering machine, which they could have traded. Roxanne doesn’t think they need to plan for the future. They are fed and happy now and will find more when they need it.
Strange words from the woman who killed multiple times in order to hold onto the PriceMax.
Mack interrupts to tell Roxanne that her tent is ready. Roxanne fawns all over her as they leave Nora behind.
This is how a practical mother becomes the Evil Stepmother and someone else takes her place, becoming the good Fairy Godmother in an adolescent or young adult child’s mind.
Regina and General Peggy go over the logistics of their coup plot while Kim files her nails in the corner. Her internal fairytale took another hard left with her mother’s suicide. Peggy explains that much of the Secret Service has been sent to do offsite training. Jennifer’s current detail are new and have no loyalty toward her.
Regina checks to make sure Peggy is 100% on board with the coup, since she’s not “a traditional choice” to replace the president. She expects that sort of thing matters to the general. Peggy replies that when Jennifer ordered the deaths of the two helicopter pilots, she lost the right to lead.
Some huge jumps of logic here. They don’t actually know why the helicopter pilots died or even if they were treasonous themselves. They could have died because of infighting between group members over what to do with Yorick or the cash they were going to get from selling him. Peggy is naive and idealistic about service members though. She also didn’t believe a Secret Service member would ever go rogue.
Then there’s the almost seductive way Regina speaks to Peggy, as if she’s both challenging Peggy to object to a lesbian president and legitimately flirting with her. I can easily believe both are true. In a different scenario, I might even root for them as a conservative power couple (but never for Regina as president- maybe Peggy, with better advisors to help with her blind spots). Someone please make that show!
As General Peggy is leaving, she calls Regina “Madame Secretary.” Regina says she’ll be “Madame President” in about half an hour. Kim doesn’t respond to Regina at first, so the other woman offers her a valium or whatever she needs, as long as she pulls herself together and publicly reassures the rest of the Pentagon staff that they can trust her as president. Kim is the better known, generally more stable personality here. Regina can’t stage her coup without Kim’s backing and network.
But Kim is in the middle of a nervous breakdown combined with deep depression. Regina’s rush to overthrow the government, regardless of the mental health issues of her main supporter, shows how unfit to lead she is. She walks out, ordering Kim to get it together. Kim starts to stand up, then notices a large piece of broken glass on the floor. She moves it closer with her foot. Is she contemplating using it to cut herself or to kill Jennifer?
As they stand in the closed subway station next to the Pentagon, Beth tells her new resistance friends the story of her mother’s death in a hospital, alone and abandoned by the staff. Beth found her mother’s body that way, after her mom had apparently died from a lack of food and water rather than her cancer. She left that detail out of the version she told Jennifer. Beth’s voice shakes with anger as she recounts Jennifer’s response, which was to say she wished she’d known so she could have tried to intervene.
Sadly, Jennifer was lying to Beth- Yorick had already told her that Beth’s mother was dying of cancer in a Cleveland hospital. He begged her to help him locate Beth and her mother in Ohio, but Jennifer refused to even try. Beth’s mother was dead by the time 355 brought Yorick to DC, but they didn’t know that. This is another example of Jennifer’s coldness, which comes off as indifference to the suffering of others, even her own people, a fatal flaw during a time filled with so much hardship.
According to Beth’s account, Jennifer didn’t show sympathy or remorse for the overall situation or the many others who suffered the same fate. Her only thought was to use her privilege save the one person she had a connection to, rather than to move heaven and earth to save them all.
Jennifer was attempting to express sympathy to Beth while covering up the fact that Yorick survived and ended up sounding stilted. She is trying to save the masses of people whose lives are permanently disrupted, though it’s probably impossible for any leader to do enough under these conditions. She probably would have faced uprisings even if she’d been the duly elected leader, but between being barely legitimate and having difficulty connecting with the public, she hasn’t built a loyal national base to fall back on for support. She can’t save everyone, but she could save a few people here and there to boost morale.
