Every Woman for Herself
New York magazine|September 27 - October 10, 2021
In this horror story, the oppression is coming from inside the house.
By Angelica Jade Bastién

Everyone in the new series Y: The Last Man is experiencing the worst day of their lives in perpetuity. They’re surrounded by the iconography we’ve come to associate with dystopias: splintered glass. Crashed cars. Rotting animal carcasses punctuating a snow-dappled field. The shock of blood against pedestrian environments. Posters emblazoned with pleas for our sons or the visage of a president the masses believe to be hiding truths. That this imagery glides by rather than pierces is telling given the world this show has been born into. Where Y: The Last Man simmers is in charting what happens in the wake of great collective and personal trauma—in this case, an event in which everyone with a Y chromosome, including nonhuman mammals, dies brutally and bloodily. The fallout sees the remaining people jockeying for power and control. Some find communion amid these horrors. Others cling fiercely to ideologies that can no longer serve them.

The show is an adaptation of the graphic novel series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. Ushered into existence by showrunner Eliza Clark, Y: The Last Man is already besting the source material by pushing its gender and political commentary further in ways that are fascinating if a touch is didactic. At its pinnacle, the series functions on multiple levels—as a gripping thriller, a curious thought experiment blooming with ideas about gender, and a portrait of a family’s healing. It poses increasingly tricksy questions as it tracks the aftermath of this cataclysm and the lives of the only two survivors with a Y chromosome: the somewhat sad-sack, late-20-something escape artist Yorick Brown (Ben Schnetzer) and his beloved monkey, Ampersand.

Sure, there are the knotted scientific and political questions around how all this death started. But I’m more interested in the series’s other themes. How can we heal in the face of continuous pain? How do women perpetuate the systems of oppression that have led our world to rot? It’s clear the creators of the show are interested in prodding this story in bold directions—but do they have the gumption and intelligence necessary to answer these questions with the fullness they deserve?

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