My boyfriend walked in while I was watching this episode and asked what it was. I offered an explanation: “Well, the Earth is about to be destroyed by a comet, and this guy just found out that he has a twin brother who’s a hacker, and he kidnapped this kid who hacked the NSA so he can find this woman, and she also happens to be the first guy’s missing wife — “
“Seems convoluted,” he replied. He’ll have to do the sensible thing and watch the whole thing from the beginning, I guess.
He’s not wrong, though. And if you don’t love this sort of telenovela intricacy, you might be losing interest in You, Me, and the Apocalypse right about now. That’s the problem with a high-concept show. Once we understand the concept, the show has to race that much further ahead of us. The details of everything that’s still to come are unknown, but the outcome — a bunker under Slough that we now know also contains Dave, who appears to be missing an eye — is predetermined. Ultimately, the question of how humanity would face an “Extinction Level Event” is much more interesting than the hijinks that lead to the bunker. This episode has a smaller scope than its previous installments, so it deals almost exclusively in twisty-turny convolutions, which gets a little old.
This is not to say that there isn’t a lot to like in “What Happens to Idiots.” At this point, truthfully, my biggest gripe with YMATA is that it does a pretty bad job of naming its characters aloud. On a show with this many people, I end up combing through IMDB each week to find out what every minor character is named.
For example: Remember the U.S. marshal with the fairly accurate, but still pretty fake-sounding Southern accent? Her name is Tess Carter (played by Nina Sosanya, who may look familiar to Love Actually fans as the prime minister’s fat-shaming assistant). Tess is looking for Rhonda and Leanne, who are holding a boat driver at gunpoint as they try to cross a river. They avoid detection, then break into an abandoned lodge where they finally take much-needed showers. Unfortunately, they’re spotted by Bobby (Will Attenborough — had to look up his character’s name, too!), a teenager who promises not to call the police.
Even though Rhonda feels a maternal connection to Bobby, and even though she tells him how her own teenage son saved her from an abusive marriage, it’s too late. Bobby called the cops when he first saw them, and they just showed up, lead by Marshal Tess.
Rhonda holds Bobby at gunpoint, then she and Leanne kidnap Tess, whom they later leave by the side of the road. Tess tries to reason with Rhonda, and it almost seems to work; she begins to wonder who she’s becoming. After all, Rhonda may have been in prison, but she wasn’t a criminal. The guilt of having used a child as a hostage might be too much for her to bear.
Elsewhere, Spike is being held by Ariel, who is forcing him to hack into the NSA once again. Spike does so, thinking that Ariel will help find his mom, but it turns out that Ariel is making him do it because he wants to track down Layla. He also genuinely doesn’t believe that there is a comet, until his lackey, Molby (Bruce Mackinnon — five episodes and I don’t ever remember hearing his name!) finds irrefutable proof that the comet is going to destroy life on Earth in 26 days.
Realizing that the end is actually near, Ariel decides to sniff out the government’s backup plan — surely they’d let their citizens die, but not themselves, right? Right. Ariel finds evidence of Scotty and Graves’s bunker, and realizes that he has a perfect bunker-space bargaining chip in Scotty’s nephew. Then, in the most graphic scene on the show so far, he blows out Molby’s brains right in front of Spike to send him a message.
Bad Boy Priest Father Jude is jealous upon the arrival of fellow Bad Boy Priest Father Christoph, who is not only hot, but is also totally hitting it off with Sister Celine. How is everyone in the Catholic Church this young and flirtatious? Is the Vatican secretly a college dorm? Jude and Celine argue about Christoph’s trustworthiness on their way to another messianic investigation, this one of a man named Giovanni (Antonio Magro) who is threatening to jump off a bell tower at 5 p.m. later that day. He claims he’s doing it to prove that he can create miracles, but later admits that the messiah thing was a cover-up — he just wants to expose the Catholic Church as a fraud in retaliation for the abuse he suffered.
With Celine listening in, Father Jude talks Giovanni down from the literal ledge. In doing so, he admits that he never got over his own father’s suicide, and that the Church is what saved him from attempting it himself. Even so, he says, “The Church is not God,” and then he helps Giovanni disseminate fliers about the evils of Catholicism. Jude cares more about Giovanni’s life than about saving face for himself or his religion, and at 5 p.m., Giovanni doesn’t jump. Father Christoph ultimately takes credits for what Jude did, but Celine is genuinely impressed by Jude’s honesty and bravery. The moments between Jude and Giovanni were genuinely sweet — and Rob Lowe’s performance was spot-on — but I thought that the anger Jude felt towards Celine about Father Christoph was overblown. At the very least, show the characters doing something that would legitimately warrant jealousy. This just makes Jude come off as childish, and I wish Celine had called him on it.
There’s barely time for them to reconcile at any rate, though, because Jude is kidnapped by Diana Rigg’s mysterious assistants. Does this mean we’ll soon see Diana Rigg’s character in all her plastic-covered glory — and verbally sparring with Father Jude? I hope so.
In Scotland, Jamie and Dave have finally made it to Glenmuir, the psychiatric institution where Jamie’s mother has supposedly been living. Unfortunately, the gate is locked, so Dave and Jamie follow a note left by an orderly who’s headed to the pub. At the pub, a fantastic fiddle cover of “The Final Countdown” plays while the townspeople dance, which provides a perfect cover for Jamie to steal the orderly’s badge. Dave warns Jamie to be careful, that he’ll end up caring too much for Mary and it will get in the way of their greater mission to find Layla, but Jamie assures him this won’t be a problem.
Once they get into Glenmuir and find Mary, caring too much does become a problem. She is catatonic, staring without expression at a blank screen, but when she sees Jamie, she knows who he is and says his name. Dave finds Ariel’s address, which is all they really came for, but Jamie realizes he can’t leave his mom behind. A nurse enters, and Dave disguises himself as a patient while Jamie pretends, vaguely, to be from “the agency.”
The ensuing bit — Jamie playing along while the nurse gives Dave a sedative suppository — is probably supposed to be funny, but it mostly just made me sad about the state of mental health care in the world. At least Jamie manages to smuggle his mother (and a drugged-up Dave) out to the parking lot, where he commandeers a service van and drives off. I sincerely feel terrible for everyone left behind at Glenmuir. Is that how they’ll live out the rest of their days? All alone? It’s probably best not to think about it too hard.
Although YMATA is technically a mini-series, it falls prey to the same problem as every hour-long comedy not named Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Jane the Virgin — it doesn’t always feel like it needs that much time. Maybe my interest wasn’t particularly piqued by “What Happens to Idiots,” and maybe that’s an unfair critique, especially since I’m grading this show on the skewed curve of its own sterling track record. It was a solid hour of TV. It’s just that, you know, it’s still an hour of TV. And maybe that’s the problem.