I’m a Virgo S1E5: Brillo, If Possible

Last week’s episode ended with The Hero sucker-punching Cootie and dragging him through the streets in chains. We jump ahead to Cootie under house arrest with a custom-made ankle monitor, watching white talking heads on TV debating the optics of dragging a black man through the streets in chains, versus letting a giant “thug” walk around free. And yet he still reads The Hero’s comic book — he still believes in the idealized version of justice even after coming face-to-face with how arbitrary and cruel the real-life version often is.

Cootie’s able to wax philosophical about Scat’s death, marveling that the world keeps turning after you lose someone you care about. Felix is less wide-eyed; he takes his friend’s death as a sign that the world is cruel and only getting worse. 

But before that, we open on a man waking up under a seemingly endless bedsheet, only to emerge and discover he’s only six inches tall. As he rides through the neighborhood in a remote control car, we see his neighbors are equally small, a few women wearing makeshift clothes from washcloths; two men stand around naked, taking drags from a cigarette nearly as big as they are. There’s a community of miniature people, all of them black. They’ve been laid off from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and have no idea who shrunk them or why, but so far are determined to stick together and find out.

Cootie’s house arrest drags on — his ankle monitor counts the days of his four-month sentence — and Flora spends as much time as she can with him. But that’s not entirely a good thing, as their personal habits are starting to grate on each other, and it may be too early in the relationship for constant togetherness. 

But that’s not the worst thing about isolation. While he’s been out of the public eye, the media has turned the “Thwamp Monster” from folk hero to public menace, running stories about how frightened people are of him, and how Jay Whittle — The Hero’s billionaire alter ego — has graciously donated funds to build a prison cell large enough to hold him, just in case. Cootie’s Instagram feed is full of a video titled “cops train to fight giants.” And an ad for home security shows a white couple being menaced by a black “giant thug.”

But the final straw is when the latest issue of The Hero’s comic book arrives, with Cootie on the cover, wrapped in chains, his hands around The Hero’s neck. So much for his idealized hero. It’s the final straw. Cootie resolves to be the villain they’ve been making him out to be. “I’m going to turn villains into heroes.” And his parents finally reveal that this is the moment they’ve been waiting for.

How this all connects to the miniature people, or the turtleneck-clad cult who make another brief appearance, has yet to be seen. But with two episodes to go, expect things to come to a head next episode.

Stray thoughts:
• Cootie still has the rash on his side from modeling clothes. Like a lot of things on this show, it’s hard to tell how significant that is. Along similar lines, we get another clip of the bleak, existential cartoon, which seems to exist solely for vibes. Sorry To Bother You was overstuffed with left-field ideas, but Boots Riley did a remarkable job of weaving them all into a cohesive whole. I’m a Virgo is similarly overstuffed, but at this point in the season, the ideas don’t entirely hang together. We’re still hoping the pieces will all fit by the end.

• In a nod to the title, Cootie watches an inspiring YouTube horoscope for Virgos… before realizing there’s an identical video for every sign. It ends up being one more small step towards his larger disillusionment.

• Jones’ only appearance this week is on the TV news, but her protest over Scat’s death has expanded into a general strike. She’s interviewed about what the strikers are fighting for, and the rolling blackouts we’ve seen throughout the show are singled out for ire. Apparently, you can say “motherfucker” on the local news a lot more in Cootie’s world than in ours.