This week’s Y: The Last Man gave us a heartwarming reunion for the comic’s greatest love story—no, I’m not talking about Yorick and Beth, obviously I mean Agent 355 and her collapsible baton. Roadtripping to Boston reveals some very wordy graffiti, one wonderfully acerbic geneticist who has a lot of feelings about being tasked with bringing back cis men, and an intriguing Culper Ring mystery—not to mention an unforeseen destination for our newly-minted trio. Back in Washington, Regina Oliver’s return may prove to be less of a power grab than the new biological development happening in Jennifer Brown’s office. Let’s hit the road with Y!
The “Mann Hunt” of the title has 355 and Yorick arriving in Boston, which is in both a lockdown and a highly-charged stalemate between graffiti-aficionado protesters and burnt-out troops who can see no better way to manage the civic unrest than by systematically riling up and teargassing them on a half-hour schedule. It’s ugly, but the duo need to push through the barricades to get to Harvard and find Dr. Allison Mann (Diana Bang), the daring geneticist who may be the only one who can figure out how Yorick survived and how to safely bring back Y-chromosome organisms.
Even though 355 hands Yorick a knife and tells him to stay put and stay masked while she secret-agents her way into the university, the tanks endlessly patrolling the streets force him to take shelter in a local resistance’s HQ, complete with printing press and cartons of shelf-stable milk ready to be poured into burning and streaming eyes. A bevy of protesters barrel in to do exactly that, with one, Steph (Vanessa Sears), assuming that Yorick is a trans man like her brother. She offers him a can of food in exchange for his help with treating their teargassed comrades, and offers shelter, but he demurs and escapes to meet 355 back at their rendezvous outside.
Displaying her chameleon skills once again, 355 sweet-talks her way past the Army troops, though not without looking disturbed at how unapologetically they discuss riling up the protesters just to have something to do. They’re guarding Harvard because “someone in Washington” wants to maintain its research and art, and they believe that the protesters will destroy it if given the chance. But when 355 namedrops Dr. Mann, they give her the bad news: Her lab was the first place destroyed, so there’s no chance she’s still on the campus.
Except… when Yorick and 355 investigate Allison Mann’s apartment, they find—in addition to the curious presence of a crib and baby clothes—charming evidence that she has particularly strong feelings for the Union Club of Boston, one of the oldest gentleman’s clubs in the United States. Lo and behold, that’s where she’s hiding out, having defaced all of the photos of its esteemed cis male alumni and probably having defecated in more spots than just outside the front door she previously wasn’t let through.
Allison finds Yorick less interesting than Yorick and Ampersand as a combined scientific mystery to be solved. She’s down to help them, and by extension the President, search for a cure—but it’s got to be in San Francisco, where her backup lab contains fifteen years of research.
Before they leave Boston, 355 breaks their satellite phone rather than call Jennifer Brown to let her know about the change in plans. Using the excuse of finding a backup, she spends a few hours traveling to Winthrop, Massachusetts—the site of the address she found at the Culper Ring’s field office. There, she encounters Agent 525 (Lou Jurgens), another Culper Ring devotee without a handler or a mission. Like 355, she was also pulled out of her prior, years-long undercover engagement in order to go to the State Department—another indication that the higher-ups knew something was coming.
Most interesting, however, is that 525 and 355 came to this address for the same reason: They’re both looking for someone affiliated with the Culper Ring—a woman, whose name I think is Fran, who they both seem to blame for something. However, Fran is long gone, clearly knowing she’s being chased; she didn’t bring her Culper Ring tracker with her, so she doesn’t want to be found. 525 doesn’t join up with our trio, but she does pass on a bag of goodies like the aforementioned baton.
Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, President Brown and her ersatz Cabinet are preparing for the return of Regina Oliver, despite Jennifer’s aides saying that they wished Israel had kept her overseas. Though everyone is braced for a big power grab, Regina is oddly sanguine when she gets wheeled in for her standing ovation. They set her up in a nice room, ready for a confrontation, but Regina seems content for the moment to settle back in as she takes over her old responsibilities as Madame Secretary, albeit for a very different administration than the one she left. Kimberly comes in to pay her respects and assert her allegiance, and while Regina isn’t falling all over herself to work with someone who called her “strident” on The View, she also makes sure that Jennifer sees her creating a Republican alliance right in front of her.
