Y: The Last Man episode 1-3 recap: The chromosomal-pocalypse cometh
Episode 1: 'The Day Before'
Men may be difficult to deal with, but they're also tough to live without — a notion confirmed by Y: The Last Man, showrunner Eliza Clark's long-awaited adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra's acclaimed 2002-2008 comic book series about a cataclysm in which, without warning, every genetic male on the face of the Earth drops dead. Or rather, every male save for one: aspiring magician Yorick Brown (Ben Schnetzer), who — along with his pet Capuchin monkey Ampersand — becomes the last mammal on earth with a Y chromosome. That inevitably makes Yorick a hot commodity in this radically re-gendered new world order, and his quest to stay alive, figure out the source of the apocalypse, and reunite with his girlfriend serves as the basis for FX on Hulu's ten-part series, the first season of which begins by detailing the lead up to the end of mankind as we know it.
Y: The Last Man's debut "The Day Before" opens "Three Weeks After," with silent vistas of calamity: a snowy farm populated by dead cattle and cathedral courtyards, highways, and office buildings littered with human corpses. In a graveyard-ish midtown Manhattan marked by shrines decorated with neckties, as well as a helicopter perched precariously on the ledge of a skyscraper, a monkey enters a cab and plays with a hula girl dashboard ornament. He emerges with a pen. Nearby, a man in a rubber hooded parka stops spray-painting a message on a wall — "Beth, I'm Alive, Come Home — Y" — and trades the animal a cracker for the writing utensil, albeit not before showing off his disappearing-object magic skills.
This individual, we'll soon learn, is Yorick, and almost immediately after this transaction, he halts his scavenging in order to save his pet monkey from being crushed by the aforementioned helicopter, which plummets to the sidewalk below.
Transitioning to "The Day Before," Y: The Last Man finds Yorick hanging upside-down from his apartment ceiling, encased in a straightjacket. He's ineffectively demonstrating how to extricate one's self from this garment to 10-year-old Freddy (Jacob Mazeral), his student. Yorick quickly crashes to the floor and has Freddy stay silent as his landlord bangs on the door, demanding the overdue rent. Freddy informs Yorick that his dad is ending these lessons since the boy hasn't learned anything worthwhile, like card tricks (being able to get out of NYPD handcuffs, it seems, is not a worthwhile skill). With 20 minutes left in their final class, Yorick puts Freddy in the straightjacket.
In Washington D.C., Yorick's mother, Democratic congresswoman Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane), is briefed by her advisors about the president's (Paul Gross) latest wishy-washy comment about unity in the face of a rising tide of internet hate speech that's linked to domestic terrorism — something Brown wants to combat. She informs her staff to prepare for some blowback once she gets in front of TV news cameras. Brown is frustrated to hear that Yorick's landlord has called her ("I'm going to kill him," she says about her son) and advises her newest assistant Christine (Jess Salgueiro), to get her nails cleaned up at the local salon, which she promptly does.
In Brooklyn, Jennifer's daughter Hero Brown (Olivia Thirlby) grouchily attends a support group — which is a court-ordered condition stemming from her latest DUI — but her attendance is interrupted by a phone call from Yorick, who's waiting outside. Yorick asks Hero for $100 for wine, cheese, and crackers for tonight, when he plans to pop the question to his girlfriend Beth (Juliana Canfield) with a Moroccan ring that his magic-shop boss procured for him. Hero doesn't think this is a good idea since Yorick is an immature mess whose parents still pay his rent; he hits back at her by saying that the self-loathing Hero doesn't have her life together either. She reluctantly gives him the cash and returns to the meeting at the urging of her best friend, Sam Jordan (Elliot Fletcher).
In Skiatook, Okla., an African-American woman going by the name Jade (Ashley Romans) — but whom we'll later learn is the enigmatic Agent 355, working for a shadowy task force — is building a cell phone-triggered bomb for her boyfriend. He, in turn, makes her hide during the sale because his white-nationalist buyers won't like learning that a Black woman assembled their merchandise. Jade complies, briefly hanging out in a bedroom before exiting via a window. Jogging away from the house, she uses her own phone to detonate the explosive, killing everyone inside. At the end of a cornfield-lined road, she notices a dead deer at the base of a tree. A car drives up, she gets in, and she's informed that her next assignment will involve being embedded close to the president because there's a credible threat on his life.