Beth says that the federal government that’s currently operating in the Pentagon is maintaining the broken system that existed long before the Event and they won’t voluntarily let it go. It’s up to the resistance to tear down the old system and “let the grass grow.”
Also probably true. The members of the old government have stayed safe inside their fortress and don’t have a real sense of how bad it is outside. They literally are the privileged few, holed up in their castle, with no sense of urgency other than to continue to keep the underprivileged out. It’s probably going to get ugly.
The resistance leader wonders if they can trust Beth, since she’s known Jennifer far longer than she’s known them. Jennifer points out that she’s already provided them with valuable intel. While they’ve been talking, another resistance fighter has been rigging a bomb to the subway entrance barricades. She interrupts to tell them that it’s ready. They set it to explode and run a safe distance down the tracks.
Over lunch with Jennifer, Christine expresses how sick she is of canned food. Jennifer gives her canned oranges as a special treat, since she’s noticed how much her aide likes them. This prompts Christine to confess that she’s pregnant. She says that she was on an antibiotic, only missed a day or two of her birth control pill and wasn’t in love with the father- a pretty typical story. She apologizes to Jennifer for her mistake, but Jennifer is thrilled. She’s going to be a grandma! She starts peppering Christine with the usual questions. Christine always wanted to have kids and assumes this is her only chance. Jennifer reassures her that everyone feels unprepared, but having Hero was the best decision she ever made.
They’re interrupted by two soldiers, who tell Jennifer she’s needed in the War Room immediately.
By the time they get there, Regina and Kim are already presenting their case to Jennifer’s staff in the War Room. Captain Nguyen (Marianna Phung) identifies Yorick as the man she saw in the woods in Pennsylvania. Kim explains that, in “a staggering abuse of power,” Jennifer had Nguyen reassigned out of the Pentagon after she saw Yorick.
When Jennifer arrives, she tells Peggy to have the soldiers stand down. Peggy ignores this direct order from her Commander in Chief. The accusations and denials fly around the room until Kim brings up Christine’s role in the cover up and predicts harsh punishment for her. Jennifer admits that Yorick is alive and she’s been hiding him while trying to get him to a Harvard geneticist. She lies to protect Christine, telling them to leave her aide alone because she wasn’t involved.
She still refuses to tell the entire truth about Yorick and claims secrecy is necessary to protect him and everyone in that room. Between the shock experienced by the women who’ve just found out, Regina’s corrupt need to exploit the situation, the military mutiny and Kim’s mental breakdown, the situation quickly spirals out of control.
Kim: “You took our only chance at bringing the world back, and you hid him away.”
Jennifer: “I had no choice.”
Kim: “He could have been killed. Taken by foreign powers. The selfishness!”
Jennifer: “We’re already a target! I did what I did to protect you, all of you.”
Kim: “The future of the human race depends on his survival and you sent him out there with one person? You weren’t thinking about any of us. You wanted him all to yourself.”
Jennifer: “He’s my son.”
Kim, screaming and stomping her foot: “My sons are dead!”
That jealousy is the real issue. Kim is the only one who will come close to voicing it, but what they all believe is that they are owed a piece of Yorick because they lost their men. It’s not fair that Jennifer’s son survived and their sons didn’t, so they transfer their anger about their men’s deaths onto her. It becomes anger that her son survived and a lack of empathy for anything she might suffer, because they feel she already has more than she’s due.
Kim is the one who wants the last man all to herself. She’s projecting onto Jennifer here. Jennifer sent Yorick away almost as soon as he arrived and like the others, she hopes that he’s still alive. Maybe she didn’t choose the best course of action, but it’s hard to say what would have worked out better.
General Peggy brings up the dead helicopter pilots and concludes that either 355/Agent Bergen is taking illegal orders from Jennifer or she’s gone rogue while protecting precious cargo due to Jennifer’s illegal actions. Regina declares that Jennifer will be placed in protective custody and attempts to shut down any discussion. Jennifer’s top staff members agree to remove her from office in order to save themselves from the angry mob outside who are already sure there’s a conspiracy.
