If the first four episodes of Y: The Last Man had you thinking “Wow, this show is a little slow,” you were right. Showrunner Eliza Clark and her team very much took their time setting up this complex world, with its huge roster of characters faced with global stakes. However, with the fifth episode, “Mann Hunt,” those setups began to pay off, resulting in a densely narrative episode that both sets the stage for the rest of the season and also may have begun its tonal downfall.
As the title reveals, episode five centres on Yorick (Ben Schnetzer) and Agent 355 (Ashley Romans) arriving in Boston to find Dr. Allison Mann (Diana Bang), an ethically questionable Harvard geneticist they hope can figure out why Yorick survived while every other Y-chromosome being on Earth didn’t. Unfortunately for our heroes, Boston is a shit show. The military has fortified Harvard, anarchists fight against them, graffiti speaks of racism and conspiracy theories while posters of President Brown (Diane Lane) are plastered all over town with the word “Liar” on them. It’s a real powder-keg of emotion that doesn’t go off just yet but adds to the overall tension of the episode.
After stops at Harvard and Mann’s apartment, Yorick and 355 finally find the geneticist at an outdated men’s club. Upon seeing this live man and secret agent, she’s both scared and somewhat unsurprised, almost as if she expected them. She’s also very excited that Yorick has a male monkey with him and suggests Ampersand might be the key to everything. There’s one problem though. Mann’s lab at Harvard — and 15 years of researching on genes and cloning within it — has been destroyed. She says there’s only one place in the world that she can pick up the research: San Francisco, California. Clear across the country.
Eventually, we know that’s where Mann, Yorick, and 355 will have to start heading but before 355 can make that decision, she has a few errands to run. The main one being a mysterious stop at the address she was given a few episodes ago in Winthrop, Massachusetts. (Which, now that I think of it, is why she picked Dr. Mann, right? So she could get up to Massachusetts? I should have put that together sooner. I digress.) What exactly she’s looking for, we don’t initially know but what she finds is another agent like her; this one is called 525 (Lou Jurgens). The two violently battle before realising they have a lot in common — both were given this address by someone named Fran who, we assume, recruited both of them to be spies.
It’s also revealed that both were mysteriously pulled off jobs and assigned to posts in Washington DC on the day all the men died. They, and us, find that more than a little coincidental. Did Fran, the leader of this group of spies, know what was coming? Lots of people sure think the government is hiding something and, as Dr. Mann points out, they’re actually right. The existence of Yorick is proof that the government is hiding something pretty bit from the people who would most assuredly like to know it. That means everyone raging against the new administration will eventually be validated, whether the information they were working off of was correct or not.
A rise in misinformation among the people isn’t the only problem in Washington, where the penchant for secrets and conspiracy continues. There, General Peggy Reed (Yanna McIntosh) explains to President Brown that they need to investigate what happened to the two stolen helicopters, especially since one has been found destroyed. The president fears for the worst but eventually finds out Yorick is still alive. Unfortunately, she then realises Agent 355 must have sabotaged the helicopter — which, let’s face it, she should have realised something was going to happen considering how many times 355 said she’d “take care of it” — and vows to find out more about this mysterious secret agent.
Meanwhile, the president’s trusted advisor Christine (Jess Salgueiro) has what she believes to be a miscarriage but, with the help of the devious former First Daughter Kimberly (Amber Tamblyn) and a doctor at the Pentagon, finds out she’s still pregnant and having a baby girl. Since there’s been so much death and so little chance for new life, the beating heart on the ultrasound brings Kimberly and the doctor to tears.
Christine, though, seems disappointed the child is still alive and asks to keep it a secret. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the rightful president, Regina Oliver (Jennifer Wigmore), arrives back from Israel, and battle lines are drawn between the conservatives who should theoretically be in power and the liberals who currently have it.
A lot of ground was covered in this episode; big mysteries like who exactly is Agent 355, will President Brown be able to hide Yorick’s existence, and will Dr. Mann be able to do anything if and when they get to San Francisco? There were also all kinds of little seeds being planted — the trans man Yorick is told can help him in Boston, the fact that the government wanted Harvard protected, and why Dr. Mann had a baby crib in her apartment. Beyond all that though, for me, the main through-line in “Mann Hunt” is that while the show wants us to side with the main characters we see on screen, everything they’re doing and saying is making us not trust them. They’re all keeping very dangerous, potentially destructive secrets, and the longer that happens, the worse it’s going to blow up in their faces. Which, sure, could make great TV. But it’s also making me, an audience member, disconnect from and almost hate them.
I’m wondering if that lack of connection to the main characters could eventually start to hold Y: The Last Man back a bit. Yes, we want there to be revelations and drama but we also want to trust and care for the characters. At this point, everyone has done so much lying, it’s very hard to do that. Nevertheless, 355 lies to Yorick and Dr. Mann once more and says the president has OK’d their trip to San Francisco (she did not), Regina Oliver is back and ready to start some shit to become the new president, and Kimberly knows the secret about Christine’s pregnancy, which you imagine could end up leading her to finding out about Yorick. It’s all about to go off.
Y: The Last Man is now airing on Binge in Australia.