Speaking of alliances, Kim notices Jennifer looks tense when the reports come in about both helicopters (“stolen” by the two pilots) crashing, and she tries to get any information out of Jennifer’s aide Christine (Jess Salgueiro, who has been there since the pilot but who I didn’t realize was becoming more of a main player til this episode). Instead, she winds up comforting Christine through what she initially thinks is a miscarriage and instead turns out to be a scare that nonetheless does not harm her nearly 12-week-old fetus. Life, uhh, finds a way even in the post-XY apocalypse.
Tensions are high on both sides of the political divide in Washingon, while a suspicious Yorick, drunk Allison, and mysterious-necklace-clutching 355 prepare to cross the country toward San Francisco.
Structurally, it would seem that despite having a very fitting three-pronged plot, Y episodes only have room for two plotlines at a time. By that reasoning, next week’s episode would focus on Hero/Sam and Jennifer/Kim/Regina—but who are we kidding, of course Yorick/355/Allison needs to be central to each episode, so instead the other two will likely trade off.
“Mann Hunt” was the most visually rewarding episode yet, with tons of messages and warnings left via graffiti and guerilla posters; I tried to catch everything, but here’s what I spotted:
RACISM: AS AMERICAN AS BASEBALL
THEY KNOW WHAT THEY DID
LIAR (over Jennifer Brown’s face)
SEXISM DIDN’T DIE WITH THE MEN
NO MORE SECRETS
NEED HELP? GO TO THE BRIDGE
DON’T GO NEAR THE BRIDGE
OUR SONS (silhouettes seen through crosshairs)
EYES WIDE OPEN
It’s a smart way to perpetuate the conspiracy theory atmosphere beyond the locked-room manipulation of the skeptical pilots by 355. People don’t have to know about Yorick’s survival to suspect that the government isn’t telling them everything.
I would love to see Yorick actually be more of an escape artist, as opposed to just picking locks. Yes, he does the same in the comics, but at this point in time we had already seen him wriggle out of an underground presidential shelter, or act as bait in order to nab their motorcycle rides. It was often difficult to find the method in his madness, but it was there. By contrast, the TV series has so far treated Yorick’s aspirations as a joke, as evidenced by him trying to explain to Allison that he too is a teacher (lord help us). And, yes, it’s funny to see him be so inept, but also that was his only “superpower” in the comics.
For a second time, Yorick gets mistaken as a trans man; when he unmasks for Steph, she seems to think nothing of it, compared to the JDs’ wives last week who didn’t seem convinced. I’d like to see the series actually grapple with the thorniness of him taking advantage of this odd passing privilege, if we can even call it that. 355 has already taken him to task for being born with the privilege of a straight, cis white man; what would she or others think of him letting people project this form of masculinity on him as survival?
A curious thing about the casting of Diana Bang as Dr. Allison Mann is that she’s Korean-Canadian, when the character was initially meant to represent a surprising union in the strained relations between China and Japan. Obviously, Asian actors have been cast for a bevy of roles without regard to their background, but considering how thoughtful this series has been about its other casting choices, I have to wonder if there’s more of an intention here. Certainly Allison can be Korean; hers is an Americanized name (if they’re keeping that detail from the comics), and her TV plotline could be more about her diaspora experience as a first-or-second generation American as opposed to needing to harken back to comics!Allison’s dual home countries.
Speaking of teachers, while 355 is on her private field trip, Allison schools Yorick on chromosomes and infinite variations on sex and gender—mostly using it to demonstrate how many different sorts of people were struck down in the Event, and how the job that the White House wants her for is offensively reductive. “If I can figure out why you survived—and that’s a big if—and I can somehow replicate it, or replicate you—and again, that’s an even bigger if—none of that even begins to scratch the surface of what we have lost. Which is not, and I cannot emphasize this enough, ‘men.’ Not everyone with a Y chromosome is a man.” Gah, what a speech. It’s information that’s been said before, but it’s the most eloquent delivery yet.
The Fran (?) plot turn only further supports my theory that the Culper Ring did something nefarious to its agents. 355 and 525 do not seem like they want to take some old mentor out to drinks to be like “welp lol too bad all our male handlers died.” They sound like they have a vendetta to settle. All I could think about during this scene was Rachel Weisz as Scientist Mom in Black Widow, and how whoever they cast as Fran will never quite match up to that.