Segueing back to Washington, Y: The Last Man introduces presidential press advisor Nora Brown (Marin Ireland), who's annoyed that her son's birthday party is getting messed up by a bouncy-castle mix-up (she wanted Ninja Turtles, but is instead getting Paw Patrol). Nora is at a firing range, where POTUS is shooting guns to prove his 2nd amendment bona fides to the press. Nora claims to the journalists that she owns two Remingtons and shot her own turkey for Thanksgiving, but she confesses to the president that this is a lie. Hearing that Jennifer has just called the president a misogynist on CNN, Nora has another advisor interrupt POTUS' on-camera interview. Once the media has departed, the president has Nora fire a handgun for the first time.
On stage at a speaking engagement, conservative author (and daughter of the president) Kimberley Campbell Cunningham (Amber Tamblyn) — sitting beside giant blow-ups of her books Cancel Culture and Boy Mom — tells an anecdote about a boy being punished for pulling a female classmate's hair in retaliation for being pushed. This is proof, to Kimberley at least, that liberal America is now raising boys to be ashamed of their instincts and to be afraid to become men. Afterward, she rants about Jennifer's headline-making criticism of POTUS as a misogynist, claiming he's a champion for women's rights, all as her husband ignores their unruly kids. Two of her sons notice a dead rat in the corner of the room.
That night, at a gala birthday party for the first lady Marla (Paris Jefferson), Jennifer is greeted warmly by her husband and is then summoned to see the president. They go back and forth about her accusatory comments (and his support from the KKK) and Jennifer hears about the Oklahoma incident involving American Freedom Coalition terrorists blowing themselves up with their own bomb. She implies that those racists were probably fans of his, and though he tries to make nice, Jennifer only agrees to be friends again once he's out of office in approximately 2.5 years.
In his apartment, Yorick sets a romantic scene by serving Beth grilled cheese (with three different kinds of cheese!). Beth rants about a student who's accused her of being biased against him because he's white (she previously used the term "white privilege" in class), and Yorick changes the subject by saying that he wants to join her on her upcoming trip to Australia; he can work on his magic show while she does her own thing. Beth is clearly not keen on this idea. Yorick proposes, which blows up the evening. A fight breaks out after Beth says that, if he came to Australia, Yorick would hold her back from meeting people. Yorick takes this to mean that she isn't fully committed to their relationship. After more arguing, she bolts. Yorick punches the wall, hurting his hand.
Back at her (temporary) residence, Agent 355 puts all her clothes in a garbage bag, uses cleaning supplies to erase every trace of her presence in the place, and looks over a dossier with her new assignment as secret service agent "Sarah Burgin." She cuts her long hair to complete the transformation. Meanwhile, in Washington, Christine's date pokes good-natured fun at the fact that they've spent their evening picking up Jennifer's dry cleaning. Before they can depart to grab dinner, a runaway police horse gallops by, almost knocking over Christine. They then have to take cover on their car to avoid a swarm of rats.
At the first lady's birthday bash, Kimberly has some cheerily snarky words for Jennifer regarding her disdain for "women haters." Later, on an outdoor patio, Jennifer and her husband discuss their recent estrangement; Jennifer is eager to forgive her spouse for his (unspecified) trespasses, but he reveals that he doesn't want to reconcile, and has in fact seen a divorce lawyer. At home, an exhausted Nora is comforted by her husband about her son's in-disarray party. At the same moment in Brooklyn, Hero hears that her fellow EMT and lover Mike (Daniel di Tomasso) has finally told his wife about their affair. This leads to sex in their ambulance, after which Mike goes outside to pee and is confronted by a dog that bleeds from its mouth. When he gets back in the vehicle, Hero confronts him about texts he's just received from his wife that indicate he's a liar and hasn't told her about their relationship. A physical altercation breaks out, and Hero throws a fire extinguisher at Mike's neck, causing a fatal gash.
