Y: The Last Man season 1, episode 4 recap – “Karen and Benji”

September 21, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
FX, Weekly TV
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“Karen and Benji” narrows its focus on the Brown siblings as both reveal their pros and cons.

This recap of Y: The Last Man season 1, episode 4, “Karen and Benji”, contains spoilers.

The idea of there only being one man left alive in the entire world is already a compelling dramatic question, but what if that last man was also an entitled, belligerent, delusional idiot? Well, “Karen and Benji” has the answer – it’s annoying and potentially dangerous for everyone involved.

Y: The Last Man season 1, episode 4 recap

It has admittedly been a while since I read the comics that Y: The Last Man is adapted from, but I recall Yorick Brown being a bit snarky, though never this irritating. His general lack of independence and sheer arrogance about his own privilege and ignorance seems to be a deliberate stylistic choice in this retelling, one which, in its first three episodes, has already floated the idea that perhaps everything would be fine in the apocalypse had men been kinder to women in the first place. With Yorick as the only person still repping the Y chromosome, that becomes difficult to argue with – not that his sister, Hero, is much better.

“Karen and Benji” abandons a lot of the compelling White House drama that defined last week’s triple-bill and instead focuses on the Brown siblings, who’re far apart geographically but exist in the same hermetically sealed bubble of inherited privilege. A story about the death of all men is really one about the collapse of power since the vast majority of global power is concentrated in the hands of men anyway. This episode, then, becomes the first proper example of what those who have grown up in the lap of power might do without it, and as things turn out, it’s about what you’d expect – and it isn’t just Yorick who’s at fault.

It’s mainly Yorick, though. It doesn’t help that he has been paired up with 355, who is his complete opposite in everything from temperament to socioeconomic background. She has essentially become a babysitter overnight, which would be annoying at the best of times but is especially aggravating when your charge is potentially the most important person in the world. Yorick has always believed that of himself, of course, hence his endless fascination with a woman who clearly can’t be bothered with him and his scathing dismissal of close-up magic as “basic and fraudulent” and “below his skill level”, despite him never having accomplished much of anything in escape artistry either. For the first time, though, Yorick’s actual importance matches his lofty opinion of himself. And he isn’t emotionally or physically equipped to deal with that responsibility.

Where “Karen and Benji” really excels is in putting the audience in 355’s headspace. Anyone who has had to deal with an unruly child, either their own or someone else’s, will empathize with her efforts to keep Yorick safe despite him trying to sabotage the mission at every opportunity. He constantly watches videos of Beth, berates 355 for carrying out basic survival necessities, leaves their camp unattended so all their stuff gets stolen, and then tries to act like 355 is being dangerously cavalier after she rescues him from a band of women at a covered market who would have rightly put him out of his misery given the opportunity. 355 dispenses a physical beatdown on the offending ladies, but the verbal one she lashes Yorick with is the highlight of the episode.

Hero is a bit more complex. She isn’t an overgrown child like her brother, but that gives her a more sinister edge as a self-serving manipulator. Her relationship with Sam in “Karen and Benji” very quickly takes on the tone of an abuser and their victim; her getting him high, sabotaging the car full of gas, her seduction of him, all read as exploitation, someone used to getting what she wants making sure that she does. This is a darker manifestation of the privilege that Yorick exhibits – he’s entitled without really realizing why, whereas Hero is well-aware of her advantages and uses them all to full effect. But just like Yorick has the occasional well-intentioned idea, Hero is also, seemingly instinctively, someone who wants to help. What seemed like the relevant portion of her past – she accidentally killed the married man she was sleeping with – turns out not to be; the real takeaway from that whole dynamic is that she was an EMT, and that desire to patch people up and remain cool under pressure seems deeply ingrained in her. You see it when she and Sam discover Mackenzie at an abandoned drug store, in a bad way. You see it when the former residents of St. Anne’s insist she helps their injured friend. She might be deeply unpleasant on many levels, but there’s something deep within her that compels her to save others. In the end, that might be a more vital characteristic than a Y chromosome.

Y: The Last Man season 1, episode 4 is available to stream on Hulu

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