You, Me and the Apocalypse
Last week, my enthusiasm for You, Me and the Apocalypse was challenged by a sluggish episode. Not anymore. The show is back to full strength this week, delivering things I didn’t even realize I’d been wanting it to deliver. Jamie’s character finally gets some nuance, we confront the uncomfortable truth about Leanne, there’s some solid suspense, and Sister Celine and Father Jude almost have sex on a beach.
As always, there’s quite a bit to cover, so let’s get to it.
First off, an update from the bunker: We now know that the crate Scotty is leaning on contains a woman, who is pounding on its walls, yelling for someone to let her out. My early guess is Layla/Hawk Wind/whatever she’s going by now.
In Washington, Scotty receives a video message from Ariel. He reveals that White Horse has Spike, and they will kill him unless Ariel is given a map and the keys to the bunker. When Scotty shows the video to Gaines, Gaines realizes they must have been bugged, and hatches a plan to secure Spike’s safety without sacrificing Operation Genesis.
Gaines arrives at the predetermined meeting point, the Smithsonian Castle, where he finds Ariel pointing a gun to a drugged Spike’s head. Gaines puts down his own gun and offers Ariel a map to the bunker and one of the keys — but if he wants to get into the bunker, he’ll need to work with Gaines and Scotty, who have the other two. Ariel agrees, in exchange for three places in the bunker, presumably for Mary and Hawk Wind. Gaines takes the opportunity to reveal that he knows all about Hawk Wind, and he also knows that even though she betrayed Ariel, he’s still trying to save her life. This surprises Ariel just long enough for Gaines to draw a concealed weapon, then Scotty knocks Ariel unconscious.
They escape with Spike and lock Ariel in the trunk of a car. Scotty initially feels remorse about potentially having killed someone, but Gaines knows the score; if Ariel’s not dead, then he’ll prevent Operation Genesis from happening as planned. When they get back to the car, though, he has already escaped.
By the way, I love the Scotty/Gaines relationship. They clearly care a ton about each other, but there is some obvious and wonderfully believable ideological tension between them as well. Gaines is a military-trained, kind-of-cold tactician, while Scotty has to fight his natural impulse towards empathy. They’re Kirk and Spock, if all those slash fiction authors had their way.
In Scotland, Jamie and Dave have pulled over the van so that a now-vocal Mary can answer nature’s call. She asks Jamie to tell her a story, so he tells her about how he met Layla — surely among the most romantic stories ever told to a person’s own mother while they’re peeing. Jamie is having a difficult time grappling with the fact that Mary abandoned him and kept Ariel, even though Dave reminds him that he did have a great mother in Paula. (Has he forgotten about her?) It’s a terrific scene for this particular friendship, both promoting Dave from “Goofy Sidekick” territory and reinforcing the fact that Jamie might not be a “Hapless Nice Guy” after all.
The trio head to the address listed on Ariel’s bills, and Mary breaks in so they can look around for clues. Instead, Jamie finds a photo of a woman he recognizes as Layla — but Mary identifies her as Ariel’s wife, Hawk Wind. (Sidenote: Because of the accents and the nonsensical nature of that name, I spent most of the episode believing that Jamie’s potential sister-in-law’s name is “Horquind”, a fantasy-sounding name that definitely would have helped my YMATA is NBC’s Game of Thrones theory).
Jamie is confused and devastated, and things get worse when Mary reveals that the reason why she left him in that church parking lot. She claims she was visited by God before his birth, and He told her that Jamie was His son. Jamie is understandably horrified. While he breaks down, yelling at Mary that his entire life has been a lie based on a hallucination, Dave finds one of Ariel’s laptops. He correctly guesses the password — “Hawk Wind” — but accidentally triggers a trap set by Ariel, who rigged his house to explode if anyone tried to access his computer. Jamie and Dave are ready to run, but Mary is practically catatonic again. To convince her to leave the house, Jamie tells her his freak-out was a test of her faith; she can still believe he is the son of God. They rush out to the van just as the house explodes. Once they drop off Mary at home, Jamie despondently gives his wedding ring to Dave. He decides they should give up the search for Layla and go back to Slough.
Up until this point, I had found Jamie to be a relatively boring character, but I’m really excited to see where his story goes from here. Mathew Baynton also deserves a ton of credit for his work here; episode-by-episode, his two characters are gradually building out distinct personalities.
Down south, Leanne drives Rhonda back to her family’s home with promises of alcohol and home-cooked meals. Instead, Rhonda gets guns held to her face by Leanne’s children, Junior and Jolene. Leanne’s husband, Todd, has apparently been planning to collect the bounty on Rhonda’s head, and though Leanne initially defends Rhonda, she has a change of heart when Todd reveals that Rhonda’s husband is Indian.
While Rhonda is handcuffed in their shed, Leanne’s family explains their belief that they’ll be spared from the apocalypse because they’re “pure.” It’s a pretty horrifying betrayal, but Leanne redeems herself by coming back later that night to free Rhonda, giving her money and the truck. She says she’d already known about Rhonda’s husband and didn’t care. Rhonda asks Leanne to come with her, but Leanne knows she can’t. She clearly regrets the irredeemable things she’s done and beliefs she’s held, but she’s still trying to do right by her friend. Megan Mullally’s performance is brilliantly heartbreaking — giving so much heart to a character with a swastika literally tattooed on her forehead could not have been easy.
Now, on to the juicy stuff: Sister Celine is praying for guidance vis à vis a sex dream she had about Father Jude, who interrupts her reverie to inform her that they’re going to Naples. Celine clearly feels uncomfortable going to Naples and won’t tell Jude why, but they have to investigate claims that a woman named Antonia is performing Christ-like miracles.
Antonia is a bit more prickly than you’d want a potential messiah to be. For one thing, she doesn’t like the clergy — and she especially doesn’t like clerics who ask questions about her. She tells them to meet her that night at a club.
To put Antonia at ease — and also because they clearly want to dress up for each other — Celine and Jude get dressed like civilians and go to meet Antonia, who says she’ll answer their questions only if they answer hers. Antonia asks Celine why she became a nun, and Celine reveals that as a child, she was homeless on the streets of Naples until she was taken in by nuns. She took the vows because the nuns were the only family she’d ever known. Then, Antonia asks them what they want to do in their last days on Earth, and though they don’t say it, the answer is pretty clear: They want to bone.
Antonia explains that the word apocalypse comes from the Latin word “uncover.” She believes the apocalypse is meant to reveal who people really are. She tells Celine that Jude has a crush on her — and then she offers to show them both a miracle.
Antonia takes Jude and Celine to a dock; every night, she steals from the giant shipping crates of food. That’s how she keeps her soup kitchen running. That’s the real miracle.
Later on the beach, Celine asks Jude if he’s happy. He says he’s glad they’ll get their divine reward when the comet hits, but she wants to know if he regrets taking his vows. He skirts the answer, and as she wonders aloud who she’d be if she’d never become a nun, it’s pretty clear she’s starting to have some second thoughts. As they look out at the waves in tense contemplation, I just about shouted, “KISS HER YOU FOOL” at the screen.
I’m glad to see that You, Me and the Apocalypse is taking its time to add depth to its characters, and not just breadth to the world it occupies. In previous weeks, I wondered if the show would start to drag as its central gimmick — “How do all these crazy characters wind up together?” — became more and more played out. But instead of focusing on the physical trajectory of each protagonist, this week was all about seeing sides of characters we’ve never seen before. Antonia was right: For this group of people, the apocalypse is all about what it reveals more than what it destroys.