[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
While a dystopian drama might seem a little on the nose right now, FX on Hulu is going there Monday with the premiere of of the first three episodes of Y: The Last Man. Adapted by Eliza Clark from Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s 2002-2008 DC Comics series of the same name, the drama follows the onset and aftermath of a global extinction level event that simultaneous kills every male of every species. While the knee-jerk reaction to that in the current cultural climate might be to respond with, “And?,” the blowback is actually cataclysmic.
Taking a page from Designated Survivor, the weapon/plague kills the Republican POTUS and the line of succession all the way down to Democratic Congresswoman Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane, in her first series regular role), who’s suddenly thrust into a position of power over a nation of women reeling from both the communal trauma and grief and, in some cases, the very personal grief of losing their entire families.
Jennifer is among them–losing her estranged husband and, presumably, her 27-year-old son, Yorick (Ben Schnetzer), while her EMT daughter, Hero (Olivia Thirlby), is missing. The FLOTUS, Marla (Paris Jefferson), manages her grief by falling into a bottle and haunting the hallways while First Daughter, Kimberly Campbell Cunningham (Amber Tamblyn), goes staunchly in the other direction.
An advisor to her father in the before times, Kimberly is an ultra-conservative author, advocate, and influencer with a stake in the ground as a mother raising three sons in the #MeToo era. In a moment, she loses everything that defines her, but driven for some sense of purpose, she still tries to keep a toe in the decision making of the remaining government. She’s also compartmentalizing her own loss in tiny behaviors that are glimpsed in passing.
What the title hat tips, and Jennifer soon learns, is that while the event did take out every cis gender male, it spared one, or, actually, two. Both Yorick and his male Capuchin monkey, Ambersand survived. Hero survived, too, and she has her own reasons to stay away, navigating grief compounded by a moment she can’t undo that tragically becomes moot.
Another main character in the action with her own POV is Agent 355 (Ashley Romans), who we meet as Sarah when she arrives to go undercover as a Secret Service agent just as the event happens. Our initial intro reveals that she’s all business for her agency. When she’s suddenly reassigned to serve POTUS on that fateful day, she could just as easily bail out and start over, especially when she learns she’s the only survivor of her super secret, Bourne Identity-esque agency, but instead she chooses to stay.
We also meet Nora (Marin Ireland), the press secretary for a no-longer-Republican White House, who’s stuck with her daughter outside the perimeter of the Pentagon that’s become both the seat of the new government and a town within a town full of surviving family members and government workers. Locked out of that inner circle and faced with dwindling resources, they struggle to survive.
It’s a compelling, harsh watch, and interesting to see the myriad ways that women respond to an extraordinary reset. Some thrive, some fail, some find new strengths, and some discover the lines of the old world that they wouldn’t cross before are now easily blurred. For my fellow Canadaphiles, the series filmed in Toronto, so look for CdnTV HITG folks like Paul Gross and Jess Salgueiro to pop up.
The series doesn’t just demonstrate the power of women onscreen; it also backs it up up offscreen. Every episode this season will be directed by women, and the production has women in the roles of director of photography, production designer, costume designer, casting director, editors, stunt coordinator, and more.
Y: The Last Man premieres its first three episodes on FX on Hulu on September 13th, with new episodes to follow each Monday. Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos and video courtesy of FX.
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