Y The Last Man review: Yawn-inducing post-apocalyptic show disrespects celebrated source material
- Y The Last Man review: Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra's celebrated comic book series gets a disappointing adaptation that discards everything that made the comics so great.
Y: The Last Man
Creator - Eliza Clark
Cast - Ben Schnetzer, Diane Lane, Olivia Thirlby, Ashley Romans
With title sequence music that sounds an awful lot like the song Butterfly by Crazy Town, every episode of Y: The Last Man begins by first putting a smirk on your face. But none of that cheesy 90s excess can be found in the actual show.
Based on the celebrated comic book series by Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra, the long-awaited Hulu show (out in India on Disney+ Hotstar) is too dour to recommend. It takes the swashbuckling, humorous tone of the source material and trades it in for a generic end-of-the-world ominousness that makes it seem like a forgotten season of The Walking Dead.
Watch the Y: The Last Man trailer here:
Plagued by production difficulties — both the original creators and the original star were replaced — Y: The Last Man appears to have been so drastically watered down over the years that the final product lacks everything that made the comic book such a classic. Even within certain genres, there is a division among audiences. Y: The Last Man is a show set in a post-apocalyptic world, but you’d be hard-pressed to pin-point exactly what sets it apart from the scores of other series of its kind.
And that shouldn’t have happened, because the premise is genuinely intriguing: Without any warning, every human being and most mammals with the Y chromosome drop dead after a mysterious cataclysmic event, essentially leaving women in charge of the world. The trouble is that women occupy such a small fraction of powerful positions that it sends planet Earth spiralling out of order. For instance, the presidential line of succession in the United States is decimated, leaving the inexperienced senator Jennifer Brown as the de facto commander-in-chief.
But the show isn’t about her, even though actor Diane Lane, who plays President Brown, is top-billed. It’s about her son Yorick, who, by the looks of it, is the world’s last surviving man.
Why Yorick (Ben Schnetzer), a slacker named after a court jester, was forsaken in the apocalypse is a mystery. After spending a couple of episodes trying to survive and remain hidden, he is discovered by the enigmatic Agent 355, who brings him to the White House and reunites him with his mother. But with thousands clamouring at the gates for answers, he can’t stay there for too long. It is decided that Yorick and Agent 355 will go on a quest to find Dr Mann (get it?), the world’s foremost geneticist, who might be able to decipher why he survived.
Updates are made to the story that would probably make JK Rowling bristle. Trans men survive, which gives Yorick a cover that he didn’t have in the comics. So on the couple of occasions that he is cornered, he declares that he is on the hunt for testosterone, implying that he, too, is trans, and not, as anyone who looks at him might suspect, a cisgender man.
Y: The Last Man is no Watchmen. Where Damon Lindelof found ways to make Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic comic culturally relevant and refreshingly unique, creator Eliza Clark has put together a show that feels like it’s cutting corners. Take, for instance, its pointless obsession with President Brown and the virtually demolished democracy that fate has put her in charge of. She wasn’t really a major character in the books, but is an equal participant in the show. It’s understandable for Clark to highlight governance in a post-apocalyptic world, but she doesn’t bring anything new to the table that warrants 50% of the screen time being devoted to White House disputes.
The show is massively uninteresting every time that Yorick isn’t on screen, which isn’t great for a something this preoccupied with world-building.
Y: The Last Man is made for old-school television and written with ad breaks in mind, which might seem very unusual to audiences that have become accustomed to the lawless world of streaming. But ultimately, even if you adapt to this stop-start method of storytelling, you can’t ignore the fact that it makes the show feel less immersive. The plot picks up the pace in episode three, but falls into a stupor almost immediately. It also doesn’t help that of the six episodes provided for preview, the later ones had incomplete visual effects, which means that some of the backgrounds were unfinished and Yorick’s pet monkey Ampersand was simply absent some shots.
Given its rich source material and the literal decade they spent developing it, Y: The Last Man shouldn’t have felt like something that was put together during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a disappointing adaptation to say the least, but since shows of this scale are rarely cancelled after one season, we can hope they course-correct by the time season two rolls around.