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Y: The Last Man review: A post-apocalyptic horror series that's high on bleakness, low on respite

Disney+ Hotstar has debuted the first three episodes of Y: The Last Man, based on Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra’s Award-winning post-apocalyptic graphic novel series of the same name

Pratishruti Ganguly
Sep 14, 2021
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*This is the review of the first three episodes of Y: The Last Man*

Story: The sudden onset of a mysterious virus wipes out every mammal in the world with Y-chromosome, except for Yorick, a young cisgender man and a monkey.

Y: The Last Man traces the aftermath of a world where everyone with a Y-chromosome has been killed by a cataclysmic event. The only surviving cis-male is young Yorick Brown (Ben Schetzer), a 20-year-old and his pet monkey Ampersand. Incidentally, Yorick is the son of Jennifer (Diane Lane), the woman who’s ascended as the newly-appointed President of the United States of America after every man in line has dropped dead.

There are a few fundamental changes showrunner Eliza Clark employs in order for it to fit the 2021 milieu. Her version of the story expands on the comic books’ original ideas on gender, introducing a new character, Sam (Elliot Fletcher), a trans man. This character isn’t just a gimmicky addition. Rather, the challenges that he encounters surrounding health and gender are specific to him. In a world that has suddenly been wiped off of men, do misogyny, homophobia and transphobia still dictate how the world runs?

It asks other pertinent questions too. How do the marginalised own spaces they have been historically shut out from without the knowledge of the inner workings in bureaucratic offices? Much of the show is focused on the rivalry between Jennifer and Kimberly (Amber Tamblyn), the daughter of a former president, and while the struggle for power is effectively realised, there is not much to write home about the uniqueness of the circumstance in which they have assumed their respective roles.

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What the show does brilliantly is remaining committed to authenticity. It lends a fair share of insight into what might happen if a calamity of such a scale were to befall human beings — from how to deal with the lack of resources, hunger to disposing of dead bodies so as to prevent contamination of the sewage systems.

The problem with Y: The Last Man isn’t as much the execution of the source material as it is of the expectations fans have out of the comic book series. Despite being set in a post-apocalyptic world, Vaughn and Guerra’s text had a prominent comedic bent. In Eliza Clark’s screen adaptation, it is hard to circumvent the bleakness of the show.

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With visuals of piling dead bodies of men, children, dogs and every living creature gobsmack in the middle of Manhattan, Y: The Last Man establishes that while the comic book series was geared towards a young adult readership, the show itself is marketed to be an adult dystopian drama. It echoes the real world all too accurately, making it relentlessly morbid.

For a lead character whose name is derived from the court jester in Hamlet, one would expect to be routinely relieved from the grim and gore. But there’s hardly any humour in Y: The Last Man. Unfortunately, without any sense of relief from the hellish nightmare, the show becomes too much to bear. The morbidity of Y: The Last Man feels even more acute in comparison to the other dystopian drama of the year, Sweet Tooth.

Verdict: If you have been a fan of the original graphic novels, finally seeing it play out on screen may feel infinitely satisfying. But for those who are yet to develop a stomach for heartwrenching tragedy, this writer would implore you to perhaps stick to Sweet Tooth for your dystopian drama cravings.

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