Oh the places you can go with THE LAST MAN ON EARTH.
Like a full episode without any of the main cast, focusing entirely on a new character affected by the virus that wiped out nearly the entire Earth population.
While not a unique move for this show (the second-season mid-season premiere also veered completely from the main cast), it’s still a wild and askew welcome back. But who’s the new character? Only Pamela Brinton, the dense socialite played gamely by Kristen Wiig, becoming sympathetic and hilarious over the course of the episode until – yup – she reaches present-time and finds our survivors hanging out in Malibu.
So it all works out, and of course it does – that’s the long game here. The Last Man on Earth is nothing if not a complex narrative plotted out well in advance.
Until “Alexa” tells Pamela news about President Mike Pence.
Well played, Last Man.
“Got Milk” tells us Pamela’s story, which also fills in a few gaps about exactly what happened when the virus hit. It’s at once funny (yes, current Vice President Pence has become president by 2019) but also eerily sad (everybody in President Trump’s original cabinet [who all somehow made it to 2019]becomes president at some point, then dies, thanks to the virus) and ultimately heart-wrenching (Pamela loses her husband Benjamin [Timothy V. Murphy]). Though despite the tears, there’s still room for classic Wiig (“I’m making you that soup … in my heart”).
Pamela happens to be the last person left in her socialite circle, giving her the opportunity to hide out in rival Katherine’s (Laura Dern) exclusive underground bunker, constructed to get her through the virus’ effects. And at first it’s a hoot – Pamela with dog Jeremy dance to ’80s music (and autoharp), mess around with the bunker’s drone, and dine in decent spirits through the first year.
Then things slowly begin to erode. It turns out talking to a dog (and making it say “milk”) leads to madness. Wiig plays it as expected, descending into this beautiful madness thanks to Maxwell Kessler’s script, whose final two acts must’ve been a fun write.
This is when “Got Milk” hits its high note, a montage revealing Pamela’s slow descent, resulting in a complete drunken stupor after she lets Jeremy out into the toxic world alone. (Kudos to director John Solomon for the cinematic touches in the big montage).
But in her darkest moments, flying the drone around for no real reason, Pamela finally spots life in Gail, then Todd, Erica and Carol. Then the drone is shot down (Melissa), but it’s enough for Pamela to realize it’s safe to return to the outdoors. Obviously, a great way to answer the question (“Where the heck did that drone come from?”)
So we can assume that, at some point as the season progresses, Pamela will finally catch up to the survivors. Which is exciting – Wiig has already crafted a likable character in Pamela – dopey yet resourceful (like many of Wiig’s best characters), and someone who’d clearly fit in with the rest of the group.
Because it doesn’t hit its stride until halfway through, as a standalone episode, “Got Milk?” is stretched a little thin. Put it this way – imagine it’s a Saturday Night Live Digital Short (and the virus is just a metaphor for the sick vitriol flooding our current political landscape) in which Wiig’s Pamela ultimately triumphs as the will of the people. Pretty great, right?
But as 22 minutes, and kicking off the second-half of the season, “Got Milk?” is mostly an exercise in giving Wiig some room, and getting a few current political jokes into the arc. Not that it’s bad or anything (few actresses can pull off the guest-star spotlight, and few shows can work in some timely jokes without much difficulty), but there are other pressing matters (like what happened to Gail?) and other ways they could’ve worked in new characters.
Either way, an enjoyable new character is here, and Last Man has finally laid out some facts about the virus that wiped out nearly the entire Earth population.
Now let’s get down to real business.
Season 3, Episode 10 (S03E10)
The Last Man on Earth airs Day at 9:30 PM on Fox
Timothy, who grew up on The Golden Girls and Seinfeld, writes regularly about entertainment, arts and lifestyles for a number of publications.
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Timothy Malcolm | Contributor