Regina and Kim smile to themselves- they’ve pulled off their coup.
I doubt that it’s actually illegal for Jennifer to send her own son away from the seat of government with an undocumented agent who reports directly to her- in essence a private bodyguard. She basically assigned a new Secret Service agent to Yorick in response to his increased risk level. But the Republicans could certainly continue their investigation into the matter, then have Congress impeach her. Sitting presidents decide what’s classified and aren’t subject to criminal charges, as we all learned during Trump’s term, so those threats would be pointless if the government were following the constitution.
But that’s the point of a coup- Regina and Kim got the rest of the staff and cabinet so riled up that they threw out the rules, somehow believing that the matter of Yorick is now the most pressing issue at hand. There is the issue of the cover up, but politicians have kept their jobs who’ve done much worse than lie to a former First Lady and have an army captain transferred to a new post. In times of crisis, a stable government is usually made the priority over infighting among factions. Infighting to the point of frequent turnover can lead to collapse and is one sign of a failing or weak administration.
In reality, no one in the War Room has shown proof that the pilots died due to a larger conspiracy or that 355 has gone rogue. Those are speculations that Regina, Peggy and Kim have twisted into worst case scenarios. Though viewers can guess that 355 killed the pilots, the DC characters don’t even have as much circumstantial evidence as we do. It could be that the Culper Ring stepped in and took care of the pilots. On the other hand, someone should remind General Peggy that the CIA is infamous for its covert assassinations.
On the other side of the barricade from the Pentagon subway station, two soldiers stop on their regular patrol to check out strange noises. By the time they realize there’s a bomb on the other side, it’s too late to escape and they’re caught in the explosion. At least one dies.
When the bomb goes off, it shakes the building and causes a low roar, but the women in the War Room barely notice since they’re caught up in arguing about how to choose the next president. General Peggy tells them to follow her to the emergency command center in C-Ring, where they’ll be safe while they assess the situation. Even though they heard and felt the explosion, the rest of the women in the War Room question whether this is a ruse to influence who they choose. Once Peggy assures them she’ll be the first one in and the last one out of the secure location they follow her into the hall.
As the resistance fighters climb over the rubble from the barricade and into the Pentagon, they get word that the crowd outside heard the bomb. Inspired into action, the protesters are pulling down fences and fighting their way through the gate. The resistance leaders order units to the roof and to secure the perimeter. They’ve already planted a second bomb by the generators to take out the electricity and confirmed that Pentagon forces are spread thin. The resistance commander, Malika (Natasha Mumba), orders them to encourage as many protesters as possible into the building to provide cover for their activities.
Senior Pentagon staff discuss the emergency plan amongst themselves as they walk through the halls. Peggy says they plan to use water cannons and tear gas as their first line of defense, then move to live ammunition only they have no other choice. Jennifer wants to evacuate the building, since it’s been compromised, but that idea is shot down. The others want to know if Regina planned the attack. She denies it.
They acknowledge the rioters’ level of anger. Regina wants to talk directly to them, since they’re angry at Jennifer, not at her. Kim agrees with Jennifer that they should evacuate the building in case the resistance has already made it inside. Regina tells her to be quiet because she doesn’t even have an official title.
Regina hasn’t even taken office yet and she’s already pushing Kim aside. Jennifer and Kim want to evacuate the building to get Christine and her baby out safely. Otherwise they might not be in such a rush.
There’s another explosion, which makes everyone stop arguing and start paying more attention to their surroundings. Too late. They are soon confronted by a resistance squad who point guns in their faces and zip tie their wrists together. Though the resistance members are wearing balaclavas, Jennifer recognizes Beth from her eyes and build. As she ties Jennifer up, Beth whispers not to reveal her true identity. Jennifer stays silent.
When all of the Pentagon women are tied up, military personnel are separated from politicians and staff and herded off in different directions. Beth sticks close to Jennifer.
