Imagine a world where every man – heck, every mammal with a Y chromosome – has suddenly died. That’s the world Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand find themselves in, in the upcoming FX adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s award-winning DC/Vertigo comic book series Y: The Last Man.
Stuck in development hell for over a decade, the arrival of the Y: The Last Man TV show on 13 September (22 September here in the UK) is eagerly awaited by long-time fans of the comic. If you’re not already a Y: The Last Man devotee, however, you’re probably less sure of what to expect from the series – which is why I’ve prepped this handy primer.
By the time you’re finishing reading it, you’ll know everything you need to know about FX’s Y: The Last Man – what it’s about, who the main characters are, and how it’s different to the comics – and why you should definitely be looking forward to it!
What is Y: The Last Man about?
As I mentioned earlier, the premise of Y: The Last Man is that every single man on the planet is wiped out by a mysterious plague – except for Yorick. As core infrastructure in male-dominated industries fails and the all-female population is faced with the likelihood of imminent human extinction, society rapidly descends into chaos, putting Yorick’s life (and the potential survival of humanity) in danger.
Enter Agent 355 – a government agent assigned by Yorick’s mother, newly-minted US President Jennifer Brown, to ensure he arrives safely at the lab of geneticist Doctor Allison Mann. There, Mann will study Yorick’s unique physiology in the hope of finding a way to repopulate the planet.
Yorick and Agent 355 aren’t in for an easy journey, though. They’ll have to contend with fanatical anti-male cults, hostile foreign powers, and even tensions between them – especially once Yorick discovers his girlfriend Beth is still alive and decides to search for her…
Who are the main characters in Y: The Last Man?
Spanning 60 issues published across six years, the Y: The Last Man comics boast an impressively large cast of characters. However, given Season 1 will focus mainly on the early story arcs like “Unmanned” and “Cycles”, the main characters in the show are:
- Yorick Brown (Ben Schnetzer): an amateur escape artist and the last man on Earth. Rarely seen without his pet capuchin monkey, Ampersand, Yorick is plagued with survivor’s guilt – especially since the reason for his survival is as mysterious as the plague itself! Despite his occasional moodiness, Yorick’s wry sense of humour, vulnerability, and inherent decency make him a likeable everyman protagonist.
- Agent 355 (Ashley Roman): a covert operative with the Culper Ring, a shadowy government intelligence agency dating back to the Revolutionary era. Highly proficient in hand-to-hand and armed combat, Agent 355 is Yorick’s bodyguard – and though the pair often clash over Yorick’s commitment to their mission, they soon develop a strong bond.
- President Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane): Yorick’s congresswoman mother, who finds herself sworn in as president (Secretary of the Interior in the comics) after her more senior male colleagues keel over. Motivated as much by pragmatism as maternal affection, Jennifer appoints Agent 355 as Yorick’s bodyguard and orders them both to track down Doctor Mann in Boston.
- Hero Brown (Olivia Thirlby): Yorick’s big sister, a college-educated paramedic later radicalised by militant anti-male group the Daughters of Amazon – which sets her on a collision course with Yorick!
- Doctor Allison Mann (Diana Bang): a half Chinese, half Japanese lesbian geneticist attempting to discover the cause of the plague and, just as importantly, why Yorick was its sole survivor. Complicating matters, Mann secretly fears she’s responsible for the plague, believing it to be linked to her radical cloning experiments at the time of the outbreak.
- Beth Deville (Juliana Canfield): Yorick’s girlfriend, who is initially presumed dead by Yorick. Once Yorick learns Beth is still alive, he becomes obsessed with finding her – often at the expense of pursuing his mission to save humanity from extinction.
How will the Y: The Last Man TV show be different to the comics?
The first issue of Y: The Last Man hit shelves way back in 2002; a lot has changed in the real-world in the 19 years since – and you can expect showrunner Eliza Clark to reflect this in the FX series.
For starters, Clark intends to expand on Y: The Last Man’s predominantly cisgendered perspective. Aside from introducing a new trans character, Sam Jordon (played by Elliot Fletcher), the show will explore gender and identity in ways the comics didn’t and shine a light on the men without Y chromosomes who survived the plague – and the women with Y chromosomes who didn’t.
Clark has also revealed that the narrative structure of the Y: The Last Man show will be somewhat different to the comics. The most important change Clark has made is to include more build-up prior to the onset of the plague. Unlike the first issue of Y: The Last Man – which got this cataclysmic event out of the way early on – apparently disaster won’t strike until the very end of premiere episode “The Day Before”, giving audiences more time to connect with the characters and appreciate just how much things change post-plague.