“People are going to have to pick sides,” Kimberly says to Regina when the woman who should have stepped into the presidency per the line of succession is returned by the Israelis to the Pentagon, and “Mann Hunt,” the fifth episode of Y: The Last Man, expands that idea outside of the Pentagon, too. Per the reports Jennifer is receiving from around the country, rioters are spreading to statehouses, government mansions, and food banks. The power is still off. As we see in Boston, clashes between the U.S. Army and the protestors who think that the government is hiding information, and who specifically accuse Jennifer, are commonplace. Jennifer keeps saying that she wants to protect and work for all the people still alive, and she’s loath to hand over power to Regina. And yes, Regina seems like an absolutely awful human being. But: Is Jennifer actually doing a good job? Could anyone in this role do a good job? Difficult to say!
“Mann Hunt” leaves Hero, Sam, Roxanne, and their Costco of canned goods behind to return to Jennifer, Kimberly, Christine, and the other women at the Pentagon as the B story this week, and Tian Jun Gu’s screenplay incrementally ratchets up the tension the series’ preceding four episodes have already established. I’m not sure there are enough narrative details about all these people’s varying grievances (what do people think the “hoax” is, exactly?), but there’s widespread chaos, and people want answers. Conspiracy theories are spreading about what caused the loss of those with the Y chromosome and who was responsible for it, and so maintaining the secrecy of Yorick’s identity remains extremely important. Does that mean Yorick keeps his mask on the whole time? It does not! The need for lead actor Ben Schnetzer to show his face supersedes the narrative logic of keeping Yorick hid. But there are people all throughout “Mann Hunt” acting foolishly, so I cannot necessarily direct my ire only at Yorick.
There’s Jennifer, who allowed 355 (whom she knows as Sarah) to leave with Yorick, which seemingly was important and necessary because Yorick was already wandering hallways and revealing his existence, like an idiot, and because 355/Sarah very persuasively argued that geneticist Dr. Allison Mann would be able to help. But was the relief of seeing Yorick alive so overwhelming that Jennifer did this without at first reading up even a little on the Culper Ring? And without considering that 355/Sarah might have an agenda of her, or the Culper Ring’s, own? Everyone is operating here with a piece of information, not all of it, but I would expect a little more from the President and all of that position’s resources. (Must be said, though, that Diane Lane does solid, subtly pained work once Jennifer thinks that Yorick could have died in the helicopter crash.)
Yorick’s existence and the chopper cover-up are two secrets in which Jennifer’s aide Christine is involved, and the other is her own pregnancy. In a moment of fear and desperation, Christine chooses to trust Kimberly with this information—creating perfect blackmail conditions for the First Daughter toward the President’s aide. Why wouldn’t Christine immediately tell Jennifer this? Do not tell me that premiere episode scene in which Jennifer was embarrassed by Christine’s bad nails somehow caused a schism between them that makes Christine unwilling to share this detail! At the very least Christine should be smart enough to know that Kimberly is going to use this information against her, and to actress Jess Salgueiro’s credit, she looks appropriately chastened (and uncomfortable) when Christine passes Kimberly in the hallway after the sonogram appointment.
But this does not bode well, not at all—especially not when Kimberly is trying to curry favor with Regina Oliver, who rolls up to the Pentagon in a not-very-subtle “gone hunting” outfit. Jennifer Wigmore’s Regina exudes menace from the moment she arrives, from her black-American-flag baseball cap (used both by the Confederate Army and evoked by Blue Lives Matter), to her perpetual sneer whenever she has to regard Jennifer, to how she ricochets herself up out of that wheelchair. Costume designer Olga Mill does a good job dressing Kimberly, Regina, and Jennifer as three different kinds of women in the political space: Kimberly in her tight bun, cozy cardigan, and Laura Bush dress; Regina’s take-no-prisoners L.L.Bean by way of Marjorie Taylor Greene; and Jennifer’s longer utilitarian jacket, jewel tones, and American flag pin. These are three different representations of power, and recall that graffiti that Yorick sees in Boston: “Sexism didn’t die with the men.” Women disagreeing with each other isn’t inherently sexism. But the way that Kimberly and Regina do it, and Regina’s ominous “as long as you’re in charge” to Jennifer? “Vanilla” Jennifer might look pretty good in comparison.
“Mann Hunt” spends most of its time in the “terrifying hellscape” that is Boston, where Yorick and 355 (I’m dropping “Sarah” here since she doesn’t use that name with Yorick) are tracking Dr. Allison Mann. What they don’t expect when they get to Harvard is a war zone, with barbed wire and fences, burned-out cars and barricades, Army vehicles patrolling the streets, and soldiers speaking completely casually about using tear gas and violence on protestors. While 355 ingratiates herself with the military holding Harvard, Yorick meets the protestors, and, well, their aims seem valid. (Are they supposed to be leftists? Their political identification felt nebulous, and not nearly as clearly defined as the big neon “REPUBLICANS” signs flashing over Kimberly and Regina.) The protestors sense that Jennifer is lying about something (she is), and they worry that the government is incapable of handling the current situation (they might be), and they mourn their losses that day (understandable). Yorick clearly feels for them, and Steph (Vanessa Sears)—who assumes that he is trans, and who offers him a place to stay and a source of testosterone—might be the only person who has been nice to him in a long time.