Once the battle for the Museum of Men is over, the Amazons snack outside like they own the place- guess they sort of do. Though the corn pops came to a violent end earlier in the episode, the Amazons show reverence for Oreos. Kelsey, Athena and others discuss how nervous they were before the raid, but watching Roxanne helped calm them. They figure Hero wasn’t nervous because she already has experience in this area- Roxanne told them that Hero killed her abusive boyfriend. They see her as a role model for fighting back and winning. They all agree that Mike deserved it.
Let’s recall again that Mike was a cheating husband who slept around on his pregnant wife and continued after their daughter was born. The night he died, he lied to his wife to get out of the house and to Hero to get her into bed. Then he was the one who escalated their argument into physical fighting while blocking her exit from the ambulance. He didn’t deserve to die, but Hero killed him accidentally.
I suspect that if he wasn’t already physically abusing his wife, he would have worked up to it, given what we saw with Hero. His wife seemed more like she wanted to be sure he was dead rather than upset that she’d lost him. Mike’s death was a mixed bag, at best.
But Hero is a traditionally moral person underneath the self-loathing and rebellion. She feels guilty that she killed someone she cared about and got away with it. She’s unable to view her actions as self-defense in part because they were having an affair and because no one else understands what happened. She scared herself with the depth of her anger. Sam was right that she’s internalized a misogynist, societal blaming and slut shaming of women which leads her to feel like most things that go wrong in her presence are her fault. (Sam also encouraged this form of internalized misogyny because it helped keep her where he wanted her- emotionally dependent on him.)
Hero is mortified that Roxanne shared her deepest, darkest secret with a group of women she barely knows. The Amazons really are warming up to her- when they get up from the table, they leave her a special Oreo to show they accept her as one of them. Nora is right there and she doesn’t get an Oreo.
Nora is so stubborn and strong that she probably doesn’t want one anyway. She will eventually dine on the knowledge that she was right all along. Until then, she’ll stay hungry and sharp-witted.
Hero gives Nora a guilty, defensive look. Nora debates whether she should say something to help or mind her own business. As a political operative, she’s trained to stay out of disputes that don’t involve her. That can be a hard habit to break, but she’s working on it.
She opts to say something, telling Hero that she used to always be angry, often over trifles. Her husband would call from the store, grocery list in hand, and want her to give him detailed directions, as if the list wasn’t nearly always the same. She didn’t care what color the peppers were. If she did, she would have written it on the list. She told him to make a choice, like the one she did when she wrote the list.
Her anecdote is based on the peppers story we heard playing in the Hall of Voices earlier in the episode. Either someone stole her voicemail or she’s embellishing the truth to make a point, something we’ve heard her do before. She goes on to say that she followed the life trajectory we’re all taught to live by- house, kids, husband, good job. But it never felt like enough.
Nora: “I am who I am. Angry. It’s what kept me alive. I would have died without it. Mack and I never would have made it. Next time, don’t tell Roxanne your secrets. She’s not worthy of them.”
The resistance has cleverly circled the political staff right back into the War Room. No one will ever think to look for them in their regular meeting room. /s😜
Rather than presenting a united front to the
kidnappers resistance, they split into two groups- Jennifer loyalists and Regina insurrectionists. The loyalists go along with Jennifer’s choices, including protecting the top secret… secret that Yorick is alive. And they try to figure out which government agency dropped the ball, providing the insurgents with enough intel to break into the Pentagon. Christine recognizes Beth from her earlier visit.
Malika orders her people to destroy any records they find. This isn’t just a coup. They intend to tear down and erase everything that’s come before. Army soldiers call on the phone to negotiate the release of the hostages, first asking for proof that Regina Oliver, the acting president, is alive. Almost everyone is thrown by that request. Especially because if the soldiers don’t get proof of life, they’ll switch to live bullets.
But also because it suggests the entire army was in on the coup and accepts the presidential transition as an accomplished fact. (It’s not- Regina hasn’t taken the oath of office and Jennifer hasn’t officially stepped down.) It appears that Peggy and Regina conspired to overthrow the government by turning the military against Jennifer. The confrontation in the War Room was a courtesy, with the hope that it could be a bloodless coup. It also gave Kim the chance to publicly call Jennifer out.
