‘I’m a Virgo,’ Season 1, Episode 7 Recap: The revolution was (kinda) televised

OPINION: In the season finale of Boots Riley’s surrealist TV series, Cootie’s revolt against the power company is short-lived while the Hero suffers a personal crisis when he realizes he’s not the good guy.

I'm a Virgo episode 7 recap. theGrio.com
Jharrel Jerome (Cootie) 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’ve come to the end of the road! It’s the final episode of the first season of Boots Riley’s fantastic debut series “I’m a Virgo,” aptly titled “A Metaphor for What.” 

All season, I’ve been interpreting Riley’s metaphors in these recaps. The main two are a 13-foot-tall Black teen named Cootie (Jharrel Jerome) as a manifestation of our white supremacist capitalist society’s adultification and monsterization of Black teen (and pre-teen) boys like Tamir Rice and Mike Brown; and the Hero (Walton Goggins) as the physical manifestation of our obsession with “law and order” as safety, thanks to the media feeding us copaganda through the news, superhero stories, books, films and TV shows. 

But the ending has me stumped. But here’s my best guess as to its meaning:

The finale begins with Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), Flora (Olivia Washington), Felix (Brett Gray) and the six-inch-tall leaders of the Lower Bottoms neighborhood of Oakland successfully destroying the power company’s regulator. Everyone’s power is restored! They return to Cootie’s place with his dad, Martisse (Mike Epps), a former funk singer, freestyling a congratulatory song on his keyboard and accidentally making an overly sexual rhyme that Cootie’s mom, Lafrancine (Carmen Ejogo), objects to. He tries to play off the dirty joke as a metaphor, and Cootie’s response gives us the title, “A metaphor for what?” Martisse mumbles in response, giving no coherent answer.

The news frames the destruction of the regulator as a terrorist attack. Police investigate and find the security guards at the power plant catatonic, the lost episode of the series show-within-a-show “Parking Tickets” out on the table. The officers play the DVD, and we finally see what’s on the banned episode that Scat (Allius Barnes) received from the comic book store clerk the day he died. 

It’s all about the life cycle of the “Parking Tickets” show’s comic relief, whom I’ve just been calling the Boyoyoyoyoyoing boy since that’s his catchphrase and the only thing he ever says. The episodes we’ve seen of “Parking Tickets” show him popping up with his catchphrase to lighten the mood, just as another character finishes sharing a deep and devastating truth. In the lost episode, though, we see he’s more than just comic relief, though he’s always only said this nonsensical phrase. As a toddler, when he says it, the adults laugh hysterically to his confusion and delight, so he keeps saying it, as he grows up, from a child into a graduate, into an adult that only says one thing. But nobody’s laughing when he says it as an adult. He’s all alone, unable to connect to anyone.  

Then, he falls in love and they grow old together as he continues to say his catchphrase into old age, until his death at 89 years old. As he’s buried in the cemetery, his wife and children around his grave, a minister recites his catchphrase, but no one is laughing. 

The episode turns its viewers catatonic while watching and for days and weeks after, likely because of the hard essential truth: comic relief can’t stop any of us from dying. 

We can laugh off climate change and do yoga on the rooftops during a smog storm; we can sneer at masks and COVID vaccines while we brunch our way through the continuing pandemic that’s ravaging millions of bodies a month around the world unchecked; we can ignore the growing population of people in this country without housing, food and clean water, as the roads, bridges and train tracks crumble beneath us; and we can close our eyes while the world cha-cha-slides deeper into fascism. But at some point, there’ll be no more TikToks left to scroll, nowhere left to hide, and we’ll have to face the truths we’ve been running from and their consequences.

Cootie and the gang want to celebrate their victory, but the heist crew is already splintering. Apparently, the Lower Bottoms crew totaled Felix’s car, the last beautiful thing he had in his life. And Cootie’s mad at his parents because the weapons they spent 19 years building for him didn’t actually work when he was trying to destroy the regulator. (A metaphor for what!) Felix blames Cootie for everything, saying this scheme to break the regulator wasn’t about liberating the people, it was just about his ego that was hurt when the news media turned him into a villain. Cootie’s rash that’s been growing since episode three is horrifically worse as he continues to wear the designer clothes from the company he was fired from. 

When things couldn’t get worse, the news media identifies Cootie as the terrorist that destroyed the regulator and the regulator comes right back on. All of their work was in vain, and the Hero has them surrounded and is attacking the house. Cootie realizes Jones (Kara Young) was right all along. It’s the general strike and collective power that works in the long run, not short-term, feel-good actions that can be undone by the state in hours.

But Jones doesn’t have it all together herself. In a fight with her girlfriend who tells Jones that her lack of consideration is hurting their relationship, Jones tries to use her superpower shield of persuasion to calm her down. But Jones’ girlfriend is not having it. “You win the argument and we both lose,” her girlfriend tells her. Cootie and Jones both have to refocus their superpowers not in service of themselves and their egos but for what is best for the whole community. 

As the Hero tries to attack Cootie, Lafrancine runs the Hero over with her van. The creepy cult that’s been stalking Cootie offers him shelter and, with no other options, he reluctantly accepts. He follows the cult inside their church and, of course, is immediately imprisoned there by them, with the cult leader declaring that they need to sacrifice his eye to save humanity according to a sticky note their random prophet named Sam left behind years ago. Fortunately, Cootie escapes and takes down the Hero. 

He drags the Hero through the streets in the same manner that the Hero dragged Cootie back in episode four. Begging for his life, the Hero plays on Cootie’s old hopes and dreams, saying Cootie isn’t the villain after all, that Cootie can be a superhero alongside the Hero and be the new face of justice. Ever the naive innocent, Cootie says he would love to work with the Hero and doesn’t want to fight anymore. While he’s distracted, the Hero wraps a chain rope around Cootie’s neck and reimprisons him. As Jones curses the Hero out and tries in vain to unchain Cootie, Cootie tells her to use her superpower.

Playing on the Hero’s belief of himself as a fair and reasonable good guy, Jones gets him to agree to listen to her for only three minutes. Using her superpower, she brings him into her imagination, showing him how he contributes to the crime he claims he wishes to stop. 

“If you wanted to stop crime, you’d be a revolutionary,” she tells him. Instead, he’s “a tool that helps capitalism run smoothly — the system that creates poverty and the crime and violence necessitated by it. Lock yourself up,” she tells him.

The Hero flies away in a daze, mind-blown, defeated, leaving Cootie to free himself, with Felix, Jones and Flora (and even the ghost of Scat!) by his side. Jones asks how Cootie knew using her superpower would work on the Hero. Cue the title card. 

Cootie’s sense of self has been restored.  

But what might’ve been a somewhat happy ending, with one tech billionaire fascist maybe rethinking his life choices, ends on a horrifically vague note. Cootie’s rash has grown into a gaping wound, and he basically scratches his side open to reveal a haunting green intestine. It’s a metaphor for what? I genuinely have no idea. But damn. What a ride. 

Hats off to creator, writer and director Boots Riley, showrunner Tze Chun and the whole writers’ room, and especially stars Jharrel Jerome, Brett Gray, Olivia Washington and Kara Young for creating this absolute masterpiece of commieganda. The revolution was (kinda) televised … and perhaps there was no need to see the growing general strike be successful in season one. Perhaps the real revolution was the viewers who were radicalized along the way.

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

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