On "The Morning Of," Agent 355 infiltrates the Pentagon as Sarah Burgin. She joins the president and Jennifer (among many others) in a bustling war room. Nora makes lunch for her kids while yelling at them for being late. A cop appears outside Hero's ambulance (in which she's been sitting, stunned, for hours). Suddenly, all hell breaks loose: the president's nose starts bleeding, and he and every other man in the war room collapse to the floor, their faces going veiny and their orifices gushing blood. Hero exits the ambulance to discover the snooping cop dead and the streets of New York in abject chaos, with cars crashing, overhead planes nosediving, and women screaming as they try to save their male loved ones. Marin checks on her slumbering husband and son and screams. Minutes later, Jennifer is informed that Air Force 2 has crashed (thus indicating, along with the lack of communication with Israel, that this is a global phenomenon), gives Christine a gas mask, and guides her forward.
The age of man has apparently instantly ended — except in one New York City apartment, where Yorick is awakened by cheese puffs being thrown at him by his monkey. Hearing bedlam on the streets outside, he ventures to his window and stares in disbelief.
- From the outset, Y: The Last Man clearly wants to tread into timely waters, most notably via Jennifer's opposition to a racist-courting conservative male president, as well as Kimberly's right-wing celebrity.
- In almost every instance, the show's premiere paints men as untrustworthy, unreliable and all-around rotten — even as it cannily paints their demise as a tragic catastrophe.
- Having set its scene, it'll be interesting to see how seamlessly the show brings together its main characters — a trick that the comics also found difficult to smoothly pull off.
Episode 2: 'Would the World Be Kind'
There's plenty of confusion, panic, and terror in America following the deaths of all Y-chromosome males, and Y: The Last Man's second installment finds its characters struggling to cope with impending crises of both a personal and national nature.
In the immediate aftermath of the man-pocalypse, Agent 355 retreats to a Pentagon bathroom to catch her breath and calm her nerves. She activates a beacon hidden in the lining of her jacket and then heads back into the fray. Eight days later, she's in a snowy suburb, visiting a MailboxFox postal outlet (the same chain seen on the envelope of her prior mission instructions), and uses a key to unlock mailbox 355. That gains her access to a back room that turns out to be a secret outpost of her covert unit. Inside, her handler and two other men are dead. She locates the beacon that corresponds to her own, and lays the corpses out on the floor, crossing their arms. Afterward, she finds a particular cardboard box on a shelf, and takes out a necklace that she puts on, as well as an envelope labeled "Not Yet!" She opens it, and reads a piece of paper: "72 Warren St., Winthrop, Mass."
Jennifer is now the President of the United States. She and other government officials watch on war-room screens as angry rioters attempt to break through the White House's barricades. They discuss how the country will soon exhaust its coal surplus, at which point the power plants will shut down, and America will return to the Dark Ages, with no food, clean water, or power. Agent 355 pulls Jennifer aside and divulges that she's not a Secret Service agent but, rather, part of a covert task force codenamed Culper Ring that was kept off the books and answered only to the president. Agent 355 reveals that she was recently embedded with the Secret Service due to a credible threat on the president's life, though she wasn't briefed about its particulars.
Jennifer watches on the monitors as rioters break through the barricades. She says they'll have to concede the White House and rebuild it later. "I think it's going to get worse — maybe a lot — before it gets better."
Cut to Day 63, and Yorick is tending to his bandaged foot while watching home movies of himself and Beth on his iPhone. He has a city map decorated with Post-it notes, and on his mirror, he's written a message: "Beth, I'm Alive – Y." He gathers Ampersand in a carrier and heads out.
Jennifer is informed that a sinkhole has opened up on Manhattan's 23rd Street and that the surrounding buildings may soon collapse. There's also a severe threat of waterborne illness due to stagnant subway water and bodies in the water supply. There are 80,000 people left in NYC, and Jennifer cares more about extracting them than saving the art in the Whitney and Guggenheim museums. With only 24 hours left until the city falls apart, Jennifer orders the evacuation of NYC. Christine advises Jennifer that there's still time to get Hero out of the city, so the president also covertly orders Agent 355 to retrieve her daughter.
