This article contains major spoilers for the Y: The Last Man comic and potentially the TV series.
Y: The Last Man showrunner Eliza Clark knew she had found her series’ lead character when she watched actor Ben Schnetzer run lines over Zoom whilst wearing a garbage bag as a poncho.
“From the first moment I saw him, I was like, ‘That is Yorick,’” she says. “There’s a sweetness to him and a naivety to the way he played the character. You love him even when he’s being an idiot.”
Being lovable whilst also being an idiot is the defining trait of Y: The Last Man’s hero (but not it’s Hero, who is Yorick’s sister). Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s comic series of the same name imagines a world in which an unknown event wipes out every mammal with a Y-chromosome…save for escape artist Yorick Brown. Yorick is inherently special because he’s the last of his kind. He’s more than an oddity – he’s a resource and perhaps humankind’s only chance at long-term survival.
But what makes him particularly special is how distinctly “unspecial” he is. Yorick is often the first to admit that he’s just some dude. Beyond his love of magic tricks and sleight of hand, Yorick is like any other young man stumbling his way through life – relying on his politician mother to pay his rent, and proposing to his girlfriend far too early. It’s not until he becomes the very last man on Earth (or at least the last man with a Y-chromosome on Earth) that he experiences any real distinction.
Y: The Last Man, both the comic and the FX on Hulu series, then begs the question: why Yorick? If billions of males died from an unknown cause, why is Yorick the only one spared? Will we ever find out? Is there even an answer to discover aside from randomly-assigned divine providence? It turns out…there is, kind of. While it’s unknown whether the TV series will explain Yorick’s survival, the comic does present us with a realistic possibility of why. Read on to find out, but be wary that MASSIVE SPOILERS are on the way.
First, it’s worth examining what actually killed all the men in the first place. Through 60 issues of Vaughan and Guerra’s comic, various characters offer up their own theory as to what caused the “gendercide.” These range from a cursed amulet being uncovered by the Culper Ring’s Agent 355 in Jordan to the emergence of cloning rendering procreation (and therefore men) unnecessary to the Earth cleansing herself from the scourge of the Y-chromosome.
The most likely explanation is the one that Vaughan actually explicitly states in the script for the defunct film adaptation he wrote. In that script, the Culper Ring is responsible for unleashing a chemical agent that prevents women from conceiving male children. This was intended to be deployed in China to cripple its economy but instead was launched worldwide, killing every male. Still, that cause is not necessarily canon nor is it particularly important. What is important, however, is the answer to how Yorick survived such an attack. And the comic book provides that answer quite simply.
Yorick survives because of his capuchin monkey Ampersand. Yep, that’s right – TV’s next great little buddy is also a tremendously important part of Y: The Last Man’s plot. Both the comic and the show go out of their way to have Yorick mention that before he purchased Ampersand, he was a therapy monkey. Before that though, he was a lab rat.
Ampersand was a pawn in a antagonistic game between scientist Dr. Allison Mann and her terrible father Dr. Matsumori. Both Mann and Matsumori were racing to become the first person to successfully clone a human being. When it looked like Mann was on the verge of beating her father, he responded in a very adult move and tried to sabotage her experiment. Matsumori discovered a chemical compound that would kill cloned animals. He injected that compound into Ampersand and intended to have him shipped off to Mann’s lab in Boston where trace droplets of Ampersand’s saliva or feces would destroy Mann’s clone.
But as is often the case in Y: The Last Man, the science experts’ science wasn’t too precise. The compound injected into Ampersand had the opposite of its intended effect on non-cloned mammals, shielding them from whatever caused the death of all males. Thus Ampersand was spared from the apocalyptic event, as was Yorick who lived in close contact with the monkey and all his gross bodily fluids.
Alas, poor Yorick! Even when he might be special, literal monkey shit turns out to be the reason why.