‘I’m a Virgo’ Season 1, Episode 6 Recap: A hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich

OPINION: Episode six gives us a day in the life of the Hero, who appears trapped in a cage he created. Meanwhile, Cootie, Flora and the Lower Bottoms crew prepare to fight the power.

I'm a Virgo recap episode 6, theGrio.com
Walton Goggins (The Hero) in "I'm a Virgo." (Amazon Studios)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

We’re nearing the end of the wild ride that is Boots Riley’s TV series debut, “I’m a Virgo.” It’s the penultimate episode of the series about a 13-foot-tall Black teenager named Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), “It Requires Trust on My Part.” For the first time, the episode doesn’t start in Cootie’s world but in his former idol’s world, the Hero. 

It’s our first glimpse inside the daily life of the Hero, also known as tech billionaire and Elon Musk’s wet dream, Jay Whittle (a remarkably zany Walton Goggins). It’s morning in his high-tech building/compound that sits in downtown San Francisco, and he’s awakened by the sound of his Alexa-like A.I. assistant. Unfortunately, the law-and-order zealot has accidentally programmed his A.I. to sound like Bill Cosby in his pudding pop heyday. It seems like a self-inflicted punishment, like the slaps he gives himself in order to get out of bed — a feat that he clearly dreads. Before long, he’s up and at ‘em, dancing in his underwear to country singer Glenn Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman,” a song about a lonely, isolated worker who has extraordinary thoughts that no one would believe just by looking at him. 

Whittle created the comic book character the Hero and then took on that persona in the world, and it’s just as much a prison for him as the ones he fills with “criminals” who threaten his precious “law and order.” His self-imposed duty of fighting “crime” is his only purpose in the world and without it, he later confesses to his mother (who also lives on her own floor in his building) he would never get out of bed.

As he’s dancing to Glenn Campbell and trying to get dressed, an assassin jumps out of his closet and attacks him before being handily defeated by the Hero and disappearing in a cloud of smoke. 

The Hero goes about his day as if it never happened. He starts off in his comic book publishing office, with the only Black artist in the room trying to defend the Hero comics against claims of propaganda. (There’s always one, isn’t there?) 

In a moment of profound truth, the Hero readily admits that what he’s been creating for decades with his comics is, in fact, intentionally propaganda. His comics, he says, don’t just reflect reality, “It creates reality because it determines the actions that we take based on that perception.” I want every annoying commenter who has ever negged a pop culture critique with “it’s just a movie/TV show/comic book/novel/story/painting etc., etc.” to watch just this clip. I hope it goes viral! 

As the Hero explains his course of action to make Cootie the symbol of villainy, someone tries to shoot into the building, but it’s bulletproof. While everyone else is freaking out, he continues unphased.

Meanwhile, Cootie is all-in on the idea of him being a villain for the people. He tries to get Jones in on his villain plan to pull off a heist that will “change people’s material conditions.” But Jones isn’t for it. Her general strike is gaining traction and she believes it’s the best way to permanent change rather than quick satisfaction. Again, she (who is clearly the voice of Riley) wants people to focus on working together not lifting Cootie and a small group of people up as saviors.

At the Hero’s publishing company, we meet the Hero’s assistant Edwin, played hilariously straight by Kendrick Sampson. The vibes between the Hero and his Black assistant are giving homoerotic as the Hero sensually hugs and caresses Edwin, looks deeply into his eyes, asks about Edwin’s upcoming date later on that night and demands Edwin play slap hands with him in a way that would be an HR violation if Edwin didn’t seem not just to be into it but honored by it. Still, these two are not friends or equals; Edwin calls the Hero “sir,” and the Hero leaves Edwin to diffuse a bomb in the refrigerator set to go off in an hour by the assassin because the Hero has more important things to do. Edwin eagerly agrees to the challenge.

I'm a Virgo episode 6 recap, theGrio.com
Kendrick Sampson (Edwin) in “I’m a Virgo.” (Amazon Studios)

Back at Cootie’s place, Felix, Flora and the leaders of the newly shrunken Lower Bottoms crew assemble to carry out Cootie’s heist of the power plant. Their goal is to knock out the regulator so that everyone’s power can remain on permanently. The Lower Bottoms crew are down for the heist because they want to harm whoever shrunk all the people in their Oakland neighborhood down to six inches tall. They believe at least 10 corporations stood to benefit from shrinking the people of the Lower Bottoms, and the power company is one of them. 

