I just finished reading Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra’s masterpiece comic book series that ran from 2002 to 2008.
Late to the party? Maybe, but you could also argue that I’m right on time. That’s because on August 20th, production began on a pilot for Y, an adaptation of what is now one of my favorite stories ever. So yeah, I could’ve read it way back then, but then I would’ve had to wait that much longer to find out that there was a chance I could finally see it on screen.
Y: The Last Man follows Yorick Brown, the literal last man on earth, after a plague kills off all mammals with a Y chromosome except Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand. The world’s women fend for themselves in an apparent apocalypse, alternately helping and hindering Yorick and his friends, stoic Agent 355 and genius geneticist Dr. Allison Mann, on their journey to discover the cause of the plague.
People have speculated about adapting Y: The Last Man for years. First as a movie, and then as a show, but this is the first time that anything is actually getting shot in the 10 years since the series ended. Granted, this is just a pilot, and FX (the network on which the show would run) is merely “optimistic” about the pilot going to series. But still! How can I not be hyped out of my mind?!
Here’s why you should be, too.
Challenging Gender Roles
There’s only one living male in Y: The Last Man, but toxic masculinity remains a strong theme of the series. Without getting too far down the rabbit hole, that’s an issue we’re all still way too familiar in 2018.
Yorick isn’t really the macho type. He’s a former English major, has no real direction in life, practices magic tricks, escape artistry, and frequently needs rescuing. He must learn the difference between necessary risks and foolhardy mistakes, and the real differences between bravery and cowardice. Just as important, Y: The Last Man is very clear that real bravery and sacrifice has nothing to do with your gender.
There’s a flip side to toxic masculinity as well. For example, when someone in Y needs to get punched, it’s usually 355 who does the punching. Not Yorick. 355 is a badass secret agent who can take down pretty much any threat. She’s Yorick’s protector, and that aspect of their relationship flips traditional gender roles. But 355 is a complete character as well. She never feels like she’s just there to defy stereotypes, which is a kind of stereotype unto itself. She is who she is, and it so happens that partly involves hurting lots and lots of people.
Y asks you to put many of your predetermined notions about its characters aside and evaluate them as human, as the characters attempt to do the same.
Creating Compelling Characters
Vaughn gives us a ton of awesome female characters, but Y never puts women on a pedestal. One of Y’s great strengths is that it shows female characters who are smart, dumb, good, evil, angry, sardonic, innocent, jaded, straight, gay, young, old, mothers, murderers, and everywhere in between. Often, they are several of these at once. They are politicians, drug dealers, scientists, farmers. In other words, they’re people. They are flawed and troubled, but often times that’s what makes characters memorable. The intricate layers that comprise the cast of Y: The Last Man take a long time to unpack, but the rewards are so worth it. And that suits them perfectly to the task of becoming iconic figures on screen.
A Unique Apocalypse
Social commentary plays a huge role in Y: The Last Man. That said, it also has such a cool, unique premise. Post-apocalyptic media is a dime-a-dozen these days, but how many movies or shows can boast a montage of every man on Earth simultaneously throwing up their guts right out of the gate?
From weird science to just plain weird, this is a series that is entirely unexpected. It’s fast-paced and action-packed. It can be violent, funny, and it can rip your heart out at a moment’s notice. If we learned anything from Game of Thrones, it’s that the moments that stay with are the ones we never saw coming. Y: The Last Man has more than its fair share of those.
So, How Much Longer??
Obviously, I think this project has a ton of potential. What’s a reasonable timetable for season 1 if the show makes it past the pilot? 2020? 2021? I’m not sure. What happens if it doesn’t work out? After all, this is only a pilot and it could be awful. If it is, are our chances of seeing Yorick and friends come off the page gone forever? There are still so many questions.
I don’t have the answers, I just know I’m dying to find out.