Hero is at a makeshift FEMA bureau where the walls are lined with men's driver's licenses as a means of letting survivors locate their deceased loved ones. She watches a woman with a crying baby argue with a FEMA agent to no avail. Hero speaks with her, learning that her husband went out working the night before. On her way out, Hero steals a Leatherman. She returns to the temporary home she's sharing with Sam and a couple of other guys. This crew's stash of testosterone vials indicates that they're transgender. Sam's friends are mad that Hero didn't procure a camping stove because they intend to bike to Vermont to stay with one of their transphobic relatives. Sam begs Hero to get in touch with her estranged mom Jennifer but doesn't get anywhere. Sam thus reminds Hero that they're departing at dark.
Kimberley gets ready for a meeting with Jennifer as her mom Marla acts unhinged — trying to catch a fly with a cup — in an adjacent bedroom. Jennifer hears that an Arizona statehouse has been overrun by a hostage-taking militia believing that the U.S. government caused this calamity by releasing a bioweapon. Jennifer reluctantly speaks with Kimberley, who presses the president on moving up the NYC evacuation timeline. She's primarily concerned with safeguarding the Manhattan Cryobank's priceless genetic material since, without men, the world has no future. Jennifer counters by saying she's already dealt with over 100 sperm banks nationwide, and that "we're just trying to survive the present."
In an abandoned café, Yorick continues spray-painting messages for Beth. He approaches a photo booth, pockets pictures of himself and Beth, and then hides as a tank passes by (broadcasting messages about the evacuation deadline being five hours away). Ampersand runs off, and Yorick gives chase into a flooded subway station, where he gets spooked by a billboard of a man and winds up totally submerged.
Hero revisits the ambulance where Mike's corpse is now decaying. Thinking about their last time together, arm in arm, hand in hand, she places a pacifier on his chest and takes his driver's license. She returns to the FEMA center and gives Mike's ID to the single mother — whom we now realize is Mike's wife. She thanks Hero for confirming her suspicions about Mike (because it means she wasn't crazy for thinking he was cheating), and for being with her husband at the end.
Yorick breaks into a dry cleaner to steal fresh clothes and is accosted by three Asian women. They're all panicked by the sight of a naked man, and one holds him at gunpoint, intending to use him as trade bait. Yorick tearfully apologizes and begs them to be kind and let him go with some clothes. They do, but they don't heed his warning to leave NYC while there's still time, because "this is our home." Yorick returns to the subway station and watches a home movie of Ampersand's arrival into his and Beth's home. The monkey appears and hops on a happy Yorick's shoulders. They return to their apartment, where Yorick worries that he's all out of survival ideas.
Sam, it turns out, has chosen to ditch his friends and stay with Hero. He fumes about the fact that, as a transgender man, he now has to face all the same questions — and provide all the same answers — about his identity that he did in the past. He only has a two-week supply of testosterone left, and he pleads with Hero to get in touch with her mom, saying that Hero owes him. She relents and agrees.
Having trekked 1.5 days to the Pentagon, Nora and her daughter Mackenzie (Quincy Kirkwood) are turned away at the gate by a soldier who claims she's not on the essential personnel list. They leave. Marla visits Jennifer in her office, announcing she wants to return home to Lynchburg to bury her son. Jennifer laments that she can't spare the Secret Service detail for that trip right now. They briefly discuss Hero, and Marla talks about how when she was pregnant with Kimberley, a stranger said she knew that Marla would have a girl, because "girls steal your beauty." She confesses that, at the time, she had all sorts of fears about having a daughter. Jennifer, in turn, admits that she sent someone to try to retrieve Hero from NYC. Marla says if she were in Jennifer's shoes, "I would have sent the whole damn army."