Malika hands the phone to Kim, former First Daughter and famous author who’s still recognizable to the public. She says she’s Kim Campbell, leaving out her last name. The soldier asks if the president is safe and with her. She sounds worried for Regina’s life.
Kim takes a chance and tells the soldier that they’re in the War Room and the resistance is armed. Kim doesn’t refer to the president by name while she’s on the phone. Malika takes the phone, slaps her, then points a gun at her face and asks who is the president- Jennifer or Regina?
Throughout the coup attempt, Beth and Malika argue back and forth over what their goal is- burn down the entire government, with its buildings and records, or change leadership, but leave most people alive and most of the physical structures and institutional memories intact. Beth is an anthropologist. She wants to preserve the historical record. Malika is a revolutionary who’s seizing a moment. She can’t count on getting a second chance to overthrow the system.
With the gun in her face, Kim freezes. Malika asks the question a few more times, until Jennifer claims the title. Malika and Beth switch to questioning her: “Food, medicine, weapons reserves. We want locations, access.” Jennifer, who is cool in a crisis, indicates that she’ll be happy to negotiate with them, once they let the rest of the hostages go. She tries to convince them that holding the president hostage is enough.
Malika doesn’t back down, asking again where the federal stockpiles are. They hear loud noises outside the War Room, made by the Army’s attempts to break in to rescue the hostages. Jennifer says there are a thousand soldiers in the building and they’ve been careful so far in order to avoid hurting civilians, but that won’t last. She can help the resistance once they let the others go.
Regina comes out of her stupor and tells the kidnappers that she’s the real president. Jennifer has no authority to negotiate or make deals. Several staffers tell Regina to sit down and be quiet, since she doesn’t know where anything is, what kind of supplies they have in reserve or their current military capabilities. She’s simply not prepared to shepherd them through this crisis, whereas Jennifer likely has every statistic, contingency plan and escape route memorized.
Jennifer did Regina and every other traitor in that room a favor by volunteering to continue as president. She could have decided that it was no longer her problem and melted back into the shadows to wait for an opportunity to escape. While she’s not perfect, she’s brave, works hard, is committed to the job and knows her stuff. The steeliness that is sometimes a flaw is an asset in this situation. Regina is stubborn rather than steely and an opportunist rather than a committed public servant.
Malika loses patience when the politicians descend into petty arguing about who’s a qualified grown up. She fires her gun at the ceiling, which probably wasn’t the smartest choice in a building full of soldiers worried about the safety of the hostages.
I don’t think Malika has been a violent revolutionary for long. She didn’t realize how hard murder and mayhem are on the nerves, even when you’re the instigator. Throughout the coup attempt, Beth and Malika argue back and forth over what their goal is- burn down the entire government, with its buildings and records, or change leadership, but leave most people alive and most of the physical structures and institutional memories intact. Beth is an anthropologist. She wants to preserve the historical record. Despite her nerves, Malika needs to seize the moment. She can’t count on getting a second chance to overthrow the system.
Beth whispers to Malika that they have to get out of the War Room. They’re like sitting ducks since Kim told the soldiers that’s where the most valuable hostages are being held. (There’s an entire day care center and school of kids and moms on one of the lower levels. We’re never told what happens to them during or after this fiasco. Does burning the government to the ground also mean murdering innocent children? It did in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building, where 19 children died.)
Beth convinces Malika to empty the room in small groups that can blend in with the crowds, then reunite in B-Ring. They enact the plan immediately, setting the evidence of Yorick’s survival and Jennifer’s crimes on fire as they go. Guess they didn’t read any of the paperwork before they burned it. They could have held a public trial. Or maybe there’s a Culper Ring agent in the group who’s been instructed to save Jennifer and her career.