Still pondering whether the Regina hallway confrontation was anticlimactic or if she actually asserted her power by not getting up out of the wheelchair to greet Jennifer and co. Characters and viewers alike were primed for a confrontation, so the fact that she didn’t immediately lead with “IT’S MY PRESIDENCY YOU BITCH” shows how much everyone has already underestimated her. Whether she’ll work with Kim is yet to be seen; their brief conversation about hair dye preferences fascinatingly crystallizes their different approaches. Regina sees dyeing one’s own hair as childish, yet considering the absence of working hair salons in the post-apocalypse, she may be rejecting the only option for her to regain this femme blonde persona and the power coded in that polish.
Who Kim might have more luck with is Christine, as she goes from attempting to blackmail the President’s aide to being the sobbing wannabe godmother over her surprise fetus. If I have my timeline right, we’re still roughly ten weeks out from the Event, which means Christine conceived before the cis men died—likely with the guy she was on that date with, who we never saw her mourn in her state of shock. It would seem likely that it’s got to be an XX fetus, as Christine mentions seeing other women miscarry XY fetuses in those early days; and I can’t imagine they’d change that harrowing detail from the comics, that not even in utero is safe for the Y chromosome once the plague struck.
Regardless, Christine does not look like she wants this pregnancy, as she snaps “This isn’t my anything” to Kim and the ultrasound tech when asked if this is her first. But what do you want to bet that this will become Kim’s warped crusade? Her purse hoard of crayons (oof) and children’s toys (ahhh) is growing, and here’s a new life for her to obsess over. I’ll be curious to see how Regina (who’s anti-immigrant and pro-gun but presumably also pro-life) and Jennifer (who was staunchly anti-abortion in the comics but this iteration doesn’t seem to share that) will react when pressed into having an opinion. Because of course poor Christine’s womb is going to become a post-apocalyptic ethical battleground.
An element from the comics that I had forgotten until I got to that point in the reread is Jennifer’s suspicion of 355. In the source material, her worry for her son is inflamed by Alter’s meddling, especially because their lack of communication with the White House is out of 355’s control; whether she’s chasing Yorick off trains or dealing with the many packs of desperate women getting in their way, there is nothing nefarious in how she’s protecting the last cis man. So in the comics it really seems to be Jennifer just being racist about the Black woman she’s assigned to protect her dear son. The events of “Neil” have certainly cast 355 in a more suspicious light, even though those of us watching her plotline can tell that she has a good reason for covering their tracks, even if she won’t let us in on what it is. But Jennifer, desperate in her grief over not knowing where both of her children are, will grasp at the possible explanation that 355 is a danger to her son. So now even the President is believing in conspiracy theories—ooh, I see what you did there.
Initially I thought that the shooting location to represent Boston was the same as the Chicago stand-in on last season of The Handmaid’s Tale, but that’s not quite the case. Still, both have pivotal scenes in corridor-like streets—one with a massive bombing, the other tear gassing.
Things that reminded me of our own pandemic: (1) Boston’s curfew; (2) 355 constantly reminding Yorick to put his damn mask on.
Meghan McCain was just as much of an influence on Kimberly Campbell Cunningham as Ivanka Trump, a fact that Regina’s The View jibe reminds us of.
I noticed Regina’s single press-on nail was removed somewhere during her recovery, and her nails are bare—symbolism that she’s not using feminine trappings (like Kim, with her belted-shawl-and-pearls combo) as soft power?
A lovely Y-shaped visual that has recurred a few times is women in Washington standing around with their fancy dresses unzipped; first it was Kim struggling into mourning gear, now Jennifer trying to encase all of her anxieties over Yorick’s whereabouts into a tasteful, Presidential sheath dress. The motif is also kind of a riff on that Sex and the City episode where Samantha crows about not needing a man, except when she can’t unlatch her bracelet and has a breakdown—and really, bracelets are much trickier than dresses, you can figure out how to get that zipper up on your own if you really need to. But as an evocative visual, it does a lot of work in a glimpse.
Not to make assumptions, but I wonder if Allison’s crib has anything to do with cloning baby versions of herself…
I really want to know what’s behind those competing messages about the bridge.
I was wrong about the plot prongs—without giving anything away about next week’s summary, it looks to hit all three. But whose story have you been most interested in following so far?