Note: This review covers the first four episodes of Y:The Last Man, which are now available to stream on Hulu. In the UK Episodes 1-3 are currently streaming on Disney+.
The TV adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man is here, and it’s definitely something. Set in a dystopia where every man with a Y chromosome suddenly drops dead, the show strives to tell a character-driven story with the weight and resonance needed to hammer its ideas home. Unfortunately, its efforts don’t bear the sort of fruit we want to see.
Yorick Brown (Ben Schnetzer) is the only man who doesn’t die in this global crisis, and no one can tell him why. His mother, newly appointed President Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane), and sister, Hero (Olivia Thirlby) struggle to make sense of what has happened, unaware that Yorick is alive. As these three come to realize, they are now facing a world free of the testosterone-fueled decision-making, pointless peacocking, and feeble justifications for control that characterize a patriarchal society. To some, that would be paradise. To others, a nightmare. To me…well, I wouldn’t have an opinion because I’d probably just bleed into my cornflakes and die like the other guys.
The writing team seems more concerned with answering every “What if?” than with telling its story. The series fixates on lingering shots of horrified women stepping through minefields of leaky corpses, which is fine until it isn’t. The intent is clear: get viewers emotionally invested, and then crank up the stakes. It’s not a terrible approach, but the show misplaces its focus. The stakes were never the problem. A quick scan of the premise will clue you into just how much is lost in this hellscape.
The crux of the problem is this: Y: The Last Man takes far too long to kickstart its plot. With a first episode dedicated almost entirely to endearing its characters to viewers, you would think this would be feeding a greater, more compelling whole. Sadly, we’re four episodes into a 10-episode season and very little has actually happened. What needed to happen was propulsion that moved its plot and its characters forward together. Instead, we get lots of character development but little movement in the narrative department. The result is a story full of fleshed-out characters with nowhere to go and nothing to do, which is about as bad as not having compelling characters at all.
The first three episodes primarily consist of Yorick dealing with his new status as the last man on earth and chasing his slippery pet monkey, Ampersand, as his mother struggles to manage the chaos. The fourth episode isolates key dynamics (355 and Yorick, Hero and Sam) and starts establishing them as vital steps toward either friendship or fallout. 355 remains coy and enigmatic, while Yorick hides his mounting fears under a veneer of sloppy sarcasm. Hero is manipulative and selfish, while Sam is far more concerned with their safety and survival.
The source material took a slow-burn approach, too. The difference, though, is that the comic built its story and its world out more efficiently. So far, this adaptation has consisted almost entirely of false starts and long periods of…nothing. It’s disappointing that a series known for its breadth and depth has such breathtaking pacing issues.
Y: The Last Man deserved an adaptation that honored the story Vaughn and Guerra told. Sadly, this isn’t it. For all its flaws, though, Y: The Last Man is a thoughtful translation that brings the comic’s sidelined elements (such as how the catastrophe affected trans men) into greater focus. It’s a shame that the series inadvertently sabotages its storytelling by failing to sustain a compelling narrative, but hopefully the latter half of the season rectifies that.