Because 355 and Dr. Allison Mann (Diana Bang) are both consumed with more important things than being nice. On 355’s part, she seems to still be figuring out exactly what the Culper Ring wants her to do. That 72 Warren Street, Winthrop, Massachusetts, address left for her by the Culper Ring ends up being a boarded-up safehouse, where Agent 525 (Lou Jurgens) has been waiting for weeks. Both were recruited by a woman named Fran—who has seemingly since abandoned them—and both notice that 525 was newly assigned to the State Department and 355 was newly assigned to the Pentagon the day of the Event. Coincidence? Maybe. “We’re not supposed to ask questions,” 525 says, but that doesn’t exactly seem like 355’s style. She grabbed that tracer to follow Fran, I assume, and maybe a long journey from Boston to San Francisco will be the way to find her recruiter.
Will 355 and Dr. Mann be able to keep from bickering the whole trip? Up in the air! They certainly disagree on who “the crazies” are, and on the level of loyalty the U.S. government requires. The sarcastic, cynical Dr. Mann doesn’t seem to really care about helping Jennifer, or any American institution. Her research is what matters, and 15 years of it was lost when her lab at Harvard was destroyed. The only place to recreate some of it is in San Francisco, at a lab that has the software and tools she needs. But Dr. Mann doesn’t have any kind of romanticized longing for the men who died after the Event: “The idea that I’ll be working to bring back men is reductive and ridiculous and beyond stupid.” Instead, Dr. Mann clarifies, the loss of people (including women) and animals with the Y chromosome is a massive blow to biological diversity, and a massive blow to human civilization and society as we know it. So many other characters have treated the Event as a means of grabbing power or an opportunity for personal reinvention, but few have seemed to feel the loss as deeply—and as existentially—as Dr. Mann.
What “Mann Hunt” ultimately demonstrates by its A story is that 355 and Dr. Mann are already developed in a way that the show still has not really accomplished for Yorick, who remains somewhat lacking in terms of his own agency. To be sure, some of Yorick’s waywardness is intentional on behalf of the show, to signify a disconnect between how others view Yorick and how he views himself—think of how he bristles when 355 says that being charming is “your thing”—but I wish Yorick would make a decision for himself already that isn’t entirely dumb. Still, something to keep in mind, as Allison says very bemusedly to Yorick, is that he “won’t have much of a life from now on, will you?” Once the group gets to San Francisco—on a journey that 355 seemingly lies about Jennifer approving—and Yorick is theoretically poked and prodded on the way to cloning, he certainly won’t be in control anymore. “It’s kind of been a stressful few months,” he says to Dr. Mann. Seems far from over.
- “I could eat just about anything. As long as it isn’t hummus,” Regina says, and on behalf of myself and Martin Short’s Oliver Putnam from Only Murders In The Building, how dare you.
- “This place is a Rachel Maddow fever dream.” Please, no Rachel Maddow cameo, I beg.
- When Kimberly swiped crayons from the makeshift daycare center the other day? Looks like she’s collecting all kinds of kids’ things as a sort of homage to her three sons, and I must admit that I felt a real pang of sympathy when all of that spilled out of her purse.
- If you didn’t immediately think of American Vandal season one when Yorick asked, “Did you draw all these dicks?”, then I must suggest to you a perfect season of television.
- Do we ever meet Fran, who recruited 355, 525, and some of the other agents for the Culper Ring? I’m going to say no. But if we do, my dream casting is Carla Gugino.
- What is the deal with Allison’s crib?
- Legit LOL at the Yorick/355 exchange, “Do you care about me as a person?” “Not even remotely.”
- The 355/525 fight was noticeably Black Widow-esque, and very briskly shot thanks to longtime TV director Mairzee Almas.
- Diana Bang’s brusque, disinterested delivery of “No, thank you” when Dr. Mann initially turned 355 down was a solid entry point into her character.
- I appreciate how deliberate Y: The Last Man as a series has been about exploring the gap between the cis conceptions of “man” and “woman,” and Dr. Mann’s explanation of androgen insensitivity syndrome, and how “millions of women dropped dead that day, some of whom had no idea they even had a Y chromosome,” was undeniably affecting.
- Related: “The U.S. government is especially puritanical” is an observation that can apply to a lot of things, actually!
- When will 355’s sleep walking come up again?
- If 355 thinks that Yorick’s “thing” is being charming, does that mean she is charmed by Yorick? That is my chicken-or-egg question of the day.