As a critic and general viewer, I was looking forward to Y: The Last Man (Mondays on FX and on-demand at FX Now). It has an intriguing premise, was made in Toronto and features many Canadian actors. Now, several episodes in, I am both confused and disappointed.
Based on the well-regarded comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, published from 2002 to 2008, the guts of the drama offers something to provoke some juicy what-if scenarios. It’s a postapocalypse scenario, but with a unique twist: A deadly plague causes everybody on earth with a Y chromosome to die, mostly on the spot and bleeding, and in the chaos that follows, women get to rule the world.
There is, however, one guy left alive. That’s Yorick (Ben Schnetzer), an affable and sensitive young man who aspires to be an escape artist, no less, and while pining for his girlfriend in a desolate New York, enjoys the company of his pet monkey, a charmer with the name Ampersand.
Why is Yorick the last man left? Thereby hang a tale and that tale is the spine of the series. Yorick will provide the clue to what has happened and might be the key future of the planet.
If so, then heaven help us all. Yorick is a callow youth, as woke and woefully immature as any right-winger’s nightmare about young people today. He’s more a whiner than a do-er, and his ambition to be the next Houdini tells you he’s an annoying fantasist.
Anyway, as it happens, Yorick is the son of Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane), a Democratic member of Congress who ascends to the presidency because all the fellas in charge, Republicans, are dead. Also, he’s got a sister named Hero (Olivia Thirlby), who was having an affair with a married paramedic when the apocalypse happened. She has, you know, issues. As would anyone lumbered with the name “Hero” by a mom who is a politician.
There should be acres of possibilities here. Would a country in crisis run by women be better off? How would female politicians treat each other if all the men were gone? Would the general population, if all women, react differently to an apocalypse that threatens to destroy the entire infrastructure? Regrettably, what unfolds is a confusing mess of subplots. Predictably, the daughter of the dead Republican president, one Kimberly (Amber Tamblyn), sets out to undermine the new president. A mysterious secret agent, simply named 355, keeps turning up but appears to have wandered into the show from an old episode of 24.
Stuff happens, some of it gruesome and some a ham-fisted mess. Hero sets out for Washington to see her mom. Yorick is taken to see a wizard of a geneticist who will determine if he is the future of mankind or something. There are riots, and people – women, that is – do some terrible things.
Yes, perhaps it was a rueful joke in the original comic books that the future of the male species depends upon the utterly uninteresting, immature Yorick, but here that twist is taken very seriously. The weight placed upon the character is just ludicrous.
The material was adapted by Eliza Clark and she makes a point of injecting some new contemporary relevancy. Essentially, the plot is updated to include issues of gender fluidity. Thus, Hero’s pal Sam (Elliot Fletcher) is a trans man in this terrifying new world. It should be an interesting touch, but it plays out like a soap-opera episode dropped into a horror landscape.
There are strong performances from several Canadians, including Paul Gross (although he’s not around for long) and Laura de Carteret, but as an apocalypse drama with a unique premise, Y: The Last Man is a bitter disappointment. Alas, poor Yorick is not a fellow of infinite jest; he’s a joke of a woke man taking up too much space in the story.
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