Welcome, remaining living creatures, to our review of FX’s inappropriately titled science fiction drama, Y The Last Man. This episode brings us to Boston, where even more parallels are developed between the fictional post-apocalypse and the non-fictional pre-apocalypse. We also get to finally meet Dr. Allison Mann, who articulates all that was really lost as a result of the event. So raise a glass to biodiversity, and be useful, here are five thoughts on Y The Last Man season one, episode five: “Mann Hunt.”
1: Reasonable Skepticism and Misdirected Rage
Boston is covered in graffiti, with slogans like “Racism: As American As Baseball” and “Sexism Didn’t Die With The Men” as well as pictures of President Brown (Diane Lane) with the word “Liar” across her forehead. Groups of angry young people are rioting at Harvard. 355 (Ashley Romans) calls them “crazies” and our new friend Dr. Allison Mann (Diana Bang) corrects her; the rioters believe the government is hiding something, and they’re not crazy to think so. Yorick’s presence is proving them at least partially correct. If they found out about him, it would be understandably difficult to believe it’s a coincidence that the only surviving human with a Y chromosome just happens to be the son of the President, even though it truly is just a coincidence. They’re not crazy for mistrusting the government, but they are directing their well-earned rage in illogical and unproductive directions. Sound familiar? Oof.
2: The Military Indestructible Complex
The military response to these riots is also both understandable and wildly unproductive. A fellow soldier explains to 355 that they are caught in a loop. The military suppresses the riots, the rioters fight back, they all get some sleep and begin again the next day. The federal government has been struggling to provide cities with electricity and running water following the event, and the difficulty therein is self-evident, and yet, the military industrial complex has shown no signs of slowing down. It lends yet more credence to the rioters still misdirected rage, that the federal government has the resources to provide violent military occupation, but not electricity and water. Sort of like the real federal government. Once again, the post-apocalypse looks a lot like the present. Oof. This show elicits a lot of aloud “oofs” from me.
3: Y The Useful Man
When Yorick (Ben Schnetzer) foolishly breaks into what turns out to be the rioters’ home base, he is paralyzed with surprise when they rush in, injured from tear gas. Finally one of the rioters yells at him, “Be useful!” Up until this point, useful is not an adjective anyone would use to describe Yorick, but given this clear direction, he does leap into action, pouring milk on one woman’s face. Later, at Dr. Mann’s hideout, 355 leaves on one of her mysterious side quests and gives Yorick a similar instruction, to keep Dr. Mann there with his “charm.” Again, when he does what he’s told, he proves he can be useful after all. It would be disappointing if he learns and grows into a hero like many a mediocre fictional man before him, but it would be genuinely charming if he learns and grows into someone capable of usefulness. Not everyone can be a hero, but everyone can contribute to the best of their abilities.
4: 355 Gets Complicated
355’s aforementioned side quest leads her to the home of another member of the Culper Ring, her recruiter and/or direct supervisor. There she meets another Culper Ring member, searching for the same person. 355’s new friend questions 355’s continuing loyalty to a shady government organization that barely exists anymore, and 355 is starting to question it too. She decides not to inform President Brown that she and Yorick are safe in Boston with Dr. Mann, but also decides to continue with them to San Francisco. Meanwhile, President Brown has learned that the other pilots have died and (correctly) suspects 355 is responsible. This combined with the radio silence leads President Brown to find out more about 355 and the Culper Ring. With the resources of the presidency, she may be able to learn more than 355 herself.
In a heartfelt, moving speech, Dr. Mann explains to Yorick why the title of the show they’re in is reductive. This is not, as it has been repeatedly described, a show about what happens when all of the men die. All of the men did not die, and people of all genders died. Everyone with a Y chromosome died (except, mysteriously, for Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand), and people of all genders have Y chromosomes. Dr. Mann explains how gender and sex are not binary, that there is infinite variation, both in gender identity and physical sex. She laments that, in addition to all the people who were tragically lost, there is the additional profound loss to all living creatures, of biodiversity, the consequences of which are impossible to predict. Dr. Mann was purposefully chosen by 355 for her apolitical worldview. She isn’t excited to be working for the United States government, but she is dedicated to studying the cause of this great loss to the world.
The biodiversity speech describes the heart of the show. I wish it had come sooner, and I wish it informed the show’s title, but I love it. In a society obsessed with binaries, the profound loss of the Y chromosome and its infinite variations goes over a lot of people’s heads; they mourn only the patriarchy, and then find they don’t even need the Y chromosome to recreate it.