Yorick is awakened by an intruder. He tries and fails to get the jump on this person. It's Agent 355, who's stunned to find Yorick rather than Hero. A short time later, their helicopter lands at the Pentagon, and Yorick is reunited with his shocked commander-in-chief mom. They head inside, and Agent 355 tells her two helicopter pilots, "Come with me."
- Sam's transgender plight is the series' best early (and timely) alteration to its source material, and is obviously something that will factor into upcoming episodes.
- Two months into this catastrophe, it would be nice to hear more details about how society is still functioning (i.e. do the phones work? Is the internet still online?).
- Yorick's iPhone is astoundingly, and conveniently, waterproof.
Episode 3: 'Neil'
Yorick is safe with his mom — but not for long, as his presence in the corridors of Washington, D.C., proves far more troublesome than Jennifer and her comrades initially expected.
Nora and Mackenzie return to a house they're sharing with a few other families. Nora reports that she failed to gain entry to the Pentagon, and hears from her fellow survivors that they soon plan to depart, leaving Nora and Mackenzie behind due to space constraints. Nora and Mackenzie are now on their own.
Agent 355 debriefs the two helicopter pilots who brought her and Yorick back from New York City. They're extremely wound up and suspicious about this "surreal" turn of events, and suggest that the angry rioters at the facility's perimeter are going to start asking the same questions they are — namely, how is it that the president's son is the only Y-chromosome man still alive? Agent 355 laughs off this conspiracy theory, but the pilots' assertion that "it doesn't look good" worries Agent 355. She's called away, leaving the furious duo locked inside the room.
Sleeping in bed beside his mother, Yorick awakens in the middle of the night and sees Ampersand scurry out of the room. He cautiously chases after the monkey, and his movements attract the attention of Marla, who pursues them into a closed-off office area still littered with dead bodies. Marla sees Yorick, and then suddenly, he's gone and she's standing in the dark with Jennifer and Agent 355, who convince her she's just confused about what she thinks she saw ("Most nights, I see them too," says Jennifer, implying Marla was having a ghostly vision). Back in her room, Jennifer explains to Yorick that he's the only Y-chromosome man still walking the face of the Earth. They chat about the Hall of Heroes shrine to the dead that Yorick saw, as well as his failure to locate Hero in Manhattan.
Yorick tells his mom that he wants to find Beth because they're engaged (a lie). Agent 355 informs Jennifer that the pilots are going to be a problem. Moreover, with 1,500 unhappy people at the Pentagon gates, they could have a Russia situation, which Agent 355 later tells Yorick refers to a recent incident in which the Russians lied about their male leadership being alive, thus sparking a Kremlin siege by citizens. No one has heard from the country since.
Over a spaghetti dinner, Yorick muses that his mom "won the apocalypse" because she's now president, which was facilitated by the deaths of two women ahead of her in the line of succession — one of whom, Regina Oliver (Jennifer Wigmore), was an anti-immigrant, anti-government, anti-vaxxer radical whom Yorick is happy doesn't sit in the Oval Office. Agent 355 mentions Yorick's Shakespearean name, expressing amazement that his dad (who taught the Bard) "named you after a dead clown" in Hamlet.
Jennifer attempts to deal with a brewing nuclear power plant crisis by ordering her staff to enlist the aid of Dr. Sharon Jacobs, who's abandoned her post due to crushing grief over her sons' deaths. Jennifer has a charged conversation with Kimberley about Marla's sighting the prior evening, which Jennifer tries — somewhat suspiciously — to blame on the first lady's sleeping meds.
As Yorick pukes up his spaghetti (apparently, he's not used to eating so well), Jennifer, Agent 355, and Christine discuss keeping Yorick's situation quiet, finding a geneticist who might provide answers about his survival, and getting him out of the Pentagon, which Agent 355 warns "is a fishbowl." At the same time, in Tel Aviv, Regina awakens in a medical tent and is told that while she was unconscious (due to a skull fracture suffered during a building-collapse accident), every man in the world perished. Regina says if this is true, she's now the President of the United States.