As they leave the War Room, someone makes a building wide announcement ordering everyone to leave the building immediately or they’ll be shot on sight. Whoever is in charge of the military has decided to take a page from Regina’s playbook and treat everyone like a terrorist. This is a sign that they’ve lost control and are panicking- successful military operations generally don’t involve randomly firing into crowds of your own unarmed civilians in the hopes of also hitting a terrorist.
Malika and Beth lead their groups, which include Jennifer, Christine, Kim and Regina, into the Hall of Heroes. The staffers are overwhelmed by the little fires everywhere in the Pentagon, but the desecration of the memorial wall hits the hardest. The way their minds break is palpable if you watch individual faces, even Beth’s. It’s one thing to destroy the government and quite another to take away the sacred space where their grief lives. It’s like destroying a cemetery or a house of worship- it’s just not playing fair, even during war.
Regina doesn’t give a fig about the memorial wall though. She’s angry as a hornet that the presidency has slipped through her fingers. She rants at Malika that everyone but herself is complicit in government wrongdoing and probably helped kill the men, too. She turns on Kim, then tells Malika about Yorick, yelling that Jennifer killed 2 soldiers to keep it quiet. Malika tells her to shut up. When she doesn’t, Malika shoots her in the head, solving the issue of which woman is the president.
Malika shocks even herself with the callous murder. She vomits, then tells some underlings to take Regina’s still twitching body outside and use it as a threat. Beth rethinks her commitment to the resistance movement. She thought there’d be less violence. Malika tells her this is what real change looks like. She threatens that Jennifer will be next. Jennifer and Lisa form a shield around Christine.
Back in Marrisville, Yorick finishes a beer while lost in thought. Sonia draws him into conversation by commenting on how rough his hands look, thanks to his apocalypse road trip. She decides to give him a manicure, since she happens to be a licensed cosmetologist. She learned in prison, even though they kept trying to switch her out of the salon and over to making license plates.
As she’s spreading coconut-scented lotion on his arm, Yorick ruins the mood by asking who used to live in the town. Sonia tells him that’s not a casual question, but she answers anyway. Most of the prison guards were men, so they died in the Event. The prisoners were out in the yard when the man plague hit. The women of the town thought it was the prisoners’ fault, so they locked the prisoners inside and left them to die.
It took the prisoners days to break out. When they did, the townies were waiting for them with guns, having forgotten the prisoners were human beings, too. It was “us or them.” Yorick is sorry she went through that. They continue the manicure.
355 finds Allison in one of the bedrooms, looking for a change of clothes. She has 355 retrieve a bin on a high shelf for her. 355 asks about some unusual marks on Allison’s abdomen. Allison tells her they’re related to science experiments from her top secret work. Some of her research is so extreme that she’s the only volunteer willing to participate.
Allison plans to get to know Dominique better to figure out if she’s a threat to their mission, since she seemed hostile earlier. 355 asks if she wants backup, but Allison is a dedicated operative who’s prepared to go all the way while assessing the threat level. 355 would just be in the way. Allison spots a little attitude on 355s face and tells her to stop being judgmental- Dominique was a getaway driver. “It’s not like she killed anyone.”
Oops. Yeah, not like 355, who’s sent into another flashback of Fran. Allison distracts her out of it. 355 tosses the tackiest oversized T-shirt she can find at the other woman as a joke, but she’s still thinking about the flashback. She’d completed a difficult mission and was overwhelmed by her emotions. As 355 sat on the floor and cried, Fran told her that she’s already exceptional for making it this far in the training. Her performance shows she’s the best of the best. She’s better than an emotional breakdown after a successful mission with their superiors watching.
Fran: “They tell you, work hard, follow the rules, you can make something of yourself. That’s not how it works. You never had a real chance. It is important to see the world as it is. This is your leg up in a world that isn’t built for you. You earned your place here.”
Fran’s thoughts echo Nora’s disappointments with success and living life according to the rules. 355 takes in what she says and pulls herself together. She’s stepped away from ordinary life and its rules, but she still has a long list of rules to follow. 355 is likely thinking of this now because she’s surrounded by people who also chose not to live by the rules. Some ended up in prison. Allison had a successful career, despite some struggles. Yorick was still figuring out his path.
