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Review of 'Y: The Last Man'

We Need More

By Paul LevinsonPublished about a year ago 3 min read

I just finished watching Y: The Last Man on Hulu, about a year after I should have watched it in the first place. Why am I saying that? It's because Y is a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind daring one season of a series, which I would have enjoyed thinking about now for a year rather than just a few hours. It certainly warranted multiple seasons, but was inexplicably cancelled in October 2021 before the first season was over (all ten episodes are now up on Hulu). To be clear, I get that the viewership sagged, as widely reported, and Hulu had other reasons for not continuing the series. But given how groundbreaking the narrative was (based on a comic book I haven't read), it eminently deserved much more story and screen time. Or, to be less courteous, I think the cancelation was one of the most clueless moves in all of television history, rivaling the cancelation of Star Trek (the original series) by NBC after three seasons back in the 196os.

The overall story of Y, in case you don't know it, is that our planet is hit by the death of all male mammals, except the son of a woman who is first elected Speaker of the House (she's already a Congresswoman) after the calamity -- and therein via line of succession becomes President -- and the President's son's male monkey. We then follow a combination of political intrigue in the White House and various colonies of women in the United States who ultimately live and die by the sword, actually more usually guns. But the series even manages to indulge in a drop of gonzo humor from time to time, and The Beatles' "Everyone's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" might well have been an appropriate theme song for Y.

This is a startling and provocative set-up for a narrative, breaking all kinds of rule, and it amply succeeds most of time. The dialogue is sharp and refreshing. The daughter of the deceased Republican President (a man), comments on the progressive Democrat who becomes President that she's a "Rachel Maddow fever dream" (I thought this was a great line even though I'm a progressive myself and big fan of Rachel Maddow.) One of the women is who is leading one of the gang communities has a single mastectomy and flaunts it. There are pitched battles, scientific attempts to figure out what happened -- why all the male mammals died (why just males and why just mammals) -- and explorations of parent-child and sibling relationships a dozen ways to Sunday.

I said "succeeds most of the time". So what didn't work for me? About halfway through the series, the action began shifting away from the White House to the Walking Dead-like hinterlands, and the scientific attempts to understand the calamity pretty much stalled. I would have liked to have seen more Washington, DC and science, and less of the teenage girls carrying guns, under the sway of a nearly maniacal leader. I thought we also could have done with a little less of the Lost-like backstories of some of the major characters.

But the politics and the potential science and the sheer set up of this uniquely apocalyptic series was so riveting, I very much want to see more, much more of this story. I probably know just slightly more than you about how television programming in the age of streaming works -- that is, next to nothing. But, optimist that am I am, I'm holding out hope that I'll someday see at least a another season or two of Y.

tv review

About the Creator

Paul Levinson

Novels The Silk Code, The Plot To Save Socrates, It's Real Life: An Alternate History of The Beatles; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction The Soft Edge & Digital McLuhan, translated into 15 languages. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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