The Brown siblings are two sides of the same fuckup coin. To some degree, they both know this; back in the premiere, when Yorick brands Hero a hypocrite for judging his decisions, she doesn’t exactly defend herself. They both cosplay at ordinary lives, in denial of how easy their wealthy, powerful parents have made it for them to do so, Yorick pretending at the (escape) artist’s way while Hero is hell-bent on independence even at the cost of self-immolation. Before the Event, these twin strains of toxic privilege enjoyed relative benignity; like that of every other rich kid, they were but side effects of the root issue, red flags to be engaged with in the wild at one’s own peril.
But in a post-Y world, Yorick and Hero’s fatal flaws have jumped their respective levees, blooming into two distinct strains of poison that have each become potentially lethal to the people around them.
Yorick’s, at least, sticks out as obviously as he does in a world without cis men. For 355, this mission itself — take VIP to Cambridge, eliminate threats — would have been fairly simple were it not for the obtuse, relentless entitlement of her charge. Like a 5-year-old on a family road trip, he’s still watching his Beth videos (on an apparently immortal phone battery) and peppering 355 with a hailstorm of invasive questions. At the same time, she’s busy trying to keep them alive, rationing their food, stripping down helicopter parts to sell, and literally doing his laundry in a nearby creek. (He even has the gall to complain about that last one.) He’s so nonchalant that, while 355 is away, he abandons the campsite to pee, allowing two women to waltz in and loot their tents. Then later, at the covered market that has popped up at a local soccer stadium, he pulls another Amp-and-the-subway stunt when he thinks he sees Beth in the crowd. Giving 355 the slip to follow her, he never once considers that, had it been Beth, she would certainly have turned around at the sound of his voice repeatedly calling her name. After rescuing him on the motorbike she has just acquired (for the low, low price of a generator and a hand grenade) and he dares to insist they go back to retrieve his phone, 355 finally unleashes the verbal beatdown he’s had coming since, oh, probably birth. Its magnificence demands a full transcription:
“I don’t owe you shit!” she screams. (And the crowd at home goes wild!) “From the goddamned day you were born, the whole world told you you’re the most important thing in it! You think you can fuck around all you want with no consequences! An entire life of just being given shit! Like, I don’t know, the benefit of the fucking doubt? You can just walk into any room, take it for granted. And now that you actually are the most important person in the room, you could give a shit!”
He attempts to fight back, but retorts about your bodyguard “going full fucking Rambo” don’t hit as hard when you’re too scared to actually accuse her of double homicide. Only by 355’s grace do they remain on speaking terms.
Hero’s poison, meanwhile, is decidedly subtler and thus far more sinister. It’s pure addict behavior, for one: She might have agreed to reconcile with her mother for Sam’s sake, but she’ll do anything, even sabotage an unexpected boon like a working car full of gas, to ensure that promise is as inconvenient as possible to fulfill. A seasoned mean girl, she knows she can exploit Sam’s weaknesses to accomplish this; his stress and loneliness are opportunities to get him too high, to chip away at his self-esteem by mocking what’s important to him, to curry ill-gotten reassurance about her lover and victim, even to seduce him when all else fails to keep him in line. (In all fairness, Sam is a classic enabler himself. He fabricates justifications for her shitty behavior left and right in a subconscious effort to avoid the fact that he’s self-sabotaging in her name. Given how utterly vulnerable he is now, though, he gets a pass for the moment.)
But both Brown siblings also reveal a sliver of potential this week, should they find it in themselves to turn from their villainous impulses. For all her spiteful, destructive misery, Hero is also a natural healer, cool under all kinds of pressure. When they discover Mack hiding at a drugstore, her EMT training kicks in; in a matter of seconds, she has coaxed the girl into letting her look at her injured leg and, with an assist from Sam, not only neutralized but deputized her terrified mother. Even with a gun to her head, she can drop into that headspace (one she no doubt got from her mother) when the former residents of the St. Anne’s women’s shelter return to find them squatting and demand that she heal their injured comrade. She’s a quick thinker, too: While it initially behooves them to go with Nora’s story about her being a doctor, she instantly comes clean to their leader, Roxanne, as being just an EMT. It’s as if she knows instinctively that this terrifying woman places a premium on that kind of honesty. Her efforts, however self-centered, prove lifesaving for the entire group when Roxanne invites them to stay at their little Costco Jonestown while Mack recovers.
And Yorick — well, Yorick shares his family’s knack for clearheaded, quick thinking whenever he decides to take something seriously. He successfully scares off the scavengers at the campsite without revealing his face, and later, his idea to pose as a trans man in search of T when caught by the statie widows was clever, if unsuccessful. His desire to keep 355 from killing people may eventually become an asset as she navigates her post–Culper Ring identity. (Yes, even now, the bar for a man’s redemption is still on the floor.) Both he and Hero have sealed their self-awareness in a cocoon of self-loathing, but the potential for true actualization is there for both of them — all they’ll have to do is stop wallowing and get with the program.
• So 355 is a sleepwalker, huh? I’m sure this death-courting condition will in no way, shape, or form become consequential to the story.
• Nora Brady is ripe for radicalization. She’s coming apart at the seams trying to care for her daughter, still thinking magically about just how alone and desperate they are, scorning the FEMA camps close to home to gamble on an obscure doctor cousin in another state, who, of course, is no longer home. But she’s still incredibly sharp, as evidenced by her immediately clocking Hero but revealing that fact only when it becomes necessary. And as we all know by now, cults tend to prey on bright, successful, desperate people.
• With lines like “Okay, cool, call me trapezoid,” it’s clear Yorick’s dry, Everyman sense of humor from the comics is starting to seep in.
• As a known lifelong hater of magicians, I had a real Worst Person You Know Just Made a Great Point moment when Yorick calls close-up magic “basic and fraudulent and below my skill level.”
• We’ve now seen two instances in which widows once accustomed to their husbands’ power have empowered themselves to maintain that control, first with Kimberly’s political widows and now with the staties’ wives. Both groups seem eager to re-create patriarchal power dynamics ASAP, but the latter has done so with brute efficiency — they’re already bullying weaker market vendors and taking what they want, seemingly with the grateful backing of more powerful vendors. Not exactly “women are just as bad as men” territory yet, but it’s a creative choice worth keeping an eye on.
• The hell does that lady think she’s gonna do with a hand grenade??
• Is Sam right? Does the Pentagon have “the good shit”?