When 355 goes out for another run, she stops at a creek, smashes her tracker between two rocks, then drops it in the water. As she continues her run, she glances back and forth to see if anyone’s watching her. Either she’s decided to break away from the Culper Ring, she thinks they’re defunct or she’s sending them a message. They keep an eye on her through the tracker, so if they want her to continue with her mission they’ll have to make contact in a definitive way and prove they’re who they say they are. She’s done with blindly following orders.
As the resistance shepherds the hostages through the halls, Beth argues that they should release one (likely Jennifer, but she doesn’t say her name) as a gesture of good faith. It’s a futile argument, since the military continue to repeat the order to clear the vicinity or be shot on sight and they appear to be making good on the threat. Malika went into this knowing there would be casualties and sending Regina’s body out will only intensify the military’s response.
The Army sends tear gas through the vents moments before they enter the hall firing at anything that moves. The resistance and hostages hide in whatever unlocked rooms they can find. Someone yells for them to stand down and hold their fire. Tear gas continues to fog up the air and more shots are fired. Lisa runs into the hall and is gunned down. Beth cuts Jennifer and other hostages’ hands free. The hall begins to fill with people trying to escape. Confused orders are shouted back and forth. As more people enter the hallway, Beth grabs Jennifer’s arm and drags her out, while Kim drags Christine in a different direction.
Kim takes Christine through an unfinished maintenance area, where they run into a woman spray painting graffiti. The woman becomes threatening when she recognizes Kim, but Christine shoves her away. Then she goes after Christine. Kim stabs her multiple times with the broken glass from her bedroom floor. They leave her for dead and keep running.
Maybe Kim was planning to use the glass to assassinate Jennifer if she didn’t step down on her own.
Roxanne gathers information on male survivors from the Museum of Men. Her new mission is to track down and kill the last men on Earth, since men ruined her life. Nora is appalled. She wants to find a new place to serve as their home base. A few male survivors are irrelevant to her.
Roxanne tells her she has no vision, which is true. She’s always been the hired hand who helped others achieve their vision rather than working toward her own vision. Roxanne tells her she’s “sad and scared and looking for a place to hide,” which isn’t the whole truth. She’s also angry, just like Roxanne. She’s just not willing to turn her life over to Roxanne’s counterproductive revenge obsession. And I’m not sure the rest of the Amazons care about it enough to turn it into a suicide mission, the way Roxanne is. Nora’s right about that.
The woman who collects stories about male survivors tries to salvage a damaged phone- Yorick’s phone, which he dropped in the market near Boston. 355 shot her sister in the leg when they were escaping. This woman is following his trail. She’s heard he’s nearby, in a town with electricity.
That gets Nora’s attention. She has the woman tell her everything she knows about Yorick and the town. Then she goes back to Roxanne and tells her she’s right, they should hunt down men, starting with the one in the picture she’s holding. “He can’t hide. Not from us.”
Beth takes Jennifer out through the abandoned subway station. She gives Jennifer her hooded coat to help hide her identity, then asks about Yorick. Jennifer confirms he’s alive.
This episode was directed by Cheryl Dunye and written by Katie Edgerton. Cinematography by Claudine Sauvé and editing by Melissa Lawson Cheung.
I’m tempted to say that no one would be hunting Yorick if 355 had shot to kill that day in the market outside of Boston, but it’s actually his lost phone that’s the problem. Hundreds of witnesses saw him that day in the market, but without the phone it’s just another rumor.
So long, Regina, Lisa and the Pentagon. Thank you for your service. The Pentagon had become larger than life as the last standing symbol of institutional stability and it fell to a small group of loosely organized bomb builders. The speed of the collapse and of the military’s inability to muster an adequate response for even a short time is frightening. It adds to my impression that wherever women have organized themselves into small communities, things are going tolerably well. But wherever they’ve turned their survival over to the federal government, it’s a disaster, from the camps to war torn Boston. Even without men, there should be protocols in place for plagues, disasters, attacks and attempted coups. The military and FEMA response shouldn’t still be this disorganized after so many months. Women can figure out how to camp, scavenge, dig pit toilets and plant gardens.
