It’s time to rightfully celebrate January Jones’ transition from smoky 1960s housewife heroine to secret comedic riot circa 2024.
Sure she’s done comedy, with small parts in American Wedding and Anger Management, notably. And she hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live back in 2009. But remember that hosting gig? That SNL was widely panned, with Jones regularly remembered as one of the show’s worst ever hosts. Ever. Like as bad as Steven Seagal.
But we can put that memory aside. For one, SNL has had more dubious hosting choices since. But also, Jones has been the most valuable player of season three of THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. Her Melissa, who first appeared as a resourceful and independent beacon of light amid Phil Miller’s poorly timed domesticity, has become a total wild card. And Jones is playing her with aplomb. It’s freaking awesome.
“Mama’s Hideaway,” the cliffhanger-rich seventh episode of the season, finds the crew two members short. There’s Gail, who runs away from the doting Carol only to find herself locked in a powerless elevator with booze and an accordion, and then there’s Melissa, sweet, crazy Melissa.
Season three started with Melissa bolstering her survival skills but slowly turning darker. She erected a bunker, stocked up on ammunition, hid weapons all over the Malibu house, and casually talked about striking whenever necessary. The writers peppered episodes with odd asides like Melissa hard tossing a ball against a wall, or Melissa swinging a weapon creepily. And the directors ensured her increasingly worrisome habits were seen in wide shots where she was barely on the edge of the action.
All the while Melissa’s relationships were deteriorating, most notably with Todd, who desperately wanted to have companionship. Their issues come to a head in “Mama’s Hideaway,” with Todd trying to find his way back into Melissa’s good graces, only to be rebuffed by Melissa “carrying” a baby doll named Alden.
Alden is the best part of the episode. Take it from someone with a newborn – Melissa breaks every rule regarding handling a baby, from slapping in in the face to pacify, to flipping it onto the floor for “naptime.” Later, she fishes Alden out of the pond using a pool skimmer.
Alden represents what Melissa wants, and it shows why she shouldn’t have it. Todd (theraputically popping-and-locking) is desperate, and somehow Melissa can see that his desperation isn’t about a baby as much as it is about his own loneliness. Still, it’s obvious Todd does care about Melissa, and it’s painful how he falls woefully short. Melissa, meanwhile, is herself quite desperate, attempting to (poorly) seduce both Lewis and Phil into making a child. Since nobody wants to help, and since she can’t help herself, Melissa leaves a note on Alden: “Goodbye.”
Hopefully Alden returns this season. Surely Melissa will, and however she does, I’m optimistic January Jones will knock it out of the park.
The rest of “Mama’s Hideaway” focuses primarily on Gail and Carol, legally (whatever legal means in post-apocalypse 2024) mother and daughter and consequently getting on each other’s nerves. Carol wants Gail to take a family picture with her and Phil, and the annoying bit results in Gail getting away from it all by drinking on the roof of the group’s new home. Carol finds her and they argue, resulting in Gail raiding another liquor store and looking for sanctuary. That sanctuary is another building of the office park, which happens to lose power as Gail is inside one of its elevators.
It loses power because Lewis and Phil decide to troubleshoot their home’s electric problems. It’s more than a convenient plot point to get us where we need to be at this crucial point in the season, and it probably could’ve been written more organically (remember, Gail was just about to leave the group for good).
As for Lewis and Phil, they’re seemingly on pretty good terms now, though Phil is still bad with words (he says things “metorically” and not metaphorically; also, he doesn’t want to say “cockpit” around Lewis). But Lewis has bigger things on his mind – he starts working with a flight simulator, hoping maybe he can fly out to Tokyo to see if his partner Mark is still alive.
More Lewis would be great, as Kenneth Choi has been a welcome addition to the cast this season. There’s a fair amount of clarity to Lewis, something that isn’t really there anymore with the rest of the group, as they’ve spent too much time with each other, their lives now a blur of shifting scenes.
And of that group, it’s Melissa who’s become the blurriest. Who knows what’s real anymore with her.
You can thank Ms. Jones for some of that, for she is the secret comedic riot of the post-apocalypse.
Season 3, Episode 7 (S03E07)
The Last Man on Earth airs Sundays at 930PM on Fox
Timothy, who grew up on The Golden Girls and Seinfeld, writes regularly about entertainment, arts and lifestyles for a number of publications.
Timothy Malcolm | Contributor