In a cute scene of Lower Bottoms leader Bear shooting his shot with Flora and making Cootie jealous, she retorts, “Why are you jealous? He’s six inches tall.” To which Bear tells her not to sleep on what he could do with six inches, giving us the hysterical title of this episode, “It requires trust on my part.” 

Cootie refocuses the team back on the plan, sharing that the banned episode of “Parking Tickets” that made viewers catatonic while watching it was in Scat’s pocket when he died. Cootie wants the Lower Bottoms crew to sneak into the security booth at the power plant and play the DVD to distract the guards while he knocks out the regulator. They all pick their superhero names: Flora claiming the already trademarked 2 Fast, 2 Furious despite Cootie’s protests because it’s her favorite movie; the Lower Bottoms crew is Death by a Thousand Cuts, Felix is V8, and Cootie, in his continued effort to reclaim villain status, calls himself Thug 1.

That night, the Hero goes to the prison to witness a state execution of a Black male prisoner by lethal injection. The prisoner is upright, strapped to a bed, scoffing when the Hero acts as if his presence is a comfort to the prisoner. The prisoner tells the Hero that they’d met before, 30 years ago at the Hero’s first ComicCon. The prisoner used to be a big fan and got his autograph but later realized that it was the Hero’s widespread, mainstream copaganda that directly led to the circumstances that created the prisoner in the image of a villain. In a profound statement that the Hero is too self-absorbed to comprehend, the prisoner shares he was in a kill-or-be-killed situation; and just as he had no right to take someone’s life, the state has no right to take his. 

But it doesn’t matter; the California governor has cleared the way for the prisoner’s execution and the lethal injections — three separate, simultaneous fluids that go into the man’s body (thankfully, off-camera) are red, white, and blue. What’s more American than the state-sponsored execution of a Black man?

As we hear the prisoner’s gruesome sounds of dying, we see the Hero’s tear-stained face. He genuinely believes his hype, like Elijah Wood’s student executioner character from episode two: apparently kinder, gentler, fascist murder is justice.

Just as Cootie and the gang are about to enact their heist, Flora pulls Cootie aside and asks for the real reason why he’s trying to break the regulator. I’ve said this before, but Flora’s superpower can’t just be her superspeed; it’s also got to be her level of self-awareness and emotional maturity. Olivia Washington plays her with such confidence and ease and a wealth of humanity that hopefully spawns Flora stans well into the future. 

When Cootie gets stand-offish about sharing his inner thoughts with her, Flora explains that since she’s slowing herself down in order to have a relationship with him — months for him are years for her — so she wants to be very intentional about how she spends her time and very clear on what kind of connection he wants to have with her. Yes! It’s propaganda from Riley on how to have healthy and difficult conversations, and I hope it sticks in people’s brains like it is in mine.

Edwin’s date at a fancy restaurant with a young white woman seems to be going well until she loses the game of slap hands. She thought it was harmless flirting, but he is enraged that she broke the rules of the game and thereby “failed the pre-date.” That’s right. Edwin has been sent by the Hero to scout women for him to partner with. She rightfully calls him a creepy, sadistic loser. Edwin tries to defend the practice and his devotion to the Hero by saying that the Hero stands for applying the law fairly, which would equal freedom for Black people. So, he’s basically Martin Luther King Jr.! The woman calls him basically a little bitch. 

Devastated from witnessing an execution, the Hero sneaks off to a floor in his building that has replicated his childhood bedroom. His mom bursts in and he turns into a belligerent teenager. He’s no hero. He’s every whiny tech bro to ever exist. His mom recognizes how unhappy his hero fantasy has made him, and she’s confused why he continues to play the game: “You were born into power,” she reminds him. “The laws were made for us,” so why’s he so pressed? Without enforcing his sense of superiority on others, he knows he’d be nothing.

As Cootie puts his plan into action against Jones’ advice, the Hero throws a tantrum when Edwin confesses the pre-date did not work out. He berates and emotionally abuses Edwin as he hugs him tightly and calls him useless and shitty. Still, he remains, clinging to the Black liberal hope that one day, when he proves he’s good enough, the law he loves will love him back.

Brooke Obie is an award-winning critic, screenwriter and author of the historical novel “Book of Addis: Cradled Embers.”

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