Agent 355 retrieves files on geneticist candidates and is confronted by nosy Kimberley, who sees what Agent 355 is up to, asks prying questions about her (since she doesn't recognize Agent 355 as part of her dead dad's detail), and invites her to play cards. Agent 355 smiles and departs without making any commitment. At a makeshift child care operation, Kimberley talks to the wife of a deceased politician, and tries to solicit her support "if the time comes." The woman asks, the time for what? But the answer — a coup — remains unspoken.
Nora and Mackenzie watch their housemates leave, and Nora breaks a vase out of frustration. They head back to their own home, and Nora cries over her son's toy soldier, whose arm she repairs. In the backyard, Mackenzie strives to scare crows away from her dad and brother's bodies (which are wrapped up on a tarp), and falls on a spade, cutting her leg. Mackenzie doesn't want to leave the bodies there, so Nora digs a grave for them. When a giant, fearless vulture lands near her on a fence, she drops the shovel and leaves. She and Mackenzie drive away in an SUV running on empty and briefly hear a radio broadcast.
Agent 355 and Christine argue in front of Jennifer and Yorick about the qualifications of geneticist candidates. Agent 355 wants to transport Yorick to Dr. Allison Mann (Diana Bang), a world-renowned Harvard specialist, precisely because Mann was previously caught taking funding from the Saudis, thus confirming that she's an independent rebel who'll be willing to do things in secret, off the radar. Jennifer clears the room to speak with Yorick in private, and he admits that he's not an ambitious "badass" like she is and that he'll do whatever she wants so long as she helps him find Beth. Yorick just wants his life back, and Jennifer says she can't give him that.
Jennifer is called away to deal with another urgent matter: the revelation that Regina is alive. She and her advisors discuss the nightmarish scenario of Regina — "a complete f--king fringe lunatic" who previously argued that "Jesus wasn't vaccinated" — becoming president. Jennifer realizes this is an all-out constitutional crisis, and her advisors vow to stand united with her. Thanks to a loose-lipped Secret Service agent, Kimberley learns about Regina, and she and her cadre of Republican women (who think they should be governing since their husbands were elected) confront Jennifer and company in a hallway. Jennifer downplays tensions and swiftly ends this standoff.
Agent 355 convinces the two pilots to help shuttle her and Yorick to Boston, arguing that they'll be front-and-center on a potentially historic mission to repair the world. She also bribes them with medals. This works. Meanwhile, Jennifer gets on the phone with Sharon, who contends that she's too distraught to work on the nuclear reactor. Jennifer empathetically relates to her grief, and in doing so, convinces Sharon to help.
Following a heartfelt goodbye between Yorick and Jennifer (during which he expresses his distrust of Agent 355), Agent 355 sneaks Yorick out of the Pentagon by hiding him in a cart full of dead bodies, which he doesn't enjoy. At the Hall of Heroes shrine to the dead, Jennifer is startled by Kimberley, who speaks mournfully about the male lives that have been lost, the inspiration she derives from women's pride in their men, and the fact that — however harsh it sounds — some have suffered greater losses than others. Holding Jennifer's hands, she tellingly remarks that "it's so strange to me" that Marla claims to have seen Yorick of all people — a comment that sets off alarms in Jennifer's head.
Agent 355 is flying Yorick to Boston in a helicopter behind the other two pilots' chopper. Without warning, the pilots' chopper catches fire and plummets out of the sky, exploding in a fireball. Yorick is stunned but Agent 355 states, "We keep going," her calm, cool and collected expression indicating that she's assassinated these comrades in order to keep Yorick's secret safe.
- Kimberley's disdain for Broadway (save for Phantom of the Opera) speaks, fittingly, to her right-wing attitude toward anything that might be deemed culturally liberal.
- Between Marla watching M*A*S*H on TV and Nora and Mackenzie hearing Dolly Parton over the airwaves, it appears that some mass media still exists in this brave new world.
- Another tidbit about Agent 355's shadowy past: she apparently flew supply runs during the Iraq War.
- Yorick gets the episode's best line when, upon hearing that the geneticist they seek is named Dr. Mann, he quips, "Oh my god, the universe is hilarious. And, you know, awful."
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