Y: The Last Man
In another world, on another timeline perhaps, Dr. Allison Mann would be an oddball. A reclusive weirdo genius archetype, a mad scientist we don’t understand but unfortunately need, an expositional means to a narrative end.
In our world — on this timeline — she is all of us.
Not that we lowly plebes compare intellectually, of course. Played immaculately by Diana Bang, Allison is indeed a genius who will surely be able and willing to clone human beings, given enough time and resources. But everything else about her — everything that made her abrasive or esoteric or fringe-y in the comics — feels so much more … grokkable, in light of how we’ve lived the past two years.
Her apartment, now abandoned, is a dirtbag’s palace, with prestigious awards strewn like paperweights among completed Rubik’s cubes, stacks of papers, crusty mugs of dried-up coffee, and moldy strawberries. (A dirtbag’s palace, or maybe just an apartment mid-quarantine.) She’s annotated group plaques with Post-Its denoting how she really feels about her colleagues. At the Union Club — the literal boys’ club (absolutely fictional, definitely in no way related to the actual Harvard Club) that she regularly squatted on and now squats in — she’s drawn dicks on all the male alumni’s group photos.
Once 355 and a lightly stabbed Yorick have identified themselves, her actual demeanor might technically be described as on the spectrum. She thinks her refusal to go back to Washington requires a “thank you” to hit home; she segues abruptly and conversationally to inform Yorick that he’s bleeding; she lurks like a poltergeist on the stairs as 355 runs off to “find a working sat phone,” leaving Yorick grasping for straws (more on that in a second). And she has absolutely no patience or tact, treating Yorick as though her least favorite undergrad gen ed student has suddenly become a priceless specimen. (“Reproductively interesting” is the closest to a compliment she’s likely ever to give.) She’s the consummate inappropriate intellectual oddball.
But the thing is, once she reframes everything that’s happened in their world, it really does feel like her response is the most appropriate reaction we’ve seen yet. She sounds a lot like the climate scientists, epidemiologists, and political bellwethers who have been sounding the alarm for years on our own current state of affairs, a voice of reason once discounted and now the sole lighthouse of sanity in a shitstorm. Where, before, the world of normies held her potential hostage, now the tables have turned, and her brand of ruthless, efficient intensity reigns supreme.
Her declarations are merciless and incontrovertible: There’s nothing crazy or fringe about Boston’s “resistance” distrusting a historically machiavellian government that now tear-gasses them every 30 minutes. “Bringing back men” is an impossibly, insultingly reductive concept that erases the deaths of millions of non-men. (Odds seem high, given her specific fixation on this, that that partner she’s not mentioning was a woman with androgen insensitivity syndrome — either that, or it has to do with the not-baby. Praying the answer to the crib mystery isn’t as weird as it is in the comics.) The globe is collapsing ecologically. There’s no mitigating these circumstances, and there’s no compromising on what she needs to maybe, possibly, find a solution to just one of the countless crises currently unraveling. Who has time for tact when the world is literally dying?
Yorick, for his part, is taking her hard truths remarkably well, given his bullshit at the market. It seems that 355’s much-needed excoriation last week really hit home — when he speaks to her now, he’s not just cowed, he seems actively conscious of what comes out of his mouth. (“What was I supposed to say? She’s never given me a knife before!” he asks Ampersand as she leaves to bluff her way past Harvard’s new military barricades.) Furthermore, when 355 returns from her obviously deceptive excursion, the way he pushes into her personal space to examine a cut on her face is different, too. Coupled with his bewilderingly compassionate experience with the protesters, who assume he’s trans and offer him unqualified help, and his genuine concern for Allison’s deeper-than-science sadness, it’s almost like getting over yourself makes you a better, more observant (if still painfully cishet) friend.
355 has gotten both better and worse, which is probably standard fare when you’re deprogramming from a government-sanctioned ghost-spy cult all by your lonesome. On the one hand, she and Yorick have picked up a delightful, if understated, rapport. (The on-screen chemistry among Ashley Romans, Ben Schnetzer, and Diana Bang, in general, is immediate and extremely welcome. Like, that banter is moving at a Neil Simon-grade clip. It’s the kind of chemistry that creates its own subtext — when 355 and Allison go head-to-head, they don’t have to do much to communicate that 355 does not like being the second-smartest person in the room, that Allison does not give a shit that 355 could kill her in one second, and that Yorick has suddenly become the odd man out of this very competent, very queer triangle.)
On the other, 355 is clinging a little too hard to what she’d call her training, but what might be better described as Hero Brown territory. First the helicopters, now the sat phone — she’s awfully comfortable sabotaging resources to suit her purposes, noble or not. As her secret side quest and run-in with Homicidal Peter Pan Actress 525 reveals, her legitimate childhood trust issues — from whatever lonely, abandoned place they originate — were enhanced on purpose when she was recruited and indoctrinated into the Culper Ring. Sure, she’ll technically be able to survive this world through extreme self-reliance, but now she’s operating as herself. After this, there’s no next assignment to flounce to — this time, when she pushes everyone away and calls it her job, it’s going to be for good.
That reckoning might come sooner rather than later, now that the president has some second thoughts about trusting a rogue spy with her only son, the last cis man on earth. She’s got her hands full, on top of the growing national unrest and demand for information, with the return of Q Anon Queen Regina Oliver. The woman is an alt-right viper in every sense, an utter vacuum of logic paired with a terrifying political cunning that has immediately seen through Brown’s strategy to sideline the “rightful” president into a cabinet position. (How Brown’s administration even remotely resembles socialism — or even could if it wanted to — defies reason, but that won’t stop Oliver from solidifying the empty rhetoric into a deadly cudgel.)
Her alliance, meanwhile, rounds out a particularly auspicious day for Kimberly. The power that the former First Daughter has gained in a matter of hours is astonishing: Not only has she secured a treaty with a powerful extremist who even she doesn’t like, but she’s also unknowingly stumbled into leverage over the only other person who knows about Yorick — Brown’s aide, Christine, who is secretly pregnant. Amber Tamblyn kills another truly chilling moment this week at the OBGYN, as the carefully constructed mom-friend persona melts away, revealing the self-interested political animal beneath. We can see the shift in her eyes as the doctor pronounces the fetus alive; never mind what Christine wants or feels, she’s no longer a person to feel good about helping. Now she’s just a womb. And a tool.
• I was mistaken in my premiere recap about the entire season being written and directed by women — this episode was, in fact, written by Tian Jun Gu (he/him), an alum of House of Cards.
• Yorick loudly saying “Hahvahd” is such a good meta-joke, especially for anyone who went to college in the Boston area and had to go home on breaks to wise guys like this.
• Little contemporary dystopia moment this week: I know, when that officer says “it might rain later” as they head out to gas college students, that it’s supposed to indicate how the rules of society are ~breaking down~ in this ~hellish future~. But if you think that cops today don’t say that kind of stuff and far, far worse about civilians on a regular basis, I am begging you to get with the program.
• Kimberly. Bestie. I get the impulse to save your kids’ knick-knacks as a little all-in-one pathos travel kit, but even you must understand why we need to draw the line at sticky hands.
• The look on Mann’s face when Yorick says he teaches magic? 🤌
• Thanks to 525’s testimony, now we know that someone within the Culper Ring — perhaps this mysterious Culper queen — knew something prior to the event.
• The gender-transformative people Dr. Mann references in the Dominican Republic are known in their community as “Guevedoces.”
• “Did you draw all these dicks?” NO, IT WAS DYLAN MAXWELL.