Sunday, December 11, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Last Man on Earth' - Things Get Bleaker for Gail and Melissa in 'If You're Happy and You Know It'

FOX's The Last Man on Earth - Episode 3.09 "If You're Happy and You Know It"

Carol is bummed about Gail's absence, so Phil tries to cheer her up with the honeymoon vacation they never had. Lewis finds new success with his pursuits in aviation. Melissa is contained.

The world of The Last Man on Earth is full of possibilities. The survivors can explore and practically do anything. They can rebuild society anyway they want. They can do whatever they want in this new world. However, this world is so easily dangerous and lethal as well. The luxuries of the past no longer apply. Any innocent mistake can have dire consequences. The show has explored that in a number of very interesting ways this year. This season has embraced the darker elements of this world. The show has gotten significantly better as a result because it doesn't run away from the deep and troubled emotions associated with the choices the characters must make. They've experienced so much loss. They have each other. They found this new home that has all the luxuries of the old world. It seems like a paradise. And yet, the time to relax has only brought the emotional trauma forward in more profound ways. That realization could have lethal repercussions by the end of "If You're Happy and You Know It." That makes this one devastating but very effective episode.

The situation is so uncertain with both Melissa and Gail. No one in the group knows what's going on with either of them. With Melissa, they are able to see her and know that things aren't right. She has suffered a full on psychotic break and no one knows what to do. Todd is still so protective of her. But his comfort can only do so much. This is unchartered territory for all of them. They don't know what's best for Melissa because they really don't know what's going on with her. That's an issue they can see and feel. With Gail, no one knows what's happened to her. They all just believe she is blowing off some steam on a getaway in Napa. Carol pushed her away and she'll come back when she's ready. Those are the expectations the group has for her. They simply don't know any better. They don't think to look in the other building complex where she is stuck in an elevator. They don't know that doing so could save her life. They are in the dark when it comes to her. They have no idea how bad things really are. This group really could be falling apart at the seams.

Phil takes Carol on a honeymoon so that they can escape this complicated situation. They don't know what to do. Phil just needs to find a way to cheer Carol up. It's a simple story. One where he is very successful in the end. It contrasts nicely with the dark emotions happening elsewhere in the episode. This is the fun and light-hearted story. Phil recreates the moment he first met Carol. He finally admits that he peed his pants when he saw her for the first time. They've grown so much since those early days in Tucson. Of course, their sex is just as colorful and weird. But now, both of them are actively into it and enjoy that connection between them. It's sexy talk in a completely unconventional way - though Carol still has rules of realism as well. But this story is also about hope. Hope that things that are dead can come back alive. Carol is depressed because this world no longer makes sense. Gail has disappeared and Melissa is not well. She doesn't see how the group can bounce back from this. All it takes is catching a fish for her to see the world with bright and expressive eyes again. Sure, Carol naming the fish after Gail drives the parallel of the two stories a little too hard. But it's also key in accepting that the fish dies and comes back to life. The hope is still there for Gail to return. And yet, the odds of that are getting slimmer and slimmer.

Things are looking bleak for Gail because things are so out of control for everyone. No one is out looking for her. She cannot escape the elevator. Her gunshots are being ignored by everyone. They have more pressing concerns. Phil and Carol aren't there anymore while Todd, Lewis and Erica are distracted by Melissa. Plus, all of Gail's plans to escape from this horrible situation go awry. The roomba isn't capable of getting her note out of the building for her friends to see. It's not a helpful piece of technology at all. It just represents her last glimmer of hope. As long as the plan with the roomba was still alive, Gail believed she could get out of this situation. As soon as the machine ate her note, she was fed up with it and shot it. That's a cool visual but it still doesn't help Gail. She feels all alone. She truly misses her friends who are just in the next building. No one is coming for her and she has run out of ways to escape. All of this pushes her to the brink of suicide. Again, it's a very dark note for the show to end on for the year. This story has been played for laughs before. But now, it's treated as this very serious thing. This is a moment that shows how lethal and unforgiving this world can truly be. Being stuck in an elevator is an inconvenience in today's world. Having a working elevator again was a magnificent sight to the group. And now, being stuck in one may very well serve as the final resting place for Gail. It will be truly devastating when the group finally finds her. The show clearly sets up the possibility that she could rise from the dead just like the fish. Hope is still alive. But things do look certain that she kills herself.

Melissa may be on that path as well. She seems just as suicidal as Gail is. She offers the group no explanation for why she left or where she went. It's still just one big mystery to them. Todd wants to be the protective boyfriend even though Melissa broke up with him. He wants to do right by her. This entire season, the characters and audience have labeled her as crazy. It has been a good comedic arc for her. It's been a welcome change of pace for the character. But now, the show is embracing the darker side of this personality shift. It's unclear what she's thinking at any given moment. That makes her more unpredictable than ever before. She's carrying around guns and walking on the ledge of the rooftop. She's not stable and no one knows how to help her. The only solution they can come up with is locking her in a room and observe her. That's the best option they can think of right now. It's so disturbing as well. Melissa needs her friends more than ever right now. Instead, they want to treat her as someone who needs to be locked up in order to protect the rest of the group. They no longer trust her. This episode is about Todd accepting that. He's the one who ultimately locks the door and quietly weeps to herself on the other side of the wall. This is absolutely devastating to him. He feels useless and powerless. Uncertainty has been great for the show so far this season. And now, it's embracing it more than ever before.

Some more thoughts:
  • "If You're Happy and You Know It" was written by Erik Durbin & Will Forte and directed by Jason Woliner.
  • Lewis has also made significant progress on the flight stimulator. He is seen struggling with the landing portion of the flight. But by the end of the episode, he has mastered it. So, it doesn't seem long until he tries to go somewhere, right?
  • It's amusing how Phil thinks he's being covert by putting wonderfully over-the-top things on Carol's fishing line. It's even more of a surprise when she actually catches something though. Again, the characters must think that every animal has also died in this apocalypse.
  • However, Phil's constant singing whenever he takes someone on a long road trip has gotten too annoying. It has been a consistent new character trait this season. But the jokes are never as funny as the show thinks they are.
  • Are Phil's eyebrows ever going to grow back? Or will he just be wearing those fake ones for the rest of the series?
  • If Gail somehow does make it out of the elevator, she will be both incredibly happy to see the gang because she has a newfound appreciation for them and incredibly furious at them for not finding her sooner. Again, that's if she survives that final gunshot.
  • Gail to the roomba: "Go Tron! Find the others!"