A mystery, by virtue of its very categorization, does not provide—nor does it require—answers. It is something unsolved, and maybe unsolvable; unresolved, and potentially unresolvable. And sometimes the answers given for something initially inexplicable just don’t seem good enough (arguably Westworld, arguably Lost), or they take the story in such an unexpected direction that you have to recalibrate your initial assumptions (inarguably, all of Twin Peaks). Given all this, perhaps expecting answers from the first season of Y: The Last Man about why Yorick is the last person with a Y chromosome on Earth was too much, too soon.
Season finale “Victoria” certainly doesn’t offer up much for that particular question, and it’s not like the creative team knew they would be canceled by FX on Hulu when they were crafting this tenth, and potentially last ever, episode. And given all that, it is understandable why “Victoria” ends in an open-ended way that suggests narrative expansion and more to come—in time. But without the promise of more time, and as it stands, “Victoria” is a bit of a letdown.
It is a structurally odd choice to give us Hero’s backstory so late in the game, and it only adds to the sense that Hero is a character the show felt it needed to build out through Nora and Roxanne, rather than letting her stand alone. I think the explanation for Beth’s transformation into an anarchist is still somewhat thin, and I’m not sure I would be interested in much more of the Kim/Christine pairing.
But: Nora’s ascension through Roxanne’s murder? Intriguing! The Hero/Nora partnership made far more sense to me than Hero/Roxanne, and I would have liked to see where that went. Similarly fulfilling: The 355, Dr. Mann, and Yorick trio, which really felt like it began to click together in Marrisville.
The Dr. Mann and 355 friendship was legitimately affecting, since these are two characters who are not at all gentle with other people but who are increasingly vulnerable with each other. And I appreciated Yorick finally being challenged enough to move past his own complacency and realize that the world around him is not as seemingly serene as Marrisville. The mistaken belief that Yorick and Hero both share that their mother is dead could have led to some provocative character development—as could have Jennifer actually being held by the Culper Ring.
If Y: The Last Man continues on another channel, streamer, or service, there were enough threads introduced in “Victoria” that I think could eventually pay off. As it stands, though, any answers about why Yorick and Amp lived when so many others didn’t, and what the Culper Ring has to do with all of this, and what the United States will look like now without a formal federal government, remain elusive. (I suppose I could say here, “Unless you read the comics,” but I am not sure there is a guarantee that the show would have stuck with every detail of the source material!)
So the satisfaction of “Victoria” comes less from any provided completion and more from the character moments: the Yorick/Hero reunion, Sam’s brisk efficiency in knowing that the Brown house is being watched, 355’s blinking awareness that she slept through the night with Dr. Mann’s weight upon her, Roxanne’s death. (She was incredibly irritating! Good riddance!) And if this is really the end of Y: The Last Man, then Ashley Romans needs to be booked on everything, immediately.
“Victoria” begins with a flashback sequence that the episode returns to a few different times: Before the Event, the Brown family, plus Beth, are out to dinner. Here is the messy Hero who felt such a distance between herself and her family. She’s downing drinks, she’s rolling her eyes at her parents’ indulgence of Yorick’s convolutedly planned “illusions,” she’s irritated when her parents ask when she’s going to do something with her life, she’s fully aware that her father is cheating on Jennifer, and she’s practically gleeful when she tells her family about Mike, her new boyfriend who happens to be married.
Hero is both inflicting wounds and pouring salt into them, and I know we are supposed to feel empathetic for her here, but frankly, she sort of sucks. She can mock Yorick for “the burden of the straight cis white guy whose mom’s in fucking Congress,” but Hero is privileged, too! Her real “Woe is me, my parents have high expectations” attitude is frankly exhausting, and I’m not sure if the show is being intentional in its presentation of her problems as not exactly as serious as those of the other women who were taken in by Roxanne. What I’m also not sure about: If any of the Nora/Roxanne argument before Roxanne’s death really worked.
The shootout scene at Marrisville was solid action (355 barely exerting any effort to disarm her captors and defend Yorick—gratifying) and a reminder that Roxanne’s brainwashing is both superficial and enabling for herself and for her followers. Roxanne is abusing these young women just like their partners did, and I think Nora calling her out for that played well. (As did her declaratively telling her daughter Mack, “Roxanne sounds like me.”)
But Nora’s whole story about giving herself a new name, and about the women attracting fear “because we’ll show them exactly who we are” … that all felt insincere and somewhat murkily written. Are the Daughters of the Amazon still going to be conquerors? It’s not like Nora has different aims from Roxanne. She still wants resources and electricity and a safe place to live. So if this is a commentary on the tactics of cult leaders, and if this was an origin story for Nora becoming one, I guess it sort of works. But ultimately, it felt like this subplot dragged on too long, with too much posturing and too little character depth.
In hindsight, I wish the amount of time we spent with Roxanne, Nora, and Hero had gone instead to 355, Yorick, and Dr. Mann, in particular the former. The back half of this season really became her story, especially as it was revealed that the Culper Ring remains active and watching her, 355’s recruiter Fran is still alive, and Agent 525, with whom 355 spent time outside of Boston, has actually been working with Fran all along. What is the long game here? What are their plans for 355, or for Jennifer, Beth, or Sam? And how, or why, does this relate to Yorick?
I thought Ben Schnetzer did a good job selling the emotional devastation of “My sister is brainwashed and my mother’s dead … I should’ve died, and none of this would have happened,” and Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s shot of 355 and Yorick sitting on the ground of the silo, with the curve of light from the open doorway upon them, was beautifully evocative. The bonds between 355, Yorick, and Dr. Mann are not perfect: Dr. Mann overhead Yorick’s doubts as to whether she can fix all this, and although 355 offers to train Yorick, that might be an uphill battle. But they get into that car left by the Culper Ring together, and they take a certain fork in the road together.
“They’re like your family, right?” Dr. Mann had asked 355 of the spy organization, but I think the more applicable question is what Yorick raised at that family dinner so many months ago. “Why does fate choose one man over another?” he had wondered, and I think that ponderance applies to 355, too. Why did that car crash kill everyone in 355’s family except for her? Why did the Event leave Yorick and Amp alive, and so many countless others dead? What is the future, and why is that future?
Maybe we’ll never get the continuance of this story, and we’ll never get those answers. But at least Y: The Last Man, in its potentially final installment, gave us the poignancy of Dr. Mann running out of that silo to hug 355, and the thrill of Hero breaking out of her shell to defend Yorick, and the shock and relief on Jennifer’s face when she recognizes Sam. It’s just a shame that those person-to-person connections might be the last we see of Y: The Last Man’s potential.
- Thank you to the reader who corrected me regarding the episode “Peppers” and let me know that Kim attacked that random protestor with her nail file, not the glass shard I thought.
- Whatever magic trick or, excuse me, illusion that Yorick was going to do involving Elvis’s twin … no conceivable way that would have been anything but awful.
- Sonia’s pitying “Are you one of those guys that thinks sex is a big deal?” was great; RIP, Sonia.
- Shrill had the best women’s pool party episode, and that is a fact.
- I wish we had gotten more time with Mimi Kuzyk as Janis; her bemused delivery of “Can’t shoot them after they’ve surrendered” and patting 355’s shoulder made me think the two of them would have been a good pair.
- Kim’s sex fantasy with Yorick—the breastmilk and the wedding rings were so on brand, and that’s all I have to say about that.
- Thanks for reading!