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Movies & TV

15th Sep 2021

Y: The Last Man review: A slick, smart, end-of-the-world thriller series

Rory Cashin

A show about a pandemic might not be what you want to watch right now, but stick with us…

One thing is for damn sure, this pandemic show can’t be accused of hopping on the bandwagon.

Based on a comic book series that kicked off in 2002, Y: The Last Man was almost a movie fronted by Shia LaBeouf as far back as 2007, before Fox picked it up for a TV adaptation. It was originally to be big project for Barry Keoghan in 2018, before he too dropped out.

Yes, a show about a killer disease might be the last thing any of us want to willingly watch right now, but thankfully this slick, polished adaptation isn’t really about the killer virus, but the unique world it leaves behind.

One day, without warning, every living mammal with a Y-chromosome simultaneously dies… except for Yorick (Ben Schnetzer) and his pet monkey, Ampersand. It just so happens that Yorick is the son of Senator Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane), who finds herself suddenly promoted to President of the United Stated when every other man above her in the pecking order drops dead.

We are also introduced to a host of other characters, including Yorick’s sister Hero (Olivia Thirlby), a paramedic having an affair with a married man. Kimberley Cunningham (Amber Tamblyn), meanwhile, is a staunch Republican who doesn’t believe America can be run successfully without men, and Agent 355 (Ashley Romans), is a secretive agent who has been tasked with defending the new President and her extended family.

But from the three episodes that were made available to critics ahead of the show’s release, this is less about individuals and more about how the world would react to no more men, like a global Bechdel Test suddenly put into action. And it turns out that it is likely the levels of fear, violence and subterfuge will remain pretty much the same…

There have been some important updates to the story since it was originally published in 2002, with focus also given to the trans community and how trans men – being viewed as men by the population – are now forced to “come out” to literally every person who might not have looked twice at them before.

Additionally, the Democratic/Republic divide feels more entrenched than ever, especially as America is still very much under the show of its 45th President. It gives the performers some rich, layered characters to really dig their teeth into, especially Diane Lane, who – despite starring in some huge movies and getting an Oscar nomination – really feels like an actress that never truly got the opportunity to show the true depth of her talents.

Through those first episodes, all of which were slickly directed and intelligently scripted by an all-female team of writers, directors and showrunners, the vibe is very much House Of Cards meets The Leftovers. But with a monkey in it. And truth be told, Schnetzer’s character truly feels like an odd one out. Maybe that is on purpose, considering the premise, but his snarky one-liners bump hard against the catastrophe that everyone else in the show is reacting to.

The show has yet to show any real interest in the mystery behind the sudden deaths (and maybe it never will), but if it continues down this very interesting path of how a world would respond to global devastation like this, then we’ll still be completely hooked.

The first three episodes of Y: The Last Man will be available on Disney+ from Wednesday, 22 September, with the rest of the season arriving weekly each Wednesday after that.

Clip via Skybot Film

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