‘Y: The Last Man’ is dystopian television for a post-Trump world
Diane Lane as Congresswoman Jennifer Brown. | FX / Hulu

The new dystopian science fiction series Y: The Last Man is a fitting narrative to see play out on screen in our current turbulent and divided times. The real meat of its story isn’t to be found in the catastrophic event that wipes out nearly all the men on the planet, but rather in the challenges involved in rebuilding a world blanketed by the same societal ills that may have gotten the characters to what feels like the apocalypse in the first place.

The FX/Hulu series developed by Eliza Clark is based on the comic book series of the same name by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. The story takes place in a world where a mysterious disease quickly kills off every mammal with a Y chromosome, except for one man, Yorick Brown, and his male pet monkey Ampersand. The television series follows Yorick and other survivors who struggle with their losses and attempt to restore world society—led by Yorick’s mother, Jennifer Brown, who is the new U.S. president. In a time when truth feels stranger than fiction, the series incorporates themes present in our own reality, including conspiracy theories run amuck, chaotic governments, and culture wars.

Y: The Last Man makes it clear that the problems in its universe do not all stem from the cataclysmic event that killed off all male mammals. Even in the first episode of the series, it’s clear that there were deep cracks in the system pre-disaster, and the massive deaths were just a hammer to it all. This is a powerful narrative choice because it sets the stage for many of the issues that the main characters encounter as the story progresses.

That aspect alone may hit close to home for viewers in a post-Donald Trump world, especially amid an ongoing global pandemic. This show doesn’t shy away from politics, so neither will this critic in reviewing it. Before the deadly virus killed all males, the United States was run by a conservative Republican president. The character is thankfully not an on-the-nose Trump copy, but he obviously reflects conservative right-wing politics and political maneuvers. The character of Jennifer Brown, a Democrat, played by Diane Lane, is a congresswoman portrayed as being regularly ripped apart in mainstream media and held to a double standard that her male counterparts are not. The Republican president does not move on progressive issues for fear of upsetting his ultra-right voting base. He is shown to be something of a populist demagogue. This may be sounding way too familiar.

In another scene, we have a secret government operative, Agent 355 (portrayed in a standout performance by Ashley Romans), having to take out a white supremacist terrorist group that has been gaining ground in recent years. This, again, is not a far cry from reality, as white supremacist groups have made headlines in the last year with the FBI reporting that these groups top the lists for domestic terrorism.

FX / Hulu

The series seems to be making it clear to viewers that there was already blood in the water, and the society that springs forth after the wave of death will still need to grapple with all of that. Yes, there is the ongoing mystery of what caused all the mammals with a Y chromosome to perish, but the compelling storytelling is to be found with the social commentary interlaced within said mystery.

Y: The Last Man is able to dive deep into this interplay of themes through its diverse cast. It avoids the trope that only white characters have importance at the end of the world, one which too many science fiction dystopian stories fall into. It also questions the definition of gender by challenging how a “man” is defined. Yorick may be the last human with a Y chromosome, but he is not the last male. That assertion, and what it means for the show’s new world, is tackled through the highlight of transgender characters, such as Sam Jordan (played by Elliot Fletcher), who we see attempting to understand their place in this new society.

With a cast dominated by women, the series also has a chance to zero in on the political role women play, including on the terrain of right-wing politics. That is because, as the series makes clear, there were issues before the virus hit, and women were not in some vacuum which kept them immune from societal influences. This, too, may hit close to home, given the far too often buried statistic that 55% of white women voted for Trump. Or that fringe, racist, and Q-Anon conspiracy-supporting politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene are voted into office. Y: The Last Man makes clear that issues such as these did not evaporate, and the torch continues to be carried by women with similar “values” well into the dystopian future.

Our current global pandemic made plain the inequalities in society, in everything from wealth to access to healthcare. The same is true in this series, as the killing off of all Y chromosome humans is shown to only exacerbate the problems that weren’t being dealt with before. Viewers may even find it therapeutic to watch a program about folks attempting to pick up the pieces after numerous disastrous events because it may feel similar to our own predicament.

For those expecting more science fiction jargon, over the top special effects, and fast moving plotting, this show may not be for you. But if you’re looking for a series that uses the genre to hold a mirror to society as we know it, in all its imperfect glory, then you’ll enjoy this character-driven narrative.

Episodes of Y: The Last Man season 1 are now available on the Hulu streaming service.


Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson is an award winning journalist and film critic. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong love for storytelling and history. She believes narrative greatly influences the way we see the world, which is why she's all about dissecting and analyzing stories and culture to help inform and empower the people.