One of the emotional arcs of this season that the characters aren’t openly acknowledging, except Roxanne, is the release of pent up emotions, especially rage. With the abrupt disappearance of men and normal social structures which provided the framework for acceptable female behavior, much of women’s societal restrictions on being loud and physical while expressing emotions are suddenly drastically reduced or just… gone. After a lifetime of living within that confinement, it takes a while for the lack of control to sink in. In each storyline, we’ve watched women slowly unwind and in some cases completely unravel.
The flip side of the situation is that societal support systems are also utterly gone, other than in Marrisville. As women are free to emotionally unwind, they are also experiencing trauma and deprivation. Their current trauma interacts with previous traumas. Since their usual coping mechanisms are largely unavailable and there are no emergency systems available, people are left to stumble through alone, potentially falling into extreme behaviors. We’ve been watching the women at the Pentagon, 355 and Roxanne go through this, though 355 is a highly trained operative who is used to coping on her own for extended periods of time. She is also quietly out of control at times, often in her sleep.
In this episode, we see women such as Kimberly, 355, Beth, Allison, Peggy and Regina move further from their restrained pre-Event personas, but we also see Roxanne appoint herself and the Amazons as enforcers who want to determine which types of grief and mourning activities are acceptable. Roxanne has moved the Amazons through expressing their own grief and getting used to a world without the old society’s rules, which didn’t protect them anyway, and into the extreme of vigilantism- now they are the bullies who make and enforce the rules others must follow or face the consequences.
The resistance members have become revolutionaries, also ready to write and enforce their own rules. The military and political backers of Regina’s coup don’t see themselves as being on the same level, since they want to replace Jennifer, but otherwise pretend their government is the legitimate US government. They aren’t following the constitutional process for replacing a president, so they are extremists, but Jennifer’s government is at the point of collapse anyway.
Maybe it wouldn’t matter, except there are those announcements warning that the military is prepared to shoot anyone left in the building on sight, which gives them an excuse to shoot the senior staff of the War Room. And then that’s exactly what they do, facilitating a complete military (or resistance) coup. Despite her reassurances before the group left the War Room for a secure location, Peggy disappears once the resistance takes hostages. Is she a hostage, dead or busy taking control now that Regina’s gone?
I will forever be certain there’s a stealth Culper Ring agent lurking in every crowd and on every rooftop. They make a great, all purpose deus ex machina.
Episodes 8 and 9 bring to the surface the undercurrent of exploitation and abuse of women and animals: Allison and Amp were both research subjects; the prisoners were locked in cages as if they were animals and Yorick frequently reminds people that Amp needs to be allowed out of his crate; Roxanne was abused by her coworkers and fought for respect and bodily autonomy, an ongoing theme for many of the characters and for animals used as livestock by humans, as represented by the chickens and the horses (who are now an endangered species but were ridden into battle in this episode).
Vultures in Mythology– This season we’ve seen 2 vultures, an eagle and many chickens. Eagles are frequently associated with or interchangeable with vultures in mythology, occasionally also chickens. Vultures are one of the most ancient symbols of birth, death and rebirth because they eat death and then produce new life. Ancient Egyptians believed vultures were all female and reproduced through parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction) possibly because males and females look alike. But there are also recent documented cases of asexual reproduction in captive vultures, so maybe the Egyptians saw vultures do the same thing.
Nekhbet was an ancient Egyptian vulture goddess. She was the fiercely protective mother of mothers, the goddess of motherhood, childbirth and feminine energies. Vultures are associated with visionary dreams, divination and prophecy; gatekeeper medicine; traveling between worlds; and breaking free of limitations. Vultures in mythology are also associated with violent punishment of men, particularly with fire and with repeatedly eating the liver of immortals such as Prometheous.
Images courtesy of FX on Hulu.
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