Y: The Last Man Series Premiere Was A Long Time Coming, Worth The Wait
It’s been a long road from when the rights to the Brian K. Vaugh and Pia Guerra comic series Y: The Last Man to the series premiere hitting FX on Hulu. In fact, there were times that your humble correspondent thought this show would die on the vine, especially since most prior adaptations failed. I honestly thought that if it were going to be made, they should go the Invincible route and do it animated. The inciting incident, the death of every male on the planet, felt too horrific to do in live-action. Today, you can judge for yourself if that is the case. The series starts very close to the story of the comics, but with a few major changes. We’re not going to spoil anything in the show, but we will be talking about the ending of the comic series, so be warned.
In the comics, the story follows the titular last man, named Yorick and his male monkey Ampersand. The series ran from 2002-2008. Since that time, the world got significantly smaller. Cell phones and connectivity is much easier than back then. Social media means things that happen in any corner of the world become global news in an instant. To that end, the series puts a number of characters more closely together than they were in the book. Much of the comics’ story was about Yorick trying to find the people that mattered to him. Other than his mother, most are in close geographic proximity.
Also different today than back then is that we’ve seen a number of dystopian and apocalyptic future stories. The premise of this one is still very unique, and that’s what the series premiere episodes of Y: The Last Man have going for it.
Y: The Last Man Spent More Than a Decade to Get to the Series Premiere
Image via FX.
Perhaps it’s because the rights to Y: The Last Man first sold in 2007, that during the series premiere episode I just wished they’d get on with it. At first it was going to be a film series, but New Line Cinema couldn’t make it happen. In 2010, director Louis Leterrier said he wanted to try the project but as a TV show and not a film. Eventually, in 2015, FX acquired the rights and got to work. A pilot was ordered, it was rumored to be a mess, the two showrunners and many actors left and new ones came on board. The show then moved from FX proper to FX on Hulu. Eventually, just before the COVID-19 lockdowns, the show began filming.
Frankly, like The Stand adaptation, it feels as if despite all those years, the timing is still not right. Not only does this come in the middle of a fourth wave of the pandemic, it aired right after the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Watching the scenes depicting the inciting incident harmonized eerily with all the videos from that day I’d seen over the weekend. I am not sure if audiences right now have the stomach for dystopia, even creative and engaging dystopia like this.
While the story beats are a little different, these characters in the show are the ones I recognize from the book. Ben Schnetzer’s Yorick is kind of trash. Olivia Thirby’s Hero is angry and reactionary. Ashley Roman’s Agent 355 is fierce and efficient. Dystopia may be hard to watch, but I am very excited to get reacquainted with these characters, even if their stories aren’t totally what I remember.
The Differences Will Make This Adaptation Special
Image via FX.
There are small differences in the story and large ones. I will leave out the latter to preserve surprise watching the show. However, even the little things may be important. For example, at the start of the comic series Yorick’s girlfriend is in Australia already. In the show, she’s still in town. Hero and Yorick are more estranged in the book it seems, and Yorick’s mother Jennifer (played by Diane Lane) is a higher ranking US official than in the book. (Remember, when the comic came out, the US hadn’t even had a woman Speaker of the House.) These character changes may seem small now, but will become significant as (if?) the story progresses through multiple seasons. While Y: The Last Man is a great story as told in the comics, it’s not so perfect that it can be improved or adapted for 2021 audiences.
The biggest change, however, is the cause of the plague. Famously, the storytellers never came clean about what caused the men to die off. They provided multiple theories in the books, and even said that one was true. They’re just not telling. Interestingly, the Y: The Last Man series premiere changed a number of stories that stood out in that first issue as possible causes for what happened. These will likely be revealed later and/or via different characters. But, I do hope they keep it a mystery. One of the best things about Damon Lindelof’s The Leftovers is that we never learn for sure the cause of the mysterious, supernatural occurrence. It will be good to give the fans something to debate about that isn’t toxic.
The pilot may be a rough watch, shifting from too slow to too graphic in an instant. Yet, getting past the pilot is worth it to see where the series goes. There are technically four Y: The Last Man series premiere episodes, and I’d recommend watching them all before casting final judgement on this show.
The series premiere episodes of Y: the Last Man are streaming on FX on Hulu
What do you think? Did you read the comics? Are you interested in this version of the story either way? Share your own thoughts, reviews, and theories in the comments below. (Beware spoilers in the comments.)
All images via FX on Hulu
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.